I’ve read a lot of war novels this year. And by “a lot” I mean three. I read two in 2015. And zero before that. This is particularly interesting to me because I spent 2013-2015 as the wife of an active duty infantryman. That soldier, my husband, has since gone on to change his MOS and transitioned from active duty to reserves. It’s not impossible that we will be back into the active duty fray sometime in the near future. You kind of never know what life is going to throw at you.
So, I have a certain personal, visceral reaction to books such as Romesha’s that plop me right into my husband’s shoes. It’s not a perspective that I want. I don’t want to think about how he earned his CIB. (That’s Combat Infantryman Badge for those not well versed in endless military acronyms). And yet.
I picked up this book having pretty much no idea what it was about. Before reading it, I spent a good deal of time jumping on the bandwagon of the beloved infantry pastime of making fun of Cav Scouts. I’d never heard of Romesha, Keating, or even Nuristan, though my husband spent a decent amount of time near there when he was deployed. I asked him if he had ever heard of these places and he, too, was ignorant of them. It seems as though the Army isn’t too keen on discussing how it screwed over its own soldiers.
This book is hard to distill for me. I can’t write you a paragraph synopsis because so much happens in terms of plot and nuanced character development that it’s impossible to summarize. You need to experience the book for yourself.
Romesha’s writing is authentic while not getting bogged down in terminology and military slang terms. Even those not super familiar with Army culture will likely find this account accessible. You may feel daunted by all of the different names for the weapon systems at first, but push through. Being able to picture exactly which system is being used is less important than the feel of the battle and the character sketches that Romesha draws for us. Although, if you’d like to look up what some of the weapons look like, I’ve been assured by my husband that the Dragunov is a “sexy weapon.”
To borrow a phrase from the book, it doesn’t get better–you’re not going to find a more relevant, more well written account of the trials and triumphs that the US military encounter in our current combat engagement. It truly doesn’t get better than Red Platoon. Don’t pass on this one.
For further reading:
The Outpost by Jake Tapper
Redeployment by Phil Klay
I’d Walk with My Friends if I Could Find Them by Kesse Goolsby
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers