A 14-year veteran of more than 200 combat missions reflects on a career training and leading the Navy’s elite warriors.
Thanks to their many conspicuous successes since 9/11, the SEALs are enjoying a golden moment, celebrated in a number of books and films. Though they number barely 2,500, the SEALs’ special skills have proven especially effective in an unconventional terror war, so much so that intense pressure exists now to create more of these special operators, even as the brotherhood attempts to hold the line, fearful of compromising standards and quality. Denver addresses this intraservice controversy, but his story explains why it will take more than a Pentagon fiat to create more SEALs. The fact remains: Few people have the strength, resilience, aggressiveness and mental toughness sufficient to survive BUD/S, their tortuously rigorous entry program, and the subsequent years of advanced training and moment’s notice, high-risk deployments. SEALs come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s impossible to predict who will succeed. With the help of Newsday columnist Henican (co-author: In the Blink of an Eye: Dale, Daytona, and the Day that Changed Everything, 2011, etc.), Denver takes us through a few SEAL missions, including the bin Laden raid, the sniping of Somali pirates and some house-to-house operations in Iraq. But his focus here is on the training, the lessons taught—that winning pays, that small details matter, that thorough preparation is essential, that nothing about war is fair—and on explaining the SEAL culture, from the outrageous “van brawls” (don’t ask) and the enduring fraternal network, to the solemn significance of the gold Trident and the unique self-knowledge that comes with being a “meat eater,” a man who’s killed someone on the battlefield.
“What can’t these SEALs do?” To hear Denver tell it, when it comes to special operations, hardly anything at all. Good reading for military buffs.