OverviewDeployed to Iraq in March 2004 after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, US Marine Michael Zacchea thought he had landed a plum assignment. His team's mission was to build, train, and lead in combat the first Iraqi Army battalion trained by the US military.Quickly, he realized he was faced with a nearly impossible task. With just two weeks' training based on outdated and irrelevant materials, no language instruction, and few cultural tips for interacting with his battalion of Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds, Yazidis, and others, Zacchea arrived at his base in Kirkush to learn his recruits would need beds, boots, uniforms, and equipment. His Iraqi officer counterparts spoke little English. He had little time to transform his troops—mostly poor, uneducated farmers—into a cohesive rifle battalion that would fight a new insurgency erupting across Iraq.In order to stand up a fighting battalion, Zacchea knew, he would have to understand his men. Unlike other combat Marines in Iraq at the time, he immersed himself in Iraq's culture: learning its languages, eating its foods, observing its traditions—even being inducted into one of its Sunni tribes. A constant source of both pride and frustration, the Iraqi Army Fifth Battalion went on to fight bravely at the Battle of Fallujah against the forces that would eventually form ISIS.The Ragged Edge is Zacchea's deeply personal and powerful account of hopeful determination, of brotherhood and betrayal, and of cultural ignorance and misunderstanding. It sheds light on the dangerous pitfalls of training foreign troops to fight murderous insurgents and terrorists, precisely when such wartime collaboration is happening more than at any other time in US history.
Reviews"Michael Zacchea and Ted Kemp have written a superb account of the efforts to build an Iraqi Army from scratch. This is a book rich in lessons and emotions. Every commander-in-chief contemplating intervention should read this." —General Anthony C. Zinni USMC (Retired), former commander of U.S. Central Command, author of The Battle for Peace and Before the First Shots Are Fired
"Zacchea and Kemp have nailed it. They accurately captured the inspiration, joys, sorrows, and deep frustrations we had in standing up the New Iraqi Army and Special Police Forces in the early years of the Iraq War. This book is a great read for anyone struggling to understand what it was like on the ground, and it's also a fine primer for anyone preparing to advise foreign forces. Highly recommended." —Major General Jeff Buchanan, Deputy Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan
"A must-read for anyone who wants to understand what went wrong for the United States in Iraq—and whether we should put troops in Syria." —Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, chief international correspondent, CNBC
"[Zacchea] offers vivid accounts of base life, urban combat in Fallujah, and his close friendship with one Iraqi soldier. An honest, revealing glimpse of the dangers inherent in acting on good intentions based on ignorance." —Kirkus Reviews
"The Ragged Edge is a compelling narrative of one Marine's year in Iraq and his efforts to build a new Iraqi Army. Michael Zacchea offers his unique perspective on American involvement in the Middle East—a perspective that can only be gleaned from firsthand experience." —US Representative Elizabeth H. Esty (Fifth District, Connecticut)
"A solid and informative account of the trials and tribulations of the U.S. military experienced in Iraq, Zacchea's story is one we have heard before, but it's told exceedingly well." —Library Journal
Author BiographyLieutenant Colonel Michael Zacchea (USMC-ret.) led the Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis of the Iraqi Fifth Battalion and their US advisers. He won two Bronze Stars, the Purple Heart, and Iraq's Order of the Lion of Babylon. A veterans' advocate with VoteVets.org and elsewhere, he has appeared widely as a public speaker; in several documentaries, including Thank You for Your Service (2015); and on NPR and CBS News, among other news outlets. Zacchea is currently director of the UConn Entrepreneur Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities. He lives in Connecticut. Ted Kemp is an editor, writer, and foreign correspondent for CNBC Digital. Previously, he was digital bureau chief for CNBC EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa), based in London. He lives in New York City.