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Archive for the ‘DevGru’ Category

I know for many summer vacation is around the corner so here’s my review of two military books for your summer travel…and also because Pastors also need a break from heavy theological reading!

For other suggestions check out also our previous post “2017 Memorial Day Weekend Lists of Recommended Readings.”

Robert O’Neill.  The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior. New York, NY: Scribner, April 3rd 2018. 368 pp.

5 out of 5

Purchase: Amazon

This is a book by the Navy SEAL who shot Osama Bin Laden.  This book not only tell the story of the mission to go after Bin Laden but also Robert O’Neill’s upbringing in Montana, how he joined the Navy and made it into the SEALs.  A fascinating book of a fascinating individual.

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Note I am reviewing this book in light of it being a Memorial Day holiday.  I am thankful and indebt to the men and women who have died defending our country.No Hero Mark Owen

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.

Purchase: Amazon

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Seal Team Six Howard Wasdin

Howard E. Wasdin and Stephen Templin. Seal Team Six: Memoirs of An Elite Navy Seal Sniper.  New York, NY:
St. Martin’s Griffin, 2012. 331 pp.

This is a memoir of a member of the Navy Seals counterterrorism team called DEVGRU or popularly known as Seal Team Six.  The author served pre-9/11 during the 80s and 90s.  At first I wasn’t sure if I was going to be interested but I was surprised as I was read through the book with how much action and real world operations that the author did participate in.  Like most books of the SEAL autobiography genre the book tells us about the author’s childhood and then entrance into the Navy.  As a pastor I thought it was interesting to read of the author’s account of the role of strong men in his life as an influence from the church he attended.  The book goes on to have stories about BUD/S, the rigorous six months selection program a candidate must past before they are accepted into the Seals operational teams.  What set this book apart from the others is the fact that the author gives us an account of the Navy Seals Team Six during the years after its founding by its first commander Richard Marcinko and the post-9/11 era.  Unlike the two eras before and after it, the time period of the 90s is not the subject of most books.

The author participated in the First Gulf War and gave his account of missions infiltrating deep into Iraq.  He was also involved with a take down of a vessel in the Persian Gulf.  Because of his experience and involvement more than other Seals including those in his teams the author Howard Wasdin was able to enter Seal Team Six even though he was much younger and has less years under his belt compare to the typical Seal that applied for this special team.  Wasdin later became one of the top snipers in Seal Team Six.  I love his many stories of training missions and also training with other forces including the Australians and the competition between other US special operation forces.

The most harrowing part of the book is Wasdin’s account of combat in Somalia.  Any readers who have read Black Hawk Down would appreciate the first hand account by Wasdin of the Battle of Mogadishu.  In the book Black Hawk Down the four Seals in that operation was only mentioned briefly in the beginning of the book with the funny account of how one of the Seal’s bowie knife stopped a bullet.  Wasdin’s account gives us more of a picture of how intense the fighting was that day.  Wasdin’s sniping operation helped protected the lives of Delta Force operators and Army Rangers.  Unfortunately Wasdin was seriously wounded during the battle.  The book’s other sad moment was when the author’s marriage ended up in a divorce.  I can’t help but to think of how many Special Operation Forces operators’ marriage often become a casualty due to their husband’s training and deployment schedules.  It prompted me to pray for the marriages of those serving our country.  It also made me prayed for these men to know the Lord Jesus Christ as they emulate Jesus’ example of willingness to lay down their lives for others.

Purchase: Amazon

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Want to find a book to read this July Fourth Weekend?

I couldn’t stop putting this book down and finished it in one sitting (one day).

Fearless Adam Brown

Purchase: Amazon

An emotional biography of a SEAL TEAM SIX operator name Adam Brown, who was killed in August 2011. An incredible story: I don’t think I’ve ever read such a real and powerful account of drug addiction than I did in this book (which is worth buying the book in of itself) and how he failed so many times; yet, it’s also a story of faith and how Jesus Christ changed his life around, and through him others as well. Based upon interviews of SEALs, family members and his widowed wife, it is also balanced with official Navy record. Adam Brown was an incredible man of God, American, SEAL and human being. His battle with the inner demons of drugs, his entrance into the SEALs despite his small size is already itself an incredible story in it’s own right: But then we also learned that Adam Brown went on to try out and selected for SEAL SNIPER and a member of DEVGRU/SEAL TEAM 6 (the tier one outfit that got Bin Laden) despite the disadvantage of losing an eye and crushing his dominant hand (which he had to resort to shooting with his weak hand). I appreciated how this book shared so much about the wife’s journey as a NAVY wife, and how it was with the loss of her husbands with her kids. It’s indeed a story of faith but the author does a good job of showing how faith doesn’t sugar coat the harsh realities of this world: from disappointments and failure of kicking a drug addictions, the imperfection of believers, and the mystery of why God allow some to die and others to live. Reading this as a father of a one year old and a three month old, i can’t help tearing up especially towards the end of the book. As I have said in my reviews of other SEALs book, I believe every American ought to read a book like this–especially considering the small percentage today of those who serve. You would get a better picture and a deeper appreciation for the sacrifice of those who served and their families since 9/11. I highly recommend this book.

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Chris Kyle Navy Seals

Part of the reason why I’m making a post on this news story is due to the fact that those of us on Veritas Domain have strong sentiments with the military, and some of us have served in the US military.  Chris Kyle was a Navy SEALs sniper who also happened to have the most confirmed kill in US history, and was engaged in every single major conflict in Iraq this last decade.  I have previously reviewed his autobiography on this blog previously before HERE.

Yesterday, milliblogs lit up with news of his murder.  Here’s the story on this tragedy from ABC NEWS:

Eddie Ray Routh, 25, is the alleged suspect.

Eddie-Ray-Routh-killer

While details are sketchy it seems that he was shot by a former Marine in the back.  When I heard the news I was rather shocked.  Chris Kyle is a real life American hero and the reason why I like him so much is because of his strong love for his family evident in his book and also his love for the average soldier, Marines and sailors he was protecting with his sniper role.

Even being out of the military he tried to help Marine veterans who had Post Tramatic Stress Disorder according to the reputable milliblog SOF REP.

What a tragedy.  Shot by the very person he was trying to help.  The risk that Chris Kyle took to help…

I can’t help but to think about another Person who risked His life to save the very people that are His enemies–Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13)

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Purchase: Amazon

2012 will be remembered as the year of Navy SEALs autobiogrpahies. In January there was “American Sniper,” the story of Chris Kyle who is America’s sniper with the most confirmed kill in military history. Then there is “Seal of God” about a West Coast SEAL who became a Christian. But no SEAL autobiography has been able to generate so much interests and controversy in a short amount of time as this book, the story from one of the SEALs in DEVGRU (more better known with it’s old name, SEAL TEAM 6) that was involved in the Operation to get Osama Bin Laden. There’s no need to rehearse every detail of that controversy (which is still ongoing and brewing) and surely by writing this book the author has taken a lot of risks. Even as I read other reviews, there is no doubt controversies continues even with how people read and appreciated it (or not appreciate it). I thought some of the reviews of the book tells more about the reviewer’s background and values more than the book itself–no doubt my review will reflect a bit of who I am too, but I hope this review will also cause us to reflect more deeply about the last decade of warfare since 9/11, and about our society/culture and perhaps also the question of God and faith too even if you disagree with me.
I think to fully appreciate a book at times require one to ask how does it relate and fill a niche in relations to other books of the same subject or genre. So I suppose my review will keep that in consideration and from this angle, “No Easy Day” was definitely a different yet fascinating book. For starters, typically in SEALs biography, everyone gives an account of BUD/S (for the “lay” reader, we can call this SEAL boot camp of six months). This book does not, breaking the mold of the canon of SEALs autobiography. That’s because the book goes deeper and further into another world that is rarely mentioned or understood among all the SEALs books out there–the world of DEVGRU, the Navy SEALs highly secretive counter-terrorist group. Sure there is Richard Marcinko’s books, who was the founder of DEVGRU back in the 1980s when it was still known as SEAL TEAM 6. But there is little published in book form from an insider about the 21st Century, post 9/11 DEVGRU. The author describes in one of the early chapters of the book his unexpected physical try-out for DEVGRU, his acceptance into Green Squadron (the selection training in order to enter into DEVGRU’s command) and his acceptance into the team. His description of the selection and elimination process in Green Squadron is fascinating such as how candidates are required to write down whom they think are the five best candidates and five weakest candidates.
Though the author has been deployed around a dozen times this last decade of warfare suprisingly the book does not go into all the blood and gore details of most of his operation prior to the mission to get Osama. You would expect more–but then no doubt that would take away from the main story about the Bin Laden Raid–not to mention that he had to do it all in 336 pages. Readers who have been in the military would have appreciated his account of OIF 1–and things going array in their first mission. It reminds the rest of us in the military that did not serve in a SOF capacity that Navy SEALs are humans also. His account of working with DELTA was also a great insight into the other TIER 1 unit, though I suppose one might get a fuller account with Dalton Fury’s book. Going back to this book, the author also revealed his involvement in the Maersk Alabama hijacking rescue operation and his account of it indicate that this kind of operation was welcomed by the SEALs since it was a break from the routine of deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. What I found most intriguing in the author’s account of this operation was the fact that he parachuted into the Ocean with a Navy communication guy attached to him who has never done a parachute jump before. One can imagine how frightening that is–and the thought, “No one back home is going to believe this…” I’ve seen some reviews that complained about all these back story leading up to the Bin Laden raid in the book–you can tell they are pure civilians with no grasp of operational history or biography. But for the readers who are willing to look long and reflect harder, the first half of the book should make you appreciate the incredible amount of sacrifice, skill and dedication of people like Mark Owens who worked so hard to be the best of the best in their job in order to protect us. The account of the amount of sleeping pills these guys take and the weird hours they operate during deployment (what the author calls “Vampire hours”) should make us appreciate the toll it takes on these guys–and we are not even yet discussing about the lives and injury involved in what they do.
Of course, most of the book was devoted to the raid itself. I learn from this account that it was not any one of the existing four squadrons in DEVGRU take took part in the raid but rather a special gathering of different guys who have been around the block that was gathered. From the standpoint of a military biography with an operational history bent, I thought it was good (but not good to those reviewers who are looking for some existentialists need for “feelings” to be described). Here is where I could not put the book down. The description of him being on the helicopter that crash and the amazing description of him almost falling out since he was hanging out with his legs outside the crammed blackhawk. The amazing miracle of the helicopter handing on it’s strongest point on the wall which ended up not causing the rotars to hit the dirt and chaos that would have followed. The raid itself was incredible. Here is where I suppose this review tells more about me than perhaps the author or the book itself. I couldn’t help but to note all the things that went wrong or could have went wrong but turned out to have worked miraculously as something amazing enough to provoke in me an awareness of God’s providence throughout the raid. It’s a reminder that sometimes the bad guys do get their justice here on earth right now–and that skill isn’t enough but the providence of God as well.
Just as interesting as the raid itself is the author’s story of the raid afterwards. His account of Obama and Joe Biden is worth the read. To read of a real member of “Team Six” laughing at the silly things that has been said about them is quite entertaining; he even take on some misconception the ROUGE WARRIOR and the founder of SEAL TEAM 6 himself has said to the media, revealing that Richard Marcinko’s comment about DEVGRU being the most arrogant SEALs might be a little out of touch with contemporary DEVGRU.
Overall this is a good book. It is a historical account of an important part of history–not just the Navy SEALs, the U.S. military, but to close a chapter for so many Americans who have lost loved one since that fateful day on 9/11 and from the two wars stemming from it. If you ever had shed tears on 9/11 or if you have lost people in this long war–I think this book ought to be on your shelf.

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I don’t read the New Yorker, but I’ve been shared this by someone.  It is one of the most detailed account of the raid that killed Bin Laden.  As with all things, initial reports are not necessarily accurate and things get clearer as times go on.

Here’s the link:

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/08/08/110808fa_fact_schmidle

Here’s an excerpt from the point of the SEALs landing:

Minutes after hitting the ground, Mark and the other team members began streaming out the side doors of helo one. Mud sucked at their boots as they ran alongside a ten-foot-high wall that enclosed the animal pen. A three-man demolition unit hustled ahead to the pen’s closed metal gate, reached into bags containing explosives, and placed C-4 charges on the hinges. After a loud bang, the door fell open. The nine other SEALs rushed forward, ending up in an alleylike driveway with their backs to the house’s main entrance. They moved down the alley, silenced rifles pressed against their shoulders. Mark hung toward the rear as he established radio communications with the other team. At the end of the driveway, the Americans blew through yet another locked gate and stepped into a courtyard facing the guesthouse, where Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, bin Laden’s courier, lived with his wife and four children.

Three SEALs in front broke off to clear the guesthouse as the remaining nine blasted through another gate and entered an inner courtyard, which faced the main house. When the smaller unit rounded the corner to face the doors of the guesthouse, they spotted Kuwaiti running inside to warn his wife and children. The Americans’ night-vision goggles cast the scene in pixellated shades of emerald green. Kuwaiti, wearing a white shalwar kameez, had grabbed a weapon and was coming back outside when the SEALs opened fire and killed him.

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