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The Loudest "Quiet Professionals" Start Screaming: News Coverage

Our nation doesn’t understand its heroes. Just ask Marcus Luttrell (from Lone Survivor):

“It’s been an insidious progression, the criticisms of the U.S. Armed Forces from politicians and from the liberal media, which knows nothing of combat, nothing of our training...”

“Knows nothing”? Maybe that was true when Luttrell co-wrote Lone Survivor, but as we wrote in “The Loudest "Quiet Professionals" Start Screaming: Hollywood Edition” and “The Political Navy SEAL” , the media can’t get enough of SEALs. These “quiet professionals” have become stars, especially in the “mainstream media” (though we hate that term).

60 Minutes has led the charge on glorifying SEALs. In the last few years, On V favorite Scott Pelley has done two stories about SEALs. In the first, he--like every other reporter on the planet--reported on the Osama bin Laden raid. However, he followed this story with another in-depth piece about this SEAL rescue. Lara Logan has gotten in on the action too. And 60 Minutes did a story on Luttrell. None were critical of SEALs at all.

Then there is the whole sub-genre of SEAL articles just about killing Osama bin Laden. Esquire featured the most notorious version with “The Shooter”, with some odd sections about why “the shooter” doesn’t have health care. (Another “shooter” also recently outed himself.) ABC News also featured another SEAL explaining why they shot Osama on sight. Vanity Fair’s Mark Bowden published an entire book on the subject, and compared his writing to Mark Owen’s book No Easy Day. Peter Bergen questioned “The Shooter”’s accuracy as well on CNN. Another “shooter” also recently outed himself, again no one can really prove if he did or didn’t do the job. He also gave a talk last year at a Republican fundraiser.

But what if you prefer reading and avoiding the mainstream media? How will you ever find books about the Navy SEALs? You won’t. The SEALs are just too damn secretive.

Unless, of course, the Navy grants access to a photographer. Take this contradictory passage from an article by NBC News. The article opens with the lines, “Since the U.S. Navy began its special Sea, Air, Land Teams, commonly known as the U.S. Navy SEALs, in 1962, little about them has been made public. That was on purpose.” Then a few paragraphs later...

“Mathieson has spent the last six years photographing and researching the SEALs. He recently published a definitive book on the SEALS with David Gatley titled, United States Naval Special Warfare/U.S. Navy SEALs. This is not an outsider’s peek inside the SEALs. Rather, Mathieson was given unique access to the inner workings of the secretive group because the Navy blessed his project.

Not so secretive, is it? It’s okay, the Washington Times used almost the exact same words to describe Mathieson’s book. (As if they read the same press release...) (H/T to Abu Muqawama.)

If you need more reading, USA Today gives you seven more options on books by SEALs recently released, including...

- Damn Few: Making the Modern SEAL Warrior by Rorke Denver

- SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper by Howard E. Wasdin

- Inside SEAL Team Six: My Life and Missions With America’s Elite Warriors by Don Man

- Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team SIX Operator Adam Brown by Eric Blehm

- Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson

- The Red Circle: My Life in the Navy SEAL Sniper Corps and How I Trained America’s Deadliest Marksmen by Brandon Webb

And they didn’t even include A Captain’s Duty, American Sniper, SEAL Target Geronimo or Luttrell’s second book Service.

Our point isn’t that Navy SEALs aren’t quiet professionals. The vast, vast majority are; they go about their service without writing about it, even after they get out.

Some SEALs, though, are ruining that for the rest.

six comments

Finally decided to comment after years of lurking.

I’ve kept up with all of the posts on the “Political Navy SEAL.” I find it astonishing that SEALs tend to have largest group of loudmouths in the SOCOM community. I tried looking up Rangers, Deltas, and Green Berets, but I could not find a whole lot of publicized remarks or loud rants, etc.

So I’m wondering, why Navy SEALs in particular? A buddy of mine mentioned that it was likely because of how the media portrays them and therefore the organization attracts more individuals who like to bask in the limelight. But there sure have been a hell of a lot of movies, books, and TV shows in the past 25 years that have portrayed Rangers, Deltas, and SFs in very a good light (a light made even more radiant and beautiful by Michael Bay explosions and amazing Schwarzenegger one-liners).

So what’s the deal?

Maybe just an anomaly that can’t be explained? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

What’s your guys’ take? Something tells me y’all may have already tried answering this… I just can’t seem to find the blog post.

Maybe this should be looked at from a different angle. Global special forces units ridiculously over-classify everything they do with their affectations for secrecy, when really very little of what they do jeopardises either national security or future operations (though some stuff, especially cross-border operations, certainly deserves classification). Let the “operators” write. What are they going to say? Selection was uncomfortable, but lots of people make it through. Training was fun, but mostly variations on light infantry tactics, operations suffered from some staff officer’s meddling, and there’s a tight bond with your colleagues, except the ones who are jerks.

The people we should all be happy are not publishing tell-alls are the NORAD staff planners, EW technicians, procurement contracting clerks and systems administrators.


That was a very astute comment. I never heard it put quite so clearly and cogently. Good job.

My opinion on why the SEALs are such comparative big mouths is that is what the community as a whole wants, publicity, the more the better. The high ups want it because it means more money, personnel and power. The guys low down want it means more money, more fun training, more fun missions and, let this not be underestimated, more swooning chicks.

Looks like you’ve got a type in one of the links:

“explaining why they shot Obama…”

Agree with F’s post. All of those books that were listed above sounded like they would be re-hashes of selection and the camaraderie of team life. Nothing new.

And yes, I agree with Carl and think the whole thing is about chicks.

@ Don – Thanks for the heads up on the typo…

“Training was fun, but mostly variations on light infantry tactics”

It’s a curious thing; comments I’ve heard about SEAL on-ground tactics indicated their primary tactic is mass. Mass of men kicking doors of the same house, mass of bullets in the air. The little of what I saw them doing as demo for a camera (a breaking contact drill, for example) did fit with this.
I haven’t heard anything similar about other SF organisations.

In fact, what I heard about other SF units’ tactics was much more about the classic field craft skills (anything from training the sense of smell for night actions to extreme tests of patience and self-discipline).