This is a powerful book that gives an inside view of the SEALS and, particularly, the exclusive Team Six. I admit I was somewhat annoyed with the self-aggrandizement of the author in some parts and the numerous mention of the Vuarnet and Ray-Ban aviator, Oakley and tea Rentz Revo sunglasses.
"While patrolling, I wore Revo sunglasses, made with NASA technology by the same Italian eyewear company, Luxottica, that owns Ray-Ban and Oakley. The Revos had the clearest lenses and the best polarized protection, and they stayed on comfortably."
Then another ad reads, "I like to wear khaki Royal Robbins pants because they're easy to run in, have a lot of pockets, and look nice." Similar "ads" run throughout the book and, to me, they're quite obvious as they seem professionally written by a copywriter, not a former SEAL. The idea is that many people would love to look and act like a SEAL and they'll buy these products.
I'm not sure, of course, but it appears the authors may have used product placement throughout the book. Product placement is a form of advertising where companies pay to have their products placed in books, television shows and movies. It's a form of subtle advertising and it's very effective.
The author appears to do this with numerous products that he says he used while a SEAL and later in civilian life. This certainly doesn't take away from the story that's told. In fact, as a professional marketing consultant, I find it a very smart tactic.
Am I sure that product placement is used in this book? No, of course not. But if the author isn't getting paid for the many mentions, he should be. But, now on to the story.
The fight scenes are among the most revealing and interesting.
I saw some sensitivity in him. For example, about a firefight in one developing country he writes, ". . . the smell of human waste and death--mixed with hopelessness--filled the air. Yes, hopelessness has a smell. People use the term "developing countries," but that is bullcrap. What developed in Somalia was things such as hunger and fighting. I think "developing countries" is just a term used to make the people who coined it feel better. No matter what you call them, starvation and war are two of the worst events imaginable."
But, he adds, "Each time I made a shot, I immediately forgot about that target and scanned for another." Each kill was merely a target, not a human being. That's no doubt the only way a person can live this sort of life. He has to view a kill as a target through his scope.
"I was in my own little world, though. Nothing existed outside my scope and my mission," he says.
The team members count on each other. Those who fail or can't make the grade don't have the respect of those who go through the training and come out on top. "A number of the racehorses were the biggest crybabies. They'd probably been number one much of their lives, and now when they had their first taste of adversity--BUD/S style--they couldn't handle it. What the hell is wrong with these prima donnas?"
These losers were big on the football field and in various endeavors before SEAL training. But when it came to training for this elite group of fighters, they can't make the grade. They can't be counted on.
At one point he and some of his buddies, also SEALS, were in a bar. Someone made an anti-American remark and the SEALS came unglued. After a good deal of commotion they were arrested.
About their appearance in court the author writes, "The judge asked, "Why were three of these men taken to jail and immediately released, and Petty Officer [Dick] wasn't released until later?" The K-9 officer explained, "The dog bit him, and we had to take him to the doctor for a shot."
"How long could that have taken?" the judge asked. "Well, Your Honor, he took a bite out of my dog, so I had to take my dog to the vet for a shot." The courtroom behind us erupted in laughter. The K-9 officer explained, "Your Honor, it really isn't funny. It took me months to train him, and I still spend sixteen hours a month training him. But since Petty Officer [Dick] bit the dog, it won't do the job anymore." He said, "The laughter rose to sheer pandemonium."
But throughout the book, the author makes sure we know what an elite, very special group they are. 'Whenever the ship's crew saw us coming through the passageway wearing our camouflage uniforms and SEAL tridents, they said, "Make a hole, SEAL coming through.' It felt like being a celebrity."
It's interesting how the troops, and perhaps especially the special forces, can see how politics plays a major roll on their efforts. The author says, "In spite of the gains, President Clinton saw our sacrifices as losses. Even though we could've finished the job of taking down Aidid and getting food to the people, Clinton turned tail and ran. He ordered all actions against Aidid stopped. Four months later, Clinton released Osman Atto, Omar Salad, Mohamed Hassan Awale, Abdi Yusef Herse, and the other prisoners."
He adds, "We left our Somali friends dangling in the breeze. I felt like our sacrifices had been in vain. Why did they send us if they weren't willing to finish the job? We shouldn't have become involved in Somalia's civil war--this was their problem, not ours--but once we committed, we should've finished what we started: a lesson we are required to keep relearning over and over again."
This type of thing happens time and again under many administrations. It must be disheartening and one has to wonder how many lives are lost unnecessarily because of politics.
The book is fast-paced. It's a great action read. It's educational. The author writes like a simple guy who is sitting in his front room talking one-on-one. He doesn't try to write like a writer or impress with extra verbiage. Aside from the self-importance he obviously feels it's easy to like the guy. It would likely get old being around someone as macho as this guy sounds. But, as I said earlier, he no doubt had to think he was above the fold to do what he did and to be successful. He can't be condemned for that.
-- Susanna K. Hutcheson
on May 20, 2011
"SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy Sniper" by Howard E. Wasdin and Stephen Templin is a memoir of Mr. Wasdin time as a Navy SEAL. This book just happens to come out after SEAL Team Six took out Bin-Laden. The book was not rushed to print because of the operation. I thought this was an important point to make.
The book is a behind the scenes look at SEAL Team Six, a unit which specialized in counterterrorism, hostage rescue, and counterinsurgency. Howard Wasdin writes about the grueling selection process, Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) and sniper school.
After going through the selection process, Mr. Wasdin faced combat operations in Desert Storm as a member of SEAL Team Two and got selected for SEAL Team Six. He was sent to Somalia on a mission to capture or kill Somalian warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid.
"SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy Sniper" by Howard E. Wasdin and Stephen Templin is a well written memoir which walks the reader through Wasdin's childhood, Navy SEAL training, several missions and Mr. Wasdin settling down with his beloved wife and children.
This is an exciting book, an easy and fast read. While the authors cover a lot of ground, the book kept my attention throughout.
Especially poignant, for me, were the chapters about Somalia and the Battle of Mogadishu. I read a lot about that battle and Mr. Wasdin's point of view is raw, honest and different from anything I read before. I am familiar with most of the people he mentioned and reading about them, the tactics and the battle from a different, on the ground perspective were an amazing experience for me.
I appreciated the chapters about the rough training and the reasons for it ("the more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle"), it is amazing the mental fortitude of these warriors which helps them go through, what seems to me, almost superhuman tasks.
At the beginning I thought there were a lot of product placement in the book, which I found disappointing, however the more I read the more I realized that it is not product placement (even though it's hard to tell) but simply telling the reader about the equipment being used - the best of the best - and why.
A bit disturbing were the chapters about Mr. Wasdin's childhood and the abuse he suffered by his step father. Mr. Wasdin credits that abuse with his ability to withstand pain and attention to detail, which I gathered he truly believes.
I don't want anyone who read this book to think that if you beat the living hell out of your child he'll turn out to be a Navy SEAL or an elite warrior. Mr. Wasdin does make that point very clearly in the book, but I didn't feel he made it strongly enough or often enough.
During my service I have met many people from the special forces including the most elite units and the one thing common to all of the was the simple fact that this is what they were born to do.
You cannot learn or acquire the characteristics, capabilities and fortitude to become an elite warrior.
You either have those or you don't.
You can hone your skills, find the hidden talents, sharpen them and practice to become better but you have to be born with them to begin with.
At the end of the book there is a section about the "Special Operations Warrior Foundation" founded in 1980 as a college scholarship fund for children of special operations warriors who have been killed. Please take some time to visit them and make a donation if you can.
This was an interesting book and a look into the life of a Seal Team Six member. It was an interesting story and for the most part I liked the book. There were a couple of issues that I didn't care for but that is common with many books.
I found the parts about the extensive training and the weeding out process that the people go through to become a Seal to be very interesting. I also like the information provided about the detailed preparation that was done before going on an operation. Undercover penetration into hostile situations was also very interesting and the life behind the lines was a story unto itself.
I enjoyed the descriptions of the weapons that the Seals carried and also the battle stories that Mr. Wasdin experienced. There were some gruesome and horrific battles and the loss of life of the troops and the situations that the military were put into had to be quite frightening.
What I thought was overdone was the continued repeating of Mr. Wasdin's growing up and the abuse that he faced from his father. I know those types of things make people tough and I grew up in a poor area and experienced some of that myself or saw my friends experience it. Unfortunately it is told over and over and over.
I also thought the stories were told in such a way that it gave an insight into Mr. Wasdin's ego. You have to expect some of that from an elite warrior with the type of drive and motivation. That is what creates that type of warrior it is what makes them become what they do. It is no different than top tier professional athletes or CEOs of companies. Ego is part of the success story and the drive of the person. It was amazing at how this attitude came across in the book and because of that I believe that the story was told in an honest manner as best as the storyteller could recall and present the facts as he recalled them.
Overall it was an interesting book and I liked reading it. I did feel that the writing was not up to professional standards especially the beginning as I found it to be choppy. I read a good book called Blackhawk Down which I thought was written much better. That being said I still enjoyed Seal Team Six and I rated it 4 stars.
I would like to give thanks Mr. Wasdin for his dedication to the USA and the military and the bravery that he exhibited in his service to our country. It is men like him that help to keep this country free.
on August 27, 2013
I've now read three books on the US Navy SEALs. This will be a combined review I'll post on all three books, because I feel each one is important to understanding these elite warriors. Ever since Operation Neptune Spear, and the announcement that SEAL Team Six had successfully raided a compound in Pakistan and killed Osama bin Laden, I had been wondering why it was that SEAL Team Six had been sent, rather than our other elite counterterrorism unit, the mysterious Delta Force. After all, the mission took off from an airbase in a land-locked country, traveled over land to their target hundreds of miles inland, and then returned, having not flown over any major bodies of water at all. Why send the Navy, when an Army unit presumably could do the job just as well?
I've always been interested in the military, and military training. Though that particular life was not for me, I've always admired those who choose it, and been proud of my veteran relatives. I've watched countless boot camp documentaries, shows on special forces fiction and non-, and I want to understand what it takes to be a warrior. To understand what it takes to be a warrior tasked with taking down the most wanted terrorist in the world, I wanted to read books that would explain their training, their lives, and their physical and mental toughness.
The Warrior Elite: The Forging of SEAL Class 228 by Dick Couch was the first book I read. It covers the entire Basic Underwater Demolitions/SEAL training course for Class 228. In the introduction, the making of a SEAL warrior is already made clear. Couch, a former Navy SEAL himself, Class 45 during the Vietnam era, explains that the Marine Corps builds 20,000 new marines a year for a force of 174,000, trained over eleven weeks. For the Army, the very tough Ranger School graduates 1,500 soldiers a year from their eight week course. With a twenty-seven week course, only 250 men a year graduate BUD/S, and even then, they are not yet SEALs. BUD/S only earns you a chance, and at least another six months of training await these men before they earn their Trident, and become a SEAL. The Warrior Elite covers the 27 weeks of BUD/S, following along a single class from day one of Indoc to graduation. But first Dick Couch tells the story of Kim Erksine in Grenada, a SEAL who led his eleven men during a mission that went bad when they were unable to use their radios. Along the way, he describes how their training, beginning with BUD/S, shaped their decisions and actions each step of the way. They made it to the water, many of them wounded, but all of them alive and still fighting. Eventually they swam out into the ocean and were picked up. Kim Erskine credits his and his men's survival to the knowledge that each of them had survived BUD/S. Already, it's clear. SEALs don't quit. So how does the Navy find men who just won't quit? They do everything they can to make BUD/S volunteers quit, and then trains the rest. 114 men had orders to BUD/S Class 228, and on Day 1, only 98 are still on the roster, 16 gave up before it even started. At any time, a BUD/S student can quit, and many do. After two weeks of Indoc, where BUD/S hasn't even begun yet, the class is down to 69 men. At graduation, 10 men remain from the original class. Another six would graduate later with another class, having been rolled back for medical reasons. The story of what those men went through to graduate, and to earn the right to continue their training and perhaps become SEALs someday, is what The Warrior Elite explores. Frequently reading the book, I exclaimed out loud "wow", I just couldn't believe it. Everyone talks about Hell Week, the week in Phase One that weeds out a significant number of students, most on the very first day, but that is just one very hard week out of 27 very hard weeks, and the men who survive it learn that to be a SEAL is to only have harder weeks ahead.
While The Warrior Elite covers post-BUD/S training briefly in the epilogue, The Finishing School: Earning the Navy SEAL Trident, by the same author Dick Couch, covers this training in much greater depth. This second book is a sequel researched and written in the years following 9/11, and as such a higher emphasis is placed on protecting the identities of the warriors who are training to become qualified SEALs in the platoons, and the secret tactics used by SEALs in their operations. In that regard, the book is much less comprehensive, and much less personal. While a great deal of information is given on the recent reorganization of the SEAL Teams and their deployments, less information is given about actual training. It's hard to read The Warrior Elite without also reading The Finishing School, without the second book you're missing half the story, but The Finishing Book is sadly not the complete story, either. It's understandable for security reasons, but for somebody with a fascination for military training and tactics, as well as the men who go through it all, it's disappointing. Again, though, the lesson is clear in The Finishing School. Not everyone who gets through BUD/S is going to become a SEAL. Some quit, some disqualify for medical or performance reasons, and the graduating class is smaller than the class coming in. One thing that The Finishing School does very well is explain the warrior culture of the SEAL Teams. These are quiet professionals who work together in close-knit groups. All of them are eager to get on deployment, and each of them maximizes their opportunities to continually learn and get better whenever they can. Those who are lone wolves, and can't work safely in a team, are quickly removed from the organization. As always, it pays to be a winner, and no man is left behind.
The third book is SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper, by Howard E. Wasdin and Steven Templin. This book is very much a memoir, rather than a detailed day-by-day log of the training done in SEAL Team Six. In fact, for somebody wanting to read about the internal workings of the Navy's most elite-of-the-elite warriors, they wouldn't get very many details at all. What you get, instead, is a sense of the sorts of men who do what Howard Wasdin did, volunteer, and then keep volunteering, for the hardest jobs they could find, always looking for a bigger challenge. At times, Wasdin comes across as incredibly arrogant. He seems to put down other members of the special forces community, as well as federal law enforcement, at numerous occasions. We may never know, since members of SEAL Team Six, the CIA, and Delta Force are so tight-lipped, just how much of it is completely accurate. But nonetheless, this is a story of the sorts of brutal childhoods that spawn special forces operators, and the psychology of a warrior during training and in combat. Wasdin, I think, is more humble than he comes across. What he is, is a straight-shooter. If somebody else screwed up, he says so. At times hilarious, and at times horrifying, the story of Howard Wasdin from childhood to adulthood, with military service in between, is incredibly engaging. I had difficulties putting it down, and read through the entire book in just two sittings. While nowhere near as comprehensive as The Warrior Elite or The Finishing School, it gives us a window into the minds and lives of the men who got bin Laden.
I highly recommend all three books, and in the order I read them. Having read each one, I've come to understand, perhaps, some of the reasons why President Obama ordered SEAL Team Six to a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. I'll leave it put to you to decide for yourself why that might've been, but if I learned anything at all about SEALs, reading these three books, it's that they always work as a team, it pays to be a winner, and they'd rather die than quit.
I give this book four stars. While it's a fascinating look into what sort of man decides to have this kind of life, it's sadly not a very comprehensive look into SEAL Team Six, itself. Considering this unit was not even acknowledged to exist until recently, that's understandable. What insights it does give, are invaluable. As others have said, it's not terribly polished, either. Those of us with an interest in special mission units, and the military in general, will find it lacking, but in this dangerous world where these men carry out dangerous missions, it's essential for their safety. If anybody wants the real story, they'll have to join the elite of the elite for themselves. Considering the enormity of that challenge, we'll have to admire these quiet professionals from afar and be satisfied when they tell us anything.
on May 18, 2011
"When the navy sends their elite, they send the SEALs. When SEALs send their elite, they send SEAL Team Six, the navy's equivalent to the army's Delta Force --- tasked with counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, occasionally working with the CIA. This is the first time a SEAL Team Six sniper's story has been exposed. My story."
Thus begins SEAL TEAM SIX, a stunning and timely memoir written by former elite Navy SEAL sniper Howard E. Wasdin, along with Stephen Templin. The opening paragraph above starts Wasdin's story and how he grew up to become the top sniper in the military's most elite and respected group. From the very first page, Wasdin brings you deep inside his experiences and the mindset he had while training for the military. He was a natural to the sniper role --- able to become one with the ground and part of the dirt, and remain hidden from enemy view in order to get off a critical shot that could make or break that particular skirmish.
Wasdin states that the sniper tries to avoid looking directly at the target. It's amazing that his skills were so finely honed that he could hit any target without even making direct eye contact. The book jumps early between Wasdin's military training and his childhood. He describes going through Hell Week, a boot camp where the motto was "Train the best, discard the rest." Unfortunately, Wasdin's early years were not much different. Abandoned by his birth father, he was raised by a tough mother and her live-in boyfriend --- soon to be his new stepfather. Leon was a disciplinarian who was especially hard on him, making for a not-so-peaceful home life. It's easy to see how this upbringing toughened Wasdin up and prepared him for the extreme tests that the rest of his life had in store for him.
The SEALs were a special brotherhood of soldiers who were proud of the fact that none of their kind was ever taken prisoner, and they vowed always to leave no man behind. Wasdin takes his role in the SEALs extremely seriously, and curiously enough he does not have kind words for former SEAL turned author Richard Marcinko, who he and his fellow SEALs all feel exploited their experiences for Marcinko's own personal gain.
In Sniper School, Wasdin was taught the mantra "The more you train in peace, the less you bleed in war." While he had his wartime opportunity with experience during Operation Desert Storm, this was nothing compared to the big event that nearly cost him his life. The SEAL Team Six group was called into the Battle of Mogadishu to take on a rebellious and out-of-control village of Somalians who had captured and killed some Black Hawk pilots who had been shot down over their village. This was the same battle so brutally portrayed in the Ridley Scott film Black Hawk Down. Wasdin's telling of this fight depicts a horrific and chaotic mess where even his team of elite fighters was taken by surprise.
They perform heroically and make a difference in rescuing one of the downed pilots. Unfortunately, Wasdin also suffers two vicious gunshot wounds to each of his legs. His biggest fear is that he is going to have a leg amputated. He fights hard while the hospital in Germany to where he was flown tries to put him under and prepare him for potential life-saving surgery.
SEAL TEAM SIX tells a great saga about a highly determined and patriotic man who gave his all for his country and continues to pay it forward by helping people with his chiropractic practice. I cannot say enough good things about this very well-told and thoroughly engaging memoir.
--- Reviewed by Ray Palen
on June 8, 2011
This book gives you a good insider view of what it's like being in the elite SEAL Team Six. It is brutal and it is enlightening. While it appeals to the action-crazy boy inside me, it is more than that. It has a lot of interesting details about the other operations in the past, and things we normal citizens don't even think about. The lives these men lead and the things they do to get there is not pretty. An exciting and entertaining book.
on June 13, 2011
I was torn to buy this book or not. I am not a political person at all but wanted to know what these guys really go through in the real world. This is an amazing story about how relentless the Seal training is and how it takes a special group of guys to make the cut. The things that this man put himself through to better himself is ridiculous, but you can't help to admire and root for the guy.
It also reminds us again of how our government are a bunch of power and money hungry morons trying to control the very people who protect our freedom and our country! I couldn't put this book down after picking it up and actually got mentally exhausted reading it. Couldn't imagine really doing it.
on June 10, 2012
as is usual with these type books, they author is full of himself. My husband knows a few former SEaLs, and they are all like Mr. Wasdin. Just full of themselves. I got the book for my Husband, and he eagerly read it in a day. It was nice for him to read some names he knows in print, and to read the different perspective. He read it in a day, and had a lot of laughs...then he called a few old friends.
on May 17, 2011
I won't talk much about the annoying product placements; those have been written about enough. Just know that if you're planning on reading this book (and you should), you will see them, they will annoy you, and then you'll forget about them quickly.
So far, there has only been one review complaining about the 'glorification of cold-blooded killers'. First off, I somehow doubt that reviewer has read the book, only because if you are someone who believes Navy SEALs are 'cold-blooded killers', you wouldn't be too interested in purchasing a book entitled "SEAL Team Six". Aside from this, war is a fact of life. It's unfortunate, but I'm reminded of the Orwell quote, "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." It's easy to gripe about violence from your reading chair, safe and sound, protected by these so-called 'anti-heroes'. These men are heroes, through and through. Sometimes they make mistakes because they're human, but they should be commended for doing the things that most of us can't stomach.
Wasdin has obtained a Silver Star, among numerous other awards. He is the very definition of hero. The most exciting chapter of the book for me was the Battle of Mogadishu, but the most telling is what came after. Too often, our heroes come back from war broken men, unaccepted and misunderstood by the very communities that they protect. I was glad to see Wasdin pull through and I hope his book brings others in similar situations hope.
Read this book if you are interested in the SEALs, DEVGRU, Special Ops in general, heroism, another personal narrative from the Battle of Mogadishu and other Somali ops, or military history in general. A great book (product placements aside).
on August 8, 2012
Good sometimes comes from a bad situation. In Howard Wasdin's case, the bad situation was an abusive stepfather. The good that came from it? Young Wasdin developed an unusual mental toughness that prepared him for adversity that most of us could not even begin to comprehend--his training and eventual deployment as a Navy SEAL.
The book covers the arc of Wasdin's life, from birth to his post-military career. In this way, the title is somewhat misleading, although the subtitle clears it up. The book is not about the exploits of SEAL Team Six broadly, but rather about one member of that team and a few of his closest associates (whose identities are protected through the use of pseudonyms). These guys are total studs. The book is divided into three parts.
In Part One, we read about Wasdin's early life, his training at BUD/S and his participation in Operation Desert Storm as a member of SEAL Team Two. For those who have not read Dick Couch's book, Warrior Elite, the material on training will be informative. But for those who are already familiar with SEAL training, there is not much new here. But the rest of the chapters in the section are compelling enough.
The action picks up in Part Two. Wasdin is selected for SEAL Team Six. He goes to sniper school and becomes one of the best shots in the world. Three chapters cover his mission in Somalia, leading up to the Battle of Mogadishu. The momentum builds in these chapters for those who are familiar with the story of Black Hawk Down. You can see what is coming.
In the Part Three, Wasdin shares his viewpoint on the Battle of Mogadishu in what may be the best chapter in the book. It reads like an action thriller, with just the right amount of detail. It is the climax of Wasdin's story. The final three chapters cover the aftermath of the battle, his return to civilian life, and his personal life up to the present day. There are multiple redemptive themes here that tie the book together nicely. By this time, you feel like you know Wasdin, and you care about him. I found certain portions quite moving.
SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy Sniper was a page-turner for me. Howard Wasdin is a true hero, and I am better for having read his story. Someday I hope to buy him lunch and thank him in person for his service to our country. Highly recommended.