"When the navy sends their elite, they send the SEALs. When SEALs send their elite, they send SEAL Team Six, the navy's equivalent to the army's Delta Force --- tasked with counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, occasionally working with the CIA. This is the first time a SEAL Team Six sniper's story has been exposed. My story."
Thus begins SEAL TEAM SIX, a stunning and timely memoir written by former elite Navy SEAL sniper Howard E. Wasdin, along with Stephen Templin. The opening paragraph above starts Wasdin's story and how he grew up to become the top sniper in the military's most elite and respected group. From the very first page, Wasdin brings you deep inside his experiences and the mindset he had while training for the military. He was a natural to the sniper role --- able to become one with the ground and part of the dirt, and remain hidden from enemy view in order to get off a critical shot that could make or break that particular skirmish.
Wasdin states that the sniper tries to avoid looking directly at the target. It's amazing that his skills were so finely honed that he could hit any target without even making direct eye contact. The book jumps early between Wasdin's military training and his childhood. He describes going through Hell Week, a boot camp where the motto was "Train the best, discard the rest." Unfortunately, Wasdin's early years were not much different. Abandoned by his birth father, he was raised by a tough mother and her live-in boyfriend --- soon to be his new stepfather. Leon was a disciplinarian who was especially hard on him, making for a not-so-peaceful home life. It's easy to see how this upbringing toughened Wasdin up and prepared him for the extreme tests that the rest of his life had in store for him.
The SEALs were a special brotherhood of soldiers who were proud of the fact that none of their kind was ever taken prisoner, and they vowed always to leave no man behind. Wasdin takes his role in the SEALs extremely seriously, and curiously enough he does not have kind words for former SEAL turned author Richard Marcinko, who he and his fellow SEALs all feel exploited their experiences for Marcinko's own personal gain.
In Sniper School, Wasdin was taught the mantra "The more you train in peace, the less you bleed in war." While he had his wartime opportunity with experience during Operation Desert Storm, this was nothing compared to the big event that nearly cost him his life. The SEAL Team Six group was called into the Battle of Mogadishu to take on a rebellious and out-of-control village of Somalians who had captured and killed some Black Hawk pilots who had been shot down over their village. This was the same battle so brutally portrayed in the Ridley Scott film Black Hawk Down. Wasdin's telling of this fight depicts a horrific and chaotic mess where even his team of elite fighters was taken by surprise.
They perform heroically and make a difference in rescuing one of the downed pilots. Unfortunately, Wasdin also suffers two vicious gunshot wounds to each of his legs. His biggest fear is that he is going to have a leg amputated. He fights hard while the hospital in Germany to where he was flown tries to put him under and prepare him for potential life-saving surgery.
SEAL TEAM SIX tells a great saga about a highly determined and patriotic man who gave his all for his country and continues to pay it forward by helping people with his chiropractic practice. I cannot say enough good things about this very well-told and thoroughly engaging memoir.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on May 16, 2011