Reading is really great, even for warriors.  Prepare for Man books.


5. The Oath: A Surgeon Under Fire

Khassan Baiev is one tough fellow.

Although he’s a medical doctor, and a good one at that, he easily could have been a Russian commando or a professional MMA star.  These seemingly mutually exclusive personality types are what most attract me to his character and have made THE OATH: A SURGEON UNDER FIRE something I had to pick up over and over in the last six years.

Both a sambo world champion and a black belt in Judo, Baiev was born in Chechnya in 1963.  Influenced by his father who was a Soviet Army veteran and a herbalist and his sisters, all nurses, Baiev turned his back on a promising sports career in Russia to follow his dream of becoming a doctor.  He eventually became a successful plastic surgeon. Although his motivation here was to help children with birth defects, defying his Muslim upbringing, he had a wildly successful  practice based around elective cosmetic surgery.

His resolve and commitment to his oath, the Hippocratic oath, were then tested beyond all comparable measures.  “Shit got real”, real quick, and Baiev found himself operating on anyone and anything put in front of him under incredibly harsh circumstances.  The Soviets (I just like calling them that) destroyed the hospital he was working from in Grozny and then in his home town of Alkhan Kala he founded a clinic out of his own pocket. He then quickly found himself to be the only doctor for the 80,000 residents of five villages, and over 10,000 refugees, as the war raged on.  At one point, this man performed 67 amputations and 8 brain surgeries all within a 48 hour period.

Built Hard.  Western surgeons perfect their rhinoplasty; Khassan Baiev perfected performing limb amputations via arm bar.

Textbook Russian amputation method.
Textbook Russian amputation procedure.

The Oath is a deep look into the Chechen conflict from a different point of view, something fresh and untainted by the Russian propaganda spin portraying every Chechen as a Kalashnikov toting terrorist.  It’s a very serious story about a man who did all he could and kept the one thing that matter most to him, his word.  That and amputations.

4.Inside Delta Force: The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit

These days the SEALs are the darlings of the liberal media and I get it. SEALs and their whole image is sexy: forever on a beach, jumping out of a plane or just generally hanging around Hollywood.  Naval Special Warfare has bedazzled the American public with books, websites, movies and more.

We get it: SEALs are “Special”.

So, why then am I so into 1st Special Operations Detachment Delta (or is it CAG, I mean ACE no, no I think it’s “The Unit”?)  Am I biased because of family history? Maybe.  Is it the lack of media coverage surrounding Delta? Could be. Is it that Chuck Norris is somehow involved in all this? Surely, but there must be more.  Perhaps the “more” has to do with some basic cultural differences that exist between the Navy and Army elite.

What are those cultural differences?  Well, first off let’s be clear, I was a Marine so I am talking out of my butt a little.  I have never been in a Tier one unit although I have friends who have/are. But that’s the point. Haney does a really good job of explaining his move from the 75th Ranger regiment to Delta and the entire selection process required.  As opposed to the SEAL’s “Hooyah!” team-building BUD/S gut-check style, selection for “The Unit” is modeled after Britain’s SAS.  Nobody tries to pump you up, yet equally nobody is trying to fail you.  You are just a number in the system; you’re a nobody until you’re a somebody; just some digits.  The training evolutions and challenges are designed to isolate the candidate and force him to tap deeply into his own reserves;  you haven’t slept for days, you’ve been ruck marching alone for 12 hours and you have no idea how far you have to go or how quickly; do you quit?

This kind of quite torture and the self-reflection it forces appeals to me big time and impresses me to no end.  Haney manages to get into your head while explaining what was going on in his.  It’s intense.

So, after I explain why Delta is so much more impressive…

3.SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper

Say “Seal Team Six” in a crowded bar and ten people will probably tell you they know a guy who knows a guy who is “with six“.  That is the popularity that has come to surround the once clandestine unit within the unit, SEAL TEAM Six.  With more merch available than a Justin Bieber tour and more media coverage than the Oscars, “Six” has become America’s go to glory boys and we’re all gorging on the tanned and toned freedom buffet.

Howard E. Wasdin is a former member of “Six” and a sniper to boot.  I like this man already. Part of the old breed, he goes into detail in SEAL TEAM SIX talking about both his time in training, selection and in combat. Wasdin graduated from BUD/S class 143 and what’s more, he attended Marine Scout Sniper school.


Aside from all the moto flying all over this book, what really did it for me was the fact that Wasdin was not only involved in “Operation Gothic Serpent” or “Black Hawk Down”, but was a damned hero.  One of only four navy SEALs involved in the operation, Wasdin received a Silver star for valor and a purple heart after being wounded three times and nearly losing his leg.

If you’ve read BLACK HAWK DOWN or even just seen the film, this book really expands on that bit of military/world history with a very keen and well detailed perspective courtesy of Wasdin and his co-author Templin.

What is most boner inducing however, is the fact that these days he owns and runs Absolute Precision Chiropractic.  So, he can align your spine, or he can turn your head into a canoe before you hear the round go off.

It’s the total package really.

2.Chosen Soldier: The Making of a Special Forces Warrior

Sometimes the balls are so plentiful, and the Testosterone so piquant, it’s next too impossible not to become pregnant with war-hammer triplets.  This is what happens to me every time I hear the name David Goggins, but it also happened when I read Dick Couch’s book, Chosen Soldier: The making of a Special Forces Warrior.

I here you asking yourself “How is it Dick Couch can so effortlessly have sex with my mom?”  Well, first of all, his name is Dick Couch.  Second, he’s a former Navy SEAL himself.  In this outing, Couch ventures balls deep (I can’t help it!) and reports on, in detail, what it takes to be an Army Green Beret.  Low and behold; it takes a lot.  These guys go into places you and I can’t find on Google maps and they spend a long time there teaching other people how to war.

Chosen Soldier is full of lingo and names and places that will resonate with someone who has either had experience in the SF community or has simply spent enough time in its periphery.   I grew up in the same house with a Green Beret and although much changes in the way of lingo, some things do not. In addition, Couch has a very particular style of writing which seems appropriate for the topic: MANLY.  However,  one review, here, choose to describe it as follows:

Macho prose full of praise for would-be warriors and the men who train them, seemingly designed to enthrall young men, boost recruitment and please the army.

This isn’t a baby shower; it’s the Green Berets. Act accordingly.

1.The Red Circle: My Life in the Navy SEAL Sniper Corps and How I Trained America’s Deadliest Marksmen

“Here he goes again, nut-hugging the SEALS.”

Yes and no. This time,  I’m mostly going to nut-hug the author, Brandon Webb.

The Red Circle is a pretty good book. But it isn’t on the top of this list because of that. It’s here more because as an individual, I just like Brandon Webb.  The guys life story is not what I think most people would guess if all they knew is that he was a Naval Special operator.  In addition to that I’m a member on SOFREP (comped, didn’t pay. Ha.) and I listen to the SOFREP podcast every week and have commented on some of the content they have posted over the last few years.

Who would have thought some freaking Canadian raised by hippies would have done all this, made it through BUD/S, gone to war and trained some of America’s most infamous marksmen?

Yes, he was born in the land of Pepporoni and Moose; Québécois and Trailer Park Boys, and raised by hippies to boot.  Thing is, it’s hard for a misfit to not like a misfit and Brandon Webb seems to surely be that.  After moving to the USA he spent years living on the family boat until his father kicked him off some place in the south pacific. Yes: his old man just kicked him off the boat in the south pacific.


After making his way back to the USA he eventually got into the Navy and after a few long years in the fleet, some of you have been there, he finally got his shot at BUD/S.

This is where I really started to connect.  Webb shows up at BUD/S and is immediately singled out as “that guy”.  As he explains in the book, in the teams, being “that guy” means you are the loser. Pure and simple. You’re the guy who can’t hump the weight or the guy who can’t account for his rounds or the guy who didn’t dummy cord his NVGs or the guy who can’t get up the rope.  You’re the weak link, the screw up, the one who the boys in charge are going to give hell to.  I’ve been this guy more than once and somehow I absolutely revel in it; nothing motivates me like people assuming I’m going to quit.  Webb seems to be the same way.  He got immediate and intensive negative attention from the training cadre at BUD/S that didn’t let up all through first phase.  Yet, he refused to DOR and ring the bell.  He pushed through and made it work. And that’s just the first quarter of the book.  Get it in print AND get the audio book as Webb did some cool stuff here and added commentary about himself, the book and some famous operators you likely will never hear any place else.

Read. War.

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