Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

The soundtrack for going into combat

Over some beers last Friday evening, I got into a discussion of the best songs to listen to before going into battle. I don’t mean just favorite songs, but tunes you associate with actually preparing for or heading into combat. I think we could do another top 10 list here, and as a bonus, probably ...

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Over some beers last Friday evening, I got into a discussion of the best songs to listen to before going into battle.

I don't mean just favorite songs, but tunes you associate with actually preparing for or heading into combat. I think we could do another top 10 list here, and as a bonus, probably shock some people.

I said that I am not a particularly big Paul McCartney fan, but I liked to listen to "Let It Be" at 4:00 a.m. before covering something likely to be rough. But two combat vets in the conversation said, Tom, that's because you were not gearing up to pull the trigger. They were right: I was trying to calm down, focus, keep my perceptions clear -- it is always best as a reporter to have one eye hovering above, trying to look at the big picture. These guys, no spring chickens, immediately started talking AC/DC and other head-smasher bands in which the most important skill sometimes appeared to be the ability to toss around one's hair. Or yelling curses. (The preceding three links are pretty close to the song selection I heard in a Humvee in which I once hitched a ride across southern Baghdad with some scouts, I think from the 1st AD.)

Over some beers last Friday evening, I got into a discussion of the best songs to listen to before going into battle.

I don’t mean just favorite songs, but tunes you associate with actually preparing for or heading into combat. I think we could do another top 10 list here, and as a bonus, probably shock some people.

I said that I am not a particularly big Paul McCartney fan, but I liked to listen to "Let It Be" at 4:00 a.m. before covering something likely to be rough. But two combat vets in the conversation said, Tom, that’s because you were not gearing up to pull the trigger. They were right: I was trying to calm down, focus, keep my perceptions clear — it is always best as a reporter to have one eye hovering above, trying to look at the big picture. These guys, no spring chickens, immediately started talking AC/DC and other head-smasher bands in which the most important skill sometimes appeared to be the ability to toss around one’s hair. Or yelling curses. (The preceding three links are pretty close to the song selection I heard in a Humvee in which I once hitched a ride across southern Baghdad with some scouts, I think from the 1st AD.)

So, for this narrow niche, what are your nominees for the Top 10 Best Songs for Going Into Combat? I mean, besides "Garry Owen," you guys.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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