Two months into the New Year and this is the second book recollection. What’s next, 50 degrees out on the last day of January!?! Oh wait, it was 50 degrees out yesterday here in the Midwest. Strange times people, strange times. Last month I brought you a recollection of 13 Hours which recounted the attack on the military/CIA in Benghazi. Today’s featured book also has a military theme to it. It is the autobiography of one of the 3rd Ranger Battalion’s deadliest snipers in Afghanistan during his 3-4 month stint from May to August 2009. The book is by Ranger Nicholas Irving along with Gary Brozer and recounts his time when he set a record for most sniper kills in a single deployment. Apparently, Chris Kyle has the overall, but Irving has the time element. His tally, 33 confirmed kills. During the course of this effort, he became known as “The Reaper” by his fellow solders for his effectiveness and contribution to keeping those in harm’s way as safe as possible.
From a book perspective, it is a fairly fast read. I liked the conversational approach to the autobiography as it is written in a manner that is easy to understand even if you have not spent time in the military. I thought the authors did an excellent job of conveying the stress that comes with the job and just enough technical details that you feel like you are coming away a little more educated on the life of a sniper. Having previously read Kyle’s book (link here), one thing stood out in stark contrast. As mentioned in that review, I got a strong feeling that Chris was pretty arrogant. Don’t get me wrong, I agree that would clearly be a byproduct of that career and possibly a requirement to accomplish what he did, but that really stuck out in that book. Contrasting that with this book, Nicholas really put his ego on check even recounting numerous times when he had made a mistake in judgement (luckily those didn’t get him killed allowing him to learn from them instead). He also featured his sniper mate Mike Pemberton, the interaction between them during a mission and even some of Mike’s heroic moments – him falling in an 80ft hole that extended into another 40ft of water still haunts me since it is one of my biggest fears of being confined in the dark with little hope for escape. I refer to him as mate rather than spotter since Pemberton was as much of as shooter as he was a spotter – first time I have been exposed to that type of sniper team relationship. In summary, I thought the book was a good read. It was pretty fast to get through – think it took me only 5 or 6 sessions to make it through – again, the conversational feel contributes to the easy flow through the book. Hats off to Ranger Nicholas Irving for serving his country with honor! May your government never forget your contributions or let you down if you ever encounter times of need.
Sorry, Blue Oyster Cult – you got it wrong – you need to “Fear the Reaper”.
Hit the jump to see my takeaways from the read!
- Nicholas was 23/24 yrs old during his sniper stint in Afghanistan
- Tools of his trade – SR.-25 which he named Dirty Diana
- Mike Pemberton used a bolt action Win Mag. I think I would lean to the SR-25 – pretty much a mag guy
- Nicholas was Red green colorblind and thus failed his SEAL physical but thanks to a resourceful Army rep, was able to get around it and become a Ranger (helps when they trace the hidden characters for you)
- Dad told him quitting is addictive and it got easier and easier to do each time you made that decision – pretty much my mantra and why I don’t allow myself to quit or take the easy way out (within reason). As soon as my body realizes it can shut down early on a run… it will constantly beg for it in the future.
- Nicholas recalled CNN was reporting in 2009 that the US was sending Marines into Kandahar being first boots on ground since 2001…’cept he had just spent 2.5 months there
- First time he fired a weapon was 8. I believe Shooters are made at a young age, not born – my guess is the bleeding Liberals that want to strip people of their God-given rights for their own personal gain don’t understand their country is protected by a military that was predominantly taught when they were young.
- Cole Range is the Rangers version of the SEAL’s hell week – both would be a living hell and can embarrassingly admit that I would likely not be able to make it through – thank god there are warriors out there that are willing to sacrifice their mind and bodies so we can enjoy the freedoms of democracy.
- Nicholas’ 80+ team was whittled down to 12 during Cole Range
- The recollection of the Chechen sniper conjures up the same feelings that Marcus Luttrell narrated in his book Lone Survivor – defending against people trying to KILL you. – speaking of which they Lost Cpl Benjamin Kopp (a nice touch to remember him in the picture section of the book)
- Snap Bang Theory: one sec = 100 meters when trying to figure out the distance of a shooter
- This has to make you feel good as a sniper – the kill checklist for enemy snipers is snipers, then communications guy, medics and on down the line. It was clear the Chechen sniper had Nicholas high on his list based on the bullets that were landing around him.
- He recounted a fight so intense that a combat cameraman picked up a weapon which as a general rule they don’t do – there would be ZERO hesitation to do that if I had that occupation – screw that
- Pemberton dropped into a giant hole on a night mission. Luckily Nicholas had his hearing protection out or would not have heard his muffled calls. Pemberton thought he was walking into a doorway and managed to draw his handgun on way down. Broke his leg dropping 80 ft. (he thought was down 15). Combat Search and Rescue diver got him out and went down another 40 ft looking for rifle. Never hit bottom. The guys on the mission tried blowing it up with grenades, howitzer rounds and thermobarics – nothing touched it.
- The kinder gentler machine gun hand of The Reaper allowed him to placing rounds right past someone’s ear to get them to stop – likely not only stop them, but wishing they had brought another pair of underwear
- The Reaper was almost got killed by being lax about clearing the area of hostiles before taking up his sniper position
- The mission team photographed all the dead enemy combatants and their weapons to prove they had been engaged – appeasing the Congressional office chair jockeys.
- Nicholas always looked for the calm one while doing a raid. Those are the ones to focus on – especially if looking around a lot
- Man love Thursday. Last night of the work week apparently the goats in the area are too fast for the Taliban. These escapades are routinely spotted by drones. Our military generally gave them space but they ended up coming upon a large orgy… the Taliban died with Saran Wrap on their junk – Seems that it would be an effective PR campaign to drop pictures of these events to all the villages in the area
- The military effectively used dogs to detect explosives and take down the enemy. There was a heartfelt story about their platoon dog making it through a dangerous situation involving dodging through a gunship spraying the area to make it back to safety to his trainer. They all sounded pretty upset about the potential loss when the command came over to spray the area the dog had just been sent into.
- The Reaper was not appreciative of a cherry coming up to him and bringing up how many people he killed in front of his wife. I am sure they don’t want their family to worry about them when they are out and suspect.. well, probably guaranteed they have seen and had to do things that would be difficult for any military person to explain to their family. Hopefully there are other outlets they can go to get that out in the open and keep it from destroying their lives.