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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Red Platoon Book Review

Red Platoon, a book review.

By Clint Romesha

This riveting book likely would not have made it to my bookshelf if I hadn’t known Mr. Romesha personally and that he won the Medal of Honor for his actions depicted in the story.

The good news is, it’s all true.  The bad news is it’s all true.

This omniscient story, told from multi-viewpoints simultaneously revealed, the background, the minute-to-minute description and the aftermath is more moving than a space saga or a one-dimension super-hero epic.  Characters’ motivations are fleshed out individually, both those who lived through the horror and those who died trying to save each other.

The story begins with a routine settling in of four platoons of eighteen men each assigned to two outposts in the truly outback of Afghanistan.  Prayer would not be enough to avoid serious conflict with the Taliban until the post could be closed down, as was the primary goal they were given when they were sent to the post called Keating.  Prayer also would not be enough to assure these some fighters that the fifty Afghan military that made up the contingent from the indigenous army would actually fight alongside them if it was required. 

With no logic to the location of this post at the very bottom of a ravine of three-thousand foot cliffs, no logic to how support staff would be able to actually support and no logic to orders regarding cutting back on everything from food supplies to security devices, these men were treated as leftovers on a chessboard of the game called “chicken.”

Unsafe enough that any man walking about the post would be shot at by snipers or missile cartridges on a daily basis, the prospect of a six month tear down made anything outside the stifling buildings a run from cover to cover, and anything inside the rude rock structures confined men who lacked real food, water for bathing and room size essentially the same as a submarine.  From boredom to panic with almost constant daily raids of shelling, sleep became an elusive commodity and fear a constant companion both individually and unanimously.

And yet they persevered.  They all but thrived individually with the goal of keeping each other whole.  As with any group with the same goal, some excelled at existing and a few were challenged.

Daily small raids aside, one day in October, 2007 from 6:00 a.m. until late into the evening, fifty some fighters held back four hundred insurgents loaded with an inexhaustible supply of armaments to lob over the cliffs from above.  Every kind of ordinance at the enemy’s disposal threatened to eliminate anything breathing within Keating’s football size post surrounded with wire and four foot high stacked walls of rock.  Eight men died that day, their deaths exacerbated because medical helicopters could not land in the firefight. Approximately thirty others were wounded.  Every step of the way is documented in this amazing diary of the minutes of that day that depicts the most admirable qualities in men and the most inhumane, barbaric traits from the other end of the spectrum.  Told from the perspective of men in a man’s world, complete with the fun they could create, the misery they could not tolerate but were forced to endure, the compassion and love that overcomes all the shortcomings and impossibilities of war, the very best men can compose, the true art form of battle lies exposed in detail in this one isolated battle for freedom.

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