In the Company of Heroes by Michael Durant and Steven Hartov

Before I begin this review, I feel that I need to clarify something about the events in Somalia and the Battle of Mogadishu. Though the media and the Clinton administration portrayed the military action in Somalia as a loss, make no mistake, the U.S. forces who fought in that battle were successful. The mission objective was to capture high ranking members of Aidid’s militia, and they did. Yes, there were many casualties and Americans died, but do not dishonor the men who fought and especially those who died that day by suggesting that they failed. Despite being outnumbered by a heavily armed and hostile enemy, the U.S. military achieved their goal and completed their mission. To suggest otherwise is an insult to their actions and to the memories of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. As Michael Durant, the only American taken alive that day by the Somalians, states in his book, In the Company of Heroes:

It is difficult enough to bury a fallen comrade, but even harder to look into the eyes of his family, knowing that the objective for which he died has been deemed unobtainable by the very men who sent him to his death

Michael Durant teams with Steven Hartov to describe the events of October 2003 and the RPG shot which downed Durant’s Blackhawk and lead to him being captured and held prisoner by members of warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid’s militia. With a broken back, femur, and cheekbone along with other injuries, Durant endured days of endless pain and uncertainty as he waited to see if he would be rescued by his brothers in the 160th or killed at the hands of angry Somalians. Durant and Hartov do an excellent job of switching between Somalia and Durant’s past and the story of how he became a helicopter pilot in one of the military’s most secret and elite airborne units. In the Company of Heroes is an excellent account of the selfless, heroic actions our servicemen display under extreme duress in combat and its aftermath.

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Seal Team Six looks inside the Navy’s most elite fighting team

For this review (and for once in my life), I am going to set aside my soapbox about animal cruelty because, frankly, there is a lot of it in Howard Wasdin’s SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper, and I could rant endlessly about WTF our military are doing gunning down kangaroos for an Aussie farmer, but instead I am going to focus on the rest of this book…which is excellent. One of the best military biographies I’ve read.

Wasdin does an excellent job of describing BUDS training, and then he goes beyond that and describes all the other aspects of training a SEAL undergoes to become one of the military’s elite. He can switch from funny to dead serious in a few words. He conveys the camaraderie and brotherhood among those who serve while being engaging but leaving the reader with no doubt that he is a highly effective sniper who does not hesitate to get the job done.

When Wasdin describes the Battle of Mogadishu, it is gut wrenching and graphic. I kept thinking, “My God, he is not going to make it!” and then remembering that he lived to write the book! Despite having read Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down and having seen the movie, I still found Wasdin’s account gripping. He brings a completely different perspective and a lot more information about the battle itself. He does not hesitate to point out what went wrong and why, and he names those whose corruption and inaction worsened and prolonged the situation from the Italians to the UN to the Clinton administration.

Perhaps his finest point is this:

We shouldn’t have become involved in Somalia’s civil war – this was their problem, not ours – but once we committed, we should’ve finished what we started: a lesson we are required to keep relearning over and over again.

Wasdin’s struggle after the battle is very personal. He addresses his depression, his withdrawal, an inability to relate to civilians, and a sense of isolation brought on by being separated from his team. His recovery is introspective and inspiring.