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The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior Paperback – April 3, 2018
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In The Operator, Robert O’Neill describes his idyllic childhood in Butte, Montana; his impulsive decision to join the SEALs; the arduous evaluation and training process; and the even tougher gauntlet he had to run to join the SEALs’ most elite unit. After officially becoming a SEAL, O’Neill would spend more than a decade in the most intense counterterror effort in US history. For extended periods, not a night passed without him and his small team recording multiple enemy kills—and though he was lucky enough to survive, several of the SEALs he’d trained with and fought beside never made it home.
“Impossible to put down…The Operator is unique, surprising, a kind of counternarrative, and certainly the other half of the story of one of the world’s most famous military operations…In the larger sense, this book is about…how to be human while in the very same moment dealing with death, destruction, combat” (Doug Stanton, New York Times bestselling author). O’Neill describes the nonstop action of his deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, evokes the black humor of years-long combat, brings to vivid life the lethal efficiency of the military’s most selective units, and reveals details of the most celebrated terrorist takedown in history. This is “a riveting, unvarnished, and wholly unforgettable portrait of America’s most storied commandos at war” (Joby Warrick).
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“A jaw-dropping, fast-paced account.”
—New York Post
"Leaves a lump in the reader's throat . . . The Operator is really a book about life."
"Along the way, the reader learns much about the elite force the nation relies on to undertake often-dangerous covert missions . . . O'Neill, the author, exhibits skills in blending humor with pathos [as he describes] the intricacies of becoming a SEAL and relating the toll a SEAL's life takes on his family."
"O'Neill absorbingly relates the 2011 attack on bin Laden's Pakistan compound . . . [Other] fascinating stories include his role in the successful 2009 mission to free Capt. Richard Phillips from Somali pirates, and those of too many fellow SEALs who were killed in battle. Fans of battlefield narratives, such as Michael Golembesky's Level Zero Heroes, will relish this gripping perspective on 21st-century warfare."
“A riveting, unvarnished and wholly unforgettable portrait of America’s most storied commandos at war."
—Joby Warrick, author of Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction
About the Author
O’Neill helped cofound Your Grateful Nation, an organization committed to transitioning Special Operations veterans into their next successful career. You can find him at RobertJONeill.com.
- Publisher : Scribner; Reprint edition (April 3, 2018)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1501145045
- ISBN-13 : 978-1501145049
- Item Weight : 10.9 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.92 x 8.38 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #17,170 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United States on May 16, 2017
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Had my timing in the service been different, I would have loved the opportunity to have had the chance to go through BUDS! Also all I can do, at this point, is take Rob at his word for everything in the book (not being there myself). However, if what he related about his teammates reaction to him being the individual who killed UBL is accurate, I found it the one part of the book that was actually depressing. When one spends as many years, as Rob did, fighting alongside his teammates they become your family and, while “family” members may have disagreements from time to time, they are still family. If his portrayal of what happened is accurate than because the circumstances of what happened were, in large part, beyond Rob’s control the blame (if any) is not Rob’s but rather certain individuals (or more accurately individual) that should have made certain that no one person was singled out/recognized for the shooting of UBL!
It could easily have been another member of the team that eliminated UBL and yet had it been I believe the circumstances (and ultimate recognition) would have been the same, just directed at some other individual!
Finally to reiterate one more time, this book is a GREAT read and I highly recommend it!!
But - to the author’s credit - the last section of this book shows vulnerability and describes his struggles at the end of his career and the human suffering that is associated to be in combat and see your friends die.
Overall it is a good and easy read and I gained much respect for the author - for his professionalism and humanity.
After BUDs he recounts his very busy career in the SEAL teams. He was selected for SEAL Team 6 and passed that course putting him into the most elite unit in the Navy. He recounts his combat deployments culminating in the mission that killed Bin Laden.
Two things occur to me when I read of his exploits. First off it is uncanny how many of the high profile missions that even a casual observer of military operations in the 21st century , that this man was involved in . The hunt of Lone Survivor Marcus Luttrell, the search for Bowe Bergdahl, the killing of the pirates that were holding Captain Phillips and of course the mission that killed Bin Laden. My connection with the military is over 23 years old (retired in 94) so it's not like I track this stuff every day, but just being in the culture you aware of these high profile missions and it is remarkable that he was on so many of them. It points out what a small subset of Americans have borne the brunt of the war on terror. As Churchill said "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few".
Second off from this book I like this guy. He seems humble, he has great sense of humor and gives good advice. From the little I have read about him, it seems as though people on the teams did not like how he handled the post mission attention. He eludes to this in the final chapter and his decision to leave the Navy 4 years short of retirement. (Another reason to switch the military to a 401K system). I don't know if his teammates opprobrium was justified, I've seen him on FOX news now and then but never really sat and listened to him. Like I said , from this book he seems like a solid guy. He was critisized by "cashing in" on his part in the mission. Yet no one blinks an eye when 3 or 4 star generals and admirals retire from the service and go straight to vice president jobs with defense contractors. Why are officers allowed to "cash in" but not an enlisted guy who arguably achieved one of the most public war on terror milestones? I say kudos to him.
Good quick read, the editing was pretty good, once or twice he lost continuity and could have explained things a little better but for the most part, well written, interesting book from a likable heroic guy.
Top reviews from other countries
I think the greatest shortcomming in this book is how casual and meaningless Rob made it sound to enter and work at ST6, this removes too much credibility to the book, cause its obvious he is not telling us the greatest and more interesting parts of his story, hence it feels again as...propaganda.
The book only gets interesting in 3 parts: BUDS, Captain Philips rescue (barely) and the Abotabad raid, the rest leaves you with an uncomfortable incomplete feeling.
I was hesitant to buy the book thinking perhaps that I’d already “heard it” however the dozens of public appearances I’ve creeped on social media don’t come close to telling the broader story in the same manner that the book does.
I think of how many people have been saved from having to make decisions like “jump or burn” because these guys were, are and will be out there being amazing into eternity. This book was an excellent read and whether you’re looking for a few insights on what to expect at BUDS or are seeking inspiration to go out and enjoy some freedom- it will not disappoint.
The Operator is a very personal story told in a breezy, "This happened", casual and honest way. Throughout, Rob manages to convey, with great humour and a lot of introspection, the oftentimes comical circumstances that led him to join the Navy and begin the long journey that eventually led to him being on the Team that took down Osama Bin Laden in a chilling narrative that is superbly presented. Throughout, Rob manages to remind the reader that it is The Teams, working together, calling on their extensive training, executing the plan, adapting to the situations that arise, that accomplish unimaginable results that all deserve credit for.
In the end, you feel like you know the Rob O'Neill family, which includes not just his blood relatives, but the men & women that touched Rob throughout his career that helped shape him into a man who served his country so well, often under extraordinary circumstances.
All that, and there is a strong feeling that if you ran into him in an airport somewhere, you might just want to sit down with him and have a beer.
A great story, well told.
Reviewed in Italy 🇮🇹 on May 31, 2022