Fortune Favors Boldness: The Story of Naval Valor during Operation Iraqi Freedom

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Fortune Favors Boldness: The Story of Naval Valor during Operation Iraqi Freedom. By Barry M. Costello. Fortis, 2018.

Reviewed by Vice Admiral Peter Jones AO DSC RAN (Retired)

‘FORTUNE FAVORS BOLDNESS’ provides both a commander’s perspective of the naval operations during the 2003 Iraq invasion and is also the most readable account of these operations to date. Rear Admiral Barry Costello commanded the CONSTELLATION Strike Group in the war and while his counterpart, Rear Admiral John Kelly in the ABRAHAM LINCOLN Strike Group commanded the naval air campaign, Costello commanded the myriad of littoral warfare operations. 

The book starts with the preparations for the deployment and passage of the CONSTELLATION Strike Group and its arrival into a high tempo theatre of operations. As the Maritime Interceptions Force commander I well remember the rotation of the ABRAHAM LINCOLN for the CONSTELLATION Strike Groups. These events can be trying as new procedures and personalities take hold. What was clear was that Admiral Costello had carefully observed the operations from afar and the transition proved a positive experience. As his book shows he was a keen observer of people and events. Because of the large array of operations in his remit, he could not micromanage even if he wanted to (which he did not). In this regard, his account of the approval process for the frigates to conduct naval gunfire support is fascinating. Another dimension to Admiral Costello is that he is a lawyer. Perhaps because of this, I found that he was not afraid of nuances and this was most appreciated in dealing with complex aspects of the North Arabian Gulf environment.

The strength of this book is the rare insight into the demands of a sea going admiral at sea in a modern conflict. It also demonstrates the importance of good officers and sailors and the value of developing a synergistic culture within a Task Force. For Australian readers this book gives a most complete account of the substantial RAN Task Group contribution to the campaign. It is interesting to read it from an American perspective.

‘Fortune Favors Boldness’ is an excellent exposition of the utility of naval forces in littoral operations. It is also useful pre-reading for any RAN officers and sailors about to operate with the US Navy. 

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