red-platoon-cover

One of the rarest things on earth is the perfect blending between a warrior and a scholar. To meet such a man or to read his wisdom on the written page is truly a blessing, which is why I search … and search … and search for those moments. It is safe to say that Clinton Romesha, Medal of Honor recipient and author of Red Platoon, unequivocally belongs in that elite group. His memoir is exquisitely written, which feels somewhat odd to say given the subject matter.

For those who are unfamiliar with Mr. Romesha’s story — or, rather, the story of the men deployed to Combat Outpost (COP) Keating in Afghanistan on Oct. 3, 2009 — it is the stuff of legend. The former Staff Sergeant and his comrades were told to man an outpost that was in every way imaginable a death trap, and then when all their worst fears came true the majority of them found a way to survive.

Here is an excerpt that in many ways sums up what the book is about:

In 1958, a soldier named J. Glenn Gray wrote a book about soldiers in combat called The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle. Gray, who was drafted into the army as a private in May 1941, was discharged as a second lieutenant in October 1945 after having seen fighting in North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany. His book, which is both obscure and revered, touches on something that would later strike me as relevant to what was now unfolding at Keating as our counterassault came in danger of unraveling.

Gray wrote with elegance and precision about how the essence of combat basically boils down to an exchange of trust between two men — or two groups of men — each of whom are providing support by fire for the other. This simple agreement — you move while I shoot at the guys who are trying to kill you, then I will move while you shoot at the guys who are trying to kill me — depends on a willingness to place one’s life into the hands of someone else while in turn taking responsibility for that person’s life in your own hands. When this pact is executed well, it is not only extraordinarily effective but also tends to create a bond between men who enter into it that may stand as the most powerful connection they will ever experience to another human being.

There is, however, one thing that Gray doesn’t explore in his book, which is what can happen when one of the two parties who are supposed to be working in tandem fails — for whatever reason, legitimate or not — to keep his end of the deal. That was what appeared to be taking place right then with Hill’s machine-gun team.” — Clinton Romesha, Red Platoon (New York, Penguin Random House LLC, 2016), 243-244.

I cannot say enough good things about this book. It seems awkward to call a wartime memoir “flawless” (How does one give glowing reviews to true story where men died gruesome deaths without seeming inconsiderate or detached?), but that seems to be the best adjective to use.

Red Platoon is powerful, organized, thrilling, poignant, inspirational and educational all at the same time. It is intelligent, but relatable to a wide audience. It is honest, but respectful to all Americans involved — regardless of how they handled themselves on the battlefield.

In short, buy the book. It is awesome, and probably something I will come back to for many years to come.

RELATED: ‘Black Hawk Down’: Read the book because the movie can never do the men who died justice

Advertisements

About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

6 comments

  1. Enjoyed your brief review Doug and as always has inspired me to check out this book too.

    Battlefield comradery I imagine would be truly essential to ensure trust in your band of brothers whilst under attack from the enemy. Frightening as well considering the circumstances. I guess bravery and a spirit of valor go hand in hand.

    It’s a subject I find fascinating. I never served in the Australian armed forces, (thought about it when I was younger), but a couple of friends did and my cousin who is retiring this year did a couple tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

    BTW, still waiting for Black Hawk Down to arrive in the post. 😎

    1. “Enjoyed your brief review Doug and as always has inspired me to check out this book too. […] BTW, still waiting for Black Hawk Down to arrive in the post.”

      Excellent. Well, I would suggest reading Red Platoon first if at all possible. As I was telling a friend, they’re both written in very different styles. You’ll know what I mean when soon into each book. Romesha’s book covers the battle in detail, but it very “reader friendly.” Black Hawk Down is good, but it’s more educational in nature. One guy was on the ground when it happened, and the other is a reporter.

      “Battlefield comradery I imagine would be truly essential to ensure trust in your band of brothers whilst under attack from the enemy. Frightening as well considering the circumstances. I guess bravery and a spirit of valor go hand in hand.”

      I think I mentioned this before in another post way back, but when I was in basic training we had to “react to contact” after being gassed. You’re supposed to put on your mask and then begin the proper maneuvers for dealing with an ambush. Well, I put on my mask and started returning fire only to find out…I was all alone! The other guys who were supposed to have my back were so scared of the gas they took off running in the opposite direction. That was my first foray into the military. Luckily, I ended up being stationed with some guys who I had more faith in.

      “It’s a subject I find fascinating. I never served in the Australian armed forces, (thought about it when I was younger), but a couple of friends did and my cousin who is retiring this year did a couple tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan.”

      I got out in 2000 thinking, “Well, I did my time.” I worked my butt of to get into a certain college, and then…9/11 happened. I really didn’t know what to do because a part of me wanted to reenlist, but I had worked so hard to get into USC and it felt like I would be returning to a life I left behind. It took me many years to come to terms with the decision not to go back in. I suppose meeting my wife at USC helped that process move along. 🙂

  2. “It’s a subject I find fascinating. I never served in the Australian armed forces, (thought about it when I was younger), but a couple of friends did and my cousin who is retiring this year did a couple tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan.”

    Interesting. I guess I didn’t know that Australia had deployed troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, but then again I don’t know a lot about Australian military history apart from maybe Gallipoli.

    1. “Interesting. I guess I didn’t know that Australia had deployed troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, but then again I don’t know a lot about Australian military history apart from maybe Gallipoli.”

      Australia and Poland are good allies. It’s a shame that our current president takes Australia for granted and threw Poland under the bus for it’s “reset” with Russia. How is that one going, Mr. President?

    1. “So many great books to sift through, but I think this one is a can’t skip.”

      If you read it and come away disappointed, then be sure to circle back and let me know. I will rectify the situation. 🙂 The same deal applies to Magnetic Eye.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s