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OUTLAW PLATOON, Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan by Sean Parnell

HANDS DOWN, THE BEST BOOK I'VE EVER READ ABOUT AFGHANISTAN and I can't think of a better book to recommend to anyone who wants to understand combat, the brotherhood of war and selflessness...

Five Badazz Rating :ar15:ar15:ar15:ar15:ar15

Written by CPT Parnell w/John Bruning about his platoon's experiences in Afghanistan circa 2006 during a 15 month tour it is inspiring and relates the day to day experiences of the no glory conventional Infantry. His 43 man platoon's actions garnished seven bronze stars (five for valor), 12 ARCOMs with "V" (valor) and 32 purple hearts.

The book relates the adrenaline rush of close combat, the personal pain of losing a friend in combat, the unique camaraderie shared between combat soldiers all punctuated by the sounds of battle.

The description of what a 60mm round does to an enemy machine gun position or what happens when a .50 cal round strikes an insurgent ambushing your unit looks is like the MasterCard punch line, "Priceless".

It was inspiring, spellbinding and action packed. It made me marvel, laugh and cry man tears.

Read all 400 pages in less than 24 hours. Stayed up until 05:00 last night before I took a break.

Simply put this book was written by a hero but wasn't about him. He used 399 pages to extol his soldiers and the spirit of the American fighting man. I want to meet Sean Parnell.
 

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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
SEAL Target Geronimo by Chuck Pfarrer - This book is one of the few books SOCOM has ever blacklisted and has received tons of bad reviews. I believed them until I read the book to stop my close friend (badass former CID agent that lurks here) from nagging me to death. He even lent me his copy because I wouldn't buy it. My mistake.
Up front I didn't like the author's blatant and one sided anti-Israel bias and he describes what's going on in the operator's mind sometimes which seems overly "novelish" but he delivers BIG in other ways.
I learned quite a bit about DEVGRU that I didn't know. His combat descriptions are tactically sound though sometimes a bit overdramatic. His descriptions of the Maersk takedown and Bin Laden raid are riveting. In fact his Bin Laden raid version is the most believable I've read yet. (Maybe that's why he's been slammed?) He describes a top-down takedown, the choreography in Bin Laden's bedroom to rationally explain how Bin Laden took two in the chest, one in the head and his wife was hit in the calf.
All in all this is a good read and considering Pfarrer actually served in DEVGRU might be more plausible than most. I think SOCOM "doth protest too much"…
Hey Will, I started reading this book (I'm in the Maersk part right now) and I have found a lot of inaccuracies as far as gear goes so far that make me question how much in the know Chuck is currently. He was calling the M855 a Predator round and making it out to be this awesome cartridge. Also he is talking about sniper rifles and he keeps mentioning the PSG-2. At first I had no clue what the hell he was talking about until he made the statement that the weapon is essentially a match grade version of the German G-2 rifle. What he meant to say is PSG-1 and G-3 rifle.

I'm going to finish this book, but I really fear that a lot of this is either made up BS or I really have to question how he got a lot of the gear stuff wrong. I'm also thinking that the SEALs would be more inclined to use something with a little more power than a PSG-1 or if anything use the Mk11 sniper rifle as that is much more common. I don't have an inside on DEVGRU though.
I think I am going to read "Outlaw Platoon" next. I need a dose of reality.

Jeff
 

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Jeff

Good points. You have to consider the source (he is a Hollywood guy). I'm also not sure he has personal experience with the M855 round so he might be repeating someone. Mis-IDing the equipment doesn't bother me as much. I had many soldiers and Rangers calling a PEQ2 a PAC4 when it first came out. Being off by one describing the PSG doesn't blow his credibility entirely for me. Could be an honest mistake or even the editor. I consider the level of detail he goes into when describing the Maersk takedown a bit unrealistic unless he's a mind reader and the drama meter is maxed.

Like I originally said, I walked away with a better understanding of DEVGRU and it's the best explanation yet about what the actual takedown of Bin Laden's house.
 

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Discussion Starter · #25 ·
I agree that he may have misidentified the gear. That can happen.

One thing that really bothered me was how much SEAL chest thumping there was. He makes it sound like Delta goes out and gets publicity and the SEALs like that because it allows them to stay in the shadows. I was like "WTF are you talking about? It exactly the opposite!"

I'll let you know what I think when I finish. One really good book about DEVGRU is "SEAL Team Six" by Howard Wasdin and Stephen Templin. That has some good stuff in it. I also liked "SEAL Team Six" by Don Mann. Both Wasdin and Mann were with SEAL Team 6, Mann in the mid 80's and 90's and Wasdin in the 90's. Wasdin was one of the SEALs in Mogadishu.

Jeff
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
I just completed "Outlaw Platoon" by Sean Parnell with John R. Brunning.

I bought this book a few months back on recommendation by Maj.Rod and the reviews that I had read about the book. I didn't get around to reading the book until last week and I am disappointed in myself for having waited that long.

The book was nothing short of outstanding! The glimpse into the combat mindset and the raw emotions displayed in this book were riveting. I believe this to be one of the finest books written about small troop leadership, the emotions in combat and the effects on the soul and psyche.

I highly recommend this book to everyone. I think everyone should read this book and understand what the people on the ground are going through emotionally when they are in combat.

Jeff
 

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I cannot suggest highly enough the need for you all to pick up and read FEARLESS, by Eric Blehm. It is the story of SEAL Adam L. Brown, who was killed in Afghanistan 3/18/2010 while on a raid. It is the story of how he overcame crack addiction and the loss of an eye to become one of the elite of the elite. A story that will touch your soul, I guarantee it.
 

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No Easy Day by Mark Owen

Really enjoyed this book. Having read just about all the numerous books/articles on Neptune Spear (including Pfarrer's), this is the best, most believable and most definitive yet. Specifically from the operational perspective it gets into the ST6 role after it was tagged with the mission. IMO Very informative without giving away OPSEC details except for the insertion into the Maersk take down but to be honest that's been published elsewhere.

Besides giving an extremely detailed blow by blow of the raid (keep the maps/sketches handy) it was very illuminating of the culture inside DEVGRU and at a higher level communicated all the values we expect to find on the battlefield (e.g. courage, humility, humor, honor).

Unlike many books from SEALs I found this book refreshing. It avoided the retelling of BUDS, the SEAL chest thumping and was never boring. I was surprised to read about the use of dogs, listening to conventional units that know the ground/enemy and working together with them. I was also surprised to learn the Neptune Spear tm was handpicked team like Son Tay vs. a specific organic unit.

The author makes two very minor errors (Bradleys have 25mm's not 20mm and Spectres have 105's not 120's).

I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in Neptune Spear, special operations or the warrior ethos. One big plus for the kitbasher are the 3-4 kit pictures and discussion of his kit.
 

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Discussion Starter · #29 ·
I just finished this book in less than 24 hours and I want to echo what Will posted as well. This book was a very well written and compiled book. There were not any parts that made me want to put the book down and I had to force myself to do so late last night so that I could get some sleep.

I don't think any OPSEC was revealed in this book from what I read. There were a few things I didn't know, but I'm sure that they are out there. I think the biggest controversy about this book is that it discredits a lot of the information being leaked out to the media after bin Laden was killed. I am conflicted about the author releasing this book as special operations personnel (active and former) are supposed to be known as quiet professionals, but as we have seen so much being leaked to the media that is false I am glad that this story set the record straight.

The kit in the book that the author uses is all stuff that I think we know, but there were some nice confirmations that I got from reading the book and photos enclosed.
Great book and I highly recommend it to anyone that wants to know more about DEVGRU and the bin Laden raid.

Jeff
 

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I'll second Jeff's and Will's remarks - No Easy Day is how military memoirs should be written. The language and flow are great, there's some nice details, and the author is generally careful about betraying OPSEC. In the intro, he notes that he sought to discuss information that was already publicly known. I strongly recommend to anyone who enjoys military non-fiction.
 

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Gentleman Bastards by Kevin Maurer

I just finished reading this book last night. The author is embedded with 7th Special Forces group in Afghanistan. ODA 7136 .This book doesn't have all the action you would read in other stories. This book takes you into where no other book or even media shows. It takes you into what Special Forces were created to do. FID (training foreign troops) and VSO (Village Stability Operations). It talks about the importance of these two operations and how basically the only unit capable of achieving success are Green Berets. Its a good book and I like it but if you're looking for a high speed kill all the bad guys type book this ain't it. If you want to learn what SF are designed for and how difficult it is for them in this changing environment this is a great read. Having read ALOT of books on Rangers this was a good change. Hope you all agree.

Next is probably Sua Sponte or Outlaw Platoon.
 

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This is a great thread. Wish I had seen it sooner. I have read many of the books already mentioned. Here are some I recommend.

Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell
My absolute favorite book about Navy SEALs in the war on terror. I just love Marcus Luttrell. This big Texan is just larger than life. He is a controversial figure, but this story is a great read. I have his latest book "Service" queued up. I am also trying hard to help get him for a university speaker series I help sponsor locally through AT&T.

No True Glory: Fallujah and the Struggle in Iraq: A Frontline Account By Bing West.
It provides great insight into the political struggles in Iraq and how it impacted the boots on the ground. Can be very frustrating at times to see how the politicization of tactics and strategy cost lives.

Roughneck Nine-One: The Extraordinary Story of a Special Forces A-team at War by Frank Antenori
Recounts the battle of Debecka Pass in Iraq and tells the story of a horrific friendly fire incident in which a Navy F14 bombed a group of Kurdish personnel, a BBC crew and Special Forces personnel.

One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer By Nate Fick
A great book chronicling Fick's career as a young Marine infantry officer. It provides great insight into the mindset of a battlefield leader and the issues they wrestle with in leading young men into battle.

Kill Bin Laden: A Delta Force Commander's Account of the Hunt for the World's Most Wanted Man by Dalton Fury
Already mentioned... A first hand account of the battle of Tora Bora where Fury tells the story of the Delta Force hunt for the world's most wanted man, how close US forces came to getting him early on and why bin Laden slipped through the net in Afghanistan and into Pakistan. Very interesting stories and insight into the Afghanistan forces in the fight and how Delta and Special Forces had to juggle politics and personalities in the first big manhunt for bin Laden.

House to House by David Bellavia
Already mentioned, but another great book about the ground war and the conflict in Fallujah.

SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper by Howard Wasdin
Another pretty good read about Navy SEALs. He writes about his time with SEAL Team Two in Desert Storm, his time with DEVGRU and the Battle of Mogadishu.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
An absolutely incredible book and story. Couldn't put it down. The only WWII book I have read in quite some time, but it was fantastic. If you never read another book about WWII, you should read this one.

Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
Not a work of nonfiction, but a great Vietnam novel. It took Marlantes quite a long time to write this book and it is a long read, but it drew me in and kept me there until I was through with the book.

SEAL Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama bin Laden by Chuck Pfarrer
Already mentioned... A lot of books were rushed to market in the wake of the mission that took out bin Laden and it showed in most. This one -- while I understand Pfarrer made some mistakes -- is better than any I have read.

Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden
Already mentioned... one of my top three or four military history books. Movie was great, book is better.

We Were Soldiers Once... And Young by Harold Moore and Joe Galloway
Like most good movies based on books, the book is a must read if you saw and enjoyed the movie. There is a tradition that the Commandant of the Marine Corps selects a book each year that he feels is relevant and timeless for every Marine to read. This was the Commandant's choice in 1993.

American Sniper by Chris Kyle
Already mentioned... was a number one bestseller. 'Nuff said.

I have several books lined up in my Kindle. Right now I am finishing a fiction book called PRIMAL Unleashed, about an organization of privately funded mercenaries inserting themselves into situations where governments fear to tread or are too slow to act. I have the Naylor Book Not A Good Day To Die, Parnell's Outlaw Platoon, the book about Adam Brown, Fearless, and Mark Owen's No Easy Day stacked up and ready to go. A lot of good books and so little time...

A note about books written by or about Navy SEALs. The chest thumping is part of their "charm" I guess and I don't mind it too much. I understand that this is an organic part of what makes up the personality and character of the men that put themselves through what is certainly self abuse to earn their trident and then to put themselves into harm's way in ways few people can ever understand. What I do find interesting is that the SEALs do seem to be a little more overt about it, though they go to great lengths to say they are quiet professionals and prefer to fly under the radar. However, I cannot read another chapter on BUD/S. I am glad to see that the Mark Owen book omits this almost prerequisite telling in books about Navy SEALs, especially those written by SEALs. BUD/S is tough, we get it. I also understand that each of these books must be written as though the reader has no context to understand the process by which SEALs are trained and screened. But as a regular consumer of these books, I have started skipping through or quickly skimming the retelling of BUD/S experiences.
 

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I recently picked up Marcus Lutrell's "Service" and Brandon Webb's "Red Circle" after I finish "No Way Out" by Kevin Maurer. I still want to pick up "No Easy Day" and "The Lions Of Kandahar" as well.
 

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Just finished Mark Owen's No Easy Day. Kinda' wish I had waited until I saw tonight's Nat Geo docudrama on the Bin Laden raid. I know it is going to piss me off when I watch the movie and creative license crosses the line to obscure the truth. That being said, I really enjoyed the book and it dispelled a lot of popular myths about the raid in Abbottabad.

Just started on Chris Martin's two books on Delta, Shaping the World from the Shadows and Seal Team Six, Beyond Neptune Spear.
 

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Finished up Outlaw Platoon. Awesome book. Really got into it. One of my favorites.

Started to read Into the Fire by Medal of Honor recipient Marine Dakota Meyer.
 

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I just finished A J. Venter's WAR DOG Fighting Other People's Wars The Modern Mercenary in Combat.

Venter has a lot of experience in reporting African conflicts, and that is the central location for most of his book. It is a study of modern private military contractors, as well as an interesting consideration of the roles of private companies, their personnel, and the future of private militaries.

Part One deals primarily with Neall Ellis, a South African who flew a handful of Mi-24 Hinds and Mi-17s in support of the Sierra Leone government, against Foday Sankoh's RUF insurgents. At 188 pages, it is a thorough account of the challenges and dangers faced, and the innovation and skills used by the contract crews.

Part Two covers experiences in Bosnia, Lebanon, Congo, and Biafra.

Part Three begins with Executive Outcomes' experience in Angola and moves on to Sierra Leone. The small force of former elite South African and Rhodesian soldiers engage far larger enemy forces, defeating them with solid tactics and combined arms.

In the Epilogue, Venter discusses various contractors in Iraq, and other parts of the world, and finishes with a consideration of their usefulness in future conflicts of asymetrical nature. There is also an assessment of EO nations' militaries capabilities to carry out such operations.

Besides the above, this book is a rich account of the characters who are a part of these wars - contract soldiers, UN types, corrupt government and military leaders, various intelligence agency types of many countries, politicians, Russian pilots and mechanics, as well as details (some grudgingly admiring) of insurgents' qualities and tactics.
There is also an honest assessment of the usefulness of aircraft (often converted trainers), gunships (mostly Russian), and AFVs (mostly BMP-2s) in the conditions and terrain encountered.

Not the definitive study of the subject, but I think, a very valid component of the history and debate. Enjoyable read, and highly detailed.
 

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At the risk of self promotion....Danger Close: Tactical Air Controllers in Afghanistan and Iraq (Williams-Ford Texas A&M University Military History Series)
"America had a secret weapon," writes Steve Call of the period immediately following September 11, 2001, as planners contemplated the invasion of Afghanistan. This weapon consisted of small teams of Special Forces operatives trained in close air support (CAS) who, in cooperation with the loose federation of Afghan rebels opposed to the Taliban regime, soon began achieving impressive-and unexpected-military victories over Taliban forces and the al-Qaeda terrorists they had sponsored. The astounding success of CAS tactics coupled with ground operations in Afghanistan soon drew the attention of military decision makers and would eventually factor into the planning for another campaign: Operation Iraqi Freedom.

This book was written by one of our former Air Liasion Officers and covers some of the TACP's highlights in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The guy on the cover also moonlights as an OSW Admin.....
 

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I am definitely picking this one up. I hope that one of these days another OSW guy writes his experiences, somewhat related to this line of work.
 

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Just started reading some of the Vince Flynn books. They are fiction, but so far pretty good reads. I just finished the first of his books Term Limits, which was self published only to become a NYT best seller. It is generally classified political intrigue with elements of the CIA and former military special operators. Although his primary character in the rest of his books is not mentioned in Term Limits, some of the character carry over into the Mitch Rapp chronicles.

If you pick up Term Limits, I will warn you military accuracy goons like myself, there are some things that will get under your skin as naively inaccurate, like the constant characterization of special operations personnel as commandos, even by military types in the dialogue. Another is calling the 101st the 101st Airborne Rangers and a Marine general being a deputy commander at JSOC although no Marine units were in JSOC at the time of the writing (late 1990s) and still aren't today, although MARSOC, etc. are now under the larger USSOCOM umbrella. Referring to USSOCOM as Special Forces is a pet peeve, but probably the least of the transgressions in Flynn's first book. If it had been originally published by a large publishing house, an editor would have surely caught and changed some of these things. Still, I read it in under a week (which is lightning speed with my recent schedule) and had a hard time putting it down. Read the last three chapters at 5 a.m. today.

If you read Clancy's bestseller Without Remorse which was the John Clark/John Kelly backstory book, this one is very similar in tone, pace and twists and turns.

Flynn passed away a few weeks ago at the way too young age of 47 just as his first Rapp prequel American Assassin is in pre-production starring Bruce Willis.

Anyway, I know that Butch is a big Vince Flynn fan and I regret that I have only recently discovered his books. His stuff is similar to Lee Child's Jack Reacher series and a lot of Tom Clancy's work and works by others under the Clancy banner.
 

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A shift to more domestic duties has opened up some more reading time for me, and I recently pushed thru a number of books.

The Last Stand of Fox Company by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin, is the story of Fox Co, 2nd Bn, 7th Regt's stand at the Toktong Pass, in 1950. Their desperate fight held the key terrain which allowed their fellow Marines to withdraw from the Chosin Reservoir. Understrength, low on rations and ammunition, they fought, suffered, and often died, stopping much larger Chinese forces (which were well armed, organized, and willing to take horrendous losses, to take the hill).
Many of the Fox Company were reservists and new men, with little training before arriving in Korea. It is a lesson in cohesion, initiative, leadership, and endurance.

The Last Stand by Nathaniel Philbrick, is an examination of the fight at the Little Big Horn/Greasy Grass, in 1876. It covers the many factors, participants, and terrible decisions which culminated in the disaster. Philbrick describes sufficient blame for many, high and low. The actual demise of Custer and his men is more or less off stage, rather dealing with the other fights. The author credits various other works, as well as other sources, from both sides. He also relates the terrible cost to the tribes which fought there, and their leaders. Published in 2010, it's a well thought out book, tho as Philbrick proves that finding the truth is as ever, or more elusive with each passing moment.

No Greater Love by James C. Donahue, describes the one-day stand by his fellow Green Berets, and their Cambodian-expat Mobile Guerrilla Force, against a large Main Force NVA concentration, during the Blackjack-34* Mission. An excellent source for tactics and organization within such a unit, as well as enlightening descriptions of combat medical procedures (Donahue was a Bac Si), it is efficiently written, a fine read.
*The book was also published as 'Blackjack-34'

Scarlet Fields is John Lewis Barkley's story of his experience in WW1, as an "Intelligence Man", a sort of early 'Scout Sniper". Nominally a member of the the 3rd Infantry Division, Barkley and his fellow soldiers operated out of an Intelligence unit, and were moved all over the front manned by various US Army units. They were a rough bunch, and skilled in scouting, sniping, and fire control. Also used as a "force multiplier", Barkley and his fellow soldiers were assigned night raids, specific target strikes, "stay-behind", blocking, and screening missions. Perhaps the culmination of this book, is Barkley's account of his one-man stand* at the Bois de Cunel. There, he stopped a German attack, earning the Medal of Honor.
Barkley was a Missouri farm boy and woodsman, and his language is that of his time. The reader should understand that, and not try to ascribe present day attitudes and "accepted behavior" to Barkley and his fellow soldiers.
Also, Barkley's book missed the wave of popular WW1 literature at the time, and this reprinting had the support of a number of individuals and institutions. One such individual, Steven Trout, wrote the introduction. A 24 page introduction. The reader may want to bypass that, and perhaps read it after finishing the book. Mr. Trout seemed unable to fight the temptation of giving away quite a few details of Barkley's account.
I believe this book has some of the better "small details" of any book on the subject, and although he did not say it himself, Barkley was an extraordinary man, even among so many exceptional men.
*Is there a pattern here? That's three in a row, which involve stands.

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After all of these books, I decided to read a fictional book, which I had in my queue.
Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe's Escape is one of a series which relate the experiences of Richard Sharpe, a Captain of the 95th Rifles, up from the ranks. He's a rogue, brawler, and practical soldier. It's 1810, and Sharpe commands a light company which is following Wellingtion's British and Portuguese army, as it pulls back to a line of ridges, there to fight and stop the advancing French forces under Masséna.
At this writing, I am just past the fighting at Buçaco (Bussaco). Sharpe has acquitted himself well, although there are many more French battalions, and he has a number of private enemies.
Cornwell's Sharpe books are "ripping yarns", but they are also very good for getting a feel for the nature of fighting in those days. Napoleonic warfare involves grand, staged maneuver, but it is also a slaughterhouse affair, and the author details the training, discipline, and "combined arms" nature of it. You can hardly come away from the books without some understanding of weapons, effects, morale, and the madness and bravery on all sides.
And yeah, there's stands in this one too.

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