Sister in the Band of Brothers
Embedded with the 101st Airborne in Iraq
Katherine M. Skiba
When U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq in March 2003, our soldiers werent the only ones who put their lives on the line: so did 600 embedded journalists, including Katherine M. Skiba. Her riveting memoir provides a vivid you-are-there account of her experiences with the Armys legendary 101st Airborne, the division celebrated for its heroism in World War II as the Band of Brothers."
Skiba, a reporter and photographer, was the sole female civilian among the 2,300 soldiers of the 159th Aviation Brigade, whose pilots flew Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters into the thick of battle. Her dispatches were a vital lifeline between the troops and their families and earned her a grateful national audience. Reporting on the men and women in uniform with journalistic dedication, natural compassion, and an eye for the absurd, she chronicles her experiences from media boot camp to the kick-off of Operation Iraqi Freedom to the fall of Baghdad, including a missile attack on the brigades desert camp.
“An excellent addition to the literature of media, wartime reporting, and the social history of warfare.”
“Skiba’s book demonstrates that embedding reporters in military units works. . . . Among the many books recently published about this war, Skiba’s is distinctive because of her vibrant writing, compassion for soldiers, and astute perspective. . . . Skiba writes with compassion and empathizes with the soldiers she encounters, but without becoming an uncritical booster for the war.”
—Military ReviewSee all reviews...
“For readers interested in understanding how embedding works—its opportunities and limitations—Skiba’s depiction offers a close-up look. She was able to do what the rank-and-file foot soldier doesn’t have time to do: write down what life is like day-to-day in the midst of battle. . . . The most compelling aspect of her book is her vivid, “you are there” description of life with the 159th Aviation Brigade, a helicopter unit within the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army. . . . Skiba is a careful observer; she describes the military with an outsider’s eye and a reporter’s attention to detail. . . . Some of the best bits of Skiba’s book are snatches of conversation in which young men describe loneliness, fear and frustration, or show off their prowess with weapons.”
“One of the best books I've seen on reporting in general and on war reporting in particular.”
—Wisconsin State Journal
“With remarkable insight and sensitivity, Skiba chronicles the daily lives of an interesting cross section of soldiers, from the brigade commander to the cooks with whom she bunked at the end of the campaign. . . . This is a great story, told with grit, humor, and humility. It’s also a testament to the fact that the media and military need not be adversaries.”
“In describing her battles with sandstorms, scorpions, and sexism, Skiba’s dramatic and often deeply revealing memoir offers straightforward testimony to the professional and personal sides of both the military and media. Simultaneously making fun of her own fears and limitations while praising the valor and dedication of the soldiers, Skiba’s candid, self-deprecating anecdotes artfully balance this no-holds-barred account of war's grim reality.”
“Day by bad day, Katherine Skiba gives us an intimate chronicle of what it was really like to be an embedded reporter in Iraq. Her story is unromantic, uncensored, often funny, always vividly detailed and peopled by a wild cast of uniformed characters. Sister in the Band of Brothers is both a public service and a good read.”
—James Tobin, author of Ernie Pyle’s War: America’s Eyewitness to World War II
“Katherine Skiba’s book Sister in the Band of Brothers: Embedded with the 101st Airborne in Iraq is mesmerizing and fascinating in depicting the human side of war—the fears, the excitement, the humor and the reality—all wrapped up into one—and the sadness of it all. It’s a wonderful gripping book and could only have been written by a sensitive, perceptive woman.”
—Helen Thomas, Hearst Newspapers columnist and author of Front Row at the White House: My Life and Times
“This is just a wonderful book. It’s insightful, funny, harrowing, and honest. It’s a moving testament to our U.S. troops, so many of them still kids, and their willingness to sacrifice for the greater good. But at the delicious bottom of it is Kathy Skiba’s own voice, a female journalist in the throes of a terrible war, willing to bare her soul and, if necessary, her own life.”
—Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights
“For too many years the media and the military have seen themselves as adversaries, rather than as institutions equally vital to democratic self-government. Katherine Skiba’s engaging account of her time with the 101st Airborne goes far to bridging the gulf between the two, and does so with insight, humor and—what is especially rare in any journalist—humility.”
—Paul Gigot, editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page
“A great read and significant addition to the literature of war reporting. More than most of the reporters, Skiba reveals what it was really like to be inside the base camps in Kuwait and Iraq, alongside soldiers preparing for and fighting in the war. You can almost scrape the grit from your teeth. And I especially liked her candor in discussing both her fears and her determination in taking on this risky assignment.”
—Kay Mills, author of A Place in the News: From the Women’s Pages to the Front Page
“A unique and engaging memoir of one journalist’s experiences in a major military campaign. Skiba shows us the daily lives of soldiers in the field and, equally important and valuable, reveals how a war correspondent actually operates in the field. Will be a must for journalism courses.”
—William Hammond, author of Reporting Vietnam: Media and Military at War
“Sister in the Band of Brothers takes us into the new world of battle in the 21st Century and provides a uniquely personal, ground level view of men and women in combat.”
—Bill Kovach, Chairman, Committee of Concerned JournalistsSee fewer reviews...
Taking readers across the wind-blown deserts of Iraq and into cramped seventy-man tents, where personal space barely exists and tempers can flare, she deftly and sympathetically portrays her brothers and sisters-in-arms—rigid commanders, gung-ho warriors, and daring aviators, as well as intelligence officers, mechanics, medics, and cooks, among many others. She details her dealings with the soldiers, her clashes with a battalion commander, and her friendship with a lieutenant colonel who helped keep her sane. Meantime she tells of the journalist-husband she left behind—and the encouragement he gave her when the going got rough.
Whether pounding out a story on her laptop, strapping on a gas mask at a moments notice, or flying toward the frontlines, Skiba stuck it out despite her own doubts and earned the respect of one grizzled sergeant major, who quipped: Youve got balls. The risks were very real for her and anyone else who covered or fought in the war, even in its early days, long before triumph trailed off into something less than permanent victory. Her story testifies to the courage it took to endure such risks, while acknowledging the inevitable costs of war.