Published by St. Martin's Press ISBN 978-0312699451
Hardcover 328 pages, $26.99
SEAL Team Six made headlines recently when they killed the world's most wanted man, Osama bin Laden, in Pakistan. Everyone wanted to know more about this elite team of the miltary's best men, and luckily former team member Howard E. Wasdin, along with Stephen Templin, had written SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper.
The book succeeds because it shares Wasdin's personal story, from his difficult childhood with a stepfather who beat him frequently to his success as a sniper, moving quickly up the ranks in the Navy SEALs. Wasdin tells the story of his stepfather forcing him to pick up all the pecans that fell to the ground from a tree in their yard. If his stepfather came home and found just one pecan on the ground, Wasdin would be beaten. (Never mind that the pecan could have fallen just before he came home.)
From this, Wasdin learned to be thorough and that no excuses would be sufficient. He believes that this upbringing helped prepare him for the rigors and challenges of Navy and SEAL training. This insight brought to mind Jeannette Walls' memoir, The Glass Castle. She had a difficult upbringing with parents who did not know how to raise children, yet she survived and became successful in spite of the way she was raised. The resilience of the human spirit always amazes me.
Wasdin brings the reader right into the middle of his training, which is fascinating. The trials that these men undergo is unbelievable, and many do not make it through. His story of medical training on goats under simulated battle conditions was incredible.
During his time with the SEALS, Wasdin served in Iraq during Desert Storm. When 14 starving Iraqi soldiers surrendered to him and his partner, he had a revelation.
"They were human beings, just like me. I discovered my humanity and the humanity in others. It was a turing point for me- it was when I matured."Wasdin also served in Somalia, and was involved in the Battle of Mogadishu, which was made into the book and movie, Black Hawk Down. His description of his role in the pursuit of warlord Aidid and that battle are tense and made me hold my breath as I read it. Wasdin was seriously injured in that battle.
His most successful operation in Somalia involved saving a young boy. Next door to the house they were using as a secret base was a young boy who had stepped on a land mine and had a bad case of gangrene. The smell was awful and after being refused permission to help the boy and endangering their operation, Wasdin and his partner broke into the house next door, tied up the family, cleaned the boy's wound and gave him IV antibiotics.
They returned two more times to help the boy and save his life. The once frightened, now thankful, family offered them tea on their last visit. He could not let that boy suffer needlessly.
Seen from his perspective, Wasdin was very angry at the politics that he felt exacerbated the Somalia situation. He has some very harsh words for upper command and the Clinton administration. He believes that Aidid could have been captured, they had him sighted, but the plug was pulled.
Wasdin's words on Somalia echo our current situation in Afghanistan.
"We shouldn't have become involved in Somalia's civil war- this was their problem, not ours- but once we committed, we should've finished what we started ; a lesson we are required to keep relearning over and over again."SEAL Team Six will appeal to many readers; those who like military books will appreciate the in-depth look at SEAL training, and those who like a more personal story will enjoy reading Wasdin's journey from small town Southern boy to Navy SEAL to badly injured soldier to the man he is today.
rating 4 of 5 stars