No Easy Day by Mark Owen

May 5, 2013

no easy day Summary (from the publisher): From the streets of Iraq to the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips in the Indian Ocean, and from the mountaintops of Afghanistan to the third floor of Osama Bin Laden’s compound, operator Mark Owen of the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group — commonly known as SEAL Team Six — has been a part of some of the most memorable special operations in history, as well as countless missions that never made headlines.

No Easy Day puts readers alongside Owen and the other handpicked members of the twenty-four-man team as they train for the biggest mission of their lives. The blow-by-blow narrative of the assault, beginning with the helicopter crash that could have ended Owen’s life straight through to the radio call confirming Bin Laden’s death, is an essential piece of modern history.

In No Easy Day, Owen also takes readers onto the field of battle in America’s ongoing War on Terror and details the selection and training process for one of the most elite units in the military. Owen’s story draws on his youth in Alaska and describes the SEALs’ quest to challenge themselves at the highest levels of physical and mental endurance. With boots-on-the-ground detail, Owen describes numerous previously unreported missions that illustrate the life and work of a SEAL and the evolution of the team after the events of September 11. In telling the true story of the SEALs whose talents, skills, experiences, and exceptional sacrifices led to one of the greatest victories in the War on Terror, Mark Owen honors the men who risk everything for our country, and he leaves readers with a deep understanding of the warriors who keep America safe.

Reaction:

Subtitled “The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Bin Laden”, No Easy Day was a great book. It was mostly informative and at times quite suspenseful and exciting (even though readers go into it knowing the outcome). Owen does a good job of sticking to details that readers would be interested in and skipping over the mundane stuff that would likely cause us to tune out.

Although Owen naturally changed the names of those involved and didn’t reveal anything new or classified, it was still fascinating to get a chronological account of the UBL raid from a team member. The story made a lot more sense coming from Owen than it did in the rapid fire, bits and pieces style of modern media (conflicting Twitter “reports”, constant revisions and updates, etc.).

In fact, I think this book is the perfect companion piece to the film Zero Dark Thirty. While the film focused mostly on the intelligence gathering leading up to the raid, Owen’s book mostly focuses on the raid. When taken together, they yield about as complete a picture as civilians can expect to get.

Another thing I really liked about Owen’s book is how frequently he gave credit to fellow SEALs and team members. He freely acknowledged numerous times that he wasn’t any better than any of the other guys. They’re all interchangeable, like a professional sports team. If one guy goes down or isn’t available, the next one steps up and the team proceeds as usual. Owen just happened to be in the right place when the call came down.

One area that I thought could have been improved was the aftermath of the UBL raid. While Owen did address things such as the media leaks and meeting the president, he didn’t give his opinions about some important issues. For example, what did he think of the U.S. opting NOT to release any confirmation photos of the UBL killing? What did he think of the lightning fast burial at sea and the ensuing fallout (specifically, people not willing to believe it was UBL because there was no body)?

As much as I would have liked to know the answers to these questions, not getting them didn’t detract from the reading experience too much.

Rating:

No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Bin Laden is an excellent book that is well worth reading. Despite a few flaws and some unanswered questions, the book is coherent, on topic, and satisfying. I give it 4 stars out of 5.

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