Framing the Dialogue

Outlaw Platoon

“A year before, I had been a partying college student, obsessed with The Lord of the Rings and hte Harry Potter books.  Getting to class and writing to papers had been pretty much the limit of my responsibilities.  Now I was a leader in a combat zone, entrusted with the role after the army had invested millions of dollars in my training.  Any decision I made could have unseen consequences.  I second-guessed myself constantly, concealed it from the men, and did my best to absorb every lesson thrown my way.”

I’ve read and written about a lot of action books and have been fortunate to have read some great stories.  Most of them were just stories which sets Outlaw Platoonapart from them.  The story of the Outlaws shares the drama, emotion, and action of the best thrillers that I have read with the added IMPACT of the fact that it was real.  Knowing these guys actually lived this had me turning pages faster and fastere to find out what happened to these men I came to know as much one can from a book.  The men came alive and I held my breath hoping and almost praying that they lived through their battles. 

One of the interesting sub-plots was the interaction between the soldiers who did the fighting and the support folks who really never got in harms way…”Fobbits.”  It was sad how little respect some “fobbits” gave to the fighting soldiers.  This passage brought Parnell to an air base soon after returning from a mission,

“We were swimming upstream in an ocean of Fobbits on that main road, Bray and I looking utterly out of place in our filthy, battleworn ACUs.  My IBA still had bloodstains on it from June 10.  Inevitably our condition attracted unwanted attention.  ‘Lieutenant?’ A U.S. Army major demanded.  He stood staring at me, hands on hips, a look of disgust on his face.  His ACUs were so clean and well fitting that I assumed they had been tailored and pressed.  He wore no combat badges, no sign that he was a Ranger or even infantry.  I had never even noticed that sort of thing until that moment.  I wondered if he was going to be salsa dancing tonight…His war and mine were so different that there would be no way for our worlds to meet.  I didn’t even have the energy to try.”

The book was exceptionally written by author Sean Parnell and coauthor John R. Bruning.  One measure of how good a book is in my opinion is how late I stay up to read it and this book not only kept me up late last night, but got me up early to finish it.

This story should be required reading for anybody before they even try to engage in a conversation about our role in Afghanistan and in a larger sense the Middle East.  Author Sean Parnell states early on that Outlaw Platoonis not about politics nor America’s policy in Afghanistan.  Even though it is a story about his men, his family it is impossible not to question our mission, our alleged “ally” Pakistan, our rules of engagement, and the Afghan people themselves.  I apologize to the author for using his story in this way, but in the last few years often wonder what we can still accomplish there other than bring our soldiers home in coffins.

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