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

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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 a 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.


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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 a 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.

30 review for Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    Sean Parnell at only twenty-four years of age was leader of Outlaw Platoon. The U.S. Army Airborne Ranger served for six years, retiring with two Bronze Stars and the Purple Heart. This is not just his story, but of the group of men who served with him in one of the most dangerous and inhospitable places on earth in the Bermel Valley, Afghanistan. Written by Sean Parnell and co-authored by writer John Bruning, this is a riveting read. The descriptions of the country, the battles, the personalitie Sean Parnell at only twenty-four years of age was leader of Outlaw Platoon. The U.S. Army Airborne Ranger served for six years, retiring with two Bronze Stars and the Purple Heart. This is not just his story, but of the group of men who served with him in one of the most dangerous and inhospitable places on earth in the Bermel Valley, Afghanistan. Written by Sean Parnell and co-authored by writer John Bruning, this is a riveting read. The descriptions of the country, the battles, the personalities of the men, are vivid and real. Though Outlaw Platoon is not a political view of the War on Terror, I felt frustrated and annoyed on behalf of these men who had to at times follow orders that were not in their best interests or it seemed in the best interests of their country. Their acts of courage under fire, their care and responsibility for each other, their discipline, professionalism and strength are to be admired and respected. Having read quite a few modern military accounts, I would consider this on par with two others Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War and Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10. An absolute must-read for readers of military non-fiction! * Thanks cEe for the recommendation and for gifting this incredible book to me. I owe you!

  2. 4 out of 5

    cEe beE

    As a woman and a civilian, I am totally unfamiliar with the almost all masculine world of the military and the wars of their making. Outlaw Platoon gave me a peek into the mindset of a soldier, and the intense brotherhood that form among the men during war. It's both fascinating and incomprehensible to me, to live for your fellow soldiers, and be willing to die for them. Running on adrenalin, these young men go and kill, get shot at, and survive another day to fight again. And they do this for m As a woman and a civilian, I am totally unfamiliar with the almost all masculine world of the military and the wars of their making. Outlaw Platoon gave me a peek into the mindset of a soldier, and the intense brotherhood that form among the men during war. It's both fascinating and incomprehensible to me, to live for your fellow soldiers, and be willing to die for them. Running on adrenalin, these young men go and kill, get shot at, and survive another day to fight again. And they do this for months on end in terrible living conditions. It's heroic, honorable, and utterly insane. I read this to understand the war in Afghanistan a little better. While I believe we're stuck in a horrible quagmire, these men are just doing their jobs and subjecting themselves to terrible physical and mental trauma and a mounting casualty toll. Nevertheless, I am struck with a deep admiration and awe for Sean Parnell and soldiers like him whose dedication and duty in hellish situations, bound him and his men with a love that is thicker than blood. It's absolutely remarkable.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    I am sure Outlaw Platoon will go down as one of the greatest books on Operation Enduring Freedom, among Black Hawk Down, Lone Survivor, and Robert's Ridge. Parnell is a truly gifted writer, this book shows it, and Bruning has done a stellar job as usual. You aren't so much reading the platoon's story as experiencing it. As I've mentioned before, the writing is incredible and the battles are intense and gritty. Parnell handles the large cast very well, not once, a rare occasion for me, was I confu I am sure Outlaw Platoon will go down as one of the greatest books on Operation Enduring Freedom, among Black Hawk Down, Lone Survivor, and Robert's Ridge. Parnell is a truly gifted writer, this book shows it, and Bruning has done a stellar job as usual. You aren't so much reading the platoon's story as experiencing it. As I've mentioned before, the writing is incredible and the battles are intense and gritty. Parnell handles the large cast very well, not once, a rare occasion for me, was I confused on who was doing what and when. Each of the men was well drawn and you cared about them, and what happened to them. This should be required reading for ROTC, Officer Candidate School, and the service academies. And for every American, I think it will open a lot of eyes. It sure opened mine. EDIT: Just finished rereading it for the second time. Just as powerful as the first time I picked it up. READ IT!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tasha

    Non-fic military stories have a special place in my heart and this one fits right in. There are no words (or review) that can do it justice coming from a civilian like myself except to say a word of thanks to all the brave soldiers who sacrificed so much. So thanks, and thanks to the author for sharing his story.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sweetwilliam

    I just finished reading Sean Parnell’s Outlaw Platoon. What an education this book is. Sean Parnell is a young platoon leader who is assigned to a 10th Mountain division infantry platoon deployed in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan. Prior to his deployment, Lieutenant Parnell thinks he will be facing a rag-tag group of Taliban. Instead he is facing an experienced, elite group of insurgents whose leaders were fighting the Soviets when Parnell was in diapers. The Taliban are given sanctuary an I just finished reading Sean Parnell’s Outlaw Platoon. What an education this book is. Sean Parnell is a young platoon leader who is assigned to a 10th Mountain division infantry platoon deployed in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan. Prior to his deployment, Lieutenant Parnell thinks he will be facing a rag-tag group of Taliban. Instead he is facing an experienced, elite group of insurgents whose leaders were fighting the Soviets when Parnell was in diapers. The Taliban are given sanctuary and direct support from our so-called Pakistan allies. They recruit willing jihadists from all over the Muslim world who can’t wait to make a suicide charge at that Americans. Taliban ambushes are a common everyday occurrence. The Outlaws are cut off and almost overrun on more than one occasion. Meanwhile the Outlaw’s are aided by an Afghanistan Police force whose corrupt leader sells their US supplied weapons on the black market for extra cash, an interpreter that is tipping off the enemy, and Afghan civilians that will accept American medical aid and food but will not tell the Outlaws that the insurgents planted road side bombs nearby. Meanwhile, their fellow Americans- safely inside the wire - play petty politics. The Outlaws receive poor medical attention. There is a Mail lady referred to as the mail bitch that has the Outlaw’s contraband pet dogs shot while the Outlaws are on patrol. There is also a fellow platoon that will not risk venturing too far outside the wire to help the Outlaws when they are engaged with the enemy. I had no idea that Americans were involved in combat this intense anywhere in the world. I was in shock and total disbelief. I had no idea that things were that awful over there. Parnell talks about Afghan fathers that would demand their sons receive emergency medical treatment before their daughters. He tells how the Taliban would be so brutal to civilians including children and that Americans would be so politically correct that we would not return Taliban 107MM rocket fire into Pakistan. The Pakistanis were not only giving safe haven to the terrorists, in the final chapter, they were caught assisting them during an actual assault! I kept asking myself “can this really be happening?” To be fair, the ANA fought alongside their Marine cadre bravely and Abdul the interpreter gave his life for the cause. Also, there was an instance of a tribal elder who risked his life to give the Outlaws advance warning of a Taliban offensive. But still, it sounds a lot like Vietnam with less vegetation and Allah. Read Outlaw Platoon. I finished it in week. It was hard to put down.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Silvana

    3.5 stars. I tried reading this book two years ago but could not pass 1/3 of it because I felt it was a bit too soppy. Then a few weeks ago, I watched 12 Strong and had the urge to go back to this book since it's been too long since I last read something about the wars in Afghanistan (the last one I read was Roberts Ridge: A Story of Courage and Sacrifice on Takur Ghar Mountain, Afghanistan). I reread the whole thing from the start, but again I felt the narrative style with the recurring inserti 3.5 stars. I tried reading this book two years ago but could not pass 1/3 of it because I felt it was a bit too soppy. Then a few weeks ago, I watched 12 Strong and had the urge to go back to this book since it's been too long since I last read something about the wars in Afghanistan (the last one I read was Roberts Ridge: A Story of Courage and Sacrifice on Takur Ghar Mountain, Afghanistan). I reread the whole thing from the start, but again I felt the narrative style with the recurring insertion of flashbacks in the main story did not go well with the flow. It took me out of the story a few times and then I learned to skip the flashbacks altogether. Were the flashbacks woven to the (post-combat) reflection moments, I would enjoy it more. Now, the good parts. This is actually a great combat memoir. The battle accounts were intense with detailed description on the terrain, troop maneuvers, weapons deployed etc, that is why I managed to finish the whole book in one day. One battle (the June 6th) was just so vivid, I was transfixed in my reading spot reading that chapter. Phew. I also appreciated the fact he reminded the readers on the other enemy the soldiers have to face, not just external, but also internal within the Army itself. The stories on how the politics in their FOB were frustrating even for me. The platoon members of course were described in details, but not too much, just sufficient to know their personalities to make them memorable. The camaraderie is obviously one of the highlights in every war books, but I was actually more intrigued with the clashes among the platoons. I've read about this in some other books, and it just further my conviction that strong bonds - band of brothers stuff - could only be forged in smaller units. I'd love to read more books on Afghan wars - not just from the US perspective, as we know that particular spot on earth has become the graveyard of empires for thousands of years.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mike (the Paladin)

    A good account of an actual group in combat. This is an attempt to give a objective account of the actual effect of war on actual people. In truth the account can't help but occasionally be subjective but mostly the attempt is successful. Also there is an attempt not to use this to grind a political axe...a good idea as our people in uniform deserve better than that. In other words, just read this one. A good account of an actual group in combat. This is an attempt to give a objective account of the actual effect of war on actual people. In truth the account can't help but occasionally be subjective but mostly the attempt is successful. Also there is an attempt not to use this to grind a political axe...a good idea as our people in uniform deserve better than that. In other words, just read this one.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Larry Loftis

    Incredible story. Real war, real heroes. This riveting, often chilling story is not for the faint of heart. War is hell, and Outlaw Platoon was in the hottest part on several occasions. Heartbreaking at times, this book gives you an up-close-and-personal look at combat from the center of the storm.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Brad H

    I first became aware of this book through his interview on the Opie and Anthony show on XM radio. After listening to his candid interview and his self-deprecating attitude I was drawn to this book. As a vetran of Desert Storm and desert Shield, I have a "slight" insight into how are men and women do their job. I can hold no candle to what I did versus what they have done and continue to do. I continus to support and cherish them in my heart and mind and hold them all with utmost respect and honor I first became aware of this book through his interview on the Opie and Anthony show on XM radio. After listening to his candid interview and his self-deprecating attitude I was drawn to this book. As a vetran of Desert Storm and desert Shield, I have a "slight" insight into how are men and women do their job. I can hold no candle to what I did versus what they have done and continue to do. I continus to support and cherish them in my heart and mind and hold them all with utmost respect and honor. So to the book: Mr. Parnell gives a fantastic insight to the "Brotherhood" of war and the bonding of men in war. He draws you into knowing the characters and who they are, how they came to be there and the families left behind. At no time does Mr.Parnell glorify anything that he did. He lays all the blood, sweat, tears and honor souly upon the shoulders of his men. He simply tells it like a good commander could. Learn from your men, respect your men, support your men....and they will follow you to and through the gates of hell. Cpt. Parnell tells it like it is. There is one paticular Platoon in his area that was the worst that we could field. He pulls no punches when it comes to laying shame upon them and their utter distrust and faith in them. His troops on the other hand exemplify the BEST that could field. Compassion for the locals that have endured horrific atrocities by the enemy. Disdain and hated for the enemy. But, respect for the enemy as well. They openly show that this is not some rag tag army of dirt farmers that many Americans have been led to believe. Many times the enemy is well trained, well equipped and vetrans of many years of fighting. It was refreshing to see a book also point fingers at those that help the enemy. Pakistan being the worst. Openly helping and aiding terrorists and murderers of the innocent. Cudo's for being so candid Mr. Parnell. As with any book of this nature...there are moments of glory and honor. But, sadly to have glory and honor...there must also be moments of utter sadness and crushing loss. You will find that here. There was a moment or 2 in this book that I had "small" tears in my eyes and "that tightness" of the throat. Capt. Parnell Leads from the front and LOVES his men. he pushes them hard at times to make them the best that they can be. Pushes his own wounds aside to save his men and get them what they so rightly need and deserve. From his: It Smells like bannana's to going home. He shows the UTMOST respect and HONOR to serve alongside his men. I salute you Sir. If we only had more of you to lead our men and women into and OUT of this war. Brad

  10. 5 out of 5

    Russ

    Very informative look at U.S. infantry experiences in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border in 2006. This piece of narrative nonfiction reads more like a first person novel than a memoir, which is a good thing because the story has a definite arc that pulls the reader in. Sean Parnell paints a vivid portrait of his first combat tour as a lieutenant. He's candid about his initial doubts in himself and whether his leadership would measure up. His platoon encounters harrowing attacks by the enemy on Very informative look at U.S. infantry experiences in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border in 2006. This piece of narrative nonfiction reads more like a first person novel than a memoir, which is a good thing because the story has a definite arc that pulls the reader in. Sean Parnell paints a vivid portrait of his first combat tour as a lieutenant. He's candid about his initial doubts in himself and whether his leadership would measure up. His platoon encounters harrowing attacks by the enemy on their FOB, their patrols, and on Afghan villagers. The book was published in 2012. I'm not sure when it was actually written. But even if it was written in 2007, Parnell remembers very exact details about things that happened early on in the deployment. I have to assume that he was a committed diarist or that he was jotting down notes while in country. Or maybe he went back and researched his unit's records and interviewed his soldiers. I'm sure everybody remembers things a little differently, but even if only half of what Parnell wrote in this book was true, it's a really impressive platoon and he did a great job as their LT. He repeatedly demonstrated courage and initiative in the field. He received a brain injury that caused banana-smelling pink gunk to drip from his ears for months but continued to lead his platoon, several members of whom were also seriously wounded but kept fighting. There's a lot of anger in these pages and it's hard to blame him. Anger against the Taliban. Anger against Pakistan for harboring fighters while they recovered from skirmishes. A mid-book rant against fobbits (soldiers who mostly peform duties within the wire) seems a little pettier, but he may have simply been expressing his frustrations as he felt them at the time. There are a few weaknesses. There's some sanctimonious cliches especially in the introduction of the book, but I got over it. And obviously this is a platoon-sized element, so there are a lot of men, but maybe too many of them were featured/described. Often I couldn't remember who was who. There are also some gimmicky flashbacks that felt contrived, including one flashback scene that didn't make sense at all. Reading this gives a better understanding and appreciation of the daily life of an infantry platoon in the early to mid part of the ongoing war on terror. This is a sharply written memoir with crisp and jagged prose. I assume the co-writer John Bruning deserves a lot of credit for that. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Ray Porter. The performance was good overall but oddly melodramatic and anguished even in some of the more casual, peaceful scenes.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Read

    Excerpt from "Village of the Damned:" The American platoon stopped its Humvees in the road. Ahead, a small boy of about 6, dressed in rags, staggered in circles. Army Ranger Sean Parnell and his men were wary. It was July 2006 and they'd been in combat on the remote Afghan-Pakistan border for five months. When the soldiers moved close enough, they saw that someone had gouged out the boy's eyes and burned the sockets black with a heated instrument. His teeth had also been knocked out. "Jesus Christ, w Excerpt from "Village of the Damned:" The American platoon stopped its Humvees in the road. Ahead, a small boy of about 6, dressed in rags, staggered in circles. Army Ranger Sean Parnell and his men were wary. It was July 2006 and they'd been in combat on the remote Afghan-Pakistan border for five months. When the soldiers moved close enough, they saw that someone had gouged out the boy's eyes and burned the sockets black with a heated instrument. His teeth had also been knocked out. "Jesus Christ, what is this?" said a hard-bitten sergeant. In the nearby village, the unit's interpreter, Yusef, talked to an elder and learned what happened. The insurgents had swept through this village and punished the inhabitants for cooperating with the coalition. They kidnapped the oldest grandson of the elder and took him to the mountains, where they gouged out his eyes and raped him for weeks. The platoon medic did what he could for the boy and other brutalized children in this place the men came to call the "Village of the Damned." The elder thanked them and they drove on, even the toughest among them stunned by what they'd seen. "There's not a day goes by that I don't think about it," said Lt. Parnell, 30, a Murrysville native. "All I know is that moment taught me that there is definite good and evil in this world. We don't always realize it in America, but the rest of the world can be a barbaric place." The "Village of the Damned" is just one short chapter in Lt. Parnell's book, "Outlaw Platoon," Yet it captures the dichotomy of Afghanistan -- the contrast between Americans and terrorists, between good Afghans and bad, between quiet heroism and treachery. Yusef, it turns out, is a spy. He later reveals to an Iranian cell of bomb-makers that the platoon plans to set up an observation post on a certain hilltop, allowing insurgents to seed it with mines. When the platoon arrives, villagers come out to watch. One of the mines explodes and kills Cpl. Jeremiah Cole. But the elder whose grandson was tortured is the opposite. Gratified by American kindness, he later risks death to walk 40 miles through the mountains to warn of an impending attack. "That's Afghanistan," said Lt. Parnell. "That incident is a microcosm of the whole country."

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I'm a Veterans History Project (VHP) Official Founding Partner and highly recommend this well-written, searingly vivid memoir. The VHP's mission is to capture, in their own words, and share the stories of America's military veterans (and of their families and civilian contributors to America's military and defense efforts). In Outlaw Platoon, Sean Parnell, with help from the excellent military writer John R. Bruning and Parnell's platoon brothers, did this in spades, aptly documenting the words, I'm a Veterans History Project (VHP) Official Founding Partner and highly recommend this well-written, searingly vivid memoir. The VHP's mission is to capture, in their own words, and share the stories of America's military veterans (and of their families and civilian contributors to America's military and defense efforts). In Outlaw Platoon, Sean Parnell, with help from the excellent military writer John R. Bruning and Parnell's platoon brothers, did this in spades, aptly documenting the words, thoughts, sights, smells, sounds, and sensibilities they experienced leading up to, throughout, and even after their hellacious tour of duty in one of the most dangerous places on earth, where they faced opposition and hardships from within in addition to lethal attacks by enemies located in and hailing from multiple nations. The writing and content are riveting. I could barely put the book down until I finished it but could not help but stop, at numerous points, to let what I'd read fully sink in and to say prayers for many souls described in the book. Of those I prayed for, some were American, others were from Afghanistan; some died, while others lived albeit indelibly scarred by sights they saw, physical injuries they sustained, or actions they were duty bound or honor bound to execute. In addition to being awed by the courage many displayed in the worst of circumstances, I felt sorrow and sympathy for those whose fear or inability to function under fire ruined their reputations, military careers, and self-esteem. There, but for the grace of God, go you or I. I also found it impossible to avoid loathing such characters as the "Mail Bitch", her egregious NCO lover, and other inconsiderate malingerers and slackers on base (such as the disrespectful and incompetent nurse practitioner and the interpreter-mole), and so many others who endangered or undermined the well-being of the fighting forces.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Justin Yan

    Well I won't be giving many more books 5 stars from now on, but this book actually deserved a full rating. Everything else that I like will reach a maximum of 4 stars, and only those books that really please me will get 5 stars. This book is truly a special pick, even among the many military related personal narratives I have read. I have to say that this really urged me to keep reading farther and farther instead of trying to finish it so I can read the next book, write a review, and win more b Well I won't be giving many more books 5 stars from now on, but this book actually deserved a full rating. Everything else that I like will reach a maximum of 4 stars, and only those books that really please me will get 5 stars. This book is truly a special pick, even among the many military related personal narratives I have read. I have to say that this really urged me to keep reading farther and farther instead of trying to finish it so I can read the next book, write a review, and win more books. It just doesn't work that way with this book. I'm not even going to waste my time blabbering about the plot, because guess what the best way of finding out the plot is? Reading the book! Everything may sound lighthearted and informal, but get this: this is another one of those books where it helps to have a personal reference or else you just don't understand. One of my friends is at USMA Westpoint and is going to graduate a Second Lieutenant just like Mr. Parnell, the author of the book. The events described in this book not only gave me even more realization about what the world is like, but gave me an image of what my friend would be like after fighting like the troops in Outlaw Platoon. Sometimes feelings are too complicated to convey in words, much less this binary computer language. But just for the average reader, beware there are some quite gruesome scenes in the book. That's counting out all of the fighting, gore, and other outcomes of a battle. Be ready to really feel in some parts of this book. You know the saying "a picture is worth a thousand words"? Well a feeling is worth 10000 pictures. So now what.

  14. 5 out of 5

    patrick Lorelli

    One of the best books from the Afghanistan war. Outlaw Platoon is about the 10 Mountain Division that was created during World War Two. Now most of the men that join and want to be apart of them have some history to the unit themselves. A father, grandfather, uncle or some relative that was part of the unit in the past. The book opens with a brief history of the unit's past and its history in Italy against the Germans and what they accomplished. Then going into the training, they go through the One of the best books from the Afghanistan war. Outlaw Platoon is about the 10 Mountain Division that was created during World War Two. Now most of the men that join and want to be apart of them have some history to the unit themselves. A father, grandfather, uncle or some relative that was part of the unit in the past. The book opens with a brief history of the unit's past and its history in Italy against the Germans and what they accomplished. Then going into the training, they go through the different men and their lives. The battles are intense and show you just what these men were up against. Thinking that their enemy was just a ragtag put together force. They are soon shown that they are up against a hard-core fighting force that had fought against the soviets. You are shown first-hand accounts of their battles and how they almost were overrun at one time. I found this to be a very powerful book and really shows the strength and courage of our young men especially in battle. A true look at what they experienced with times of laughter and times of tears. A fabulous book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Theri Edwards

    I finished this book about 10 minutes ago; I had to take a few deep breaths and pull myself together. Sean Parnell writes a gripping and detailed account of his thoughts, his men, his sadness and his joy while on deployment in Afghanistan in the Hindu Kush. This book is extremely well written and flows smoothly. I started and ended this book in less than two days. I have recently read several really good books about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars from the writers first hand POV and this one thoug I finished this book about 10 minutes ago; I had to take a few deep breaths and pull myself together. Sean Parnell writes a gripping and detailed account of his thoughts, his men, his sadness and his joy while on deployment in Afghanistan in the Hindu Kush. This book is extremely well written and flows smoothly. I started and ended this book in less than two days. I have recently read several really good books about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars from the writers first hand POV and this one though from a different perspective easily stands with them. This book exposes things about the war that on some level I am sure had heard about at one time or another but truly had no true understanding of. I cannot tell you how many times my heart broke and tears poured down my cheeks. I feel like I got to know Outlaw Platoon personally and with every battle I could feel my chest get tight in fear for all the guys that I felt like I knew intimately. I feel like I laughed with them, cried with them, was frustrated with them, was heart sick and injured with them, each time Sean would describe the scenes around him I felt actual fear or joy, or frustration or gut wrenching sadness. I was completely drawn in to the book and in to Sean's leadership. I am so glad these guys and many like them have each other in a time that was so horrific I doubt the average person (myself) could endure it. I cried so hard for the fallen men my family thought I had lost a dear friend. I find myself wondering how everyone is doing now and pray that they are all healthy and living happy and full lives. To Sean and all of Outlaw Platoon Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for your sacrifices. Thank you for standing and fighting for a belief in freedom that many have taken for granted. You will always be in my heart and will be held in my utmost of gratitude. If you have any desire to know what these brave men go through READ this book. Even if you don't have any desire to know, READ this book anyway. It is an eye and heart opener.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Blue

    This book kept me on edge, an awesome read

  17. 4 out of 5

    Addy

    I think reading this book after The Cat from Hué only served to highlight Outlaw Platoon’s shortcomings. For one thing, the writing here was rather uninspired. A quick look at the structure of an average chapter: “this happened, this is how I reacted”; interspersed with the occasional: “this is what happened, this is how I reacted, but THIS is what I really meant”. Riveting. I do understand that this book was not intended to be the next great American novel, but I would have appreciated less for I think reading this book after The Cat from Hué only served to highlight Outlaw Platoon’s shortcomings. For one thing, the writing here was rather uninspired. A quick look at the structure of an average chapter: “this happened, this is how I reacted”; interspersed with the occasional: “this is what happened, this is how I reacted, but THIS is what I really meant”. Riveting. I do understand that this book was not intended to be the next great American novel, but I would have appreciated less forced dialogue, and a slightly more pleasing organization of words. I also was a little confused by the book’s purpose. It worked reasonably well as an examination of one man’s coming-of-age in a world of violence and unspeakable tragedy. But then why did Parnell and Bruning try so hard to work the other soldiers into the story? I thought that if this book was to be an exploration of brotherhood, it was handicapped by the fact that even Parnell admits he holds a higher rank than his men, which prevents him from getting too close. It would have functioned better, in my opinion, as a case study of a single officer, his trial by fire and how it changed him. I cannot criticize the way this novel showed the bravery and extraordinary actions of the American infantry. Nor do I find fault with the depiction of veterans coming home to an uncertain future they don’t feel they fit into. But even next to other novels on the American military exploits in the 21st century (like Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell), this book barely holds its own.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    One of the best combat books I have read about The War in Afghanistan. Sean Parnell and his men were badass and took the fight to the Taliban and this book is an adrenaline rush throughout. I highly recommend this book.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Carol Storm

    This is one of the best memoirs of a combat veteran I have ever read. Sean Parnell was a platoon leader in Afghanistan around 2006-2007. What makes this book so amazing is that it's far more candid, open, and honest than anything I have ever read before by an American officer in a modern war. You could compare it to BLOODS by Wallace Terry, but that book focused on African-American enlisted men in Vietnam, and the survivors had no reason to tone down the grim realities of war. This book is diffe This is one of the best memoirs of a combat veteran I have ever read. Sean Parnell was a platoon leader in Afghanistan around 2006-2007. What makes this book so amazing is that it's far more candid, open, and honest than anything I have ever read before by an American officer in a modern war. You could compare it to BLOODS by Wallace Terry, but that book focused on African-American enlisted men in Vietnam, and the survivors had no reason to tone down the grim realities of war. This book is different because, on the one hand, Sean Parnell is an officer who believes in America and his mission, and on the other hand, is ruthlessly and brutally candid about the contradictions and absurdities inherent in fighting a war of "liberation" on behalf of a fragmented, tribal people. But this is no political analysis. In the end this book is a story about a family. Outlaw Platoon is a family. There are moments in this book that remain embedded in your memory long after you've finished. Like the young machine gunner who keeps dropping his knife while trying to grip his gun in a firefight, only to find his "battle legs" and begin firing like a veteran just when all hope seems lost. Like the medic who has his face slashed open by shrapnel and continues to treat the wounded men without even pausing. Like the way the author and narrator continues to stay with his men for weeks, even when brain fluid from a serious head injury is literally leaking out of his ears. And the remarkable thing is, these men are doing all this for a nation that really doesn't care about them, and doesn't want to ask the tough questions about the war. Sean Parnell exposes things nobody on the left or the right wants to talk about. Like the way Taliban fighters are being treated in Pakistani hospitals. And the way they can launch rockets across the border while being protected by Pakistani troops. At one point Sean Parnell says, "what would have happened if German troops were being treated in London hospitals in 1944 so that they could return to the fight again and again?" Why didn't Barack Obama read this book? Why didn't John McCain or Hillary Clinton or George W. Bush? Why do we keep fighting wars we can't win and sending the same soldiers back in harms way over and over and over again? The most horrible acts of betrayal are a recurring theme in this book, as Afghan villagers accept American food and presents and let the soldiers walk into one ambush after another. Yet the most disgraceful betrayal of all comes at the end of the book, when Outlaw Platoon is "extended" four months beyond their original deployment. And the reason why is obvious. They have to go back because no-one wants to go in their place. Whenever a Taliban soldier falls there are young men from all over the world ready to take his place. But no-one can replace the real heroes of Outlaw Platoon. America needs to stop wasting its heroes in the service of outdated and self-deceiving foreign policy.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Outlaw Platoon is a gripping memoir about one U.S. Army captain's deployment in Afghanistan. This captain, Sean Parnell, has no qualms writing about everything that happened to him and his group during their deployment. From firefights to FOB (Forward Operating Base) antics, Parnell lays it all out. I really appreciate his honesty and sheer amount of detail about everything on and off base. While I really enjoyed Parnell and his fellow soldiers character development, my interest was spiked most Outlaw Platoon is a gripping memoir about one U.S. Army captain's deployment in Afghanistan. This captain, Sean Parnell, has no qualms writing about everything that happened to him and his group during their deployment. From firefights to FOB (Forward Operating Base) antics, Parnell lays it all out. I really appreciate his honesty and sheer amount of detail about everything on and off base. While I really enjoyed Parnell and his fellow soldiers character development, my interest was spiked most when reading about the politics between fellow officers, or even between different companies. I've read quite a few military books, both old and new, some even fiction and I can't recall any of them talking about command structure interaction the way Parnell does. Parnell describes events honestly, showing pure unprofessionalism on others behalf's and frustration on his own. It really shows how, in many ways, FOB Bermal is just another workplace. Filled with the productive and the not so productive, the rank climbers and the respect gainers. This perspective really helps you feel the troops frustration. One example that comes to mind is the "mail bitch" a female mail officer who occasionally visits the FOB for the obvious reason of distributing mail. The "mail bitch" is a hard character to like, she seems to have some sort of affair going on with another officer stationed at the FOB and has a hatred of dogs. This is a problem because Parnell's company happens to have dogs on base, normally forbidden but allowed by the man in charge for reasons of boosting morale. On one of the mail officer's visits to the FOB, one of the dogs barks at her causing quite the reaction. With this she reports to the higher ups back at Bagram Air Force base that she was attacked by a dog during her time at the FOB. This in turn causes a doctor to be sent to the FOB to put the dogs down. A crushing blow to the already tired and disgruntled soldiers of Outlaw platoon. Parnell's memoir unfortunately describes many more scenes like this. If there was a modern book to make you appreciate the American soldier and his struggles, this would be it. I would recommend it to just about anyone, even if it didn't seem like their usual topic of interest.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Keith Johnson

    I'll start with the good, of which there is much to talk about. A few notes: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Parnell's recollection and story-telling is outstanding. I felt as though I was fighting alongside those brave men, immersed in Parnell's world. Letting us inside his head is a rare thing, and I appreciated that. This book is so much better written than the more widely known Seal Team Six and conveys more emotion and understanding. Now, on to the negative. Certain metaphors were amateuris I'll start with the good, of which there is much to talk about. A few notes: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Parnell's recollection and story-telling is outstanding. I felt as though I was fighting alongside those brave men, immersed in Parnell's world. Letting us inside his head is a rare thing, and I appreciated that. This book is so much better written than the more widely known Seal Team Six and conveys more emotion and understanding. Now, on to the negative. Certain metaphors were amateurish. I'm paraphrasing, I can't remember the exact passage: "the mountain sagged like the face of an old man" But these were few and far between. He did seem a bit sexist "the mail bitch", did any woman feel that way while they were reading "Outlaw Platoon"? But I do suppose he was just being honest and this is how real people talk. I hate it when my personal feelings get in the way of reviewing a book, but alas, they will here. Now, I do know there is a disconnect between the soldiers and marines who go outside the wire and the "fucking fobbits," but I don't believe it is always so negative as how Parnell described it. I myself was a fobbit and dealt with the Army and Marine infantry on a daily basis. I admired those men and always treated them with respect. Parnell made it seem as though all fobbits are a waste of space. Not true. I never had any desire to be in the infantry. Without the "support" arm of the Army, Parnell and his men would not have been able to eat, obtain supplies, and receive intelligence from people like me who gave them information on where to patrol and who to target. I hope since he's written this book he has somewhat calmed down and accepted the "support" side of the Army that is invaluable.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Aimee

    Wow. This is one of those books that will stay with me for a long time. Sean Parnell takes you right into the heart of the battles he and his men fought and it makes for a riveting read. There were times I could not put the book down, I had to find out what happened to these brave men who went through hell for our country. What impressed me the most about the book was Parnell's descriptions of all of the different men who made up his platoon. They are a fascinating group of personalities and I ca Wow. This is one of those books that will stay with me for a long time. Sean Parnell takes you right into the heart of the battles he and his men fought and it makes for a riveting read. There were times I could not put the book down, I had to find out what happened to these brave men who went through hell for our country. What impressed me the most about the book was Parnell's descriptions of all of the different men who made up his platoon. They are a fascinating group of personalities and I came to respect and care for all of them. I have read before about the bond that forms when men fight together in war but Parnell really gives an in depth look at how those bonds were formed and how strong they really were. I also really appreciated the details given about what it was like to live in Afghanistan, dealing with the locals, working through other people's political agendas, and just the day to day living these men went through for those 16 months of constantly putting their lives on the line. Outlaw Platoon is a well written book that I would recommend to everyone. I know that when I was done reading I very muched wished that I could thank every single one of these men in Outlaw Platoon personally for their service. I have always appreciated are military but Parnell really showed me what these men and women sacrifice for our country and I am so glad I got the chance to read this profound and deeply moving book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Karen & Gerard

    WOW! AWESOME! After you read Outlaw Platoon by Sean Parnell and John R. Bruning you will gain a ton of respect for our men and women fighting over in Afghanistan. Sean holds nothing back which makes this book so good. I could almost feel the bullets flying all around me! Then ending brought tears to my eyes and pride in the U.S.A. Thank you for your service, Mr. Parnell, and to the entire Outlaw Platoon. God's blessings to all of you! (Gerard's review) Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, WOW! AWESOME! After you read Outlaw Platoon by Sean Parnell and John R. Bruning you will gain a ton of respect for our men and women fighting over in Afghanistan. Sean holds nothing back which makes this book so good. I could almost feel the bullets flying all around me! Then ending brought tears to my eyes and pride in the U.S.A. Thank you for your service, Mr. Parnell, and to the entire Outlaw Platoon. God's blessings to all of you! (Gerard's review) Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan by Sean Parnell and John Bruning is an amazing book about Sean’s platoon fighting in Afghanistan. It is gives so much insight into combat and what it’s like for our soldiers. After reading about the horrible things that happen, I have a better understanding of what soldiers go through and why they are never the same when they come back from war. I really liked the leadership analysis and the platoon dynamics. It is interesting to see how such a diverse group of men can become like family and how they back up each other and sacrifice themselves to bring back the wounded and dying. The writing was so good I felt as though I was right in battle with them. This is an emotional and inspirational book that gave me a greater appreciation for our service men and women. I think every American should read this one! (Karen's review)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    A decent account of one man's experience leading a platoon of soldiers in Afghanistan. Better written than some accounts, though there is a lot of personal reflection on his own life as opposed to a more straightforward story. I wonder sometimes what reactions some of these memorists receive, especially when they criticize or harshly assess the actions of others, or even when they reveal personal information about fellow soldiers. In his defense, he is critical of himself as well. I was just a t A decent account of one man's experience leading a platoon of soldiers in Afghanistan. Better written than some accounts, though there is a lot of personal reflection on his own life as opposed to a more straightforward story. I wonder sometimes what reactions some of these memorists receive, especially when they criticize or harshly assess the actions of others, or even when they reveal personal information about fellow soldiers. In his defense, he is critical of himself as well. I was just a tad leaning toward thinking he is a bit of a misogynist (might be unfair, but it was just a feeling). Overall, a quick, interesting read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Roger

    I was expecting a nonfiction account of war in Afghanistan. This tome reads more like a novel and the dialogue is like that of a B movie. The book is filled with inaccuracies, especially regarding medical treatment of combat wounds and returning wounded men to combat. Men with cerebral spinal fluid leaking out of their ears, migraine headaches and blurred vision are not returned to combat. I served in the US Army as a combat medic from 1963 - 1968.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    He casts more stones against men who wear the same uniform than any book I've ever read. Mind you, he does this while continuing to remind everyone how great of a leader he is. Great leaders breed greatness. You fail to recognize this. Avoid this book if you truly love the Army. He casts more stones against men who wear the same uniform than any book I've ever read. Mind you, he does this while continuing to remind everyone how great of a leader he is. Great leaders breed greatness. You fail to recognize this. Avoid this book if you truly love the Army.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Brent

    One of the most moving and incredible stories about combat from a man who lived it.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Seth

    The war on terror has given us many stories and personal experiences of the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. The majority of these books follow special forces groups like the Navy Seals or Green Berets, but Outlaw Platoon by Sean Parnell, follows a normal Army platoon during their mission in Afghanistan. This book’s genre is military biography because it follows Sean Parnell and his platoon members personal experiences. Outlaw Platoon begins in Afghanistan 2006, following Sean Parnell, as their The war on terror has given us many stories and personal experiences of the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. The majority of these books follow special forces groups like the Navy Seals or Green Berets, but Outlaw Platoon by Sean Parnell, follows a normal Army platoon during their mission in Afghanistan. This book’s genre is military biography because it follows Sean Parnell and his platoon members personal experiences. Outlaw Platoon begins in Afghanistan 2006, following Sean Parnell, as their humvee column moves down a dirt road. Right from the beginning, the book describes the tense relationship and lack of cooperation with the Afghan police and Army. Many Afghan soldiers were poorly equipped and poorly trained. It was said that Afghan commanders would sell all new equipment on the blackmarket for personal gain. The book goes into great detail on describing each of the platoon members and their personal backgrounds. One day while on patrol the group was attacked by an overwhelming force of Taliban. The fighting ensued for 6 hours and the group was driven to using mines and their sidearms, some even resorted to their knives. Eventually help had arrived and the fighting ended. Shockingly they had only 3 casualties during the firefight. The group was involved in the largest Taliban attack since 2002. The platoon from then on became well known by the Taliban as the “green skulls” because of their green skull insignia on the humvees. I rate Outlaw Platoon 5 out of 5 stars because I feel it had a very realistic description of war in Afghanistan. After hearing the backgrounds of each of the members and their bonds with each other it gives a good idea of the sense of loss when one is injured. It also describes that war is a slow and tiring effort. This is expressed well when they describe the relationships with the Afghan Army and Afghan locals. Outlaw Platoon was a very interesting book describing the bond between soldiers and the reality of infantry life in Afghanistan.

  29. 4 out of 5

    David

    Sean Parnell’s story encapsulated so much of what average Americans don’t fully understand or are aware of when it comes to war. I imagine Parnell’s story is both unique and common to what so many American soldiers likely have been through in their tours of duty these past few decades. The book is written in a form that’s so obviously set to become a motion picture. This is what I felt was the one and only bad thing about the book; it felt like I was reading a movie script as opposed to a book. Sean Parnell’s story encapsulated so much of what average Americans don’t fully understand or are aware of when it comes to war. I imagine Parnell’s story is both unique and common to what so many American soldiers likely have been through in their tours of duty these past few decades. The book is written in a form that’s so obviously set to become a motion picture. This is what I felt was the one and only bad thing about the book; it felt like I was reading a movie script as opposed to a book. That being said, the heroism and valor Parnell and his men displayed is more than admirable: it’s to be honored. His book feels human and real. The emotions of the desperation, the joy, the panic, and the pain all added a human touch to the story. I’m a civilian; I’ll never understand in full detail the havoc and effect war can have on a man. The scars are ones unseen to the world that linger in a person’s mind, and Parnell effectively demonstrates to the best of his ability in words how it affects veterans, while they’re serving and after. Two chapters in particular, The Far Side of the Sky and Homeward Bound, left a VERY strong impression on me, for reasons I won’t say to avoid any spoilers. I’ll only say that Parnell speaks volumes about a frequent yet uncommon human experience so many men and women go through, and go through silently. The story showed me the more personal and human side of war.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Stuart Berman

    Sean Parnell wrote this book to teach us what our soldiers went through in Afghanistan and achieved and to help them assimilate back into society. Reading this phenomenal book will help you accomplish his goal. With the exception of Horse Soldiers (12 Strong film based on the book), we really have gotten very little of the stories of our warriors in the war that we have been involved in the last 18 years. Much of the TV coverage has been negative and hopeless, this book will provide fresh perspe Sean Parnell wrote this book to teach us what our soldiers went through in Afghanistan and achieved and to help them assimilate back into society. Reading this phenomenal book will help you accomplish his goal. With the exception of Horse Soldiers (12 Strong film based on the book), we really have gotten very little of the stories of our warriors in the war that we have been involved in the last 18 years. Much of the TV coverage has been negative and hopeless, this book will provide fresh perspective from a man who led a combat platoon and has the courage to honest about his victories and losses and what he learned. I hope people will take the opportunity to read this book and share it with others, it deserves to be made into a film or TV series to get broader coverage in our society.

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