Mark Owen. No Hero: The Evolution of a Navy SEAL. New York, NY: Penguin Group, May 20th, 2014. 304 pp.
The author was among the SEALs who participated in the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. I have previously read and reviewed his earlier controversial book titled No Easy Day that gave his firsthand account of the famous raid. In this second book the author moves beyond Operation Neptune and covers his story including his personal childhood growing up in Alaska and his determination to be a SEAL at an early age. The book also covered his decade plus experience of being a SEAL operator. This is a book that will make the readers appreciate the fact that there are men defending our country and stand in the line of fire against evil men around the world.
The book opens up with a prologue titled “Forty Names.” Here he tells us about him being home and hearing about the helicopter containing another squadron of SEAL Team Six that was shot down not too long after the Bin Laden raid. I thought this opening was a sobering reminder that what one is about to read is not just some fictional adventure but true stories of the men who risked it all in defense of our country.
The chapters in the book were written in such a way as to impart to the readers lessons the author learn that was also relevant for everyday life. As someone who was in the Marines and never liked height the best chapter that stuck with me is chapter three on fear in which Owen tells us of his rock climbing training in Nevada. Owen is also someone who does not like heights and during the rock climbing exercise he experienced a moment in which he froze. The civilian “billy goat” instructor climbed over to him and gave him an advice that changed his life: Don’t look at the things that he can’t control but rather stay “in your three foot world.” Focus on the things that you can have some control over. This helped him not only with his immediate rock climb but also other areas of life in the SEALs. I thought this was very helpful for life in general!
I also enjoyed his chapter on the importance of communication in which he talked about after action report and how that helped the SEALs community to implement lessons learned. He also had a good chapter about accountability and relationships. I loved how he described the closeness of his SEAL team and contrasted that with the one mission he went alone with the CIA in Pakistan and just how much displeasure he had with the CIA’s culture of everyone for himself and the politics within that agency.
Also interesting was his chapter on compartmentalization towards the end of the book in which he talked about killing. He shares about how after many so many deployments soon he was having difficulties sleeping when he came back home and felt the need to go to his SEAL locker cage to prep his gear for the next mission. His account of being alert for danger and the messed up thing he saw is something other combat veterans could relate to and I thought it was important he shared this so that over veterans who were not with Special Operations Forces can realize that they too are humans (though of course tough ones).
Read this to appreciate the men and women who serve—especially those who were in combat and those in combat with Special Operation Forces such as the SEALs.