I haven’t been reading as much as I usually do this week. Not in the area of military forces anyway. I’m continuing to read SBS: The Inside Story of the Special Boat Service which I covered partly with the post about the first SBS mission.
One book that I did read recently though was Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell, the story being quite well-known for those with an interest in the military.
From the back of the Lone Survivor book:
In June 2005 four US Navy SEALs left their base in Afghanistan for the Pakistani border. Their mission was to capture or kill a notorious al-Qaeda leader known to be ensconced in a Taliban stronghold surrounded by a small but heavily armed force. Less than twenty-four hours later, only one of those Navy SEALs was alive.
This is the story of team leader Marcus Luttrell and the four desperate days he spent fighting the al-Qaeda assassins sent to finish him off. It is also the story of the men who fought ferociously beside him until he was the last one left.
It is one of the most powerful narratives ever written about modern warfare.
They weren’t wrong.
Lone Survivor Training
Now what with having passed Royal Marines training I could say I’ve experienced a few beastings. One of the best parts of the book I thought was his stories about going through BUD/S. It brought back the fond (and not so fond) memories of training, and actually motivated me to start smashing my daily gym sessions harder than I currently have been.
From the book:
By 0600 I had counted more than 450 push-ups. And there were more, I just couldn’t count anymore. I’d also done more than fifty sit-ups. We were ordered from one exercise to another. Guys who were judged to be slacking were ordered to throw in a set of flutter kicks.
The result of this was pure chaos. Some guys couldn’t keep up, others were doing push-ups when they’d been ordered to do sit-ups, men were falling, hitting the ground facedown. In the end, half of us didn’t know where the hell we were or what we were supposed to be doing.
I just kept going, doing my absolute best, through the roars of abuse and the flying spray of the power hoses: push-ups, sit-ups, screw-ups. It was now all the same to me. Every muscle in my body ached to hell, especially those in my stomach and arms.
Luttrell explains the whole story, from BUD/S training, to heading to Afghan, to the whole battle and on to today, the aftermath and how he is dealing with what happened and how his life has changed.
The soldiers are under extreme pressure, buried in stress and danger. The government now thinks it’s OK to criminally charge some of them for doing their jobs.
The SEALs in Afghanistan
Goat herders discovered the patrol on top of a mountain. Now these were not fighting Taliban men but definitely on the Taliban’s side, meaning they would alert the Taliban asap. They could have killed them; they could have let them go. Letting them go cost the lives of three of the SEALs.
Luttrell explains his feelings on this situation. He explains how the situation they, and many other soldiers face, is so hard. And he’s right.
From the book:
The truth is, in this kind of terrorist/insurgent warfare, no one can tell who’s a civilian and who’s not. So what’s the point in framing rules that cannot be comprehensively carried out by anyone? Rules that are unworkable, because half the time no one knows who the goddamned enemy is, and by the time you find out, it might be too late to save your own life. Making sense of ROEs in real-time situations is almost impossible.
Lone Survivor Book or Film? Which is Better?
I was halfway through the book when I decided I had to watch the film. I had both but books are always better. The books of events give you a much deeper insight in to the authors’ feelings and motivations behind his actions. Marcus shares the pain he feels during the battle as he loses the Seals by his side.
The film was fucking excellent and without knowing the full ending of the story before I watched it. I knew that an Afghan farmer helped him but not how much.
I was expecting maybe he provided a distraction or gave Marcus directions to safety. What I wasn’t expecting was what actually happened. I won’t reveal it all here in case you haven’t seen it and want to watch it. But I suggest you do watch it if you haven’t, I would also suggest to read the book first.
I think by reading Lone Survivor first you can get the whole story, from start to finish, details, feelings etc, before heading on to the film and watching the action version of it basically.
And Now? All These Years Later?
Mohammed is still alive. He is the farmer who helped Marcus. The Taliban threatened Mohammed and his family but he is a true hero who put others before himself in a way some people could never understand, let alone do themselves. He is still alive years after the event. That’s good to hear.
Marcus lied according to some reports, he exaggerated his story for the book. I’m not here to judge if it’s correct or not, I wasn’t there and neither was anyone who claims he lies.
Marcus was on his own on that mountain so only he will know the truth. The human memory is fallible, he could swear he is telling the truth and still be wrong. He could be 100% correct.
If you have watched the film or read the book, what did you think about it? Did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments. If you haven’t then what are you waiting for?