Battleland

A (Former) SEAL Speaks Out…About (Former) SEALs Speaking Out

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Navy photo / MCS 2nd Class William S. Parker

Navy SEALs training in July along Virginia's Atlantic coast.

No Easy Day is different.

SEAL Team Six operators have, until now, always been very tight-lipped about current operations. Yes, there have been revealing books about SEAL Team Six — Rogue Warrior and Inside SEAL Team Six are two. The main difference between them and Mark Owen’s No Easy Day, is that those other stories have always been located deep in the past. There were no issues regarding security violations and no immediate consequences to other teammates.

No Easy Day violates both areas.

In the SEAL community, Owen is known as an “operator’s operator” (a term of endearment and respect), and this is why most active-duty SEALs I’ve spoken with are so shocked. They feel a sense of betrayal and frustration by the release of his book.

Consequences

Many in the public don’t understand the circumstances behind a book like this, and how it affects our small SEAL community. Citizens not in-the-know are scratching their heads wondering why so many SEALs are upset. Timing is everything.

The quick release of this book has a TMZ feel to it, and it has caused serious consequences inside the SEAL community.

The impact on the SEALs is myriad. The book tarnishes the SEAL community’s reputation inside U.S. Special Operations Command. The President himself has to wonder: “Will one of them write a book if I send them on this sensitive mission?”

Some SEALs at ST6 are being held back from mission deployment to participate in internal investigations. There is also the Threat Chain. Anyone loosely tied to Owen is put in jeopardy. Public record searches and open-source intelligence collection will lead to other SEALs’ identities.

It has created such a backlash that retired and former SEALs are afraid to speak to media. I personally would be running for cover if I weren’t running a site that reports on Spec Ops.

Motives

It is clear to me that Penguin, the publisher, and author Owen — a pseudonym — rushed the book into print and disregarded a Department of Defense review with one goal in mind: they wanted to be first to market.

There’s nothing wrong with making money, but where do you draw the ethical line in the sand? If Owen had a momentary lack of judgment, then Penguin should have stepped up and advised him to get a review. Instead they were seemingly blinded by greed, and the desire to finish first.

Exemplary Leadership

Most SEALs on active duty don’t like the over-exposure, but it has been thrust on the community since the 90’s.

When I was a new guy at SEAL Team 3, I was sent to Army parachute-rigger school. Upon return, my first assignment was not Team related. Instead, I was told to rig up two boats with parachutes because Spike Lee was making a video about the SEALs.

Until the No Easy Day tipping point, Hollywood celebs, donors, and professional athletic teams had full access. It has always been a point of frustration from the enlisted SEAL ranks. That’s why senior SEAL leadership is currently in a Catch-22.

The SEALs in the movie Act of Valor were ordered to participate. Discovery Channel’s BUD/S Class 234, Act of Valor, and the video game US SOCOM Navy SEALs were all signed off by senior leadership. This PR blitz has created a consumer market where a SEAL with a hot topic can sell it for seven figures.

What The Future Holds

It’s time for everyone, including myself, to look in the mirror. We don’t live in the 1960’s. Things are different in today’s all-access media. The Internet and social media create new challenges for leadership to think about. One “tweet” about ST6 can go viral around the world in seconds.

Our own version of the Exxon Valdez will continue to contaminate the water well into 2013. It’s not an overnight fix. More SEAL movies, ST6 members starring in video games, and at least one book from an Act of Valor cast member are due out soon.

However, the media and Hollywood will eventually be wishing for the good ol’ days, as they will have zero access for the foreseeable future, as the result of Owen’s book.

Mark Owen may have saved the SEALs from themselves. This book will drive future policy changes that are bound to reduce, or possibly eliminate, the wider world’s access to the SEALs and their missions.

Maybe that means SEALs will be able to go back to being quiet professionals again.

Brandon Webb is a former Navy SEAL and editor of SOFREP.com

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