Sunday, October 14, 2012

Inside Seal Team Six by Don Mann

If there's one thing I hate it's being stuck on an airplane with nothing to read. (American Way and Skymall don't do it for me.) So I'm in the San Jose airport facing the likely mid-flight completion of Ben Coes' Power Down (see my review) and browsing the shelves of the airport bookstore looking for something to keep me entertained for the remainder of the flight.

I figure if Coes' fictional Delta operator is so enjoyable, why not try a non-fiction account of something similar? Hence my selection of Inside Seal Team Six by former SEAL operator Don Mann. (Note: this is not the recent, controversial, SEAL-authored, non-fiction account of taking down bin Laden.)

Having read a handful of non-fiction accounts from ex-military guys I can make the following statements.
  1. You have to be a pretty bad writer to make being a Navy SEAL sound boring. Mann's co-author Ralph Pezzullo could've helped him out a bit more. Now I don't expect a SEAL to be a great wordsmith. But there are just so many descriptions of gear and physical training that I can handle in one book.
  2. If his description is to be believed, Mann was not a kid we'd want our kids to be hanging out with - drinking, reckless driving, fighting, barely graduating high school. As it turns out, Mann was an adrenaline junky looking for an appropriate outlet. The Navy was his.
  3. Words, phrases, paragraphs, and entire pages were redacted in the book. I understand that Mann participated in a lot of stuff he can't write or talk about due to issues of classification so actually redacting the book seemed like a stunt and didn't make me all tingly that I was close to reading something I shouldn't.
  4. Mann has two lives: one as a SEAL and one as an endurance racer (triathalons, etc.) Those events sound equally grueling but without the weaponry. Especially the part about losing toenails (or having them proactively removed).
  5. Despite all his flaws, Mann and his fellow SEALs deserve all the praise we can give them for choosing to do the things that have to be done and that very very very few others can do.
I'll end the way Mann ends his book, by quoting the SEAL promise.
"I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight."
You can read more about Don Mann on his website,

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