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Running title: Rogue Heroes – The History Of The SAS, Britain’s Secret Special Forces Unit That Sabotaged The Nazis And Changed The Nature Of War.

It is no secret that I’m a big fan of the Special Operations community and the wonderful work that they do (God bless you, chaps), so when I came across this book, perched on my New Arrivals shelf, I pretty much salivated like a Pavlovian hound and couldn’t resist checking it out. Ah yes, the perks of being a librarian (aside from being in some folks naughty librarian fantasies …yes, no … maybe wishful thinking on my behalf). *Sigh* I have detoured already. Well so much for the bollocks, let’s get on with it. Yeah?

Most significant and major institutions are built on vision, blood, sweat and tears (not to mention a few broken bones in this context) of those daring few visionaries. The special operation community that are prevalent in our lives today would not have been had it not been for those daring few in World War II. The first time I ever became of the existence of the SAS was, during the 80s, when I watched a movie called The Final Option starring Lewis Collins. Interesting fact: Lewis Collins as actually passed the selection for 23SAS unit but was actually rejected because of his celebrity status. Yes, sometimes fact can be stranger than fiction. Rogue takes us from the very, very (rough and tumble … literally) humble beginnings with its founder, David Sterling. Often regarded as “irresponsible and unremarkable”, it was Sterling’s vision of unconventional warfare that caught a few minds in a time when Germany dominated North Africa with an ever-growing stranglehold that was extending outward toward Europe. The thing is that an unconventional unit will most likely attract unconventional personalities or as someone had put it bluntly: “the sweepings of public schools and prisons”. Eccentric, definitely, insane (and possibly psychotic), maybe. Needless to say, the SAS beginnings were littered with many strange, eccentric personalities. One such was Blair “Paddy” Mayne known for his violent temper and the occasional bouts of drunkenness, which some have rumoured that were due to closeted homosexuality (though there has been very little evidence to prove such), became a critical figure in the formation and the growth of the SAS. He was also known, in the later years, for driving into missions with a gramophone, playing music, in his jeep. He’s been also been known to find the time to dig into a paperback during some of the most hair-raising firefights. Yes, truly an odd bloke that one. There are other names such as Roy “Paddy McGinty” Farran and Randolph Churchill (yes, the son of THAT Churchill). It is said that Randolph home to his father about the SAS exploits in sabotage and assaults on the Germans that made Winston Churchill one of the SAS biggest fans, and (as the immortal Martha Stewart would say) this was a good thing. From earlier training methods (jumping out of 30mph vehicles to practice parachute landings) to incredible feats of survival (walking over 180 miles in the desert to get to a friendly unit whereas the “easier” options meant being captured) to encountering the barbarous nature of the German forces and their abominable conscription of children soldiers (yes, I’m afraid this started way before current day Africa). And then there are anecdotes that are delightful roguish and scandalous such as Stirling having dinner with Churchill and asking for Churchill’s signature on a blank piece of paper as “memento” which was then used to forge a letter to the SAS carte blanche access to equipment and personnel. Aye, truly scandalous, but Churchill was a good sport and yes, a big fan of the SAS, so that bit of dodgy roguishness got a pass.
Rogue is a superb eye-opener into the origins of Special Forces. Interesting note: the SAS during peace time served as a war crimes investigation unit that may have helped bring a lot of war criminals and the scope German monstrosity, during the war, to light. Quite gruesome on occasion, with some spots of levity, and filled with insanely daring exploits of the SAS during World War II, Rogue Heroes is a very riveting read (as in you’ll want to rivet your eyelids open and not sleep). A splendid tribute to those daring few that launched an evolutionary approach to war which in turn produced the Navy SEALs, the Green Berets (US Army Special Forces), the Polish GROM and even the Russian Spetsnaz. God bless these daring few that has taken up the mantle for the good fight downrange.

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Co-author:: William Doyle

The last time I reviewed a book by Dick Couch it was a brilliantly written book about the Special Forces and the behind the scenes training. It was called Choosen Soldier. Now Mr. Couch has written many other books and it is sad to admit that I have not gotten around to reading many of them. Give me time, mates. It is no surprise that I’m a big fan of all things special forces. I know … shocking (of course, the tons of Navy SEALs book on my site pretty much kills the subtlety factor). So naturally, when this appeared on my stacks, I could not help restrain myself. But enough with the blah-blah-blah and let’s get this review on it’s way, shall we?
Navy SEALs is a well written book that takes the reader from its origins to the present theater and role of operations. It is also, seemingly, a tender tribute to the SEALs, past, present and future: Mr. Couch’s alum. Needless to say, but some of the stories in are a bit tough to stomach but it makes you more appreciative of these past heroes (both alive and deceased). Some of the tough stories took place during World War II when the unit was known as Naval Demolition Combat Units (NDCU) and eventually Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT). One such story took place during the Normandy invasion. Now over the years of watching various celluloid depictions of the Normandy invasion, it was mostly from a Marine or Army perspective and … yes … it was a bit tough. However, reading about the NDCU’s role during the Normandy invasion was a bit scary. For starters, most of the naval demolitioneers went into battle with very little (a fortunate few carried a sidearm) and they had to set up explosives on a beach where bullets and mortar was raining down on them from HIGH ground. Some never made it to shore since mortar rockets detonated explosive ordinance in their boats … and let’s just say it was not pretty. Today, SEAL team operators are more prepared to deal with situations from a team level to an individual level (heaven forbid should things get so grim). In the earlier stages, things were a bit dicier for the forbearers of what was to become Naval Special Warfare. And though there were some tough moments, there were a few decent breaks like during their training in Korean waters, during the Korean war, many naval combat divers found themselves sharing waters with bare-breasted, female pearl divers. Hey, it was a tough job and someone HAD to do it.
Though the SEALs have evolved over the years, as they moved closer into the twenty-first century there were still many lessons that forged them in the elite fighting unit that they are to this day. Sadly, some of these lessons were learned the hard way in places like Vietnam, Grenada, Panama and the Afghanistan.

Though Untold Story is centered around the SEALs, it is a tribute to all those that serve in the special operations community. Those that are called upon to do the extraordinary, to go where many fear to tread and at times prevail (or sacrifice) amidst the evils and horrors that exist in those dark corners of the world daring to reach forth its tentacles on the rest of civilization. Well written and tremendously touching, the stories compiled by Couch will keep readers riveted and in the end, filled with appreciation and admiration even more for these brave men. May God bless them all and their days under the sun.

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Co-author: Jim DeFelice
Running title: Code Name: Johnny Walker – The extraordinary story of the Iraqi who risked everything to fight with the U.S. Navy Seals.

I remember when the 9/11 attacks happened. It was moment of pain, anguish and anger, and as many were ready to lash out at all things Muslim, there were those voices of reason calling for understanding. There were those voices that supported those that practiced Islam peacefully. The problem, at the time, was that it seemed that many of these voices were non-Muslim and many were asking where are the real Muslims that would stand and defend their faith from the wanks that hijacked it. Little did some of us know that several years after the attacks some were doing just that … in their actions. And many may paid the ultimate price.
Johnny Walker is one such voice. The is name is also pseudonym that is used to hide the Iraqi’s real name in order to protect his family that currently reside in the US or relatives that have remained in Iraq from reprisals from insurgent mujahedeen or jihadists. It is truly a humbling story seen through the eyes of an Iraqi soldier. Johnny came from an impoverished background and in his world, Iraqis that didn’t do well in school soon found a place in the Iraqi army. An army that was filled with antiquated equipment and training that was just as laughable … but for most, was a way to a make a decent living. Still, Johnny took certain aspects of it very seriously. We are fondly introduced to Soheila, Johnny’s first love that became his wife and mother of his four children. It is possibly the purest romantic thing one could have ever read in this present day. Boy meets girl. Girl meets boy. Boy and Girl falls in love with each other. But Girl parents promises her hand in marriage to another bloke. Boy fights for the girl he truly loves. Parents eventually see their folly and give consent to Boy and Girl to be married. And all this time the relationship was unconsummated since … Muslim families are very strict about that stuff. Like I said purely romantic … almost Shakespearean. Almost. We get to see his struggles to earn a living during “peace” time (hey, they were living under Saddam’s rule) prior to the war beyond his post-military days. And then of course, the war happens and work becomes more scarce. Many Iraqis found jobs working as interpreters (or terps as they were called by military units) for US forces. It was only a matter of time before destiny found Johnny working for the US forces as an interpreter. The interesting thing is that this started as job for him to earn a living to support his family. There weren’t any political or religious motivation. It is during his time running ops with US forces he began to learn that most of the insurgents were foreigners (some trained and armed by Iran) that were in Iraq spreading much chaos and destruction had was claiming the lives of many innocent Muslim victims of certain faith. Apparently there are Shia and Sunni Muslims, one’s a bit more rigid in their interpretation of the Koran and the other is a bit more moderate. And according to jihadist tossers (to quote The Highlander), there can only be One. Of course, this angers Johnny greatly and it can be felt in his writing throughout the book, for he felt that not only was his country (Iraq) being hijacked, but also his faith. And so teaming up with the Americans was his way to restoring his country and preserving his faith and its followers. He eventually proved more effective than interpreter for he had this uncanny way of spotting and locating jihadi suspects that were being sought with such efficiency that it would make Hannibal Lector and most FBI profilers green with envy. Trust me you’ve got read about his exploits. It got the point that most SEAL teams going into Iraq always sought out his help. His admiration and loyalty to the SEALs was not lost to many that served with him. To quote the late Chris Kyle (rest in peace, my good man): “Johnny Walker is the only Iraqi I’d trust with a gun”.
It was only a matter of time before the insurgents learned about his helping the Americans and pretty soon there was bounty on his head. Things began to get more dicey when his family were getting death threats and had to move from a relatively “safe” Mosul to a dangerous Baghdad. And the kicker was that some of these threats came in the form of “warnings” from other relatives. Gives new meaning to the word “nuclear family”. For most the book it becomes a harrowing read as we follow Walker through some of the most hair-raising raids all up to the point of him getting his family safely out of Iraq into the US. Yes, apparently there was an established program setup for Iraqis, that aided Americans, to immigrate to the US. The SEALs, ever so valiant and noble, not wanting to leave their brother behind had worked hard to speed up the process at the most critical moment in Walker’s family life. It was touching and awe-inspiring about the camaraderie between Johnny and the SEALs. Johnny Walker maybe born Iraqi but at the core he is a true American hero with an extraordinary story that needs to be told. And to think it all started with him just wanting to earn a living for his family. Still think your job is really bad or tough on you? Guess again mates.
A brilliant read about a simple man and Muslim who decided in his actions to fight against those that would ravage his country of birth and faith, and ended up becoming an American hero. It is courage and honour defined, and as you read this book you’ll find yourself rooting for this bloke.

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Running title: No Easy Day – The firsthand account of the mission that killed Osama Bin Laden

It is no secret that I am fascinated with the world of special operations, especially the world of the Navy SEALs. So after the world largest scumbag was dirtnapped and it was revealed that his appointment with Allah was made possible by SEAL Team 6, I must say that I was not surprised. I don’t say this to come off as some arrogant, know-it-all, wanker or such. I say it in the vein that I truly felt that if there was any military unit out there that could pull this off … let’s just say that the SEALs had my vote by a high measure. Anything else would have been a combination of SEALs and British SAS. Enough with the kissy-kissy.

With Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty (back in January) beckoning to me like a randy, saucy Siren to a marooned, undersexed sailor, I couldn’t wait to get my mits on this book (mostly to compare notes with the movie … and needless to say, it came pretty damn close). The book starts out with Mark Owen and his team enroute to the infamous compound that housed the world’s biggest asshole, along with the biggest stash of retro, dog-eared, printed porn. But very early enough, the book takes the scenic route as Mr. Owen invites us on his journey of becoming a SEAL to joining SEAL Team 6 (DEVGRU) … and eventually the historic mission. And it is quite a fascinating journey that most readers would feel quite honoured to be on.
Like most SEAL books that I’ve read, Mr. Owen talks about simply enjoying the simple things such as walk and feeling the grass beneath his feet, or taking a bite into a taco from Taco Bell after returning from a mission (a taste of home, civilization). Irrelevant to most, but it really captures the somber and serious tone of his job where every deployment could be your last and it was always wise to take time out to smell the roses (literally) … whenever he could. It is a sincere sentiment and Mr. Owen is no lesser for revealing this bit of vulnerability. In my honest opinion, it only confirms his noble and valiant nature. Now only if politicians could be this open, honest and honourable. As the book eventually makes its way to the historic mission, the reading becomes like a roller-coaster where you find yourself gripping the pages with pure anxiety, despite knowing the outcome, and every turn of the page becomes a bowel-clenching moment … in a good way (of course this doesn’t pan out too well when you’re stuck in mass transit with a loaded Hoover Dam type bladder).

In the end No Easy Day is what it set out to be: a no-nonsense account of what ACTUALLY happened on the mission (sans the usual hype, bollocks and other sensational blah-blah-blahs provided by external media types). On the other hand it is just another (well-earned) tribute to the lives of those valiant souls that do the extraordinary in view of most of us whilst in their eyes it just all part of the job. Just another day, where yesterday was an easy day. Though some may disagree with his politics (and this may subtly rear its head) it is still not hard to say “Thanks Mr. Owen and the rest of your mates in the SEALs that, to us, do the extraordinary”. Thanks and cheers, mate.

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Running Title: Fearless – The undaunted courage and ultimate sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team Six operator Adam Brown.

On this Memorial Day as we remember those that have served this great nation, both fallen and present, I was compelled to put this review out for it is so symbolic of the many men and women that have served this nation and aside from their bravery and nobility, many serve as a source of inspiration.
We’ve all heard the story about the prodigal son. Whether you’re religious or not, most of us have encountered this or a variation of this story.
To sum it up.
Two sons, rich father. Youngest son decides he wants his inheritance today and he’s not waiting for daddy to kick the bucket. Son gets some serious dosh, spends it on fast women, mooching friends, and possibly a bit much blow (I’m guessing hashish … biblical times, you know). Son soon runs out of dosh, ends up fighting pigs and other farm animals for slop to eat. Eventually goes back home, expecting to grovel forever at his father’s feet but is instead welcomed with opened arms and his return celebrated for he was probably thought lost and possibly dead. And so ends my detour into a Sunday school lesson.
The problem about that story is that we never find out what happened to this prodigal son beyond the celebrated homecoming. For the most, the prodigal son story is sometimes used in context of those that have may fell off the righteous and promising path. The story of Navy SEAL operator Adam Brown is modern day version of the prodigal son, though I must add … a very inspiring one. Young, fearless and quite the daredevil, Mr. Brown seemed poised to conquer the future in whatever endeavours he chose. Somewhere along the way, an encounter with drugs lead Brown down a very dark spiraling path to oblivion. Despite this setback with the strong support of family, and a faithful girlfriend, Kelley (who eventually became his wife) he found his way back and enlisted in the Navy. Guided by his Christian faith and support by family, Adam found the strength to focus and pull through BUD/S training whilst still battling his inner demons and cravings of past but not so distant life. After making the SEALs, on top of battling the demons of the past, he had severely injured his “shooting” hand in a training accident and had to re-learn handling firearms with the other hand. Later on, he was involved in another accident that involved the partial blinding in one eye and leaving him dependent on one eye. And despite all his afflictions, Adam felt compelled to do the unthinkable: apply to SEAL Team Six. Getting into the SEALs is tough, getting into SEAL Team Six is tougher … and everyone (disabilities or not) all have to measure up to standard. Many SEALs with perfect eyes and hands have tried and did not make the cut, yet Mr. Brown with so many seeming setbacks was able to make SEAL Team Six. One of the many inspiring things you could ever read.

Now the book is littered with scriptural quotes from the Bible, and this may be “bothersome” to the so-called “enlightened” and “open-minded” folks out there. Whatever, mates. For the rest of us struggling sinners (such as yours truly) this was refreshing to read and it put a lot into perspective for us. What was interesting about Adam Brown was that he didn’t keep his faith to himself but even on the battlefield his faith manifested itself when he noticed the kids in Afghanistan were running around with no shoes and instead of writing home for a care package he requested that donations of children shoes be sent instead. Truly one of those moments where you had to pause your reading and go … “WOW”.
Like most SEAL biographies, the book has a nice collection of pictures of Brown and family and fellow teammates. One of the most touching photos you’ll encounter is the last photo Adam took with his family before deploying to what turned out to be his last mission. That one will get you bad, and it’s perfectly understandable if you find yourself tearing up. One of the most touching things (and there are many in this book) I encountered in this book was Adam Brown requesting that if they (his family) were to eulogize him that they should tell his full story … even the bad stuff. It never ceases to amaze me that the truly brave, extraordinary and exceptional among us are also the most humble and modest among us. In August, 2011, when the Chinook carrying his team was shot down, America lost a hero, and a gentleman. The prodigal son finally made it back home. Rest in peace, Adam Brown and may God bless the days of those you’ve left behind. Thanks mate.

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damnfewbook

Running title: Damn Few – Making the Modern SEAL Warrior

Rorke Denver is no stranger to most of us. For those of us that paid our 14 quid to see Act Of Valor, last year, saw him (larger than life) on the silver screen as one of the lead roles. Yes, to those that missed certain clues, I’m afraid that not only did he play a SEAL but it turns out that he IS an actual SEAL. So needless to say as I was going through the stacks and I came across this book, let’s just say that the word “covet” is a pretty generous word for my intentions with this book.

In thumbing through the first pages, the first line of the acknowledgement page caught my eye: “for my wife, my heartbeat”. Noble, humble and honest from the heart, I love this bloke and so I read on.
Mr. Denver has a unique format of storytelling which really makes the reading very spirited and prods the reader onward in eagerness to see what’s waiting on the other page. Each chapter starts with a quote from the likes of Beowulf to Sun Tzu, followed by anecdotes of his experiences and then a full elaboration that ties the two which in turn gives the reader that “aha” followed by a “wow” moment. Seriously, EVERY chapter is like this. Now many SEAL books always write about their training and for the most of us trying to fathom what these brave souls do in their training makes us a bit more appreciative of all they do.

In Damn Few, Mr. Denver invites us on a mental trip through his eyes in three phases: as a trainee, as a warrior and as an instructor.

During the trainee phase, Mr. Denver strips away all the bollocks and gives the reader a serious, no-nonsense tour of the wonderful, exquisite world of BUD/S and Hell Week training. The level and detail in his descriptions were so vivid that it conjured images of aching muscles and joints that at times I could have sworn that I was walking off to my bed with a limp after reading several chapters of this book. It is almost as if Mr. Denver was wearing some sort of futuristic GoPro HD body cam during this training where we could see from his perspective and that camera had a neural interface that was wired into our nervous system. Or maybe I’ve got a really spectacular imagination. During the warrior phase, we share some of Mr. Denver’s wartime experiences. Many triumphant, some heart-wrenchingly saddening that always seems to hit home and make you pause to raid the tissue box. Aye, the Evil Parrot has been known to shed a tear or two. And yes, you didn’t read any of this. In the instructor stage, we are not only introduced to advice that could help those of us going into BUD/S training but it is also premium stuff that pertain to life itself. Regurgitated from any other place or wanks this stuff would either come across as pretentious and the usual pop-psyche bollocks. But hearing it from a bloke that has probably seen scary, hellish scenarios and has survived thus far … and can still hold on to certain aspirations is enough to make most of us to do a bit of introspection and overhaul our attitude to life. In the chapter, Family Time, he writes out some of the most endearing insights that everyone can take and use in their life. And the best part is that you don’t have to be in special ops to appreciate this. Of course, the part about wanting to wear shoes with red soles sort of threw me off (a bit) and for a second, forced me to re-evaluate my sexual orientation, but then I realized I was being such a dafty nutter and his writing was being taken out of context (trust me you’ll see when you READ it … and try to be gentle in your thoughts about me).

Damn Few is a brilliantly written tribute to the humble, noble, valiant and quiet men that do the extraordinary and sometimes the near superhuman tasks for the sake of country and their fellow man. And as stated in the acknowledgement, it is an ever greater tribute to the SEALs other (and very significant) support network: their families. And unless you have the emotional content of a stone, there’s a good chance that you will come away with something from this book whether you were in the military or not. In his writing, Mr. Denver mentions his library containing works of figures such as Sun Tzu, Thucydides, and Ulysses S. Grant. Figures that helped in the developing of his warrior ethos. I wouldn’t be surprised if several centuries, down the line, that Mr. Denver’s Damn Few finds its way in the midst of Tzu and Ambrose in some future warrior’s library.

One magnificent line that I got from the book ( and was also quoted in the Act Of Valor) was from the Native American Shawnee chief Tecumseh: “live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart”.

Thanks Mr. Denver, for your service and your many acts of valour. Should we ever cross paths, pint(s) are on me. God bless you and yours and all their days on this earth.

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In Lone Survivor, Mr. Luttrell recalls the ill-fated Operation Redwing and the untimely, tragic demise of his SEAL mates. Since that time, Mr. Lutrell has endured a painful recuperation and, being the consummate warrior, eventually returned to the battlefield to serve with his brothers-at-arms. Service takes us into the hellspots of Iraq, and it is very unnerving … to say the least. He recounts his tour in Iraq and some of it is cringeworthy enough to make most lose controls of their bladder … and if possible … their bowels. Whether you disagree or agree with the war in Iraq, the one common ground should be pure appreciation for those that answered the call of duty and has been to hell and back on Iraqi soil. Interestingly enough, Service does not only surround members of the SEALs but all members of the armed forces that Mr. Lutrell may have encountered in one way or the other: those that were rescued and those that offered support. If Survivor was, in a sense, a tribute to his lost mates, then Service was a tribute to everyone that has served in uniform. Unlike Survivor, where Mr. Lutrell is very bold and outspoken, in Service we find Mr. Lutrell to very introspective and much wiser … not just in the matters of war but life in general. And like his first book, he included many photographs that made the reading more intimate and personal for the reader. Yes, I know I may come off a bit like a bloody nancy but there were times I had to put the book down and reach for a hanky, because … yes … it got that personal. The power of images, go figure.
At some point of Service, there are echoes of Chris Kyle’s wife (from American Sniper) reflected in four separate essays written by spouses and loved ones of these brave warriors. One such is the spouse of Don Shipley, who is famous on Youtube for outing fake SEALs. I kid you not, there are people out there that pretend to be SEALs and it is downright saddening, but with Mr. Shipley’s approach and wit, the stuff would be even more hilarious if it weren’t so pathetic and serious. Check it out, who knows there might be a few fakes walking around your neighbourhood stealing someone’s valour. Sadly, I have detoured. It is very endearing and like Kyle’s American Sniper, we get to read about what the other half goes through … and yes, it is a sacrifice on their behalf. One of the sad commentaries that I came across in Service, is that despite all the hell that these men endure for God and country, one would think that as they return to civilian life, they’d get a break from the madness and chaos of world. Apparently not: Mr. Lutrell’s dog was cruelly attacked and killed by some poor excuse of a wank; Chris Kyle was held up (at a gas station) by two tossers who had to learn, the hard way, that you don’t attempt to rob at gun point, some guy that has “killed more people than smallpox”; and a Master Chief was determined to be lacking in “leadership” at an interview for a job at an athletic gear design job firm. About the latter. Seriously? We can throw millions of dollars at the Kardashians who offer nothing more than smug smirks and the ability to irritate level-headed folks to mind numbing levels of psychosis … but a Master Chief that has been (and has lead many … safely) through more crap than most of us would ever see in 20 lifetimes is determined by some HR twit to be “lacking leadership material”. WTFs are in order and will probably be an understatement for this.
Mr. Lutrell’s Service is pleasant and humbling read. An emotional rollercoaster it is, but very sobering and in all, a magnificent tribute to those that serve in uniform and those that remain at their sides through it all. And like Mr. Lutrell, it makes you appreciate every day when you consider what these fellows have endured. It may sound clichéd, but I’ll say it anyway: thanks again, to all those that serve and are still serving. Thanks Mr. Lutrell, and may God bless you and yours and the rest of your days.

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