If you’ve ever wanted to understand what it means to be an infantry platoon leader in Afghanistan, I can’t recommend Sean Parnell’s upcoming book “Outlaw Platoon” too much (scheduled release date, Feb. 28th). It is a book that will open both your eyes and your heart to what those who choose the infantry face in that war.
Parnell (who wrote the book with John Bruning) manages to write a book that deals the issues of command and the internal dynamics of platoon of men at war while still offering an extraordinarily good read. His, in reality, is a timeless story that grabs you from page one and won’t let you go until you finish the book.
The story of “Outlaw Platoon” follows a platoon of the 10th Mountain Division through its deployment in Afghanistan and the coming of age of its young platoon leader. It also tells the story of the warriors in the platoon. If you’ve ever been a commander at any level of a combat arms unit, you’ll immediately identify with this book. And even if you haven’t, you won’t be able to put it down.
I found Parnell’s descriptions of the platoon’s development from a collection of soldiers to a “band of brothers” forged in the crucible of combat to be incredibly compelling. Just as compelling was the growth of Parnell as a leader enabled by the careful mentoring of his senior NCOs. That’s how it is supposed to happen and as you’ll see, that sort of development creates a synergy that makes a unit more capable and devastating to the enemy than their numbers would have you think they’d be.
You’re also in for a few surprises about that war in general that will leave you less that certain about its eventual successful outcome. What won’t surprise you is how damn good our warriors are, how well they fight and the odds they routinely face.
Parnell also covers the internal politics and problems endemic to US forces engaged in a war such as Afghanistan. The two cultures that uneasily co-exist (the combat element v. the FOBBITs) in that theater is given an airing. Additionally, the stark reality of how convoluted the alliances in the area are and how really no one outside of other US forces can be trusted. You’ll also see that even within the combat side of things, there are those who don’t or won’t do their jobs and because of that, jeopardize the lives of the warriors. There is no attempt to paper over the problems our soldiers face in that war.
It is a tremendous read, a page turner that wouldn’t let me put it down until I finished it. Do yourself a favor, buy it and read it, it’s worth every penny.