Black Flag Journals


Black Flag Journals: One Soldier's Experience in America's Longest War

by Dennis Woods


The story of America’s longest war is complicated and difficult to convey, unless you were there. Dennis Woods was there. By following his stories in Iraq and Afghanistan, we can sense the enormity of his combat experiences. Originally written for his daughter, Black Flag Journals is taken from the author’s nine battle book journals. It covers his time from the fall of the Twin Towers through his last combat tour.

Black Flag Journals contains not just stories from the first war of the new century, but a day-by-day record of events that other veterans may use to relate their own experiences. All who enjoy real life stories, and followers of history will connect with this first person account of America’s longest war.


Rules of engagement

At higher echelons of command, the rules of engagement were used as a rheostat. That rheostat could be dialed up or down to adjust the level of violence. The level of violence was often adjusted to achieve military and political goals. At the soldier level, the rules allowed one to “kill with a conscience, if necessary.” I mention this now as, over time, the rules of engagement and what constituted a legal engagement would change from time to time based on conditions.

About the Author

CSM Woods combat tours include;

Operation Urgent Fury, Grenada, 82d Airborne Division.

Operation Desert Shield / Desert Storm, Saudi Arabia – Iraq, 82d Airborne Division.

Operation Desert Fox 1998, Qatar, 5th Group Special Forces.

OEF 2 Afghanistan, 82d Airborne Division.

OIF 1 Iraq, First Armored Division.

OIF 6 Iraq, First Armored Division.

OEF X Afghanistan, 173D Airborne Brigade Combat Team.

OEF XIII Afghanistan, 191st Infantry Brigade

CSM Woods civilian education includes a Master of Education, (training & leadership) from North Central University, Prescott AZ, and a Bachelor of Science from Excelsior, Albany, New York.

Military education includes the United States Sergeants Majors Academy class # 58, Army force management course, Jump Master, Drill Sergeant, US Army Recruiter, Infantry Small Arms Master Gunner, Artillery Master Gunner, Amphibious Warfare leaders’ course (USMC), Anti-Armor Leaders course, Machine Gun Leaders course, Artillery Mechanics repair course, Small Arms repair course, Nuclear Biological Chemical defense, and all levels of air load planning and hazmat certification USAF.

CSM Woods awards include; one Distinguished Service medal, one Legion Of Merit,( 5) Bronze Star Medals, 5 Meritorious Service Medals, 4 ARCOM, 4 AAM, 1 Humanitarian service medal, 2 Armed Forces Expeditionary medals, Afghanistan and Iraq service medals. German Jump Master Wings, Qatar Jump wings as part of 5th Group, Netherlands Jumpmaster wings. Other awards include; Department of Defense “Inventor of the year” (2003) with 45 separate inventions. CSM Woods saved the United States Government over one Billion Dollars through cost avoidance. He is also the first recipient of the GRUBER award for an outstanding field artillery professional.

CSM Woods is credited by the US Army Smart Ideas program as the inventor of;

The 105mm Howitzer night direct fire sight system M913 GELON.

The 155mm towed Howitzer night sight system.

The dual use day/ night direct fire sight reticule.

The Dual optic MILES Laser trainer.

The Urban Assault kit (PALADIN) improved crew protection, 155mm system.

On his most recent tour to Afghanistan, CSM Woods pioneered the first use of artillery training rounds in combat as a form of scalable fire support designed to limit civilian death and collateral damage. He is the author of, ‘Black Flag Journals One Soldiers Experience in America’s Longest War’, and numerous magazine, newspaper articles, including training pamphlets concerning Artillery, night vision, and combat operations.

Twitter: @djwoodswrites

Amazon Author Page


Koehler Book

Amazon Buy Link




One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/ gift card.


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  1. Thank you for hosting me today. I'm currently on the set of a reality TV show in Hawaii so I'm about 6 hours behind East coast time. In show breaks I'll check in to answer questions for the next few days.

  2. This sounds good. I like the idea of getting a real perspective on how it was. Thanks for the chance.

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you Rita. It's not just my story though, it's the story of all of us who served in America's Longest war. Based on journals and combatant narratives' it also acts as a Rosetta stone for translating veteran stories into standard English. You may have noticed that soldiers tend to use an insider knowledge base of acronyms when communicating their experiences. However, as theirs no common knowledge base of combat acronyms in public use, the messages are often misunderstood. In Black Flag Journals, every time I introduce a common combat experience, I included an explanation in story format as a form of stealth education. The result is that one gains the common knowledge necessary to interpret unique battle experiences.

  4. Thank you Lynn. This book is based on 9 battle book Journals that I kept for my daughter. She was in Elementary School when the Twin Towers fell. I initially thought how long could this last...2 years tops. I expected that I'd use the Journals to explain my absence when she grew up, however, this war took us from Elementary School to Grad School and I was still traveling to the same battle fields, with the same weapons. Something you may find different in this work though is the fact that we used marriage counseling techniques on Afghans as internally they were too dysfunctional to externally be; a fire department, police department, government.

  5. I love the idea behind this read and inclusion of his battle book journals.

    1. Thank you for the comment Katie. It's my witness statement of the first war of then new century, 9/11, 2001. I kept the Journals assuming that I would be retired before my then Elementary School aged daughter grew up. However, this war took us from Elementary school to Grad School and I was still returning to the same locations with the same weapons.

  6. Katie O scarlet thank you for the comment. Based on Journals it contains some of the letters I wrote to my daughter in the moment assuming that she would read them as an adult. One of the additional drivers to record my events came from the fact that she was hearing second hand embellished accounts of my combat actions. I felt a need to address the duality of personas between, father-protector, husband-lover & war-leader.

  7. Dennis John Woods is new to me, but I love meeting new authors. Thanks to this blog for the introduction.

  8. I have no doubt that this will prove to be a fascinating memoir.

    1. Thank you Mary Preston, the Amazon rating is 5 stars, Goodreads 4 1/2, and the audiobook has a 3 of 5. With this year being the 20th anniversary of 9/11, 2001 and the close of America's Longest War, I expect a few more reviews. My worries are that some may layer their political views over my eyewitness accounts and affect the ratings. But I imagine every author worries about reviews.

  9. Great excerpt and giveaway. :)

    1. Thank you for the comment Cali. Writing about the changing rules of engagement helps the reader place legal standards against events recorded in Black Flag Journals. Some of the events discussed are very combat-oriented & personal. Others have found the book a good starting point when sharing their experiences with friends & family. I learned in conversation that others were employing the book as a means of establishing a common understanding before divulging intermate information.

  10. Sounds like a very interesting book and I look forward to reading the book.

  11. Thank you for the comment Sherry. The current version of new prints represents the 3d edition with 20th anniversary of 9/11, 2001 updates. Versions 1&2 can be purchased online at reduced prices from a number of vendors. B&N will always have the newest version in my opinion. I can't account for others inventory.

  12. Thank you for the comment Sherry. The current version of new prints represents the 3d edition with 20th anniversary of 9/11, 2001 updates. Versions 1&2 can be purchased online at reduced prices from a number of vendors. B&N will always have the newest version in my opinion. I can't account for others inventory.

  13. This is an important reminder that many military lives were defined by Middle East conflicts. It’s easy to forget the impact of war when it’s being fought so far away.

    1. Jenna I agree with you're statement, and thank you for commenting. In addition, this is the longest America's ever fought with an entirely volunteer force. One has to go back to the American Revolutionary War to find a time period that even comes close. As I type this today, we are in an era of persistent conflict. While I managed to deploy to war for every President from Reagan to Obama, I was an exception to the rule. The rule was that for the majority who served prior to 9/11, 2001 most soldiers never heard a shot fired in anger. Now we have a generation of soldiers approaching a 20 year retirement who've not known a time without war. In Black Flag Journals I also layout some of the stress this type of activity brings to a marriage, to a Childs relationship with deployed parents. While I was lucky in those regards others weren't. As for for the general public forgetting that theirs a war on, I sometimes attribute that to-success-itus. That is most haven't had to worry about it and no one did without any consumer product as a result of war. In fact, medical advances benefited all.

  14. An interesting story told by its own protagonist, looks like a very interesting book.

    1. Thank you for the comment Edgar Gerik, these eyewitness accounts were taken from 9 Journals. When turning them into a book, I had to first decide on a story arc, as I could write a book on just one big operation. For many who served in this long war, a big operation is what happened on Monday, and may have 2 more big operations within the same calendar week. For this work I chose to start with wars violent beginnings, then shift to partnership operations with Iraqi and Afghan forces in the lead. I maintain that we won our wars, thy have to win theirs as how they end up is their choice.

  15. Great post – thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Thank you Victoria, please sign up for the giveaway and share on social media. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11, 2001 attacks.

  16. Replies
    1. Thank you Debbie P, please enter the giveaway for a chance to win the $ 50.00 Amazon / B&N gift card.


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