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4.0 out of 5 stars Former Navy SEAL Team Six member describes life in elite unit, May 11, 2011
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This review is from: SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper (Kindle Edition)
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.

Highly recommended.

-- Susanna K. Hutcheson
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 13, 2011 9:35:39 AM PDT
Well, if the training they have to go through to earn their "tridents" goes with what urban legends depict, I think they have certainly earned the right to come accross as a bit smug, don't you think?

In reply to an earlier post on May 13, 2011 9:42:05 AM PDT
I think I answered that in my review. Thank you for the comment.

Posted on May 18, 2011 12:34:09 AM PDT
Becky Ware says:
Stephen Templin is an old classmate of mine, and we former classmates are keeping up with the popularity of his book on his Facebook page. Stephen mentioned that he was surprised at the insistence of some Amazon reviewers, that product placement was obvious in "Seal Team Six". No product placement was put in the book for any of the reasons mentioned. Simply put, seals & soldiers require high quality, reliable equipment, particularly because they are in sensitive situations, and they literally need to trust that equipment with their lives, and the lives of their fellow soldiers. Particularly good quality equipment literally develops a following among those in the military, and that product then becomes THE product for that purpose, and soldiers sometimes even pay for that better quality product themselves. Mentioning those products, and the reasons for choosing them, is literally giving you an inside view of what they need & use, and by describing them in detail, it helps the you, the reader, more fully understand the thinking of the seals and/or sniper(s), and almost feel like you are literally there, watching & participating in the scene being described. When Howard & Stephen wrote the book, they had no idea Seal Team Six was going to take out Osama Bin Laden, right when their book was coming out, so there were no guarantee of this being an overnight sensation with Hollywood making movies out of it. While there are obviously great opportunities for product placement in a movie made from "Seal Team Six", they were not gratuitously made, they were an intrinsic part of the actual event.

In reply to an earlier post on May 18, 2011 3:45:25 PM PDT
Murat says:
Susanna,

Templin actually answers the question about product placement in my review (under the name niki kacan). There was none whatsoever, those outstide of the military such of yourself would have a hard time understanding the culture of equipment as it pertains to those that use it.

In reply to an earlier post on May 19, 2011 6:26:49 AM PDT
rck12 says:
Well stated Becky, however the uninitiated will never get it!

In reply to an earlier post on May 19, 2011 4:56:29 PM PDT
lol

Steve
Stephen Templin

Posted on May 29, 2011 2:33:23 AM PDT
LeeHoFooks says:
Susanna,

I'm no sniper, and certainly no SEAL, but as a relatively recent military man (Marine Corps Infantry '05-'09), I think I may be able to shed some light on the "product placement" issue (though I know you weren't really alleging that).

In combat situations, quality gear is essential, and I'm sure that goes double for Special Ops guys. Brand names are just part of the military vocabulary, and some guys are especially particular about what brands they prefer for specific gear items. (Each squad has one, and we lovingly referred to them as "gear queers.") Were I to write a memoir about my time in the military, I would probably talk about Under Armor shirts, Oakley eyewear, and Thorlo socks.

Hope I helped. Thanks for the very informative review.
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