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SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper Paperback – Bargain Price, April 24, 2012
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When the Navy sends their elite, they send the SEALs. When the SEALs send their elite, they send SEAL Team Six
SEAL Team Six is a secret unit tasked with counterterrorism, hostage rescue, and counterinsurgency. In this dramatic, behind-the-scenes chronicle, Howard Wasdin takes readers deep inside the world of Navy SEALS and Special Forces snipers, beginning with the grueling selection process of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S)—the toughest and longest military training in the world.
After graduating, Wasdin faced new challenges. First there was combat in Operation Desert Storm as a member of SEAL Team Two. Then the Green Course: the selection process to join the legendary SEAL Team Six, with a curriculum that included practiced land warfare to unarmed combat. More than learning how to pick a lock, they learned how to blow the door off its hinges. Finally as a member of SEAL Team Six he graduated from the most storied and challenging sniper program in the country: The Marine’s Scout Sniper School. Eventually, of the 18 snipers in SEAL Team Six, Wasdin became the best—which meant one of the best snipers on the planet.
Less than half a year after sniper school, he was fighting for his life. The mission: capture or kill Somalian warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. From rooftops, helicopters and alleys, Wasdin hunted Aidid and killed his men whenever possible. But everything went quickly to hell when his small band of soldiers found themselves fighting for their lives, cut off from help, and desperately trying to rescue downed comrades during a routine mission. The Battle of Mogadishu, as it become known, left 18 American soldiers dead and 73 wounded. Howard Wasdin had both of his legs nearly blown off while engaging the enemy. His dramatic combat tales combined with inside details of becoming one of the world’s deadliest snipers make this one of the most explosive military memoirs in years.
An Excerpt from SEAL Team Six
Reach Out and Touch Someone
When the U.S. Navy sends their elite, they send the SEALs. When the 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.
Snipers avoid exposure. Although we prefer to act rather than be acted upon, some forces are beyond our control. We rely on our strengths to exploit the enemy's vulnerabilities; however, during the war in the Persian Gulf I became vulnerable as the lone person on the fantail of an enemy ship filled with a crew working for Saddam Hussein. On yet another occasion, despite being a master of cover and concealment, I lay naked on an aircraft runway in a Third World country with bullet holes in both legs, the right leg nearly blown off by an AK-47 bullet. Sometimes we must face what we try to avoid.
* * *
In the morning darkness of September 18, 1993, in Mogadishu, Somalia, Casanova and I crept over the ledge of a retaining wall and climbed to the top of a six-story tower. Even at this early hour there were already people moving around. Men, women, and children relieved themselves in the streets. I smelled the morning fires being lit, fueled by dried animal dung and whatever else people could find to burn. The fires heated any food the Somalis had managed to obtain. Warlord Aidid knew fully the power of controlling the food supply. Every time I saw a starving child, I blamed Aidid for his evil power play that facilitated this devastation of life.
The tower we were on was located in the middle of the Pakistani compound. The Pakistanis were professional and treated us with great respect. When it was teatime, the boy in charge of serving always brought us a cup. I had even developed a taste for the fresh goat milk they used in the tea. The sounds and scents of the goatherd in the compound reached my senses as Casanova and I crawled onto the outer lip at the top of the tower. There we lay prone, watching a large garage, a vehicle body shop that had no roof. Surrounding the garage was a city of despair. Somalis trudged along with their heads and shoulders lowered. Helplessness dimmed their faces, and starvation pulled the skin tight across their bones. Because this was a "better" part of town, multilevel buildings stood in fairly good repair. There were concrete block houses instead of the tin and wooden lean-to sheds that dominated most of the city and countryside. Nevertheless, 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.
I calculated the exact distances to certain buildings. There are two primary considerations when making a sniper shot, windage and elevation. Because there was no significant wind that could throw my shot left or right, I didn't have to compensate for it. Elevation is the variable considered for range/distance to the target. Since most of my potential targets were between 200 yards (garage) and 650 yards (intersection beyond the target garage), I dialed my scope in at 500 yards. This way I could just hold my rifle higher or lower depending on range. When the shooting began, there would be no time to dial in range corrections on my scope between shots.
We started our surveillance at 0600. While we waited for our agent to give us the signal, I played different scenarios over in my mind: one enemy popping out at one location, then another popping up at another location, and so on. I would acquire, aim, and even do a simulated trigger pull, going through my rehearsed breathing and follow-through routine while picturing the actual engagement. Then I simulated reloading and getting back into my Leupold 10-power scope, continuing to scan for more booger-eaters. I had done this dry firing and actual firing thousands of times—wet, dry, muddy, snowbound, from a dug-in hole in the ground, from an urban sniper hide through a partially open window, and nearly every which way imaginable. The words they had drilled into our heads since we began SEAL training were true, "The more you sweat in peacetime, the less you bleed in war." This particular day, I was charged with making sure none of my Delta Force buddies sprang a leak as I covered their insertion into the garage. My buddies' not bleeding in war was every bit as important as my not bleeding.
Our target for this mission was Osman Ali Atto—Warlord Aidid's main financier. Although Casanova and I would've been able to recognize the target from our previous surveillance, we were required to have confirmation of his identity from the CIA asset before we gave the launch command.
The irony wasn't lost on me that we were capturing Atto instead of killing him—despite the fact that he and his boss had killed hundreds of thousands of Somalis. I felt that if we could kill Atto and Aidid, we could stop the fighting, get the food to the people quickly, and go home in one piece.
It wasn't until around 0815 that our asset finally gave the predetermined signal. He was doing this because the CIA paid him well. I had learned firsthand while working with the CIA how payoffs could sway loyalty.
When we saw the signal, Casanova and I launched the "full package." Little Bird and Black Hawk helicopters filled the sky. During this time, the Delta operators literally had their butts hanging out—the urban environment provided too much cover, too much concealment, and too many escape routes for the enemy. All a hostile had to do was shoot a few rounds at a helo or Humvee, jump back inside a building, and put his weapon down. Even if he reappeared, he was not considered hostile without a weapon. Things happened fast, and the environment was unforgiving.
Delta Force operators fast-roped down inside the garage, Rangers fast-roped around the garage, and Birds flew overhead with Delta snipers giving the assault force protection. Atto's people scattered like rats. Soon, enemy militia appeared in the neighborhood shooting up at the helicopters.
Normally, snipers operate in a spotter-sniper relationship. The spotter identifies, ranges the targets, and relays them to the sniper for execution. There would be no time for that on this op—we were engaged in urban warfare. In this environment, an enemy could appear from anywhere. Even worse, the enemy dressed the same as a civilian. We had to wait and see his intention. Even if he appeared with a gun, there was a chance he was part of a clan on our side. We had to wait until the person pointed the weapon in the direction of our guys. Then we would ensure the enemy ceased to exist.
There would be no time for makeup or second shots. Both Casanova and I wielded .300 Win Mag sniper rifles.
Through my Leupold 10-power scope, I saw a militiaman 500 yards away firing through an open window at the helos. I made a mental note to keep my heart rate down and centered the crosshairs on him as my muscle memory took over—stock firmly into the shoulder, cheek positioned behind the scope, eye focused on the center of the crosshairs rather than the enemy, and steady trigger squeezing (even though it was only a light, 2-pound pull). I felt the gratifying recoil of my rifle. The round hit him in the side of the chest, entering his left and exiting his right. He convulsed and buckled, falling backward into the building—permanently. I quickly got back into my scope and scanned. Game on now. All other thoughts departed my mind. I was at one with my Win Mag, scanning my sector. Casanova scanned his sector, too.
Another militiaman carrying an AK-47 came out a fire escape door on the side of a building 300 yards away from me and aimed his rifle at the Delta operators assaulting the garage. From his position, I'm sure he thought he was safe from the assaulters, and he probably was. He was not safe from me—300 yards wasn't even a challenge. I shot him through his left side, and the round exited his right. He slumped down onto the fire escape landing, never knowing what hit him. His AK-47 lay silent next to him. Someone tried to reach out and retrieve the weapon—one round from my Win Mag put a stop to that. Each time I made a shot, I immediately forgot about that target and scanned for another.
Chaos erupted inside and outside of the garage. People ran everywhere. Little Birds and Black Hawks filled the skies with deafening rotor blasts. I was in my own little world, though. Nothing existed outside my scope and my mission. Let the Unit guys handle their business in the garage. My business was reaching out and touching the enemy.
This wasn't the first time I'd killed for my country. It wouldn't be the last.
A few minutes passed as I continued scanning. More than 800 yards away, a guy popped up with an RPG launcher on his shoulder, preparing to fire at the helicopters. If I took him out, it would be the longest killing shot of my career. If I failed...Copyright © 2011 by Howard E. Wasdin and Stephen Templin
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
“As action packed as a Tom Clancy thriller…harrowing...adrenaline-laced." —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"SEAL Team Six pulses with the grit of a Jerry Bruckheimer production...On his journey to becoming a member of the Navy's best of the best, Wasdin proved his mettle in Operation Desert Storm and endured training that would break the back of most mortal men." --The Washington Post
"Describes the harrowing ops he undertook as part of the elite Seal Team Six squadron, including the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu that almost killed him....reveals an intimate look at the rigorous training and perilous missions of the best of the Navy’s best." —Time
“SEAL Team Six is a masterful blend of one man’s—Waz-Man’s—journey from hard knocks to hard corps. Even better, Waz-Man and Templin can actually write as good as they can shoot. They capture your attention at every turn.” —Dalton Fury, former Delta Force Commander and New York Times bestselling author of Black Site and Kill Bin Laden
“Wasdin is a true warrior and real hero. SEAL Team Six is a must-read.” —Gunnery Sgt. Jack Coughlin, USMC, bestselling author of Shooter
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Top customer reviews
The reason this book is so great is because it gives me an idea of what that guy had to do to get to where he was when I met him. The mentality, that grit. It can't be taught but it can be developed and harnessed by anyone, and this book taught me one thing, as tough as I think I am, I am not nearly that tough. I'd break, and so would most of us. From the opening story of his childhood to how touched he is by people in his later years this is a great book that not only opens your eyes to the training that goes into war, it's heartbreaking to see the effects of war, to walk those streets and hear those screams and have a vivid story of people in shock at a scratch and people operating despite multiple gun shot wounds. The book goes into detail about the politics involved in war and how we as American's shouldn't call it a war anymore. We are now an occupying force until a person in an office gets their votes then says, okay, good, pull out.
The book details the struggles from childhood, to adulthood to what you will do for money in between. I can't say enough about this book but can say this to people who write bad reviews.
One reviewer claims that he didn't like the book because it felt like an advertisement for products, I personally couldn't have been happier. I have spent great deals of times in tents and cold and wet, hungry and trying to figure out how to do this or that and what would make those task easier. I read this book and looked up the products he used, the things he trusts. Why, because anyone who has even went to a camp ground once that had a water slide will tell you, knowing what to use and what to bring, being prepared is one of the greatest things another person can pass on to you. Do I agree with everything, no, I wear Khul pants, he doesn't, but I'm happy he went into detail on what gun he trust, what food, what clothes, glasses etc, because people who have done these things, like to share and pass on how much they love these things. I can list a good handful of products that I swear by, from a robot vacuum to a knife to a computer. The things that people trust and share is just as good as an amazon review.
Second, so there are spelling errors, the U.S. Constitution has grammatical errors, that's life. The book is well written, it's well researched and it's paced well. The story unfolds linearly and has a few spelling errors, none that make me slam my kindle on the ground in frustration as I have currently lost the point of the story. A few "was" could be "were's". I am as much as a grammatically ninja as the next person, but the guy didn't go to school and get a masters degree in writing, his editor missed a few common things, when I wrote my book the editor missed them there too. You don't see people shouting about how Anne Frank didn't punctuate things correctly.
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.
I guess I was slightly disappointed because I thought the book would be more like Black Hawk Down, but found that it mostly talks about the training and process of getting into SEAL Team Six. HIs description of the selection and training process was very intriguing though, and kept me reading even though it wasn't what I was expecting from the book.
Overall though, it was an informative and entertaining book.