Finalist, 2020 Army Historical Foundation Distinguished Writing Awards
“Svoboda chronicles the little-known saga of Task Force 300, a group of four hundred 82nd Airborne paratroopers who punched far above their weight in the battle for Iraq’s Diyala River Valley. Based on copious interviews and in-depth research, the narrative dives into the experiences of the entire unit: from the staff planning the complexities of combined arms support, to squads with their boots on the ground engaged in desperate firefights against a determined and merciless enemy. This is a story of brotherhood, tragedy and valor.”
James M. Fenelon, Author of “Four Hours of Fury: The Untold Story of WWII’s Largest Airborne Invasion”
“Well researched and comprehensive…”
“Headhunter is a gut punch that pulls out the raw emotion of combat and the feelings of losing those closest to you. If one is unfamiliar with war, Headhunter will shock the senses.”
“…a highly interesting and detailed account…”
Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International
Compelling retelling of a little-known fight….It’s a good book. Accurate retelling of a little-known part of the War in Iraq. Compelling narrative of recon paratroopers, trained to fight enemy armies but tasked with rooting out hardened extremists in brutal guerrilla warfare where friend or foe sometimes changed daily. Extensive interviews let the men who were there tell their own story of a forgotten part of the Surge. I can vouch for the accuracy– I was there.
5.0 out of 5 stars With my most sincere thanks to everyone who helped make this story possible….I grew up reading works of fiction; whimsical flights of far-future science, magic, and fantasy. Coming from such a colorful literary background, nonfiction seemed sterile by comparison. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Headhunter was instantly more intense, more engrossing, more impactful than any act of imagination because it really happened, not in spite of it. In fact there were several points where I found myself wanting this to be a work of fiction, to spare those who had to live it. The 5-73 enduring the stress and endless intensity of their experience in Iraq makes for a sobering and compelling read; one that is hard to put down for long.
This book flies in the face of media-portrayed expectations of the military. This is not the mob of one-dimensional stereotypes who all have their five minute spotlight followed by a ride off into the sunset. These soldiers, these humans, are deeply intelligent, emotional, and dedicated to a level most of us only dream of. They come from all walks of life, all pockets of American culture, filled with nuance and quirks that show up at every turn. On top of this rich texture of personal history and motivation, each carries status as an elite soldier in one of the greatest military forces on the planet. It takes a lifetime to write a character this complete.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Chronicle of TF 300 Deployment…Svoboda succeeded in documenting the 2006-2007 deployment of 5-73 Cavalry Squadron to Operation Iraqi Freedom. He weaved together multiple anecdotes from members of the unit to compose a factual and straightforward account of the major operations the unit encountered over their 15 month deployment to the Diyala Province in Iraq. He also highlighted the profound losses suffered and the heart-wrenching grief experienced by those left behind at home. An excellent summary and in depth look into some of the darkest days of the Iraq war during “the surge” and a humbling account of some of the bravest Paratroopers ever to serve in the famed 82D Airborne Division.
Great book on the war in Iraq…What a straight forward book detailing the operations the 5-73CAV undertook in Iraq. We now have an insight to what our son, Lt., Kevin Gaspers and others went through.
Pam Gaspers, Gold Star Mother
A Very Well Researched and Written Account of Army History… thoroughly enjoyed this book. Awesome story telling and a great read. Historically accurate and relevant!
GREAT job! You are a very good writer. The story of the men, the strategies, the situations and conditions they endured held my attention. Terrific results borne from your years of effort.
HeadHunter: 5-73 CAV and Their Fight for Iraq’s Diyala River Valley
Selected in 2005 by the Army to be the first airborne reconnaissance squadron, 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, better known as 5-73 CAV, was formed from 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. The members of the squadron were hand-selected by the squadron command team, Lieutenant Colonel Poppas and Command Sergeant Major Edgar. With just more than 400 paratroopers, they were half the size of a full-strength battalion and the smallest unit in the Panther Brigade.
The squadron deployed to eastern Diyala in August, 2006. Despite their size, they were tasked with an enormous mission and were given the largest area of operations within the brigade. Appropriately for a unit known by the call sign of its commanding officer Headhunter,5-73 CAV would go on to pursue various terrorist factions including Al Qaeda in Iraq. They got results, and 5-73 was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for launching the Turki Bowl campaign from November 2006 to January 2007 against insurgent groups in Diyala Province. However the toll would be heavy—the squadron lost twenty-two paratroopers during the deployment
Headhunter is a unique account of the War on Terror. It’s a soldier’s story, told by those very paratroopers who gallantly fought to tame Diyala. Based on dozens of interviews conducted by the author, the narrative describes the danger of combat, the loss of comrades and the struggles of returning from a deployment. The voice of the families left behind are also included, describing the challenges they faced, including the ultimate challenge—grappling with the death of a loved one. This book explores the human dimensions of loss and struggle and illustrates the sacrifices our service members and their loved ones make.
About the Author:
Peter C. Svoboda divides his time between writing and working as a healthcare emergency management planner. He was previously a firefighter for twenty-five years. Pete Svoboda’s dad is the reason he wrote Headhunter. He was inspired by his dad’s World War II service in the airborne forces along with a desire to tell the story of this current generation of paratroopers. Pete is married, has three children, a granddaughter and another expected in October 2020. He and his wife live in Richmond, Virginia.