”One shot, one kill” is the creed of military snipers. For those in elite warfare units such as the U.S. Navy SEALs, the additional skill of being able to quietly infiltrate an enemy’s area undetected in order to deliver precision fire is mandatory. Working in proximity to where adversaries are operating, and being expected to survive in order to be deployed to additional firefights, is a given.
“American Sniper” is retired Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle’s gripping and dramatic account of how he became the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history, with more than 160 officially confirmed “kills” in the Iraq War from 2003 to 2009.
Mr. Kyle’s early life and military exploits read like a thrilling adventure movie. Growing up in Odessa, Texas, he hunted animals with a bolt-action 30-06 rifle and had a talent for “breaking” horses. While in college, Mr. Kyle became a proficient enough horseman to earn money as a professional bronco rodeo rider until he was injured when a bronco flipped over him. With an interest in becoming a ranch manager, he started out as a ranch hand and eventually made his way to Colorado. On a second try to join the Navy, a recruiter called to ask whether he was interested in becoming a SEAL.
Joining the Navy in February 1999, he began the rigorous physical training program required to become a SEAL. He ended up as one of the 10 percent of the starting class to graduate. After additional advanced training, he was selected to SEAL Team 3, based in Coronado, Calif., whose teams saw action in the Middle East.
Of particular interest is Mr. Kyle’s explanation of how the military services’ special operations units operate, with each having a specialty. The Army Rangers, for example, make up a large assault force, while SEALs operate as quick surgical strike forces against small but high-value targets, such as the unit from SEAL Team 6 that killed Osama bin Laden.
Mr. Kyle’s first assignment, during the 2002-03 winter, was with a SEAL mission that boarded and searched ships carrying illicit weaponry in the Persian Gulf off Iraq.
The book’s narrative turns dramatic when Operation Iraqi Freedom began in March 2003 and he became a gunner in forward-deployed SEAL scout missions that supported Army and Marine Corps units as they advanced rapidly throughout the country to defeat Saddam Hussein’s army. With opposition elements, including al Qaeda, beginning to mount an armed insurgency, Mr. Kyle’s sniper specialty became indispensable, especially in rural and urban warfare environments. In the great distances afforded by a rural countryside, his shots would run from 800 to 1,200 yards. In the proximity of urban combat, where he made most of his “kills,” the range of his shots was 200 to 400 feet.
Along with the regular military forces his units were supporting, their missions were required, he explains, because the insurgents were resisting the pacification of their areas, which was a precondition for stabilizing the conditions for infrastructure reconstruction and state building to commence. For a sniper, understanding mission objectives was crucial because he had to be careful to distinguish between insurgents and innocent bystanders.
“Make an unjustified shot and you could be charged with murder,” he writes.
Especially revealing is Mr. Kyle’s discussion of the nature of the insurgents he encountered. He described some of them as cowards who “routinely used drugs to stoke their courage. Without them, alone, they were nothing.” Others were “one part terrorists, another part criminal gangs,” and some of the most dangerous were the religiously extremist al Qaeda fighters.
His exploits earned him legendary stature. In the course of battles in some of the country’s most dangerous cities, such as Fallujah and Ramadi, when U.S. soldiers were fighting running battles in the streets against thousands of insurgents, he killed so many insurgents that the Ramadi insurgents singled him out. They put out a $20,000 bounty on his head and gave him the name “Al-Shaitan Ramadi” - “the Devil of Ramadi.”
His most legendary shot was outside Sadr City in 2008 when he spotted an insurgent with a rocket launcher near an Army convoy. The distance of 2,100 yards was too far for his scope to “even dial up the shooting solution,” but he killed the insurgent anyway with a shot from his .338 rifle.
For his valor in battle, he received two Silver Stars and five Bronze Medals.
One of the book’s dramatic leitmotifs involves Mr. Kyles’ marriage to his wife, Taya. Like many other military wives, she braved through the birth and early lives of their two children as well as tensions in their relationship while he was overseas, including his numerous injuries and various forms of post-traumatic stress disorder after his periodic returns from his dangerous deployments in Iraq. Yet their love for each other, her inner strength and their enduring religious faith were strong enough to sustain their marriage.
After leaving the Navy in 2009, he returned to his native Texas and established Craft International, a firm that provides military and law enforcement sniper training as well as private security protection. He volunteers his time with wounded-warrior foundations.
• Joshua Sinai is an associate professor for research, specializing in counterterrorism studies, at a Virginia Tech center in Arlington.
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AMERICAN SNIPER: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF THE MOST LETHAL SNIPER IN U.S. MILITARY HISTORY
By Chris Kyle with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice
William Morrow, $26.99, 400 pages
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The book I chose for the summative essay assignment was “American Sniper” by Chris Kyle. This book is about the courageous and thrilling memoir of the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history. With over 100 documented kills during his four tours of duty, Chris Kyle has shed light on the dangerous brave life of a sniper. During his four tours of duty in the Iraq war he has come close to death and saved countless lives. He changed a lot from just being a country boy and became what he describes as a man. The war really changed his perspective on his civilian life. The significance of the Iraq war was to help free the Iraqi civilians of their dictator, Saddam Hussein, and the radical Islamic insurgents who terrorized the Iraqi’s after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
The time period this book is set in is right before 9/11 and during the Iraq war (1999-2009). As he grows up in Odessa, Texas he grow interested into being a ranch manager. By becoming a ranch hand he found himself in the state of Colorado where he enlisted for the Navy a second time. He joined the Navy in February 1999 and trained to be a Navy SEAL in Coronado, Calif. The rugged challenging training he had to go through to become a Navy SEAL really showed him that it isn’t easy being a solider and that he had to work extremely hard and not give into the powerful temptation of quitting. The tough training conditions and activities really molded him into one of the best U.S. sniper of all time. Nothing he could have imagined would come close to the gruesome scarring experience of war. After serving in the war torn country of Iraq you come out a different person and as he puts it “Continually going to war, you gravitate to the blackest parts of existence.”
Chris Kyle grew up in small towns in north-central Texas. Having loved the ranch lifestyle he became a professional bronco rodeo rider. Then at the end of his freshman year at TSU a bronco flipped onto him breaking his ribs, dislocating his shoulder, a bruised lung and kidney ending his career. After being rejected before from the Marines, he enlisted for the Navy and was turned down at first but then received an unexpected call from the recruiter little did he know that call would change his life forever. After surviving and passing all of the training needed to become a SEAL, Chris was placed in SEAL Team 3 along with his friends from training, Marc Lee and Ryan Jobs. He married Taya and had a son, they met while he was off base. He finished his 10 years of military service as a CPO and receiving a silver and bronze stars as well as other awards for his contributions as well as over 100 kills.
Chris received his nick name of “The Devil or Ramadi” given to him by the insurgents when he was deployed there. They knew he was a deadly sniper and were terrified of him up to the point of placing an $80,000 bounty on him. In Sadr City he made a 1.9 km shot and killed a rocket launcher holding insurgent. He deployed to locations such as Fallujah, Baghdad, and Ramadi. “Just then, an RPG hit the outside wall right near me. Some of the building smashed into my face, giving me a couple of beauty marks and temporary tattoos courtesy of the insurgency.” He describes his close encounter with death in Baghdad after getting off the phone with his wife. “Taya had turned on the television…I saw smoke pouring out of the World Trade Center in New York…an airplane flew right into the side of the second tower.” He now describes the horrible time when he found out the depressing news of the terrorist attack on the U.S.
If I were to rate this book on a scale from 1-10, this book would defiantly earn a 10. This book for me was extremely inspiring how he never gave up even when given the chance, even when all the odds were stacked against him he stayed strong and continued on. He really explained the life of a soldier, and not the usual way we look at soldiers but showed a different side to them, one only they could fully understand. As well as the fact that he let his wife write a few pages here and there explaining the difficulties of being a SEAL’s wife really showed that he wanted the reader to fully understand a SEAL’s life and so on.
The only way you would really enjoy reading this book would be if you like reading war books and have an interest in the military. This book is a great book as well if you are looking for a book that you will absolutely not want to put down it and he explains everything that is going on with vivid details. Another pro to this book is that he transitions from all the events in an orderly way so you will never get lost and have to re-read. I do not dislike any aspect of this story at all, personally it was put together just right to create an exceptionally great war memoir.
Overall this book was truly one of my favorite war books I have ever read. It has been crafted carefully by a man who has been through a lot in his life and has stayed strong through the worst times and has enjoyed the best times of his life. Though Chris is no longer with us I am positively sure he would have continued to be the great man that he was, and his legacy will always live on. Christopher Scott Kyle truly was the most lethal U.S. sniper.