We bandy the title “hero” about to describe entertainers, sports figures, politicians, anyone who excels or surmounts significant adversity. The true definition, however, fits a much smaller number. No Easy Day ($16), the first-person account of the SEAL Team 6 raid on an Abbottabad compound that killed Osama bin Laden, breaks the traditional silence of a select group of heroes to tell what really happened in the darkness of that May morning, 2011.

Our in-depth review continues after the jump.

The SEALs are U.S. Special Operations Command assigned forces shrouded in mystery and anointed with special powers for direct action. The reality: teams consist of highly trained individuals (the initial training pipeline can take up to 2 years to learn precision shooting, scuba diving, parachuting, basic language and sundry other skills) who demonstrate varying levels of tactical and technical proficiency and coherence as a unit. In 20 years of active duty, your author has crossed paths with a range of operators from cowboys to consummate professionals, and, as it does with most organizations, the difference comes down to leadership. During my deployment to Somali in ’93, a group of poorly led and overextended SEALs had to be rescued from drowning after capsizing their small boat during an insert into Mogadishu. Operations in both Panama and Grenada experienced similar missteps. Teams that are well-led perform — bottom line. Over ten years of continuous combat operations overseas have weeded out the chaff. In the case of a special group of SEALs, colloquially know as SEAL Team 6, but formally Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), there is no deviation from superior performance. The best of the best, hand-picked and rigorously vetted DEVGRU operators represent the standard of Tier 1 forces in capability and professionalism.

Recently released from active duty and facing potential ostracism from his former colleagues for breaking ranks, author Mark Owen (a pen name) details not only the raid that gave the U.S. ultimate retribution for the attacks of September 11, but also much of the training that makes SEALs so capable and deadly. From BUDS (Basic Underwater Demolition School) to mission rehearsal, Owen offers enough insight enough to both whet the lay-person’s appetite and create an understanding of the level of physical and mental commitment required of this particular special operations unit — all without tipping classified information. He’s obviously touched a wellspring of interest: he’s not only knocked “Fifty Shades of Grey” off the top of Amazon’s best-seller list, but has also been served with threat of prosecution for violating non-disclosure agreements by the Defense Department’s top counsel. Regardless of where you sit on the political spectrum, No Easy Day promises to be a fascinating read.

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