Following up his best-seller No Easy Day (2012), about the killing of Osama bin Laden, former Navy SEAL Owen offers some life lessons drawn from his training and service.
Owen has a fear of heights, and he’s not all that comfortable a swimmer. Nevertheless, he spent 14 years as a Navy SEAL, where swimming in darkness through icy waters and cutting yourself loose from a malfunctioning parachute are only small parts of the job description. However, the author insists that there’s nothing especially wondrous about conquering deficiencies, surviving mistakes and becoming “an asset to the team.” Instead, SEAL success stems from a purposeful, hardworking, trained brotherhood committed to excellence. He builds each of his chapters around an especially challenging career episode: climbing a sheer rock face in the Nevada desert, traversing waist-deep snow in a bitterly cold Kabul valley pass on the way to a target, or entering an al-Qaida compound rigged to explode. Each adventure highlights a specific theme: e.g., how to control fear: “Stay in your three-foot world”; how to handle stress and the importance of not rushing, slowing things down; how “to be comfortable being uncomfortable.” In other passages, Owen emphasizes the significance of building trust up and down the chain of command, of clear communications, of nurturing relationships to improve teamwork, of ensuring accountability, of improvising and evolving to meet the enemy’s constantly shifting tactics and techniques. Near the end of his account, he hints at the personal toll combat inflicts. The image of a kitten lapping the pool of blood from an Iraqi fighter’s shattered skull as a petrified, whimpering child looks on will certainly stay with readers, as it has with Owen. Still, he takes solace knowing he protected his mates, “obeyed the rules of engagement and never targeted innocents.”
Simple, well-told stories that will interest general readers and certainly anyone contemplating a career in special operations.