red-platoon-cover

You may have read Black Hawk Down and/or Lone Survivor. If you have (hell, even if you haven’t), next on your reading list should be Red Platoon: A True Story of American Valor by Medal of Honor recipient Clinton Romesha. The publisher calls it “[t]he only comprehensive, firsthand account of the fourteen hour firefight at the Battle of Keating,” and while that description is accurate, it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of just how comprehensive this book really is.

Romesha, a member of Black Knight Troop’s Red Platoon, is preparing to close down COP Keating in Kamdesh, Afghanistan, in October 2009. With the majority of their supplies either already removed from the COP or packed away, the men find themselves embroiled in a bitter fight for control during a surprise attack by the Taliban.

Clinton provides a detailed look into the lives of the men at Keating and how they came to be in their current situation on the morning of October 3, 2009. You get to know the men in Black Knight Troop, as well as some of the guys in the Afghan National Army and the Afghan Security Guards. He also paints a vivid portrait of Keating itself, which had proven to be a near-defenseless outpost situated in the bottom of a valley. That fact goes a long way toward explaining the urgency of their predicament and why it wass being closed down. Being positioned as it was gave the Taliban the upper hand and the high ground from every vantage point, making everyone in Keating a fish in a proverbial barrel.

As someone who has never been in the military, I was able to understand the terminology, the tactics, and the situation that everyone in Keating found themselves in that day. Romesha’s writing style is informative and straightforward, yet also vivid and highly entertaining. He writes in a way that’s relatable to both servicemen and civilians alike.

I found myself literally on the edge of my seat during parts of the book. Since you get to know the guys embroiled in the battle, I felt their sense of urgency when they were preparing to make their runs to and from the Shura Building, to the ammo supply point, or one of the armored Humvees. I also found felt contempt toward the ANA and ASG personnel who didn’t uphold their end of the security responsibilities when it came down to the wire.

When air support finally arrives, you can envision the layers of airspace occupied by the different types of aircraft (thanks to Romesha’s detailed descriptions) and I could feel my pulse quickening each time one of the Apaches came in for another run.

Keating map

The map of COP Keating in the front of the book was invaluable. I referred back to it repeatedly for a visual of how the attacks played out. Romesha gives great play-by-play descriptions of the actions he and his men took during the battle; with the aid of the map, I was able to follow in their footsteps and visualize the exact moves they were trying to make.

Because his writing style is so frank and relatable, my heart broke each time one of the men went down. Romesha spared no detail in retelling of the wounds that our soldiers bore at the hands of the Taliban. He also described the frantic search for bodies of the fallen to prevent them from being taken into the hills by the Taliban and used in their propaganda.

Clinton has provided one of the best accounts of battle that I’ve ever read. I’ve spent a lot of time reading about war and battle from many different wars across the centuries. This was by far the most moving one I’ve read.

Romesha also deals with his life after the battle. He and his men still had another eight months left before their deployment was over. He talks about receiving the Medal of Honor and how he feels about it. Basically, he’s just a custodian for the medal, which truly belongs to the eight men who gave their lives that day.

MOH

When I came to the end of the book, closed the cover and laid it down, I just sat there for a few minutes. Silent. Partly because I felt like I needed to pay homage to the men who died. Partly because I had a whole new respect for Clinton Romesha.

Logan and Clinton

When I met him in May 2016, I had seen an interview with him on TV about the book, but I hadn’t read it yet. I didn’t comprehend all that he and the others had been through when we stood there, chatting for a few minutes in a crowded convention hall. After reading the book, I think I get it – to a certain degree. That is, as much as one who has never been in combat can get it.

At any rate, Red Platoon is a must read for anyone interested in first-hand accounts of U.S. military engagements. Do yourself a favor and give it a read. You won’t be disappointed.

 

24 Responses to Book Review – Red Platoon: A True Story of American Valor

  1. Keating – Wasn’t that the same location for the book ‘The Outpost’ by Jake Tapper?

    My dad gave me a copy of Tapper’s… er… kinda book.

    I only got halfway through that one before giving up on it. Tapper must have thought he was writing an anti-war epic, but his Progressive bias was so monotonously slanted the story just wasn’t readable.

    “The Outpost’ was just depressing to read, with his mechanical hyper-detailed portrayal of the folks involved.

    ‘Red Platoon: A True Story of American Valor’ sounds like the kind of book I want to read, and I’m buying it.

    The location of Combat Outpost Keating, though, made zero sense to me, being effectively un-defendable.

    Were there any repercussions against who was responsible for choosing to set up that outpost there?

    • “Keating – Wasn’t that the same location for the book ‘The Outpost’ by Jake Tapper?”

      Yes it was.

      “Were there any repercussions against who was responsible for choosing to set up that outpost there?”

      I’m sure they all received promotions.

      • Infuriatingly, it sure did work for that POS Lon Horiuchi…

        EDIT – Thanks TTAG for putting up that map, I’m printing it to have onhand when I read the .epub…

        • I just finished this about a week ago. Great read, kept it up on my Kindle all day at work. While not .epub, the Kindle version does have the map for you to reference and lots of pics of the soldiers that were there as well as the terrain. Followed it up with Three Years Among the Comanche that I finished today. That’s a good one to check out as well.

  2. I am a voracious reader of military history. Picked this book up three weeks ago on a whim, but thanks to your review, it’s now at the top of my “to read” list. I find it fascinating how the essence and spirit of combat memoirs has changed in the past 100 years. We’ve gone from visceral accounts of how warfare transforms the mind and body in the trenches to entirely fabricated careers and “memoirs” so horribly ghost written I’ve almost had to put them down. I understand the nature of warfare has changed, and that naming names and details can often put people and their families at risk, but I’m hoping this book brings back some of that old world poetic flair.

  3. I’ve made multiple trips into Afghanistan. Not just Kabul, like so many private security contractors, but Lashkar Gah in Helmund Province and Kandahar. Until you’ve been there, you have no idea what it’s like to suddenly be back in the 12th Century where tribal loyalties trump everything else and the land is utterly unforgiving.

    I will definitely be reading this book.

    • As one of my relatives who served in Iraq and Afghanistan stated, ” They think they are civilized because of their religion, but they really are not.”

      • Depends on what tribe and ethnic group you are talking about. For the Pashtuns, especially the Pashtuns down south, religion is kind of a nebulous idea. Although they will tell you they are Muslim, the VAST majority don’t know what the 5 pillars are, 99% of them have never read any portion of the Quran (they are illiterate) and they know almost nothing about Mohammed other than he was Allah’s prophet.
        But Pashtunwali (the way of the Pashtun) is all. It was written down hundreds of years before Mohammed was ever born, and it’s still what guides them. Few know that the customs of Pashtunwali are not a part of Islam, they just tie them all together.

      • It really is. The first time I rode through what constituted ‘downtown” Kandahar I was in sheer awe of how backwards it all was. The little shops along the rode that repaired cars and bicycles, sold tire and household good, and everything else were more like little caves made of mud bricks and coated over by layer after layer of mud. The people on the streets, the motorcycle jitneys, the hostility. It was like being on another planet.

  4. I am an avid reader, but I rarely read non fiction. I read this several months ago on a friend’s recommendation and could not put it down. It is an excellent read that is truly sobering for those of us who have never been touched first hand by war. It made me that much more thankful for those who have served and are still serving in the military.

  5. I also found felt contempt toward the ANA and ASG personnel who didn’t uphold their end of the security responsibilities when it came down to the wire.
    Ask the Russians about this. SSDD.

  6. He also paints a vivid portrait of Keating itself, which had proven to be a near-defenseless outpost situated in the bottom of a valley.
    Seems like Dien Bien Phu or the Maginot Line.
    We have top men working on this location. Top men.

  7. I am reading it for the second time. Just trying to remember all the fallen soldiers’ names (Scussa, Mace, Gallegos, etc, etc.). Just like I remember these three names: White, Chaffee and Grissom.

      • “The Taliban are our opponents, but the POGUes are our enemy.”-my NCOIC for my first tour in Afghanistan. Truer words have never been spoken.

  8. Could you update the review by adding his rank? Either as “Staff Sergeant Romesha” or “SSG Romesha”. It is disrespectful to his position and profession achievements to omit. Making the rank of E-6 is notable and placed him in his leadership position.

    PS: Feel free to omit titles bestowed on marxist elected offiicials

  9. The outpost was situated in the valley because COIN doctrine stated that the troops needed to be near the locals to interact with and protect them from the Taliban.
    Placing the outpost on the high ground is tactically sound but abandons the locals to intimidation by the enemy.

  10. Clint, by the way, is an absolutely outstanding dude. A true quiet professional. Generous, respectful, well spoken and fun to hang out with. We met through a mutual friend, and Clint is constantly working out what he can do to help someone else. Clint’s a hero at his core and he’d find a way to be one no matter what his chosen profession was.

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