by Michael Haskins
Since the invasion of Kuwait by the Iraqi army up to the recent assassination of Bin Laden, military men and women have been writing stories of their adventures – true stories as well as fiction. A few of these writers go on to thrill us with more books and Thomas W. Young has proven to be a writer with a future.
Silent Enemy, Young’s second thriller scheduled for publication this month, follows on the acclaim of his first book, The Mullah’s Storm, published in 2010.
“I hope the book will put readers right into the aircrew seats and let them experience military aviation in a way they’ve not seen in other thrillers. Also, I’m introducing readers to some special friends of mine – the flight medics who transport the wounded. I’ve had the honor of flying aeromedical missions, and I have great respect for the medical pros who take care of our troops,” Young said, talking about Silent Enemy.
To appreciate the truth this fiction is written form, the reader should be aware of Young’s background. He served with the Air National Guard in Afghanistan and Iraq and flew combat missions in Bosnia and Kosovo. Overall, he has logged almost four-thousand hours as a flight engineer on the C-5 Galaxy and the C-130 Hercules. His military honors include two Air Medals, three Aerial Achievement Medals and the Air Force Combat Action Medal.
Young has expertly put his flying experience and knowledge to work in both his books and it is his story telling that keeps the reader turning the page, going through until the end.
Silent Enemy begins four years after the events of The Mullah’s Storm. Jihadists strike the Afghan National Police training center in Kabul, killing many and wounding others, including Sergeant Major Sophia Gold. The injured are hurriedly loaded onto a C-5 Galaxy bound for Germany, but once airborne, the commander, Major Michael Parson, receives a message. The jihadists have also placed bombs on some planes leaving Afghanistan, and Parson’s is one of them. If he tries to descend— it’ll go off.
In Silent Enemy, Parson and Gold, meet again, for what should be an uneventful flight, transporting wounded out of Afghanistan – but a terrorist bomb traps them at altitude, unable to land. The crisis forces them on a journey more than halfway around the world, beset by danger. Everybody aboard the flight is trapped at altitude, until either they or someone on the ground can figure out what to do. They can refuel in midair, but not indefinitely. The aircraft is deteriorating, the patients are worsening, the crew is tiring—and their biggest challenges are yet to come. The enemy is all around . . . and he will take surprising form.
Young says of SILENT ENEMY, “From the Trojan War to the War on Terror, tales of a ship and crew in peril have timeless appeal. We can all relate to the fear of getting lost, the challenge of facing the elements. We can all envy the bonds that form within the crews, and admire the skills they bring to bear, whether they’re seamen climbing through rigging or airmen climbing through clouds. We’re all fascinated by their leaders, from Odysseus to Captain Kirk. How will he handle this problem? What would we do in his place?”
Throughout the novel, the point of view switches between Parson and Gold so the reader can experience the flight from the perspective of both pilot and passenger. For Parson, the burdens of leadership weigh heavy as he and his crew grows tired, the patients worsen, and the aircraft breaks down around them. For Gold, the journey tests her faith, her endurance, and her belief in the fight for a better world.
The plot is further complicated by the fact that this is a medical flight. The entire concept of modern combat medicine depends on airlifting the severely wounded off the battlefield almost immediately. In the old days, the effort focused on moving medical facilities as far forward into the combat zone as possible (think of the old MASH units), but now it’s the reverse, moving the wounded to state-of-the-art medical centers in Europe or the U.S.
This means transporting people still fighting for their lives: treatment continues almost seamlessly from battlefield to combat theater surgical facility to major hospital, and the wounded fly while still under intensive care. Flight nurses and medics, called aeromeds, specialize in this continuity of care, their equipment and training turning the back of an airplane into a sick bay. Silent Enemy puts readers on board an airborne emergency room, where the flight nurses and medics deal with the most heartbreaking of war injuries in a confined space rocked by turbulence and subject to all the other hazards of flight.
Thomas W. Young has logged nearly 4,000 hours as a flight engineer for the Air National Guard in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, and elsewhere, including Latin America, the horn of Africa, and the Far East. Military honors include two Air Medals, three Aerial Achievement Medals, and the Air Force Combat Action Medal. He continues to serve with the Air National Guard as a Senior Master Sergeant. His publications include the novel, THE MULLAH’S STORM, released in 2010 by Putnam.
To learn more about Thomas, please visit his website.