The Operator: Firing the Shots That Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEL Team Warrior – Robert O’Neill (Scribner)
“Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward. And freedom will be defended,” – President George W. Bush.
And so it was…freedom, and by extension America, was defended, by countless brave heroes who stepped into the breach and took on that task. While most remain anonymous, some even in death; others have gone onto exemplify what it is to be hero, more often than not unwillingly be dragged into the spotlight for what they consider merely doing their job.
One such hero, was a seemingly ordinary guy from Butte, Montana who seemed to fill the bill when it came to the old saying, “great battles are only given to great warriors.” Robert “Rob” O’Neill seems to have a knack to being around when big things are about to happen. He counts among his 400 combat missions; the search and rescue mission trying track down “the lone survivor, Marcus Luttrell, the rescue mission for Maersk Alabama Captain Richard Phillips, the search for traitorous deserter Bowe Bergdahl and perhaps most famously the three shots he took to take out terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.
In, The Operator: Firing the Shots That Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEL Team Warrior O’Neill recounts his story in great detail, from growing up in Butte, to entering the Navy and pursuing entry into the Navy SEALs and through the brutal BUDS qualifying program. O’Neill is a perfect example of the non-Hollywood stereotype for a Special Forces warrior; if he was part of a lineup, you likely wouldn’t pick him as the badass operator. But, countless times it was O’Neill, who like many of his SF brothers in arms, rose to the challenges that were placed in front of him.
You can’t help but get a bit of an adrenaline rush as he details the mission to the Abbottabad, Pakistan compound where bin Laden was holed up. He details the lead up, training, preparations for any and all possibilities. Then the briefings, the flight in country and onto the actual mission; it didn’t take long for the unexpected to rear up, when one of the transport helicopters, the one O’Neill was riding in, dropped to the ground.
Has he makes his way into the compound, near the back of the line that made an entry into the multi-level structure that housed the world’s most wanted man, the tale becomes absolutely pulse pounding. Up and up they climbed, scattering as they went, until O’Neill finds himself second in line. The potential for suicide vests was front and center in the minds of these well trained warriors, so when the lead man dives on top of a pair of shrieking women, O’Neill is the clear for the ultimate target. There, with his youngest wife standing in front of him is Osama bin Laden and without hesitation, The Operator dispatches evil with three quick rounds to the head.
In the aftermath, O’Neill has come to wonder, was this the best or the worst day of his life? Despite all of the weight that this carries, he should rest assured, it was his best day. With all of his experience tackling difficult challenges he will move forward and do even bigger and better things.