Like most of you, I watched the author of “No Easy Day” on 60 Minutes. It was pretty obvious to me that they were going out of their way to soft pedal this interview because they think that bringing up Operation Neptune Spear is good for Obama (which it probably is). I can assure you that this has been a hot topic burning up the internets in various secret SEAL only discussion forums. There are good SEAL brothers on both sides of this issue, but it is apparent to me that most of the guys who are OK with this kind of disclosure are younger and have a somewhat narrower perspective, and then there are the guys who have published their own SEAL books or run political campaigns extensively using their Trident. This second group aggressively markets their NSW service, has seen some success doing so, and frankly welcomes these analogous works to substantiate what they have made some money doing already.
I don’t know the author of this book, nor had I ever heard of him before. But I’m about 90% sure that I do know the Point Man that the author referenced repeatedly on 60 Minutes. You know, the guy who shot both bin Laden and his son in the face. I have his cell phone number, but it would be unthinkable to call him and ask him about it. There are a lot of reasons for that; starting with me acting like a douchey fanboy toward somebody I’ve known for 20+ years, which I will not do, and he would not enjoy. Then there’s the concept that this really isn’t something that you ask a fellow Team Guy about. If you are hanging out and he wants to talk about it (he wouldn’t) then fine, but you don’t ask about these things. You just don’t. Maybe if we were both really drunk and were the last two at the campfire, some things would be said, but we’d both pretend the next day that we hadn’t mentioned it.
I last saw this guy about 3 years ago waiting to see a Master Chief SEAL friend of ours that I had just finished talking with in his office. He was outside waiting to meet with this Master Chief when I came out, and we were both surprised having not seen each other for more than 10 years. We exchanged cell numbers and agreed to have dinner and catch up later that evening. We spent an hour or two over beers doing just that. He told me about a business project that he had been working very hard on (while on active duty) that had some foundation in his SEAL experience, but was a product that would help non SEALs to perform mentally at a higher level. Kind of a self-help thing. He had done extensive research for this project and he’d spent a good amount of his own money putting it together in the hope that he’d have something for himself and his family when he finally left the Teams. It’s a really interesting idea, and I was very excited for him. He had come to realize, as we all do eventually, that while a SEAL career is amazing and unique, its not going to provide long term financial security and so he was taking the initiative to prepare himself for the future.
And then this author just went and cashed in on this story while dozens of other guys and especially my buddy were left to grind out their own future endeavors by adding something new to what they had corporately achieved that night. I have a problem with that. We all have the great blessing to be able to put “Navy SEAL” on our resumes, but we still need to go out in the world and put in the additional work that something new requires. The author decided that he was going to go ahead and use something they all did together to benefit himself as an individual. This is something that most Team Guys would never even consider doing for the simple reason that it is understood that it would be robbing our brothers of something. In the Teams after an operation we first clean and maintain the Team gear that everybody used on the op like boats, engines, vehicles and parachutes, followed by individual gear like weapons, radios and night vision optics, and then finally our own personal gear like boots, uniforms, and kit. We are taught this from day one in BUD/S. Aside from the practicality of it, there is a demonstration there that our success first depends on the gear we all depend upon, and that our personal needs are secondary. Guys who don’t get this progression don’t last long, and while I’m sure the author adhered to this in his career, he never learned the greater lesson in all of it.
This mission is indeed a critical historical event for our nation and at some point an account of it would need to be made. The author is correct in recognizing this, but must have thought that he might as well be the historian rather than somebody else. This is fine in the abstract having some chronological distance from this operation, but his act of preemption in the midst of an all time high level of interest in this subject and prior to the well publicized and ill advised film coming out this year is a clear play for money rather than history. It is no excuse to say that since the Obama administration leaked details of this and cooperated with these filmmakers that a justification exists for taking this liberty. We are better than that.
This situation reminds me of the final battle scene in the film The Patriot with Mel Gibson as Benjamin Martin. The evil British Colonel Tavington who had sold his dishonorable services to General Cornwallis for an estate in Ohio tells Martin just before he is to behead him on the battlefield that, “It appears that I am the better man.” After Martin turns the tables on him and thrusts his bayonet into this Tavington’s throat he replies, “My sons were better men.” Yes they were. They were fighting for a free nation and seeking no recognition for it aside from the satisfaction of having stepped up in a time of crisis. That is what better men do.