His jour­ney as a SEAL

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. -

Eric Gre­it­ens has led an amaz­ing life by any stan­dard. He has done so in two ex­tremely dif­fer­ent roles: hu­man­i­tar­ian and Navy SEAL. His book takes you along on the jour­ney from young ide­al­is­tic col­lege stu­dent try­ing to make a dif­fer­ence in some of the worst hell­holes on this planet, to SEAL of­fi­cer try­ing to put down the bad men mak­ing those places hell­holes.

It will surely give you pause to con­sider the depths of hu­man cru­elty and the of­ten in­sur­mount­able chal­lenges fac­ing those who try to coun­ter­act this bar­bar­ity.

Mr. Gre­it­ens does a tremen­dous job of draw­ing you into the events he ex­pe­ri­enced, and the de­tails are vivid and com­pelling. He in­tro­duces you to peo­ple who were af­fected by war, famine and man’s in­hu­man­ity to man. His per­sonal re­la­tion­ships with these peo­ple form the back­drop for tales that will leave you won­der- ing how these hor­rors can be so per­va­sive. You travel along with a young Amer­i­can who could have spent his free time at Day­tona Beach par­ty­ing but in­stead chooses a life of ser­vice and then, af­ter col­lege, marches to the sound of gun­fire.

The chap­ter ti­tles read like a trip down the mem­ory lane of re­cent hu­man suf­fer­ing: Bos­nia, Rwanda, Bo­livia, Kenya, China and, of course, Iraq and Afghanistan. The young Mr. Gre­it­ens dives into them, hop­ing to change the world, but as he ma­tures, the scope and in­tran­si­gence of the prob­lems force him to con­front the dif­fi­culty of ac­tu­ally ef­fect­ing those changes. The book is called “The Heart and

In the spe­cial-op­er­a­tions com­mu­nity, each unit has a par­tic­u­lar mis­sion, and the SEALs spe­cial­ize in killing ter­ror­ists, as the re­cent mis­sion tak­ing down Osama bin Laden illustrated. This can pro­vide tremen­dous sat­is­fac­tion, but you can sense a frus­tra­tion in the sto­ries Mr. Gre­it­ens tells about how the mil­i­tary deals with civil­ians.

the Fist”; a more apt ti­tle might have been “The Heart Then the Fist.” The hu­man­i­tar­ian work he did may have led him to mil­i­tary ser­vice as a way to com­bat the evils he saw, but the two worlds re­mained dis­crete.

In the spe­cial-op­er­a­tions com­mu­nity, each unit has a par­ticu- lar mis­sion, and the SEALs spe­cial­ize in killing ter­ror­ists, as the re­cent mis­sion tak­ing down Osama bin Laden illustrated. This can pro­vide tremen­dous sat­is­fac­tion, but you can sense a frus­tra­tion in the sto­ries Mr. Gre­it­ens tells about how the mil­i­tary deals with civil­ians.

All too of­ten, the hu­man fac­tor falls by the way­side, and Mr. Gre­it­ens was not in a po­si­tion to do any­thing about that. Army spe­cial-op­er­a­tions forces (my back­ground) has a mis­sion that fuses ki­netic ac­tion with win­ning the hearts and minds of the lo­cal pop­u­lace. It is hard to avoid the thought that Mr. Gre­it­ens would have made an ex­cel­lent spe­cialoper­a­tions forces of­fi­cer and ef­fec­tively com­bined the two as­pects of his pro­fes­sional ca­reer.

As a walk through the life of some­one who has de­voted him­self to serv­ing oth­ers, this book is a great read. If you are look­ing for higher-level anal­y­sis of the causes of these hu­man tragedies and the dif­fi­cul­ties faced by those try­ing to help ame­lio­rate them, you will not find much.

Mr. Gre­it­ens saw first­hand how aid groups, transna­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the United Na­tions, and our mil­i­tary fail mis­er­ably in try­ing to work in har­mony, or even to work with­out harm­ing each other’s ef­forts. But he doesn’t dis­cuss these is­sues, and that lim­its the book’s scope to a per­sonal mem­oir. Nev­er­the­less, it is a per­sonal mem­oir of some­one who has lived serv­ing a higher pur­pose and de­serves high praise for what he has ac­com­plished. He con­tin­ues this to­day with his or­ga­ni­za­tion “The Mis­sion Con­tin­ues,” which awards fel­low­ships that al­low wounded and dis­abled vet­er­ans to serve their com­mu­ni­ties.

Jim Han­son served in 1st Spe­cial Forces Group and now writes for the mil­i­tary site black­five.net.

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