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reaper_cvr

The Reaper by Nicholas Irving

Running Title: The Reaper – Autobiography of one of the deadliest Special Ops snipers.
Co-author: Gary Brozek

The first time I learned about this book was from an article in a local NYC newspaper: The New York Daily News. It a featured a very non-dignifying picture of Mr. Irving, with his tongue stuck out as if auditioning for Gene Simmons in a KISS biopic, with his team as he cradled an SR-25 rifle. At first (and I’ll be honest about this) I was a bit turned off and sort of rolled my eyes whilst muttering something to the likes of “the one time we get to see a story of a black sniper and we’re being graced with this cocky picture”. It was tempting to avoid the book, but since I don’t judge book by their covers (or in this case … as it turns out … a badly chosen photo), when it landed in my stacks, my curiosity got the better of me. At a quick glance at some of the pictures in the book, it was clear that the folks at the Daily News were a bunch of tossers and could have chosen a much better picture … for there were many. I guess someone bollocksed up on that one.
In reading the first two chapters of the book, it is pretty clear that Mr. Irving is quite down-to-earth and straight shooter (pun possibly intended). He is also very modest despite his accomplishment as the first Afro-American to serve as a sniper for the Army’s Special Operations 3rd Ranger Battalion 75th Regiment. Sure, he could have run with the whole legend bit where they hyped up the number of confirmed kills and he would have probably been backed up by a ton of his brothers-at-arms. Instead he simply sets the record straight and humbly lists his confirmed kills, earlier in the book: it is 33. The book takes you back and forth through his upbringing, his training and experience in combat. It is interesting to note that Mr. Irving actually tried out for the SEALs and could not qualify due to one technicality: he discovered he was colour-blind. So you may ask, how did he wash out of SEAL qualification but it to the Rangers? Let’s just say that some nurse saw a young man that was eager to serve his country and provided him with some “aid” in qualifying. Hopefully someone did not lose their job, and considering the lives he may have saved … I guess a pay raise or promotion might have been a better deal. As delve deeper into the book there is a sense of déjà vu and Chris Kyle flashes in the one’s mind. Except for the subtle differences. Kyle is white, a Navy SEAL, and endured major combat operations in Iraq. Nicholas is black, an Army Ranger and endured major combat operations in Afghanistan. The stories of combat and the action is just as riveting, harrowing and in many cases, gut wrenching. One chapter called “The Chechen”, reads like a blockbuster movie where the bad guy is a Chechen sniper that has been hunting American soldiers, even down to the firefight that ensues … up until the reader wakes up to the reality that “bloody hell” this is not a movie but it is real. And frightening. And what those brave men and women deal with in Afghanistan. Bloody sobering. It is not all gut wrenching, and white-knuckled-gripping excursions. There are a few moments of embarrassing details about Afghan and Taliban forces that go under the category of TMI: such as some in the Afghan forces in the barracks getting their male-on-male jollies on (for some strange reason) Thursday nights, Irving and his team unwittingly stumbling onto what pretty much amounted to a Taliban male orgy (a Taliban sausagefest in the worst way). And there is even talk of drones picking up videos of in-field bestiality. Did you lose your lunch, or burp-vomitted into your mouth … I apologize, sorry about that mates.
Captivating, filled with adrenaline-inducing action, and heart-wrenching, Reaper, even though it was set out to tell the story a young Army Special Ops sniper turns out to be yet another delightful tribute to Mr. Irving’s brothers-at-arms. One such person is Cpl. Benjamin Kopp, who put his life on the line to provide suppressing fire during the unit’s encounter with the Chechen. Even in death, Cpl. Kopp went on to save lives since he was an organ donor.. A truly noble, honourable man. The real definition of courage (not some bloke in a white dress going through a “change”). It never ceases to amaze me about the humility of these brave men, these silent professionals. They are truly America’s best. Thanks for your service Mr. Irving. May God bless you and yours and your days under the sun.

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americansniper

Running title: American Sniper – The Autobiography of The Most Lethal Sniper In US Military History

Chris Kyle makes no apologies for the work that he does. And that is simply putting down bad guys that hide behind women and children as they take potshots at members of US military. Though at times his writing may sound arrogant and boastful, upon close inspection it is anything but. It is about a man who answered the call to do the most daring and dangerous duty for his country, and when the time came he did it to the best of abilities and sometimes beyond the call of duty.
Shared in great harrowing detail, is his tour of duty in Iraq and it IS very nerve-racking, which in turn makes you extremely appreciative of what these guys really put with and endure in the war zones. Needless to say, it is the kind of stuff that is neglected from many media outlets. Aside from the occasional tosser that felt the need to take potshots at American servicemen on patrol, the most crippling thing that Mr. Kyle encountered was the mind-numbing excuses that passed for Rules of Engagement (ROE). Here’s an example: an insurgent can mow down an entire platoon but if he drops his gun and walks away from it, the most US military can do is “arrest” him. Now some may argue, that this is taking the high ground. Really, now? Let’s bring this home. Imagine walking into your home just in time to see some scum rape and kill your wife, and just as you bring a bead on him, he simply drops his gun and say “hey man, you have to arrest me … can’t shoot me”. How many of us will be willing to take that “high road”? Aye, that’s what I thought. Now imagine that is what you have to do in a war zone where the other side doesn’t play by the rules and every bullet you fire is scrutinized by some lawyer. Some bloke that has never had to watch his mates die in his hands or get blown to bits by some IED. Infuriating, yes it is and I’m just reading about it, much less about the blokes that are actually knee deep in and had to deal with that bollocks. There were times I had to put the bloody book down and rub my temples because the stuff was bloody ponderous. Though a good percentage of the book is devoted to his work as a sniper, there is are touching stories that surround his fellow teammates and in some cases, their ill-fated destinies. As with many SEAL books that I’ve read, in the center of the book is adorned with photos of some these brave souls that are no longer with the living. It is very touching and the stuff chokes you up as if these were mates that you knew. Also included in this book, a second voice: the words and perspectives of Chris’ wife, Taya. Throughout the book there are segments littered with her fears, joys, frustrations and apprehensions every time Mr. Kyle returns from and to the battlefield. It is a unique approach, that brings so much emotional content. In truth, though the book is seemingly a tell-all about Mr. Kyle’s accomplishment as Navy SEAL sniper, it is more of a fitting memorial to his mates and all those that have passed on during their service to this country, but most of all it is bellowing acknowledgement of those that sacrifice the most: their loved ones that stay behind. Wonderful written. Extremely riveting. And it makes us a bit more appreciative of what we have and those that make the ultimate sacrifice so that we can enjoy this land that we live in. Aye, the price of freedom is always high. Thanks Mr. Kyle for your service. Rest in peace, valiant soul. And may those that you’ve left behind be blessed all the days of their lives.

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sealteamsix

Running title: SEAL Team Six – Memoirs of An Elite Navy SEAL Sniper

This review is LONG overdue. So here it is.

Getting into the SEALs is tough. Doable but tough. Only the best of the best make it. But getting into the SEAL team 6, is even tougher because only the best of the best of best get in. Standards, after all, must be kept. And this is precisely why the Navy SEALs is one the most formidable elite military units on this planet. Aye, I said it. On this planet. In view of the recent passing of a certain miserable piece of crap talked a lot of smack from caves and toss off to occasional porn in Pakistani suburbs, the SEALs have gained prominence in the headlines … and the minds of adventurous teenagers. And the occasional adult that regrets not having served in the military. Not going to name names.

Meet Mr. Howard Wasdin. Not only did he make the SEALs, but he made SEAL team 6 and as a sniper. In all my readings and studies and talks (with actual servicemen) about the military, the proficiency and standards for snipers, in most branches, are very high. I suspect the standards in the likes of SEAL team 6 are lot higher than most branches. In his book, Mr. Wasdin takes us through his somewhat “turbulent” childhood on his way through BUDS training to his time in the SEALs. All riveting, sometimes unnerving and, dare I say, very inspiring. And then there are those surprising moments. In his cringe worthy details of his time in Somalia doing reconnaissance, just before the Black Hawk down incident, there is memorable mention of humanity at the risk of tactical compromise. It is about him smelling a foul odour in the air which turned out to be the wounded, rotting wound of young Somali boy that was forced to sleep outside on the porch because his OWN family couldn’t stand the smell. So what’s an elite sniper with a heart to do? Breaking tactical protocols, they donned masks, break into the family’s house flexi-cuffed and blindfolded the family and then proceeded to … treat the boy of his wounds. It is a touching moment in the book, and is contrary to the Hollywood tendencies to portray Special Forces operators as war-loving, emotionless, cowboys. As was discovered in the Lutrell’s Lone Survivor, many of these valiant men choose their humanity when it is needed over tactical protocols to save lives even though sometimes the lives they save may be the very one that may betray them. It is indeed commendable and quite noble. And this is why these men are indeed the best of the best of America. Great book. Fascinating and riveting read. Makes you appreciate what these chaps do for their fellow countrymen. Thanks for your service, Mr. Wasdin. God Bless you and yours.

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