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The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior Hardcover – April 25, 2017
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"Harrowing . . . In frank and vivid detail and blunt and plain language, Mr. O'Neill describes some of the 400 counterterrorism operations and close quarter combat he experienced in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere through his career as a SEAL . . . An interesting and insightful book about some of the most historic moments in modern American military history."
"A jaw-dropping, fast-paced account."
—New York Post
"Enlightening about military special forces, especially the SEAL component . . . A fast-paced account quite likely to engender strong reactions among readers concerned with the U.S. military's roles in foreign conflicts."
"O'Neill absorbingly relates the 2011 attack on bin Laden's Pakistan compound . . . [Other] fascinating stories include his role in the successful 2009 mission to free Capt. Richard Phillips from Somali pirates, and those of too many fellow SEALs who were killed in battle. Fans of battlefield narratives, such as Michael Golembesky's Level Zero Heroes, will relish this gripping perspective on 21st-century warfare."
“A riveting, unvarnished and wholly unforgettable portrait of America’s most storied commandos at war."
—Joby Warrick, author of Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction
“Intensely moving and awe-inspiring, The Operator captures as few other books have the essence of being a frogman: utterly unimaginable fatigue followed by intense exhilaration followed by a weary emptiness—and then back for more. As this book shows, SEALs regularly travel to an emotional place that few men will ever visit. O’Neill wrote himself into American history with the three shots he fired into Osama bin Laden, but if you think that operation was intense wait till you read about the ones that preceded it. There is a saying, ‘Great battles are only given to great warriors.’ Rob was repeatedly given great battles, and he represented accordingly.”
—Marcus Luttrell, New York Times bestselling coauthor of Lone Survivor and Service
“Impossible to put down . . . What O’Neill has written is unique, surprising, a kind of counternarrative, and certainly the other half of the story of one of the world’s most famous military operations . . . In the larger sense, this book is about how to be alive—how to be human while in the very same moment dealing with death, destruction, combat.”
—Doug Stanton, New York Times bestselling author of In Harm’s Way and Horse Soldiers
About the Author
Robert O’Neill was born and raised in Butte, Montana, and lived there for nineteen years until he joined the Navy in 1996. Deploying as a SEAL more than a dozen times, O’Neill participated in more than four-hundred combat missions across four different theaters of war. During his remarkable career, he was decorated more than fifty-two times. Among the honors he received were two Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars with Valor, a Joint Service Commendation Medal with Valor, three Presidential Unit Citations, and a Navy/Marine Corps Commendation with Valor.
O’Neill helped cofound Your Grateful Nation, an organization committed to transitioning Special Operations veterans into their next successful career. You can find him at RobertJONeill.com.
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This book regards the experiences of the author in serving as a U.S. Navy SEAL member on some 400+ "missions", with his account of being the person who actually shot and killed Osama Bin Laden -- the Islamist who coordinated the hijacked airplane, suicidal Islamikazi attacks on 9/11/2001 that destroyed several skyscrapers in NYC and damaged the Pentagon.
The author recounts growing up in Montana and the road that led to his joining the U.S. Navy to become a SEAL. He recounts his SEAL training -- a trying, exhausting experience that one has read in many other SEAL-training books written by other SEAL-school graduates. Following SEAL training, he discusses other combat-oriented training that he undertook during his 16 years as a SEAL.
What, of course, is of primary interest here is his account as to how his SEAL team trained for their mission to "neutralize" Osama Bin Laden at his secretive Abbottabad, Pakistan compound. I'm not going to recount the author's entire 25-page raid of rappelling from a helicopter into Osama's high-walled "fortress", but will quote the author as claiming that as he climbed up a stairwell to Osama's third floor: "Osama bin Laden stood near the entrance at the foot of the bed, taller and thinner than I'd expected, his beard shorter and hair whiter....In less than a second, I aimed above the woman's right shoulder [who was standing in front of Osama] and pulled the trigger twice. Bin Laden's head split open, and he dropped" (p. 310). Well, there's more to the author's account as to how his team searched through the building for documents and computers for intelligence data, and their escape back to their Afghanistan base.
About a year-and-a-half after shooting bin Laden, the author decided to retire -- but still about 3 years short of being able to retire from the military and qualify for a monthly pension. Towards the end of his SEAL career, he came under criticism from other SEALs that he was planning on quitting early in order to "cash in" on writing a book such as this. The author was bothered by such criticism, and he pondered in his concluding paragraph: "I've had many moments when I've wondered if being the one who killed Osama bin Laden was the best thing that ever happened to me, or the worst. I'm still trying to figure that out" (p. 336).
Even if the author hadn't been the SEAL who downed Osama, his recounting of his other combat experiences would still make this book an interesting read. I highly recommend it.