Sunday, 7 September 2014

The Amazing U.S. Navy Seals

I've just read "No Easy Day - The Autobiography Of A Navy Seal" - The Firsthand Account Of The Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden".   By Navy Seal "Mark Owen" (pseudonym) and ghost written by Kevin Maurer, (Penguin Group USA Inc. 2012).

When I was the Vicar at St. Christopher's in Chicopee, MA I had a parishioner who would disappear from home and family life for months at a time.  I knew that he was in the U.S. Navy. He once said that he could not possibly tell me a single thing about "what he was up to" during those absences.  I guessed him to be a Navy Seal, and I think that I was right.

One of the other Chicopee parishioners was an Army Ranger.

The Owen/Maurer book  (loaned to me by a friend who is a U.S. Navy Captain, Retd.) is an eye-opener into the amazing lives of Navy Seals.

They, (with other special-ops members of the military - tip of the hat to the Rangers!) are an elite, almost a breed apart.

But they were not born that way.  Seals are those exceptional men who choose the harder way. 
It is more difficult to become a Navy Seal than it is to become an Anglican/Episcopal Priest.  (So please, no more whining about the "brutal" discernment process which may or may not lead to ordained ministry).

Choosing the harder way.

Those who aspire to become to Navy Seals know that the process involves:

Utter and complete physical fitness
** Planning for any possible eventuality.
The ability to accept hardship without complaint
A mental acuity which is in synch with physical fitness
**Planning for any possible eventuality.
The willingness to accept critical review, and to learn from it
The endurance of hunger and thirst in pursuit of a great purpose
The ability to be a team member, and to respect and honour the others in the team
** Planning for any possible eventuality.
The willingness and ability to lead the team (if so selected)
The knowledge that team leadership has its costs. (How do you make a split second decision which will lead to the success of the mission, but which may also endanger the life of a subordinate team member?)
The conviction that  as a Seal the following words are true "who more than self their country loved".
The understanding that successful missions depend upon reliable and trustworthy "intel"; upon the wisdom (or otherwise) of the "Officer Class"; and upon the decisions of the Commander in Chief.

**  (Yes indeed, I repeated  this thrice)

"Mark Owen's" story is amazing.  He became a "seal amongst seals".

He is able to tell of missions which did not succeed, and of the successful rescue of an oil tanker Captain (Richard Phillips) from Somali Pirates. 

Above all it is a mind-blowing take of the intel, the planning, the training , the political decisions, the risks, and the single-minded courage which led to the death of Usama Bin Laden.

The account of the Abbottabad raid which led to Bin Laden's death fills me with awe at the skills and courage of  American special ops military  (and of the brilliant intel which made the mission possible).  I am glad to have read the book.  The work of Navy Seals is second to none. "Mark Owens" is a man of immense courage (who is not ashamed of the occasions when he was filled with fear).
If only the Priests and Ministers of the Church had such courage, and were so honest about their fear.
I have three caveats and one fear.
1.  I hope that the intel is as good as it gets. (What if such missions target and kill the "wrong suspects?")
2. I am a bit worried about the frequent use of the sleeping aid "Ambien" by Seals such as "Owen". If you check out "Ambien"  on the net you will discover that it can have unintended and harmful side effects.
3. I wish that "Owen" had not made snarky comments about President Obama and Vice-President Biden.  These comments add nothing to the main narrative, and are a distraction from the story.
These comments may well appeal to red-blooded Republicans, but they disturb honorable Democrats such as I who want to honour and respect our Armed Forces.
What happens to courageous Seals such as "Mark Owen" when they return to civilian life?  How are they helped to make the enormous leaps into "normality"?

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