Seal Team Six is so secretive, the U.S. Navy won’t even confirm its existence. But it’s no secret that the elite squadron was behind last week’s takedown of the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden.
And let the stories flow. Former Navy Seal sniper Howard Wasdin, in his memoirs released Tuesday, describes the harrowing ops he undertook as part of the elite Seal Team Six squadron, including the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu that almost killed him. His book, SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper (St. Martin’s Press, with co-author Stephen Templin), reveals an intimate look at the rigorous training and perilous missions of the best of the Navy’s best.
All danger aside, Wasdin’s depiction of the job in his book is totally badass. Here are the 9 best reasons why.
Q&A: Howard Wasdin speaks to TIME about his book
1. Ops That Can Save the World
“Less than half a year after Casanova and I finished sniper school, we received a mission: Capture warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid and his lieutenants. … President Bill Clinton gave [us] the green light.”
2. A Little Friendly Camaraderie
“Each morning at the Delta range, we started out doing a cold-bore shot from 200 yards on a clay pigeon… Everybody who missed had to buy a case of beer. The FBI and Secret Service snipers bought a case of beer almost every day.”
3. Learning Skills They Don’t Teach at School
“More than learning how to pick a lock open, we learned how to blow the door off its hinges. We shot thousands of rounds every day. I was told that in one year, SEAL Team Six alone spent more money just on 9mm ammunition than the entire Marine Corps spent on all its ammunition.”
PHOTOS: See Navy Seals in action
4. Missions That Sound Like a Movie Script
“The assault [helicopter] landed almost on top of the target vehicle, and a sniper fired into the engine block, stopping it – the first helicopter takedown on a moving vehicle…. The bodyguard fired his AK-47 at the assault team, but a sniper shot the bodyguard in the leg, disabling him. Assaulters jumped out of the [helicopter], rushed the building, and captured Atto.”
5. Exotic Training
“Fortunately, in Sweden, only 50 yards away from the ice hole, they had a sauna – and beer. Also in Sweden, I experienced a snowcat for the first time – an armored personnel carrier on tracks that runs on the snow. Troops can shoot at the enemy from inside.”
6. An Unbeatable View
“On a High Altitude High Opening (HAHO), we might jump at 28,000 feet, fall five second, open our chutes, and glide maybe 40 miles to the landing zone… On a training jump over Arizona, both Phoenix and Tucson, over a hundred miles apart, looked barely separated.”
7. The Post-Mission Smorgasbord
“The last time we’d eaten was lunch the day before…we were starving to death. In the chow hall, even though it was before breakfast hours, they brought out an amazing meal…it seems like they fed us breakfast and dinner: quiche, grilled ham, buttermilk, pancakes with blueberry topping…steak…mashed potatoes, and hot apple pie.”
8. Hiding in Plain Sight
“After creating false tracks past our location, we stopped in the dip and blotted out our real insertion tracks. Next, we covered the vehicle with desert camouflage netting. We lay on the ground next to each other, facing opposite directions.”
9. Stunning Technology
“I flicked the safety off my sound-suppressed CAR-15 and held the red dot of my sight on his head—an easy shot. Over each of our CAR-15s, we had mounted Advanced Combat Optical Gunsights, a 1.5-power close-range scope… At night it dilated ten times more than my pupil, giving me extra light.”