No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account … of a great book

Apparently, the Pentagon isn’t happy with the release of ‘No Easy Day’. Possible national security issues aside — readers will be.

What does a member of SEAL Team 6 do after he’s killed the most wanted terrorist alive — the mastermind behind the worst attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor? He does what anyone else would do: He goes to Taco Bell. By himself.

No Easy Day apparently has heads fuming at the Pentagon, and author Mark Owen might be persona non grata with his former teammates  (his real identity is known, but I’m still going to refrain from using it), but it’s a book that I’m glad he wrote. It’s a story that needed to be told, even if the timing of it could be called into question. And, while some of the information disclosed in the book is surprising, someone should remind the Navy SEALs that they were the ones who also worked with filmmakers on Act of Valor. Owen is most definitely one of the good guys.

There seems to be three factors that drove Owen to write the book. They are:

  1. To inspire other young men to become better than they knew they could ever be.
  2. To vent frustration over having to fight a war increasingly designed to protect the sensibilities of the politically correct civilian chattering class.
  3. To draw attention to politicians in Washington, D.C. who are much more of a threat to OPSEC than a retired SEAL.

As with other standout books by Navy SEALs, such as Marcus Luttrell’s Lone Survivor or Chris Kyle’s American Sniper, where the words make the book worth its hardcover price is in the personal story — not the details of any specific mission. You care about Owen not because he’s a Navy SEAL, but because he’s a good person. You want to keep reading his story — not because he’s a badass — but because he embodies the a kind of honor, commitment, selflessness and love of country that seems endangered in modern America.

The forward says it all:

‘No Easy Day’ is the story of “the guys,” the human toll we pay, and the sacrifices we make to do this dirty job. This book is about a brotherhood that existed long before I joined and will be around long after I am gone.

My hope is one day a young man in junior high school will read it and become a SEAL, or at least live a life bigger than him. If that happens, the book is a success.

It only takes Owen a quick 299 pages to complete his mission. It’s hard to believe that any young man could read No Easy Day without having his patriotic passions stirred.

Since Owen is a smart guy, he also provided plenty of lessons for public policy makers. Case in point:

It felt like we were fighting the war with one hand and filling out paperwork with the other. When we brought back detainees, there was an additional two or three hours of paperwork. The first question a detainee at the base was always, “Were you abused?” An affirmative answer meant an investigation and paperwork. And the enemy had figured out the rules. …

On more recent deployments, they started hiding their weapons, knowing we couldn’t shoot them if they weren’t armed. The fighters knew the rules of engagement and figured they’d just work their way through the system and be back to their village in a few days.

It was frustrating. We knew what we were sacrificing at home; we were willing to give that up to do the job on our terms. As more rules were applied, it became harder to justify taking the risks to our lives. The job was becoming more about an exit strategy than doing the right thing tactically.

The best trained, best equipped, most-disciplined fighting force in the world is asked to go to war — provided it’s a politically correct war. Al Qaeda members sleep soundly in their beds (or caves or on floorboards) because they know they can take advantage of the rules of engagement. “Shoot, move, and communicate” has become, “shoot, move, and do ‘sensitive site exploitation’.” SEALs need to spend endless amounts of time on each mission documenting everything for the kind of person who sees any U.S. military action as an Abu Ghraib waiting to happen. It’s sad and sick, it’s going to come back to haunt us,  and it gets soldiers killed.

Mark Owen’s personality reminds me of a lot of the guys I once served with. He’s an intelligent guy, but he’s humble. He strives for perfection. He never gives up because failure isn’t an option. He’s a professional, and he most-certainly goes about his job with the ‘failure to prepare is preparing for failure’ mentality. He loves his country and has done amazing things for freedom and liberty. He’s a real-life hero, but at the end of the day he’s perfectly content … with Taco Bell. In short, he’s everything I’d like my future son to be.

I highly suggest No Easy Day.

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