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Combat and Other Shenanigans: Tales of the Absurd from a Deployment to Iraq Paperback – February 25, 2014
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About the Author
Piers Platt grew up in Boston, but spent most of his childhood in various boarding schools, including getting trained as a classical singer at a choir school for boys. He joined the Army in 2002, and spent four years on active duty, including a year-long deployment to Iraq in 2004 as a tank and scout platoon leader. He now works as a marketing strategy consultant in New York city, when he's not spending time with his lovely wife and daughter.
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Top Customer Reviews
In Vietnam our cavalry was the Assault Helicopters, but today the Abrams and Bradley tanks are our cavalry, with support from helicopters. It’s a different war, in different terrain, and with a different cavalry. Other than that, there seems little to no change in Army life. The back office, and higher ups still make idiotic decisions, and the troops still rely on their own ingenuity to get the job done. Lt. Platt knew enough to rely on his experienced NCOs to get him through the learning process in the war zone. Piers earned his cavalry spurs in combat. That allows him to wear the Stetson hat and boot spurs of the Cavalry Scouts. It is a sharp uniform. We were recently eating at Golden Coral in Wichita Falls when a Cavalry crew came in wearing their Stetson and spurs. My wife spoke with them, and they proudly explained their Scout duties. I think they were from Fort Hood.
There are plenty of things going on outside of combat that will bring a smile of understanding to any military person. Finding a Pizza Hut in Kuwait reminded me of the pizza we bought at the AF Base Snack Bar at Bein Hoa, Vietnam; right next to the glass cage containing a huge python - usually feeding on a chicken. Or the reporters they were expecting, only to find out they were from a German toy model magazine, there to see the MI Abrams (tanks) on an actual combat mission. I think these things must have been filed under war and politics.
I don’t think we had time for shenanigans in Vietnam (I was submerged into a barrel of water by the troops at a company party), still that was a part of the Army throughout my twenty-year career. So I don’t doubt for a minute that Lt. Platt’s crew were able to find periods to let off some steam once in a while. The book may not be for everyone, but I highly recommend it for any active or ex military service member, as well as anyone researching the history of the war in Iraq. I enjoyed the book, and got a kick out of all the shenanigans. So will you.
Readers follow the author, an Armor Lieutenant in charge of a tank platoon, as his group finishes training in Germany and deploy to Iraq in relief of another unit which is returning home. There are snipers, skirmishes, incoming mortars, IED's, hunger, thirst, heat, cold and boredom to contend with almost daily. The 'hurry up and wait' mentality of the military has not changed over the decades and much of their time is idle and waiting for the green machine to make decisions. When there is plenty of downtimes, soldiers will play to relieve the boredom, hence the other half of the book's title.
Shenanigans are nothing more than pranks and well received by the troops. It's a way to blow off steam and share the fun with those serving beside them. Lt. Platt was good to his men, took care of them and shared many of his special packages from home. The Lt. is soon reassigned to the Scouts, who operate in Bradley and get into the thick of things. Here, he has to learn everything from scratch. But when an officer treats his men well, they reciprocate and help him get through the rough spots. NCO's have a knack for managing the military for the most part and make deserving officers look good.
Platt was part of the big change in Iraq when the people had an opportunity to vote in their first ever election. It was also the first time that the soldiers felt a sense of satisfaction for being there during this historical moment to observe people celebrating because of what the U.S. had achieved for them.
Some reviewers comment that the fraternization displayed between the line officers and their men was out of line. Behavior like this has been going on for some time during wartime as a special bond develops between the men, no matter their rank, and will continue through the rest of their lives. In Vietnam, lieutenants were on a first name basis with men in their platoons - at least, out in the field. There was a level of respect offered when other officers were present. It's just the way it is!
Nevertheless, readers of this story will see how this relationship between officers, NCO's and their men develops and grows over time. They will also witness the sacrifices and difficulties that soldiers experience in a foreign country and during a war. I highly recommend this tale to all veterans and others who want an inside look at how the war went in Iraq.
John Podlaski, author
Cherries - A Vietnam War Novel
The book soars in its stories of everyday Army life. Its best moments show soldiers entertaining themselves by pulling pranks, often at the expense of other soldiers, including Platt.
Some descriptions of equipment and events could have used more lay explanations or context, but Platt takes care to explain most of the lesser-known Army language, battle tactics and vehicles. The reader is never lost for long.
A few themes feel like familiar territory (frustration with senior officers making questionable decisions; grappling with the aftermath of a first kill; and the longing for home), but Platt's own stories feel original and honest. He makes the familiar compelling and new.
(Full disclosure: Platt is an old college friend.)