Spare Parts Book Review

Spare Parts: A Marine Reservist’s Journey from Campus to Combat in 38 Days

By Buzz Williams

Hardcover in dustjacket, 300 pages and photographs

Published by Gotham Books, March 2004

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1-592-40054-X

ISBN-13: ‎978-1-592-40054-6

Dimensions: ‎6.2 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches

Buzz Williams saw enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve as a way to achieve his two primary goals – serving in the Marines and going to college.  Inspired by his older brother, he wanted to go to boot camp.  Upon graduation, he drilled “one weekend per month, two weeks per year” and attended service schools on the LAV-25 Light Armored Vehicle.  His unit was activated as part of Desert Storm and participated in the liberation of Kuwait.  Afterwards, he remained in the Reserves and became a teacher, eventually leaving after realizing the constant shifting from civilian to military worlds was exasperating his PTSD from the war.

This is a very personal story, an autobiographical arc following his journey from civilian, to boot camp, Reservist, a combat deployment, Reservist, and ultimately a return to civilian life.  New Reservists go through the same boot camp alongside enlistees destined for active service.  A sizable portion of the book describes the boot camp experience in great detail, along with the eventual realization that everything in boot camp is planned and specifically designed to prepare the recruit for combat conditions.

I found the descriptions of the Reserve drills and training fascinating.  The transition from civilian to military mode can be jarring, and there is little time to preserve (or learn) the specialized military skills which may, at short notice, be required for the unit to perform well in combat.  Williams’ descriptions of dealing with his OCD and returning from Desert Storm are also interesting.

Spare Parts is well written, Williams is an excellent story teller and the book flows well.  His descriptions of his fellow Marines will be recognizable to veterans.  His insights into the Reserve program are interesting.  The Reserves are a vital part of the U.S. military, but one which is rarely described in detail.  This book is easy to read but hard to put down, I can recommend it without reservation.

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