Tuesday, January 17, 2012

American Sniper

Just finished reading Chris Kyle's American Sniper ( with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice.) 

Kyle, a Navy SEAL, was, when the book was written, the "most lethal" sniper in U.S. military history, somewhere around 160 confirmed kills, and probably more than that, since those numbers tend to be on the conservative side. Middle East, mostly urban Iraq, a couple of really long shots past two thousand meters.

Set 'em up, knock 'em down. 

Kyle is a self-effacing teller when it comes to credit in his war stories–he lauds the Army and Marines–talks about how lucky he was. Says he wasn't the best shot out there, just in the right place at the right time to see a lot of action.

He downplays them, but he won multiple silver and bronze stars, along with other ribbons, so he's a certified hero, no question.

SEALs go through heavy-duty training, and we get all that, along with his early background. Essentially, he was a Texas cowboy, a real working one and a rodeo rider before he went into the military, a self-confessed redneck who liked to brawl and shoot, and plenty of both in his memoir. He's a tough guy, and he got chewed on pretty good along the way but sucked it up. He didn't want to be left behind because of injuries, and he couldn't wait to get into the thick of things. Broke his foot during his training and didn't tell anybody so they wouldn't make him wait until the next class. 

You don't become a SEAL because you want to push paper as a REMF.

Absolutely a warrior, this guy. 

Kyle is the man you want on the wall when the incoming shit arrives. He's not the guy you want to accidentally bump into having a beer down at the local pub. Nor, I would think, as a neighbor who has had a couple too many at the block barbecue. 

(Kyle claims to have punched out former UDT (pre-SEAL units) and ex-Governor Jesse Ventura in a SEAL hangout bar in Colorado in 2006 when Ventura supposedly bad-mouthed the troops. Ventura says it never happened. One of a couple of "untrue lies," about him, he says. As opposed, I guess, to a "true lie ... ?"

Somebody needs to look up the definition ...

Supposedly there were witnesses to this altercation, but so far, they haven't stepped up to confirm or deny anything in public ...)

It's a warts-and-all portrait, the book, and Kyle's wife puts in her thoughts from time-to-time, which is an interesting counterpoint. God, family, country, that was Kyle, but in reverse–he was a SEAL first, then a husband and father, and God got what was left over. Great warrior. Lousy husband and father until he mustered out. He admits it, and there is a sense of that being the tip of an iceberg. Some PTSD that is mostly glossed-over, and I'd expect that. Going from a shooting war to the neighborhood Safeway overnight has got to be a major disconnect.

These days, Kyle runs a sniper school and private protection service, Craft International. 
Have a look at the T-shirt:

There is an "And then I killed ... " flow to the story once you get to the shooting war, and an offhand shrug as to the doing of that. He was paid to shoot people, that's what he did. He enjoyed the hell out of it. No regrets, and the only time there's a hint of compassion in his telling is when he passes up a shot at a kid sent to fetch an RPG launcher. Other than that, he'd plink anybody who fit the ROE–rules of engagement–and one gets the feeling that sometimes those rules were, um, not altogether observed. 

There's a lot of between-the-lines stuff here that seems to me to be way hairier than what is actually told, and what he says is bad enough. 

It's an interesting read, and a way to get a feel for how top-of-the-line troops think and function in a war zone, and what it costs them there, and when they come home.

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