Why do movies such as The Bourne Identity, Mission Impossible, and Taken appeal to men on a primordial level? Commandos seem larger than life as they throw caution to the wind to stalk and destroy the enemy. Special operatives exude confidence and live a life that few men can. Such selfless devotion to their country inspires others to join their ranks and, if necessary, make the ultimate sacrifice in defense of freedom.
Navy Seals, one of America’s elite fighting forces, epitomize selfless devotion. Numerous books, movies, and television specials have characterized the insane conditions these men endure to qualify for selection. One of the more notorious excursions occurs for candidates during Week Four of Phase One — 132 hours of continuous operations known as Hell Week. Candidates perform physical operations nonstop to separate the interested from the committed.
Chris Kyle, a Navy Seal veteran with 150 confirmed sniper kills, made it. In his American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, he pulls back the veil to share his exploits while serving in Iraq. Various missions are described in lurid detail as he recalls killing insurgents to protect American forces who were operating on the ground. The names of his comrades are euphemized to protect their identities.
Those seeking explicit details about what it takes to become a Seal will not find it here — which was a little disappointing. However, it would violate operational security if the training methodology of our elite forces were widely available to our enemies in printed form.
What you will discover is the dichotomy that makes one an elite fighter, particularly in Chris’ case. On the one hand, exploits during training make you think that Seals are no more than adolescent troglodytes trapped in warriors’ bodies as he describes hazing rituals that “newbies” can expect when assigned to a Seal Team. Then, you will see the tension that manifests itself as his wife learns that Chris’ idea of loyalty is God-country-family — where she has family staunchly before country in the breakdown.
American Sniper is a quick read where the narrative is a little choppy as Chris embellishes his recall of missions with commentary. His wife Taya supplies her account at various points which makes the tension their marriage endured more believable.
The discussion of the mission and the weapons utilized will ensure American Sniper finds its way onto many bookshelves. Men such as Chris Kyle are due our respect and gratitude. Had he not been willing to pull the trigger, there is no telling how many more of our fighting forces might have been lost.