As-told-to autobiography of a member of the Navy’s elite SEAL special-force unit.
Joining the Navy in 1977 after six years as a paratrooper, Chalker quickly volunteered for the SEALs and sailed through the brutal training program. (Besides acquiring the vicious combat skills of other elite groups like the Green Berets, Rangers, and Commandos, SEALs also swim, sail, and dive; being cold and wet is a matter of pride.) Then he volunteered for an even more elite and secret antiterrorism SEAL unit, where he remained until he retired 20 years later. His unit participated in the Granada invasion and secret actions in the Middle East, but inevitably most of Chalker’s experience took place during peacetime: exercises followed by more exercises intermixed with Navy politics, interactions with colleagues in the unit, and a great deal of after-hours drinking and brawling. Deaths and injuries were not rare during both exercises and off-duty horseplay. Despite the lack of world-shaking events, Chalker’s life makes good reading. Military buffs will enjoy the nuts-and-bolts description of weaponry, gear, and tactics required for each special action. Many exercises—simulated hijackings, hostage rescues, or attacks on ships, docks, barracks, or offshore oil platforms—are surprisingly exciting even in the absence of an enemy; plenty of things go wrong in either case. Military historian Dockery (SEALs in Action, 1991) makes no attempt to get beneath his subject’s skin, so Chalker comes across as a super-bad macho dude devoted to deadly weapons, fighting, and his buddies on the team. Clearly he chose the right career, because these are perfect qualifications for a SEAL.
Despite the absence of insights, an entertaining life of a member in good standing of a highly elite band of brothers.