The Man Who Killed Osama Bin Laden...Is Screwed is written by someone named Phil Bronstein and advertises itself as
"...the Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden tells his story — speaking not just about the raid and the three shots that changed history, but about the personal aftermath for himself and his family."It is, as advertised, largely about the raid on Abbottabad on 6 MAY 2011.
That part's just your basic war story, a story about what might be the most famous night raid in recent history, but, still...just another no-knock entry in the thousands the U.S. Army, Marine, and Navy infantry have been doing since 2002. Read it, if you will. It's your bread-and-butter light infantry operation that at least partially accomplished the mission (Just me, but it would have been nice to have hauled ol' Osama back for a Nuremberg-style tribunal, but, whatev'; First Rule of War - Shit Happens).
Hooah, raid team. AAMs for everyone!
Sorry. Army joke.
But, kidding aside, that wasn't really what I got out of it. I've done my share of MOUT, just not with the live rounds and the angry Arabs. Didn't really need the lyrics to know how that song goes.
I did have a strong reaction to the piece, but probably not what the author wanted. What he wanted is pretty clear; to get the reader angry about "...the startling failure of the United States government to help its most experienced and skilled warriors carry on with their lives" Between the raid story the article centers around a long litany of complaints that this guy and his fellow Seal team members are getting screwed.
"But when he officially separates from the Navy three months later, where do his sixteen years of training and preparedness go on his résumé? Who in the outside world understands the executive skills and keen psychological fortitude he and his First Tier colleagues have absorbed into their DNA? Who is even allowed to know? And where can he go to get any of these questions answered? There is a Transition Assistance Program in the military, but it's largely remedial level, rote advice of marginal value: Wear a tie to interviews, not your Corfam (black shiny service) shoes. Try not to sneeze in anyone's coffee. There is also a program at MacDill Air Force Base designed to help Special Ops vets navigate various bureaucracies. And the VA does offer five years of benefits for specific service-related claims — but it’s not comprehensive and it offers nothing for the Shooter's family.I hate to be this way, but...guys? Lemme sing you a little song I know:
"It's criminal to me that these guys walk out the door naked," says retired Marine major general Mike Myatt. "They're the greatest of their generation; they know how to get things done. If I were a Fortune 500 company, I'd try to get my hands on any one of them." General Myatt believes "the U.S. military is the best in the world at transitioning from civilian to military life and the worst in the world at transitioning back." The Special Operations men are special beyond their operations. "These guys are self-actualizers," says a retired rear admiral and former SEAL I spoke with. "Top of the pyramid. If they wanted to build companies, they could. They can do anything they put their minds to. That's how smart they are."
But what's available to these superskilled retiring public servants? "Pretty much nothing," says the admiral. "It's 'Thank you for your service, good luck.'"
"In time of danger or in war
God and the soldier we adore.
Danger past and all things righted
God is forgotten and the soldier slighted."
Some British grunt wrote that song in fucking 1645.
Ain't no different three hundred and fifty years later. If nobody told you that in Reception Station?
They should have.
I mean, yeah; it sucks to be this guy. I get that. It sucks to be an imperial grunt in a country that is fiercely pretending NOT to be fighting colonial wars, so much so that it that is practically jamming its fists into its collective ears and shrieking "ICAN'THEARYOUlalalalalala!" rather than accept what it is doing to the legionaries it is sending out to do the dirty deeds it doesn't want to hear about or is pretending are the military equal of storming ashore on the Normandy beaches instead of the vile, ugly business of suppressing foreign rebellions in shitty parts of the world.
That's the reality. You can hate it. But you can't pretend you didn't know that going in, especially now after ten goddamn years of it.
A couple of other things;
1. The article is full of sad about how the poor dude is getting screwed over because he's getting out with jack shit; "Anyone who leaves early also gets no pension, so he is without income. Even if he had stayed in for the full twenty, his pension would have been half his base pay: $2,197 a month. The same as a member of the Navy choir."
I know they told you that shit in Repo. You don't do your twenty, I don't care if you're Audie Fucking Murphy; you get squat. Always have, always will. You sing in the choir for 20 years, you get the brass ring. 19.9 years of hard fighting? Bupkis. Them's the rules. You may not like that, but you can't complain you didn't know that.
The article keeps talking about the Shooter "retiring". Dude; this guy ain't "retiring". He's ETSing short of retirement. Get your military terminology straight, Phil. And if you ETS short of your 20-year letter, you get...? C'mon, say it with me now..."jack"...and what else?
Sorry, man. That's how it works. If the author didn't get that somebody he talked to should have squared him away. It makes the guys in ST6 sound like whiners, and I'm sure they wouldn't want that.
And this guy is described as all jacked up physically (which I believe; 16 years as a grunt would have crocked me up. Hell, they DID, in a way.). Why isn't he getting out on a medical? You CAN retire medically short of twenty. Why no discussion about that?
2. Here's the thing that completely baffled me; there's a ton of talk in this article about how special these special operators are, how any CEO and Wall Street firm and school district should be killing themselves to get them, how they're the best of the best of the best?
So where the hell was the Navy re-up guy?
The Shooter says he doesn't want to be a shooter any more. OK, fine. I'm not a squid but I'll bet there's tons of jobs in the USN that don't require a guy to bust a cap in Abu's ass. PAC clerk? Third shop? Stores? Chief of the Boat?
Plus, if these guys really were all self-actualizing and entrepreneurial as the article implies, wouldn't you think that the USN would be begging them to stay in and provide all this special leadership as senior NCOs.
Over at MilPub Al just talked about the importance of those salty old Navy chiefs; why isn't this guy moving on from the hard-core hooah infantry fun to a cushy job the regular Navy? Beer and skittles aboard a carrier? Why isn't he heading up the path towards CPO? Why doesn't anyone in this article talk about these guys as future Master Chief Petty Officers of the Navy, as the future Kings of the Goat Locker?
Could it be...that for all the stuff in the article about how special these guys are, when you come down to it - with 16 years in the Navy this Shooter has about the same experience with troop leadership and organizational management as an infantry squad leader, an E-6 on his second or even the end of his first enlistment?
And that the sort of senior leadership you need to have to be a good Chief Petty Officer for a big organization - running a division or being Chief of the Boat - or even be a good teacher, or a stockbroker...requires more, and very different, skills than just "a fist to the helmet"?
And that these guys have, in essence, been frozen in place as infantry squaddies for more than a decade?
There's always been tension between the special operations organizations and the line dogs, but one of the reasons for that is this; these guys ARE good. They're among the best light infantrymen in the world. As a former grunt medic, I gotta respect that.
That's ALL they are.
The Regular Army's problem with senior SF NCOs has always been that - short of the supposed-wartime mission of creating indig armies - an E-7 in SF is a nothing more than a super squad leader. He doesn't even get the experience of leading a platoon of grunts, let alone the experience with combined arms and the logistic and operational business of troop-leading in a combined arms battle.
So could it be that the reason the Navy re-up NCO wasn't chasing this guy is that even with 16 years in he's not really considered all that terrific as a potential line Navy chief?
I don't know, but it makes me wonder; is the Navy and, by inference, the other services doing these guys any favors allowing them to, or making them, make a home in these special operations units? If they really don't have any civilian skills, shouldn't we be making it easy for them to do their thirty years in the Navy (or Army, or Marines) and retire full of years, honors, and a fat pension?
Makes me wonder, anyway.
3. There's the obligatory hat-tip to the Crazy Mad National Defending Skilz that these wars are supposed to have been All About; "The Shooter himself, an essential part of the team helping keep us safe since 9/11, is now on his own."
Don't get me wrong. This guy and his teammates have been fighting hard. They've been doing everything they've been asked to do, and more.
But a lot of that fighting has had nothing to do with "keeping us safe."
Everything they did in Iraq?
A hell of a lot that went down in Afghanistan, that involved chasing angry tribesmen around and around the mountains?
And the other stuff? The secret wars in places like Yemen and Somalia?
Who the hell knows? But probably some yesses, some noes.
Look. I was a soldier for years. In a lot of ways I'm still stuck inside the Green Machine. I want my soldier brothers - and that includes this guy, who for all that he wore blue, has fought as a grunt for more than a decade - to get the best life they can out of the nation and the People who employ them.
But I think that a big part of that means that the People should get the whole story about our guys; good, bad, and indifferent. And told straight out, without the attempt to "sell" the guys to the Public. I think that the Public might, just might, for one thing, start wondering why these guys have been doing this for twelve years, and whether it is really "keeping us safe", and whether there might be better ways to do this both for us and for them.
And I don't think that a big part of this article really helps with that instead of just turning it into another war story.
So; question - what do you think? Am I reading too much into this? Is this sort of article part of the problem, part of the solution, both, or neither?