on September 4, 2012
In No Easy Day, you see an account of the raid to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden from the eyes on someone who was there - one of four team leaders on the ground that night. The account is most definitely gripping, I could not put it down and I skipped sleeping to finish it - yes, there will be hell to pay at work tomorrow. But, nowhere close to as much hell as the operators in DevGru (aka Seal Team 6) undertook to get into DevGru and to stay there.
The first thing that struck me was just how elite a team the US sent on that raid. To be a member of DevGru you have to ALREADY be a Navy Seal. Most who apply don't make it, but they go back to being a "regular" SEAL which has nothing regular about it. For the Bin Laden raid, they essentially assembled an All Star team of the most seasoned DevGru operators from multiple teams and put them together on a team consisting of the best of the best of the best.
My next takeaway on the actual raid itself was how many things actually went wrong. Here you have the best of the best taking part in a historic mission, and all kinds of things start falling apart. Yet, amazingly (to me), despite all the problems, it still worked out. Thats because everything that could have gone wrong was previously anticipated, contingency plans made, and all back up plans were rehearsed multiple times. While I considered the mission to be successful, the impression I get is the members of DevGru thought they could have done it much better. (I'll leave out the details as to avoid spoiling the story).
This leads me to my next takeaway which is just how devoted to perfection and exceptional performance these operators seem to be. One thing that surprised me is how much they train when they aren't deployed. If they aren't jumping out of helicopters on a real mission, they are jumping out of real helicopters for practice. The missions are abroad and the training sessions are state side but often away from home too.
In short, these guys don't ever seem to be at home very much, it just takes that much work and training to be as good as these guys are. I for one am glad they are on OUR side and my appreciation for them has certainly gone way up after reading this book,
No Easy Day very much gives you a view into both the Bin Laden raid but also the years and in some cases decades of demanding work that led up to it... And the title IS accurate, there doesn't seem to be ANY easy days as a member of DevGru.
Overall a gripping story on the Bin Laden raid with excellent perspective on the life of the operators in DevGru (Seal Team 6).
I am usually a very slow reader and my attention often wanders, especially with non-fiction. This book though kept my attention completely. From the author's opening notes about how nothing in this book violates secrecy or operational security to the very last chapter I was completely captivated. The writing is superb and the flow of the book is great.
I highly recommend that you read this book. It is excellent not just as history, or a story, but also a book about how winners think. Guys like "Owen" look at challenges and life completely differently than average people do, and reading this book gave me a wonderful insight into his head. To get an honest view into the thought processes of someone like "Owen" is a unique and incredible opportunity.
I really enjoyed this book and feel like I learned a tremendous amount from it. I highly recommend it.
People who are bashing the book for being a sell out or violating secrecy either have not read the book or are looking at it from a very unique and odd perspective. I find it especially perplexing that some people are bashing him using his experience to gain fame and profit. Considering he wrote under a pseudonym and is donating a majority of the book's proceeds to charity, I can't really understand these accusations. He explains throughout the book that he was motivated to become a SEAL, in part, by reading a similar book about missions in Vietnam. I think that his primary motivation in writing this book is to inform the public, especially those very very few who might make up a future generation of SEALs and Delta operators.
"No Easy Day" by Mark Owen (a pseudonym) is published by Dutton Adult. It is the story of a Navy SEAL, an elite special operations warrior with its climax in the story of the raid and death of Osama Bin Laden.
Immediately striking is the author's ability to picture himself as a real, flawed person. He shows appreciation for others in his line of work without painting them as either unbelievably superhuman or as some kind of fringe military extremists. The characters are revealed to be dedicated to an intense level of self-discipline and while admitting to errors in performance, they have the persistence to improve their skills at the highest levels of military training and preparation in the world today. It is the very humanity of the characters that brought me into the story. It's a book about struggle and those who find the work-arounds to defeat.
There is nothing in my reading of this book to signal the author is being deceitful or embellishing his role in warfare for personal gain. The author was straightforward in the introduction by informing the reader that he has taken necessary precautions for preventing the inadvertent release of classified information. He neither sets himself up as a some kind of national hero or as a potential platform for a future political career. It is smoothly written without being crass or overly graphic.
As becomes evident, the author is motivated out of a desire to positively influence other young men to pursue their dreams regardless of whether it works out as military service or not. Owen's personal tale begins as a young man who was profoundly influenced by the reading of a book about a special operations predecessor. The author, if the story is to be believed, wanted nothing more to hone his skills and to experience the most he could by overcoming his weaknesses with the help of others. Indeed, iron sharpens iron.
I have known similar men (Hal Moore and William Wingett, for example), with whom I've disagreed with their refusal and reluctance of being called "hero." One theme that runs through my discussions with them is that even though the story is about their experience, they are more excited to describe the successes of those around them. They don't boast about themselves, but about camaraderie, struggle and the willingness of those around them to take on the most hazardous experiences with the sole determination of overcoming any obstacle. They show their heroism by stressing the success of others. And those of us who come after them learn we can achieve the seemingly impossible, because, quite simply, these guys have done the same and more.
Overall, this book has provided me with great insight into how courageous people behave and think. This book provided me with a number of opportunities to reflect on what I perceive as heroism. This book by Mark Owen was inspirational.
on September 4, 2012
Firstly, author, Mark Owen, is a five-star hero. My three-star rating of the book should not take away from that fact. This is the only story of the UBL raid as told by someone who was boots-on-ground. The hype surrounding the pre-release is completely unfounded; there are no politically scathing illuminations or resentment against the "establishment" within these pages.
Secondly, three-stars is not a bad rating; I recommend this book for people who enjoy reading about the professional life of Navy SEALS, but there are volumes of books written about this subject. The story of the UBL raid was secondary to the professional story of a post 9/11 Navy SEAL. In a way, I believe Mark Owen was trying to get that very point across; aside from the immense, historical significance, the mechanics of the UBL raid was essentially like the hundreds of other raids in which he was involved. Furthermore, Mark Owen acknowledges that many other Navy SEALS were just as qualified to accomplish the mission, but he happened to be in the senior position at the time.
The author takes us through his career as a Seal including his time with the exclusive Seal team tasked with the most difficult missions.
A number of the deployments are routine to the extent that being deployed to remote areas in two wars can ever be considered routine. The reader is taken along on multiple missions in Afghanistan and Iraq and gains a better appreciation of the life of a Seal outside the wire.
This is a great story of a warrior's career. Like an NFL career it takes a heavy toll on the body and the mind. Unlike the NFL there's no long off season, no benchwarmers ready to provide a break and no semi retirement playing second to a star.
Hardware freaks will have severe envy as the author discusses their equipment and the virtually bottomless armory and talented personnel available to provide them with highly personalized weapons for any occasion. Not the James Bond stuff but the best of the military and civilian world.
Perhaps 20% of the book is devoted to the mission to get OBL. It provides great insight into the intelligence and planning, the preparation and finally the raid. The raid itself is a classic case study of why the Seal way of waging war works. Inserting into OBL's compound the helo looses control and crashes. The Seals are not were they are supposed to be. Yet they are able to continue the mission and succeed.
Yes, the author does disclose sensitive military information - that the administration has neutered much of their effectiveness through political correctness and excessive involvement of those who do not understand what they are doing or the need for real time decision making. There are warriors ready to do what's needed but suddenly required to make powerpoint presentations to attorneys who will decide the mission and make the rules. Beyond this it's hard to find anything of tactical or strategic value to those who would like to convert or kill us. It's apparent that the author left a lot out of the story of the bin Laden raid to avoid some specific areas.
Instead, the author takes us on a decade long involvement with the best of the best. If there is something disappointing about the book it is what the author does not say. More than a decade of service, 11 deployments, tens of thousands of hours of training and then it's time to leave. But there's no (zero) retirement benefits, no pension... nothing other than the skills and friendships he developed.
The book is also a great book on organizational culture. The absolute focus on competence and commitment to the team and an advancement process that focuses on merit. At the top of the pyramid the organized conditioning exercises disappear, those who have risen to this level can be trusted to organize their own physical conditioning. The team training never stops as each lesson learned is tested to see how it should modify the way they do things.
My guess is that over the next few years it will become clearer why certain things were included in the book.
This is a great read...........................
on September 6, 2012
Many of these reviews base their rating on the appropriateness of the book being written in the first place, how much a hero you regard the author to be, or the importance of the Bin Laden mission. This review is not one of those; it's a look at the book itself, in the context of similar books.
Before my review gets bashed, I'll preface by saying that I've read many SEAL and other SpecOps books and regard all of these guys as heroes who sacrificed much, sometime everything, to do a job for their country that mostly goes entirely unrecognized. But my opinions of a guy's heroics have little to do with the quality of his book.
This is not the first SEAL book to have been written, nor is it the first by a former Seal Team Six/DEVGRU member. After reading it, I would not put it among the top tier of those books. It suffers from what I see as a fatal attempt to balance several conflicting priorities in writing it. All of these have to do with deciding how much detail to include or exclude.
First, the security restrictions were an obvious (and oft-stated) concern of the author's, and, just as obviously, the cause of much of the ensuing controversy. In my opinion, the author erred on the side of being overly cautious when describing his missions, though not as much in the Bin Laden raid. The missions from his background are described in such generic terms that they could have conducted by any special ops personnel, anywhere. After reading many of them, I was left wondering why most of them were included in the first place. Yes, they were probably representative of his career, but most lacked drama in their telling and seemed perhaps overly breezy. The author clearly did not wish to get into too many operational details for running afoul of the security censors, but we're left without the insider-type details that are so rich in other accounts. It's the details that make a reader feel like he's really watching the boots on the ground, not just hearing a guy tell watered-down stories at the bar. The Maersk Alabama incident is a good example. The author was part of this high-profile mission, but the only new information we get was a small bit about the interrogation of the one captured pirate. The rest was already covered in open news sources. In my opinion, other (DOD-reviewed) books have gone into much greater detail, so I can't see what there is to complain about regarding security breaches.
Secondly, despite some of the uproar from the SPECOPS community, the author seems overly humble in his book. He comes across as the epitome of the "quiet professional" during his career. He lives for the job, for his teammates, and being the best SEAL he can be - for the team. It seems he advances through his accomplishments, not force of personality or politicking. He deliberately limits his career to stay in an operational capacity and on those ops, he's either leading by example, or just a well-functioning cog in the machine. But those impressions do him and the reader a disservice. We like old-school heroes and this guy clearly had the "right stuff" but he'll never come out and say it. He spends too little time being introspective about his role in the SEAL's successes and has an almost apologetic tone when including himself at all. I really would have liked to get to know the guy better in his book, other than his penchant for telling bad jokes and his case of OCD.
Thirdly, the book seems to be aimed at as broad of an audience as possible. This is probably had as much to do with the lack of details as the security issues. Either the author, co-author, or publisher seemed afraid to let the minute details into the book that give it the real air of verisimilitude. Every once in a while we might get a brand name for a knife or his boots, but otherwise very little. Some may argue that those details bog down the narrative, but the typical reader of military memoirs lives for that kind of stuff. It's what allows the reader to live vicariously through the author's eyes. Without those, the book could well have just been written by an informed journalist (such as the co-author), rather than a guy who lived and breathed this stuff for a decade, and for whom details were everything. Might that have turned off some of the mass audience who were otherwise drawn in by the Bin Laden angle? Probably so, which is unfortunate.
Finally, the biggest draw of the book was of course the Bin Laden raid (or UBL, as the book puts it). The book clearly struggles to balance how much of the author's career to include as preface to the climactic raid. In my opinion, there was not enough of the former. Yes, many books have covered BUD/S training that sailors go through to become a SEAL, but each man's experience there was unique. The author gave his time there the short shrift. In other SEAL books, that time was critical to finding out what really motivated a man and what his strengths and weaknesses were. In the author's case, he pithily describes his motivation as just getting to the next meal, a fear of failure, and always wanting to be a SEAL. We get no sense of where he struggled or succeeded, other than a few mentions of his marksmanship. Once he gets into his missions, many of them seem to be more typical recollections than really critical moments in his career. That may be because they were breezily told so they lacked weight or significance beyond their military value. It felt like prelude to the "good stuff" at the end, so I found myself hurrying to read through much of it, not because those sections were so grippingly told, but because I felt like I was waiting for the real story to start. In the best of this type of book, I find myself racing to get to the end of a chapter to find out what happened in each mission. Again, the first decade of his career (the UBL raid essentially ended it) felt unfairly glossed over at the expense of the UBL raid. I guess that was to be expected given the title.
I came into the book with high expectations from reading similar titles, but these unbalanced priorities left me wanting more from all of the parts up to the Bin Laden mission. Once he hits that part, though, things really took off. The mission was told in much more detail than earlier operations, so you began to feel like you were down in the weeds with the SEALs. The narrative was told suspensefully and with details that we haven't seen or heard before. Those details, incidentally, became the focus of the security uproar, but seem to actually give little away in terms of tactics or operationally-sensitive information. It seems more that the details differed from the official narrative and were thus uncomfortable for some in Washington. I doubt many terrorists are gaining new insights from facts like the SEALs no longer land on top of a target, that they use military dogs, or have $65,000 night vision goggles.
The Osama Bin Laden mission saves this book from being a (relatively) unremarkable entry in the genre of special operations memoirs. The mission itself is a draw, regardless of how it's told, but the author manages to tell a great story about it. It's unfortunate that a confluence of other factors weakened the earlier parts of the narrative. Given the title, I suppose I should expect the non-UBL-related parts to be de-emphasized. I'm sure many lay readers will enjoy it and not notice what I found lacking, but the typical informed readership, I feel, is going to be disappointed. I gave the book 3 stars because the first half (or more) was a letdown, while the end was outstanding.
on September 13, 2012
I don't really like to read that much but this book is only one of 3 books that I have read so quickly...The Gift of Valor and Flags of Our Fathers also kept me reading. With that said, I loved this book. It is a very exciting and interesting look into a man's life as a Navy SEAL. I enjoyed reading about all of his other missions and of course the raid on Bin Laden is very exciting but I especially liked that he is a very humble man and that he shared a little bit of himself personally. I have always been curious as to how these men "come down" and go back to normal after a mission, especially something as big as this one. My husband was a Marine for 6 years and had a couple of combat deployments to Iraq. Those deployments changed him. I always asked him if he was doing ok when he came home and I remember how he told me it's like you are on a constant adrenaline rush when you are there...always moving, always working, always alert and you do that for 7 months or so. Then, when you come back home you have to "come down". It's a struggle for some people. I like that the author talks about that adrenaline rush he would get while on missions. He is a professional. It isn't just about going out at night and killing people or capturing people. He describes in detail exactly what happened from the time the OBL mission was being planned and the training they did beforehand to the mission itself to all the work that they had to perform after the mission was over. He also describes his emotions throughout it all. I had no idea that when these missions are over the SEALs still have so much work they have to do! I remember thinking while I was reading near the end, after the mission had been successful, " that poor guy...is he ever gonna get to sleep?!" But they know it's part of their job and he seemed to love his job and we have that to be thankful to him for.