Outlaw Platoon by Sean Parnell
Outlaw Platoon is about a platoon’s experience during the USA war in Afghanistan during 2006. Parnell was the platoon commander, a First Lieutenant, RANGER qualified who wrote the book. It is written through his lens, describing the story of the Outlaw Platoon, but also adding in some of his introspective experiences. The book speaks of tremendously brave men and others who did not seem to have the same approach. Not every platoon is the same, nor is every man the same within a platoon. Parnell illustrates the requirements of his platoon from leadership, describing how he interacted with leadership, and how he worked within his platoon to execute the mission. The men of the platoon, how they interacted, their bravery and professionalism through battles was on display. He also illustrates the environment, the drastically different culture in Afghanistan, and experiencing the difficulties of navigating new, unpleasant areas. Finally, he shines light on the internal processing. To be a combat infantry leader, but also a normal person. To lead and show confidence, and yet be unsure of the right move. To be tough and yet caring. The book provides such insights that the reader feels like they have a better understanding of such an environment; not that they can ever truly know without being there.
How it influenced me
Having read a handful of military related books and seeing some movies, I had a familiar experience in some regard with what I was reading, and yet there were some differences. Since working with members of the Army, I have gained a greater understanding of the culture and now reading this book, it moved me far more than other books or films. I could see the various dynamics in far more detail than I had heard from those I worked with. They had filled me in, but often in general, not with such details. Whether it was to protect me from the burden of knowing or, so they wouldn’t have to recall it again, or simply it wasn’t worth it, I don’t know. The most impactful takeaway I got from the book was that sometimes we think we give everything we have, but there are times we must push beyond that. Then there are times that require a repeat of this cycle. I have often heard, thought of and at times executed an ability to push beyond my own limits, but haven’t considered such a cycle. In the book, the platoon battled for 6 hours under terrible circumstances. A couple hours after, they were told (those who could) were needed to go back out. They made it happen. It was admirable and something I hope that will continue to resonate with me for years to come.