on April 13, 2012
When you start a new book, you can tell pretty quickly if its gonna be a great read. Being
a military history buff, with a penchant for reading anything Spec Ops related, I have
read over 100 Biographies, memoirs, and historical accounts from SEALS, Delta, and all
the other elite units. I have a very small stack (less than 10) of books that are 'READ
AGAIN' and 'RECOMMEND' to friends and family. This will be added to the stack. The
last one I added was Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell, who the author speaks about
in his book. When you think you have read them all or you won't learn anything new,
pick this up and be humbled. A fantastic read! And for the uninitiated, check out his site
on April 11, 2012
I highly recommend "The Red Circle" to anyone who wants to learn how to overcome the hard obstacles that life throws in front of them. Brandon Webb writes from the unique perspective of a highly trained Navy SEAL "operator" but some of the best take-aways from the book occur because Webb succeeds in explaining the critical role that the mind plays in accomplishing a goal, overcoming fear and surviving hardship.
on April 11, 2012
My girlfriend recommend I read this book, and being an athlete I can't say I have much interest in or time for reading. I flipped through the first couple of pages to humor her and was hooked. The book captivated my attention from the get-go and for the first time in years I finished a book within two days. I think anyone can relate to this book and it's cool to see an inside perspective on so many interesting things and stories. It's a fast read packed with stories that are mind blowing. Definitely an awesome glimpse into the life of a really inspiring dude. Thanks, Webb.
on April 27, 2012
To me a memoir is successful if the reader closes the book with the feeling that they have insight into the character and nature of the person righting the book. Too often memoirs are elaborate self justifications written by people with something to prove to others. The Red Circle delivers on the first count and surprisingly makes no attempt to justify anything to anyone. Brandon Webb makes no bones about who he is and how he got there and in being so brutally honest in the telling of that story, Webb pays a real compliment to his audience. The challenge in telling a story about Navy SEALs and Special Operations is that so much of it is secret that most writers are left with stories that are thin on operational details, leaving the reader no better informed than if he just read a newspaper account. Webb manages this task by writing as a witness to the operations in question and rather than dwell on the minute details brings the reader into the bigger picture of the operation. His account of tunnel ratting in Afghanistan is riveting to read. The way political considerations back home can effect the mission of what amounts to a mixed platoon of SEALs and Marines on a simple rec mission in the field is angering and amazing to read at the same time. Webb is at his best when he describes the smells, sounds and emotions of close quarters battle in the War on Terror.
In The Red Circle the reader is not going to be sold a rah-rah tribute full of glowing praise for the mythic status of the Navy SEALs and other SpecOps types. Webb doesn't pull a single punch, if he's going to say that a particular SEAL is a turd and can't pull his weight he going to call him out by name. Harsh as it may seem, it serves to humanize these people. We find that these extraordinary men who serve in the Navy SEALs are even more impressive by the fact that they are not supermen but very mortal and subject to the same failings as the rest of us. They drink, they fight, their families break up, they back-stab each other, they compete constantly for status and reputation within the teams. They forgive honest error and even human failings but are brutally intolerant of incompetence or indecisiveness. Webb is to be commended for treating his readers like adults who can accept the multi-faceted personalities of his fellow SEALs as they go about their bloody business.
Webb's story of the Navy SEAL Sniper program is equally instructive. The reader comes away with the sense that the SEAL Sniper is someone who has taken the science of ballistics and turned it into an art form of movement breathing and Jedi like concentration and focus. A concentration and focus that all comes down to the tiny image seen in the rifle scope's Red Circle. A place where matters of life and death are decided by just a few pound of trigger pressure. In a real sense that may be the whole point of Webb's book. This is how SEALs live their lives, just a few pounds of trigger pressure away from life and death at any moment.
on February 13, 2013
My son just completed Navy SEAL training and he used to tell me a little about what he was up to (the things he was allowed to tell me about). I read a lot about SEAL training because I wanted to know more about what he was experiencing. The descriptions of BUD/S, SQT, and SEAL advanced training in RED CIRCLE are the most accurate of all descriptions I have read to date. In contrast, while definitely worth the read, Couch's books are dated: they refer to 9-week BUD/S phases instead of the current 7-week duration, for example. Nevertheless, Couch's books are still VERY useful reads to understand SEAL training and just as useful as RED CIRCLE. Together these books provide a good, relatively detailed overview of SEAL training. RED CIRCLE is well-written, interesting, relatively recent, and worthy to be read. I highly recommend it to you. RED CIRCLE not only describes the training but the life and motivation of a SEAL as well. The SEALs I have met live that life because they want to be the very best at what they do, are very competitive and mission-driven, like to work out, are blessed with great physical assets and abilities to withstand the cold, the wet, and the painful, are driven to persevere until they achieve what most consider unrealistic goals, enjoy danger, and are patriotic. And those are basically the reasons Brandon Webb gives for wanting to become a SEAL. Thank God for them because we really need them: they are the human alternative to drone aircraft and more. SEAL training is constantly evolving so details in any publication might be a little inaccurate, for example Old Misery has been retired and there is no longer a formal graduation ceremony after BUD/S, it's now after SQT when they are awarded their Tridents, but these books are nevertheless relatively accurate overviews of the nature of SEAL Training and life as a SEAL. At least based on what my son told me. RED CIRCLE is one of the best books that I have read in this genre. Mann and Webb hit a home run with this one!
on April 11, 2012
Great book about a true hero. Mr. Webb has a very informative and interesting website, [...]. From there, I was introduced me to his upcoming book. Reading the articles on his site had me very excited about his book... Must say it was well worth the wait. I'll proudly put this one on the shelf with other greats. Thank you, BW, for your service.
on April 12, 2012
I grabbed this book as soon as I heard it was coming out and had very high expectations. I was not disappointed at all. From very deep personal issues, through the harshness of BUD/S and various levels of leadership the author takes us through his journey into the world of the SEAL via a shortened childhood, battles with his dad and some great early mentors in the dive world.
Whether you are looking for insight into the GWOT (Afghanistan is simply spellbinding), what it was like in the teams prior to 9/11 or you simply want a rollicking good story this work is for you. Be prepared, I could not put it down and soaked up some vital insight in leadership - lessons anybody can take to heart. I especially enjoyed the accounts of changing the SEAL sniper course based on the author's previous experiences and examples of men he looked up to and those he simply despised. Be prepared for a serious twist in the end, and a true reveal as to a great proud moment. Reading this work gives me more energy as we look to solve our issues. Here stands a classic man, willing to go full Monty to tell his story.
I will read it several more times.
Buy copies, send them to friends, family and your congressman....
on April 17, 2012
Even more interesting than the intimate look into the world of the Navy SEALS from an insider, is Webb's personal development from a wild, headstrong young man into a disciplined, experienced and exceptional operator. So many aspects of the training that he learned and further developed as a Navy SEAL sniper are evident in his personal journey. As a personal journey, this book is a remarkable study on self-actualization. Defining traits of his younger days evolve into their mature forms - willfulness becomes innovation, stubbornness becomes tenacity, his adventurous nature transforms into the fortitude to seek out a career where being bold and brave in the line of service is most well played. Themes of duty, respect, merit, intellectual curiosity, patience and a desire to set a standard of excellence and achieve it are masterfully woven throughout Webb's progression from childhood to boot camp to achieving some of the most difficult, specialized and elite positions within and beyond the Navy SEALs outfit.
So many of the personality traits and skills that define the excellence of a Navy SEAL sniper are present in raw form in tales from Webb's early start on his path. Setting goals, reading the environment, gauging both internal and external conditions, rolling with setbacks and windfalls, and the patience and intelligence to innovate and adjust to circumstance within and beyond his control, and the unwavering determination and confidence that the goal will be met - all of these skills come into play in situations prior to and outside the scope of his formidable skill set as an operator. So many times through the book, the best laid plans run into the most inconvenient realities, and intelligence and innovation overcome the insanity of real world obstacles. This is the stuff Special Forces are made of, and Webb illustrates it perfectly in the stories he shares.
And the tales from making his way to BUD/S, through it, off into more training (training, training) and right into the very real, very dangerous, and often hilarious and terrifying realities of combat are rich in detail and a ripping good read. The book is well written, the stories are colorful, unique and personal, and the wealth of information and insights Webb shares from his personal experiences provide a generous window into a world most of us will never know. It's no wonder Webb's personal trajectory took him to a position as an Instructor, and with "The Red Circle" he continues to impart his unique knowledge and wisdom in a clear and entertaining tale. Anyone reading The Red Circle, no matter what their walk of life, will find inspiration in Webb's transformation from a diamond in the rough to a skilled, confident professional. Highly Recommended.
This book, which is a autobiography of Brandon Webb, the individual who created the Navy SEALs training program in the early 2000s, is really about Navy SEALs excellence through training and development.
Most of the book, about 60%, highlights Navy SEALs training from the intense BUD/S program that really is a weeding out process (as about 10% get through this initial program) through more advanced training including Sniper training. As I was reading this, I couldn't help but compare this to corporate America, where I was brought up, where most of the training is "on the job" - just throw the new guy/gal into the job and see if s/he survives. And, then they are surprised when they don't achieve excellence.
The Navy SEALs have a different approach - they train, and train, and train some more. Most of the time is spent on training. And, the best are then brought home to develop training programs and train others. Corporate America should take notice and change their ways.
Excellence is what occurs when an organization and individuals are trained to this level. And, the Navy SEALs exude excellence throughout the organization. This book highights that, not only through the details on the training programs, but also in the field. For a couple of chapters in the book, the author describes his experiences in Afghanistan from November, 2001 to April, 2002, the close calls but also the excellence in execution and teamwork.
We should thank them all for being there for us, and for going through this effort to be excellent in their jobs of defending our country.
on October 2, 2012
The current spate of books written by SEALs or other Special Operations Forces operators runs the gamut from tedious to terrific. Brandon Webb has authored a book that is, in his own parlance, "cold bore." It is among the best of its peers, just as the author was among his SEAL comrades. With some books in this genre, I feel that the heroic author (or his co-writer) did himself a disservice by writing a tale that is too dull, too vague, or just poorly written. That's not the case here at all. Webb and his co-author crafted a must-read for all fans of military memoirs and for all potential writers of such books.
The real strength of "The Red Circle" is that it manages to be conversational and accesibly specific simultaneously. He doesn't fall into the trap of getting caught up in excessive minutia that slows the pace, though there is plenty of technology to keep the interests of more informed readers. The conversational style of writing comes across well - Webb sounds like the kind of guy you'd listen to for hours over a few beers. I can't say enough about how engaging the writing was.
A good example is Webb's treatment of his training before becoming operational. The BUD/S course has been covered in great detail in a great many books, so Webb doesn't bother recounting every situp, pushup, and mile. What he does is give you is his emotional impression of the experience. You feel for him as he becomes "that guy" who struggles to make it through, which he does through sheer force of will. Coverage of subsequent training is often dull or glossed over in similar books, but Webb does an outstanding job of telling not just what he did, but hinting at why and how it was important in his later experiences.
That brings me to one of his conceits that I'm struggling with. When Webb comes to a point in training, a person, or an event that has some relevance down the road, he throws in a lot of "we'll get to that in a bit..." sort of language. This is very helpful for those who have difficulty keeping track of long streams of names, places, and events that invariable fill these volumes. You know immediately to mentally bookmark that item for later. On the one hand, I found this to be useful. On the other hand, this foreshadowing cropped up so often that it was almost distracting. Overall, I think the utility outweighed the distraction, but it was still an issue, albeit a small one.
As with any book, there are a few other flaws, but in this case I wouldn't lay the blame at the author's feet. The primary one is that the book must deal with the same security classification concerns that affect all such books. Some manage a good balance between not saying too much and saying too little, while others are so vague that it feels like it's not even being told by a direct participant. Webb does better than most with this. However, while we get a lot of details on preparations for combat, his being in the field, etc., there is surprisingly little on actual fighting. Whether this was because there was little actual shooting, or because he didn't want to (or couldn't) say too much, is not apparent. Readers of sniper books want to know what it's like to stare down the scope at a target 800 yards away and pull the trigger. If he's shooting at targets, Webb lets us know that. if it's insurgents or Taliban, we miss it (though Webb undoubtedly did not!). This may have been the result of another area of concern for me. This book doesn't turn on a single climactic battle or event. Webb makes it clear that the proudest moments of his career weren't amazing shots made on the battlefield, but on the impact he had on other SEALs who he trained. If you're interested in a high-octane, shoot-em-up book, this isn't it. Webb is thoughtful and deliberate and manages to make setting up sniper training courses sound exciting and engaging, but I suspect those looking for headshots and body counts will be let down.
The book has many more strengths than weaknesses. For example, Webb's career intersected with those of other SEALs who have written memoirs or he has been in events covered elsewhere. When that happens, he wasn't shy about referencing them and the relevant books. I found this helpful and indicative of a guy who did his research.
Overall, I'd put "The Red Circle" in the rare category of "must read" for anyone interested in Special Operations forces. His career was the epitome of the SEAL life in the late 1990s and early 2000s: relentless training for a comparatively small amount of time in the field (though I'd expect that changed in the ensuing decade). That's what you get here. I'd also suggest that anyone wanting a different perspective on leadership should look into this book. Webb clearly feels strongly about that subject and offeres solid examples and learned rules of leadership - both good and bad - from someone who is among the best of the best.