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The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL Paperback
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The third part covers in detail his experiences in officer candidate school, SEAL training, hell week, advanced combat training and his duties in Afghanistan, southeast Asia, Kenya and Iraq. The middle portion of the book has numerous photographs of various experiences of the author, Eric Greitens. This is a well-written memoir of a man who is truly a well-rounded and competent modern day leader and warrior. This is a book for anyone who is interested in the qualities of what it means to be a U.S. Navy SEAL warrior, as well as a humanitarian. It is clear to me, that one of the reasons the author made it through the tough SEAL training was because of his previous life experiences and education. This book was a real page turner and an enjoyable read.
Rating: 5 Stars. Joseph J. Truncale (Author: The Samurai Soul: An old warrior's poetic tribute).
Let me also say what this book is not. This book is not a advertisement for the Navy SEAL's, or special operations in general. Greitens does a great job of outlining the limits of what elite warriors can do for our nation, and the synergy necessary between SOF and conventional components. His own personal illustrations of working with Marines in Fallujah, mentoring, training, teaching, and evaluating with them on the move as he works to bring Iraqi's into the fight against their home-insurgency is a great tale. Overall, the book starts the way many biographies do, sort of in the middle, and then retraces it steps all the way to the end.
A product of the midwest, he plays down his early starting roots. However, he completes his undergrad at Duke, so it could not have been all that bad. Not only that, but his work there allowed him to be selected as a Rhodes Scholar. He describes his travels around the world during his stay at the two educational institutions, and then "heart" that he refers to in the title, and the "education of a humanitarian" is mainly during these trips. He describes poverty, depravation, the effects of war and disaster with a sort of subtle language that places you there without overwhelming you with it. The message is clearly conveyed, and you can see it before you, but you do not turn away. And a saint makes an appearance, so you get extra points for that.
The book is well over halfway done when he finally makes his decision to become a SEAL, and unlike so many others he describes the trepidations and considerations that went into the decision. He talks honestly about his problems with Navy training, and how it initially left him unimpressed. His description of BUD/S, and Hell Week specifically is one of the best in writing now, again making clear how hard the training is. He masters it, and comes out on the other end a Navy SEAL.
Unfortunately, the book goes downhill a bit after that. The descriptions of operations after that are well within the security regulations prescribing such things, but he seems to not really have a story to tell on what our wars mean. There is analysis of the situation in Afghanistan, which is wholly missing on his time in Iraq. It ends rather rapidly, without much context or thought, and in between he spends no time telling us what life as an officer in the SEAL's is actually like. There is a tale of misconduct, but he does not make a larger illumination or discovery about it. There is more likely then not enough there to fill another book, but that part remains unavailable to the reader.
Overall, this is a solid story that needs telling. Everyone should be glad that it was.
Given examples of Eric using his pre-military travel and life experiences to improve the presentation of the US military (as in Kenya), i was very disappointed that his writing remained utterly silent about the inappropriateness of the Iraq War. As is typcial of the last part of the book, Eric sounds more and more like a dutiful soldier and less like a thinking world citizen.
On p. 160 Eric refers to advice an officer gave to his men about women: "If you're a real frogman [man], then every time a woman leaves your side, she'll feel better about herself." Pretty powerful advice that many men could stand to take to heart.
The writing is average, at best. This is a book that is read, not for the quality of writing, but for the personal history that is told.