Book Recollection: American Sniper

You can take a long deep breathe and relax because today’s post has nothing to do with birds!  Now, of course, if you like birds as much as I do you might be a tad disappointed, but I think in that case you have had a pretty good run as of late.  Going from frequent to the rare, I have another book recollection for you.  The last one was all about peace (link here), so took a book on war as the latest read.   I like to maintain a good Yang and Um state – good for the soul.   Somewhat ironic given the latest happenings in the world with the Waffle Boys falling all over themselves trying to save face.  The offering today was recommended by a number of my friends as a great read – American Sniper by Chris Kyle.  I think I might have been a victim of setting my expectations bar a little too high.  The individuals that recommended this title had all read (thanks to my strong urging) the Lone Survivor book by Marcus Luttrell.  They implied Chris’s book was just as entertaining which makes for some mighty big boots to fill knowing that I put Survivor in the BEST EVER reads category.  Before opening this book there was a little space reserved next to it on my mental bookshelf.  It is with a heavy heart that I inform you this book did not live up to those lofty expectations.  On reflection it probably was not that bad, but when you get yourself so pumped for a read and it fails to captivate to a point of not wanting to put it down… well, it tends to disappoint.  Lone Survivor grabbed me to the point I felt like I was right there falling down a mountain side with Marcus wondering where my rifle was going to end up.  Dick Couch’s works made me feel like I was suffering through the same ordeals as our elite soldiers were experiencing during their training.  In contrast I simply felt like a third person being subjected to random accounts at a guest speaker engagement.  Not sure at this point whether it is the stories itself or the ability of the writer to set a compelling framework.  The money bet is on the latter primarily due to reading about one encounter followed immediately by a recollection which seemed like an afterthought.. oh yeah, and this happened too.  That may work in blog posts (hehehe), but does not provide for a comfortable long read.

So, here is my overall summary – Chris Kyle is one damn good shot.  He is also one cocky asshole that doesn’t appreciate the decision makers above him and generally treats his family as a secondary entity to his love for the adrenaline of combat.  Is this an accurate reflection of who he was?  I have no idea but this is the picture the author painted for me.  I can’t count the number of times I sat through the civilian bar fight paragraphs and standing up for this and not backing down from that and we have each other’s back etc.  I get it and appreciate the fact he earned the right to be confident successfully making it through the training and missions.  Those that don’t need to boast about it in public are the ones that demand the greatest respect – the ability to crack open a local bar patron is pretty much in my given category and not worthy of the time allocated to it in the book.  The other element that kind of bothered me was the stunning admittance he put combat above family.  Sure, this is understandable in the context of your first few tours, but when you have a child and you are opting up for the third – fourth etc. you have to kind of wonder if you are fulfilling duties as a Father.  This is difficult for me to really harp on too much having no kids of my own and no military experience but when his own wife is quoted stating her discontent with it … you have to take it into consideration.  Oh, the last comment reminded me – one nice aspect of the book was sections added from the wife’s perspective.  An interesting viewpoint especially due to how unflattering a lot of them were to Chris.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to Chris for his service to his country.  For those that may not be aware, Chris is no longer with us.  He was killed on February 2, 2013 by a someone he had brought with him to a shooting range.  If I remember correctly he was trying to help out fellow soldiers suffering from PTS syndrome and guessing something might have gone terribly wrong with whoever he brought to the range that day.  Chris is also the one that was in a defamation lawsuit with Jesse Ventura after Chris claimed to have punched him …. no surprise… in a bar.  According to our friends at Wikipedia, Jesse is even continuing the lawsuit post death against Chris’ estate.  Real class act Jesse, way to be the better man (guessing the “I ain’t got time to bleed”  dude needs money for acting classes)

If you haven’t read Lone Survivor – opt for that over this book – if you have, then wait a bit for my next recollection on another book I’m currently reading.  So far definitely superior to this offering.

Hit the jump for the takeaways from this read

Takeaways:

  • Was in Charlie (now Cadillac) platoon of SEAL Team 3
  • His response to the question “How many people have you killed” is “Does the answer make me more or less of a man”  neither, but does immediately conjure up the impression of being a smartass.  At time of writing the official number was 160 but looks like the number might fluctuate a bit depending on who you ask
  • He ended his deployments in 2009
  • Another Texas native (as was Marcus Luttrell of the Lone Survivor fame)
  • Puts his priorities at God, Country and Family  – it is clear based on the numerous accounts in the book that Family is definitely THIRD which seems a little low in my opinion
  • Father was a Deacon and Mother a Sunday School teacher and instilled strong ethics in their sons
  • Got his first rifle when seven or eight – take that gun control nuts
  • Spent his younger years being a true cowboy complete with bull riding and horse breaking.
  • Originally disqualified from Navy due to pins in his wrist from a rodeo accident – later was called back
  • SEALs want to be strong with maximum flexibility as opposed to muscle bound (less weight work)
  • He actually met up with Marcus Luttrell in BUD/S training – he had heard about Marcus’ perils and even recommends everyone read Lone Survivor – I completely agree!
  • Everyone gets waterboarded in SEAL training to prepare them if they were to get captured
  • Reminds everybody that Saddam had gassed and massacred the Kurdish minority along with stockpiling the deadly chemical weapons (this often gets overlooked by the liberal media)
  • Not a big fan of the high brass (administration) – pretty much calls them out as cowards based on how they ran the war which he believes cost unnecessary lives
  • Used 4 basic weapons at sniper school – MK-12 (5.56), the MK-11 (7.62), .300 Win Mag (bolt action magazine fed) and a .50 caliber
  • Not a big fan of the 5.56 – apparently not enough power to drop the drugged up enemy – unless you hit them in the head but as a sniper he always aimed for center mass – his main killing machine was the .300 Win Mag
  • Unlike Marines, SEAL snipers do not have a spotter in the field – if someone else is there, they might as well be shooting
  • Implied Navy was testing a program that trained Dolphins to attack along with Sea Lions – not sure I’m believing that yet
  • Apparently the same philosophy  I have for bear safety applies to sharks .. maim the person you’re with!
  • The frog skeleton is a traditional SEAL/UDT tattoo that honors their dead
  • The standard SEAL issue pistol is the SIG Sauer P226 chambered in 9mm  … nice choice but I prefer mine chambered in 40  He eventually switched to the SIG P220 which was chambered for a 45 (that will knock them off their feet)
  • Was always conscious of not making an unjustified shot (could be charged with murder)
  • Is okay with medals but considers them wrapped up in too much politics which he isn’t a fan of
  • Our military considered cemeteries as sacred which the enemy leveraged by hiding their weapons and explosives
  • Joked the best sniper shot he ever saw was a plane launched missile that decapitated an insurgent in a shooting position atop a mosque – missile ended up going through window and landing in middle of other insurgents .. or should I say former insurgents
  • Longest shot at 1600 yards (~mile) – apparently they were standing at this range mocking them under the impression they couldn’t be reached – baaad assumption – admitted that was pretty much a God guided shot  — something I wasn’t able to figure out but later in the book he claimed a 2,100 yard shot .. by my calculation that seems LONGER than his other long shot.
  • He went to war for his country not for Iraqis – “My country sent me out there so that bullshit wouldn’t make its way back to our shores”   I’ve always considered the key element in our war in Iraq.. the fact it was OVER THERE and not allowing them to concentrate their evil deeds close to our shores.
  • His platoon called themselves the Punishers after the Marvel comic book – awesome, my favorite comic book hero – Like the spade cards in Apocalypse Now they made sure their symbol (the Punisher skull) was seen everywhere possible in the combat zone
  • Considered the Iraqi soldiers being trained up by our military to be incompetent if not dangerous
  • He lost someone pretty close to him and another was severely injured losing sight in both eyes  – as expected, this  definitely had an impact on him.  Later in life Marcus Luttrell later informed him that the wounded shoulder had passed away (he and his wife were expecting)
  • Every time he killed someone in Ramadi he had to write a shooter’s statement with day, time, details on the person, what he was doing, the round used, how many shots taken, how far away and who witnessed it. — guessing the insurgent ROE didn’t have this requirement.  He did comment on the fact the ROEs were written by lawyers trying to protect the admirals and generals from politicians, not by people worried about soldiers getting shot
  • Not a big fan of Dick Couch – apparently he came and lectured them on all the things they were doing wrong – as in killing insurgents instead of winning them over.  He spoke his mind and was asked to leave by his commanders – Dick later interviewed him but looks like that was pretty terse.  For the record, I’ve read a bunch of Dick’s books and didn’t have the impression he would do something like this
  • Continually downplayed higher rank.. but when given the opportunity to try his hand at it refused..walk in one man’s shoes …
  • After service Founded Craft International to pass on their knowledge to police and military units – their slogan was “despite what your mama told you, violence does solve problems
  • Believes kids get into trouble due to curiosity – teach them young to be safe and respect weapons solves a whole lot of trouble in the future – I COMPLETELY AGREE!
  • Believes you should help people help themselves – all you do is create dependency if you give money to those who don’t want to work
  • When asked how the war changed him – his response was the everyday items that stress you .. he doesn’t give a shit about anymore because he knows there is worse out there .. and he has lived them.  – don’t let the tiny problems wreck your life

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