Wednesday, February 27, 2013

TLC Tour - Book Review - Outlaw Platoon - Sean Parnell


Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan
Title: Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan

Author: Sean Parnell with John R. Bruning

Review: If you want insight what is actually going on in Afghanistan and our troops you could not do better than Outlaw Platoon which follows a platoon from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division.  Told from a first person point of view from the platoon’s leader Lieutenant Parnell it brings the war to life, especially all of the men (or boys in some cases) that served in 2006.  You get to know these guys intimately and genuinely care about their well being and their futures.

Written in the tradition of David Hackworth’s great books about Vietnam, you follow these guys through their entire assignment in Bermel Afghanistan which is righton the Pakistan border.  Without losing the flow of the story Parnell highlights the major battles and incidences his soldiers faced.  He puts you right into the action letting you know what these guys both physically and mentally suffered for their mission.

What amazes me with all these accounts of modern war, the enemies America face generally follow the same plan.  They make up for organization and firepower by sheer volume of troops.  If you send enough guys forward with enough small arms, eventually you will hit someone.  Much how I play Halo, just keep taking shots as fast as I can and eventually I will get lucky.  Whereas America believes in a well-trained force who are well-equipped.  This plays out with the Outlaw Platoon as they suffer very few casualties over their deployment, but do receive a lot of wounds.  Yet they manage to kill a lot of the opposing force with much less men.  

What is hard to read is the enemy’s treatment of the Afghani people they come across; they think nothing of the torture and murder of the citizenry.  Plus it is shocking to see the treatment the Afghani’s will give the American troops at times.  The enemy is killing them yet they will stand by and let bad things happen to the troops that could have been prevented.  The loan death in the platoon is truly devastating because of this indifference; it could have easily been prevented.  

Then the major flaw of modern war is the desire to be civilized about it, especially when your enemy has no interest in that.  When their operating base is being shelled nonstop by the enemy and you are not allowed to fire back.  Why?  Well the enemy is sitting right across the border in Pakistan; are supposed ally in this war, with Pakistani troops making themselves human shields for the enemy.  According to the treaties we are teammates in this conflict, when the evidence on the ground is they are clearly not.  Yet we obey the treaty and just let men get killed in order not to offend.  It is this desire to fight a friendly war that is the largest cause of troop suffering.

My only dislike of this book is the macho posturing I see in all books of this type; that this platoon was the best and not only were they were the best everyone else were detrimental to the cause of the real soldiers.  Especially noticeable was the description of the Fobbits, the term for the support staff that stay at the base of operations to maintain the troops who did go on patrol.  These are the soldiers who cook the meals, maintain the vehicles, get in the supplies, and all the other tasks that are required to support the combat troops.  While I do not doubt there are a lot of less desirable people in the mix, and the author describes several of them, a vast majority are there giving up their life for this deployment doing all they can to serve these combat troops and their country with honor.  By only focusing on the jerks of the bunch he paints them all with a broad brushstroke of shame. Like their service was less than everyone else’s.  Hackworth referred to these guys as REMF’s in his books.

This is a great book to get a frontline understanding of the Afghanistan war from the eyes of our combat troops.  You will come away with a new view of the stories and politicking you see coming out of Washington and the mass media.

Publisher: William Morrow
ISBN: 978-0-06-206640-4
Copyright: 2012
Pages: 372
Quick Review: 3.5 stars out of 5
Why I Read It: Enjoy a good non-fiction book
Where I Obtained the Book: Sent to me by the publisher for review

Synopsis: Former Army officer Parnell and collaborator Bruning (Shadow of the Sword) reprise Parnell’s 16 months as an infantry platoon leader in Afghanistan in this heartfelt memoir. In 2006, Parnell and his 10th Mountain Division platoon, the self-styled Outlaws, arrived in Afghanistan’s Bermel Valley, which borders Pakistan. Their mission was “to stanch the flow of enemy troops and supplies into Afghanistan.” Besides their 32 Purple Hearts, the platoon—which “usually patrolled with about 30 men... loaded into six Humvees”—earned seven Bronze Stars and 12 Army Commendations for Valor, making it one of the most decorated units in the Afghan war. Parnell vividly captures the sounds, sights, and smells of combat, and proves most eloquent when describing the bond—“selflessness was our secret weapon”—that developed among his men. Studiously nonpartisan, Parnell still raises important questions about Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s integrity, the competence of the Afghan police, and the sincerity of our Pakistani “allies.” Parnell balances sentimentality with sincerity and crisp prose to produce one of the Afghan war’s most moving combat narratives.

Author Biography:   Sean Parnell is a former U.S. Army airborne ranger who served in the legendary 10th Mountain Division for six years, retiring as a captain. He received two Bronze Stars (one for valor) and the Purple Heart. He is a passionate supporter of America's military and is currently serving as an ambassador for the Boot Campaign, a national veteran's charity. He lives with his wife and three children in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

John R. Bruning is the author or coauthor of fifteen nonfiction books, including the critically acclaimed Shadow of the Sword and House to House. To prepare for this book, he embedded with coalition forces in Afghanistan in 2010....

John Bruning is the author or coauthor of fifteen nonfiction books, including the critically acclaimed Shadow of the Sword (with Jeremiah Workman) and House to House (with David Bellavia). To prepare for this book, he embedded with coalition forces in Afghanistan in 2010. He lives in Oregon with his wife and two children.
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