When Colonel Marcus Fielding returned home from his tour of duty in Baghdad, a taxi driver asked him what it was like being a soldier there. Marcus, an experienced veteran, found himself speechless – how could he properly explain to a civilian the nature of his work and his life during his tour? He mouthed a few platitudes but felt frustrated: he had not done justice to his experience or to his fellow soldiers still in Iraq. This book is the result of that frustration, and it provides fascinating insights into the conditions on the ground in a theatre of war that more than 20,000 Australian men and women have served.
Marcus was deployed as an ‘embed’ in the final days of the Australian presence. By this time, the violence had subsided somewhat from the carnage of the first few years of Operation Iraqi Freedom, but with several crucial elections being held, sectarian terror nonetheless reared its frightening head on many occasions. From his ‘office’ in Saddam’s former al-Faw Palace, Marcus finds himself more involved with nation-building than killing ‘bad guys’. His tour is not so much about combat, guts and glory as it is about dealing with the vital issues associated with the elections and the Coalition troop draw-down. But he also paints a vivid picture of everyday life set against a backdrop of violence: the heat and dust, attending meetings in the Red Zone, the camaraderie of the cigar club, visits to orphanages and the morale-raising visits of US ‘personalities’.
There are few Australian books written about the contentious war in Iraq. Red Zone Baghdad presents a rare glimpse into the reality of an officer’s war in our time.
Marcus Fielding was born and raised in Melbourne. He joined the Australian Regular Army in 1983 and graduated from the Royal Military College Duntroon as a Lieutenant in 1986. In the following decades of military service Marcus held a broad range of senior appointments in Army, defence and interagency organisations in a number of locations throughout Australia and overseas. Marcus has participated in four operational deployments. In 1992 he directed operations to clear land mines in Afghanistan. In 1995 he coordinated infrastructure construction projects in Haiti. In 1999 and 2000 Marcus directed security operations and coordinated the repatriation of displaced persons as part of the Australian-led international force in East Timor. For his work in East Timor, he was awarded Commendation for Distinguished Service. In 2008 and 2009 Marcus spent nine months in Baghdad as an ‘action officer’ in the Headquarters Multi-National Force–Iraq. Colonel Fielding transferred from full-time to part-time service with the Australian Army in 2011.