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Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan Hardcover – February 28, 2012
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Best-Selling Author Brad Thor Reviews Outlaw Platoon
How close can we get to really knowing what it's like to succeed in combat? To fight, to survive—even thrive—while facing enemy fire every other day? To get on-the-job training in what it takes to be a strong, decisive commander? These are a few of the things that make Outlaw Platoon by Sean Parnell and John Bruning such a kick-ass read.
Two of the grittiest, most intense tales of courage and camaraderie under fire that I own are Black Hawk Down and Lone Survivor. Now I have a third: Outlaw Platoon. It’s the Black Hawk Down for the 21st Century. It is an absolutely gripping, edge-of-your-seat ride that follows these men when the fates foolishly attempt to stack the deck against them. This book has Hollywood blockbuster written all over it. But there’s much more than just the guns-blazing action. It is an epic tale of leadership, heroism, and the bond among warriors who ply their deadly trade with a deceivingly simple mandate—to kill the enemy and return home together alive. It’s an absolute must read!Brad Thor Interviews Sean Parnell
Brad Thor: What was your first day like on the ground in Afghanistan’s eastern frontier?
Sean Parnell: The moment I arrived at Forward Operating Base Bermel, the insurgents attacked the base with rocket fire. They missed the FOB, but hit a local village, killing and wounding a number of children. The villagers rushed their injured to our front gate, and I ran to help. Our troops wanted to help all of the children, but the Afghan fathers insisted the boys be treated first. I grabbed a little girl anyways and sprinted for the aid station. She bled out in my arms as I ran.
That was my introduction to combat. All I was, all I had been, changed in that instant.
Thor: What surprised you about the enemy in Afghanistan?
Parnell: We found an enemy that wasn’t a bunch of farmers with leftover weapons, but one of the finest light infantry forces in the world. These fighters were brilliantly led, seasoned warriors. Some had spent their entire lives in combat—stretching back to the Soviet War in the 1980’s. They were elusive, heavily armed and extremely well equipped with the latest armor-piercing bullets, anti-tank weapons, body armor, and other gear essential to ground operations.
They also had no mercy. None. Their objective was to overrun an American platoon, behead everyone and stick our heads on stakes. In battle, we heard them on the radio ordering their teams to do this, and we saw the huge knives they carried for the task.
They did their best to overrun us three times. But we were better. Just barely.
Thor: Describe the bond forged in battle—the loyalty and bravery you saw and why you think that’s vital to success.
Parnell: During my 16 months in combat I saw the noblest aspects of the human spirit, thanks to the bond that developed among the men. We realized that the only way we could survive this crucible was to remain committed to each other. Not for ourselves, but to ensure that we would survive to see our loved ones back home again.
Thor: How would you describe the men in your platoon?
Parnell: In a word: unique. Our army mirrors the country it’s sworn to protect, and I think the Outlaws reflected America’s greatest strength: diversity. My men came from all walks of life. They believed in American exceptionalism with every fiber of their being. And if they were similar in any way, it was in this ideal.
“The range of emotions that Sean Parnell summons in Outlaw Platoon [is] stunning. A nuanced, compelling memoir . . . Parnell shows he’s a gifted, brave storyteller.” (Pittsburgh Tribune)
“Outlaw Platoon put me back on the battlefield again. It’s a heartfelt story that shows how very different people can be thrown together in combat and find a way to make it work. Parnell and the soldiers who fought beside him are all courageous heroes—real bad asses.” (Chris Kyle, author of American Sniper)
“Two of the most intense tales of courage under fire I own are Black Hawk Down and Lone Survivor. I now have a third, Outlaw Platoon. It’s an absolutely gripping, edge-of-your-seat ride.” (Brad Thor, author of Full Black)
“Outlaw Platoon is an utterly gripping account of what our soldiers endure on the front lines—the frustrations, the fear, the loneliness. . . Here, in these pages, are the on-the-ground realities of a war we so rarely witness on news broadcasts” (Tim O'Brien, author of The Things They Carried)
“Outlaw Platoon is an exceptional look into the mind of a platoon leader in Afghanistan; Captain Parnell shares his experiences of leadership, loss, and aggressive military tactics. You can really feel the bonds forged between these brothers in arms as the battle plays out” (Marcus Luttrell, author of Lone Survivor)
“At times, I forgot I was reading about a war as I was drawn up in the drama the same way you [are] when reading Krakauer’s Into Thin Air . . . This is a book of probing honesty, wrenching drama and courage.” (Doug Stanton, author of Horse Soldiers)
“[A] soulful story of men at war . . . Outlaw Platoon shows us that the love and brotherhood forged in the fires of combat are the most formidable quaities a unit can possess.” (Steven Pressfield, author of Gates of Fire)
“Outlaw Platoon is expertly told by a man who braved the heat of battle time and time again. An epic story as exacting as it is suspenseful, it reveals the bravery and dedication of our armed service men and women around the world.” (Clive Cussler)
“This book is more than just a rip-roaring combat narrative: it is a profoundly moving exploration into the nature and evolution of the warrior bond forged in desperate, against-all-odds battles. A significant book, not to be missed.” (Jack Coughlin, author of Shooter: The Autobiography of the Top-Ranked Marine Sniper)
“Outlaw Platoon is the real deal. It’s a terrific tale of combat leadership that deserves to be studied by all small-unit leaders. The narrative goes beyond the battlefield to depict the maddening nature of the war and the grit of those who selflessly protect us.” (Bing West, author of No True Glory)
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Throughout the book he illustrates grandeous visions of himself and how courageous he was, but wait, he owes it all to his "men." He seems to make sure Sean Parnell the "hero" gets recognized but then immediately sloughs off his self appointed hero status by giving credit to his "men" who aren't even all mentioned in his book.
Even my Dad, who is a war book buff, couldn't finish this book because it was so centralized around one person, Parnell.
As far as John Bruning is concerned, he is a self-proclaimed ghost writer. It seems excruciatingly easy to detect Parnell's juvenile style of writing. He speaks lovingly of his charming American boy past in a cliche "get to know the protagonist," kind of way. Then he laments about his apparent shock at finding himself suddenly being thrust into a war zone, as if it were unexpected. Parnell's style is in stark contrast to Bruning's template, cookie cutter, war book writing style. Bruning writes about war for a living, Parnell's story seems to fit the mold perfectly.
It's comical and quite reprehensible that a book like this is considered to be "non-fiction," and has more reviews on this site than some books that have been around for 20 years. It might make one very suspicious that Bruning chose to write most of this book, yet allowed Parnell to take most of the credit for it. Why would someone of Parnell's status and "harrowing" war experiences need a ghost writer to write his book? Why is no one asking questions about this man and his "non-fiction" book that he admits might not even be true.
Parnell claims that he wrote the book in order to illustrate the "truth" about being in a combat zone. Therefore I feel that his memory and intent for this book need to be called into question. Otherwise I fear that young men and women might join the armed forces under the false guise of becoming a "hero" like Mr. Parnell.
Outlaw Platoon in my opinion is nothing more than an overly manly account of a young man who had the brilliant idea to hail himself as a hero to the most impressionable minds and war lovers of America. It has worked out for him, mostly because people love romanticized versions of the truth, rather than the plain truth. I'm glad I didn't pay for this book. I hope my review will cause a more critical look at this book, and books like it that are drawn from memory, but admittedly attempt to tell the "truth" about war.
As you read this post, there are thousands of men on battlefields around the world killing and suffering for the preservation of American ideals. As a civilized society and beneficiaries of our nation's might, we must meet their sacrifices with unwavering support. It is not enough for us to adhere a yellow ribbon to our cars, to shake a soldier's hand, or even to send care packages to the front. More than anything, these men need our understanding. They need to know that we are aware of their plight, that we are invested in their success, and that we are willing to help shoulder the burdens of combat, just by listening and caring.
Outlaw Platoon is a window into the world of America's infantry warriors. In the book, Sean puts you on the ground in Afghanistan, straps 100 pounds of gear on your back, and injects you into the fight. However, he also introduces you to the human side of the war, highlighting the exceptional diversity of the platoon and the strength that it generates, as well as the horrifying realities of life for Afghani civilians.
Not only is Outlaw Platoon a thrilling, emotionally-charged read, it is a tool for healing the wounded souls of our discarded patriots and reuniting the American people with the guardians of our way of life. It is our undeniable duty as Americans to share the load of our foreign wars, and by simply reading Outlaw Platoon with a compassionate heart, we are doing our part for the men we put in harm's way.
He repeatedly alludes to how much his troops love and respect him and how he loves his troops. This is one of the parts that eventually made me stop reading:
"Just before we'd left Fort Drum, the platoon had gathered for one last night out on the town. Long after midnight, the liquor had made me relaxed and loud. I was happier than I had ever been, surrounded by men I'd come to care so much about. Then I'd made a snarky comment to a woman who had insulted one of my men. She'd reported it to her boyfriend, a townie with a chip on his shoulder. He and four of his buddies had ambushed me in the bar's bathroom. As they'd grabbed me and carried me outside, I'd laughed and said, "You picked the wrong night to do this." They'd dragged me into the parking lot, ready to go to work on me. Before they could throw a punch, my entire platoon had poured through the front doors, pounced on the townies, and turned them into bleeding, bellowing wrecks."
This is his tone. He sounds like he was either living in a dream world then, or making it up now. In the real army, people don't all get along, bullets hit people and if you make a "snarky comment" to a woman in a pub when you are drunk, her husband will beat you up.
I initially rated this book with three stars, but I thought about it and decided to change it to two.