Though Templin is a co-author, the bulk of this book belongs to Wasdin, a veteran of the infamous “Black Hawk Down” incident who reflects on his service and life after the Navy SEALs.
While most are aware that the SEALs are America’s military elite, few know that “[w]hen the SEALs send their elite, they send SEAL Team Six,” a group tasked with counterterrorism and counterinsurgency. Wasdin saw combat with Team Six, following an unusual Navy career and a hardscrabble early life. He stolidly discusses an impoverished Southern childhood of farm work and frequent beatings by his stepfather: “Leon didn’t kill me, but anything that was not done exactly right, I paid for.” The author was drawn to the discipline of JROTC in high school; unable to afford college, he signed up for the Navy’s Search and Rescue program in the early ’80s. After distinguishing himself on risky helicopter-borne operations, he re-enlisted in exchange for a tryout in the notoriously difficult SEALs training program. Wasdin ably portrays this harrowing experience, particularly Hell Week, which was designed to weed out applicants. As a SEAL, Wasdin picked the grueling specialty of sniper; he saw action in Grenada, and received a Navy Commendation Medal in 1991 for covert operations during Desert Storm. The heart of the book is the ill-fated Battle of Mogadishu, where SEAL Team Six first operated a safe house in enemy territory, then became involved in the protracted firefight around two downed helicopters; Wasdin’s grave wounds ended his SEAL career. The author demonstrates an impressive attention to detail, vividly recalling the chronology of several violent missions and comfortably discussing the nitty-gritty of the SEALs’ uncompromising training and cutting-edge equipment and tactics. The writing is plainspoken and not overly reflective—the author doesn’t consider how his difficult upbringing might have contributed to his warrior’s nature. Still, as he describes his exit from military life, Wasdin gives a good sense of how confronting warfare and bloody death has ultimately made him a more contemplative and faithful person.
Realistic overview of an often misunderstood fighting force.