When the Navy sends their elite, they send the SEALs. When the SEALs send their elite, they send SEAL Team Six—a secret unit made up of the finest soldiers in the country, if not the world. This is the dramatic tale of how Howard Wasdin overcame a tough childhood to live his dream and enter the exciting and dangerous world of Navy SEALS and Special Forces snipers.
His training began with his selection for Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S)—the toughest and longest military training in the world. After graduating, Wasdin saw combat in Operation Desert Storm as a member of SEAL Team Two. But he was driven to be the best of the best—he wanted to join the legendary SEAL Team Six, and at long last he reached his goal and became one of the best snipers on the planet.
Soon he was fighting for his life in Africa, hunting the Somalian warlord Aidid. But the mission fell apart when his small band of soldiers found themselves cut off from help and desperately trying to rescue downed comrades during a routine mission. The Battle of Mogadishu, as it become known, left 18 American soldiers dead and 73 wounded.
This is Howard Wasdin's story of overcoming numerous obstacles to become an elite American warrior.
Related collections and offers
About the Author
HOWARD E. WASDIN graduated with BUD/S Class 143. He was awarded the Silver Star in the Battle of Mogadishu. He is the author of the bestseller SEAL TEAM SIX. STEPHEN TEMPLIN completed Hell Week, qualified as a pistol and rifle expert, and blew up things during Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training. He is now an associate professor at Meio University in Japan and co-author of SEAL TEAM SIX.
DR. HOWARD E. WASDIN graduated with BUD/S Class 143. After the Battle of Mogadishu, where he was awarded the Silver Star, Wasdin medically retired from the Navy in November, 1995, after 12 years of service. He lives in Georgia. He is the co-author of Seal Team Six, with Stephen Templin.
STEPHEN TEMPLIN completed Hell Week, qualified as a pistol and rifle expert, and blew up things during Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training. He is now an associate professor at Meio University in Japan. He is the co-author of Seal Team Six, with Dr. Howard E. Wasdin.
Read an Excerpt
I Am a Seal Team Six Warrior
Memoirs of an American Soldier
By Howard E. Wasdin, Stephen Templin
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2012 Howard E. Wasdin and Stephen Templin
All rights reserved.
Reach Out and Touch Someone
When the U.S. Navy sends their elite, they send the SEALs. When the SEALs send their elite, they send SEAL Team Six. It's the navy's equivalent to the army's Delta Force. Its job is to fight terrorism and armed rebellion, often secretly.
I was a sniper for SEAL Team Six.
This is the first time a SEAL Team Six sniper's story has been told. My story.
* * *
In the morning darkness of September 18, 1993, in Mogadishu, Somalia, another SEAL and I crept over a wall and up to the top of a six-story tower. Below us, people were waking up. Men, women, and children relieved themselves in the streets. I smelled the morning fires, fueled by dried animal dung. The fires heated the little food the Somalis had. The warlord who ruled this part of the city, Mohamed Farah Aidid, controlled the population by controlling the food supply. Every time I saw a starving child, I blamed Aidid.
Although the middle of a city may not seem the logical place for navy commandos, SEALs are trained to fight anywhere. That's where the name comes from: SEa, Air and Land. On many operations, we were in all three: We'd parachute in, complete our task on land, and make our way back on water.
From the tower we watched what looked like a large garage with no roof. It was a vehicle body shop. Surrounding it was a city of despair. Somalis trudged along with their heads and shoulders lowered. Helplessness dimmed their faces, and starvation pulled the skin tight across their bones. This "better" part of town had multilevel, concrete buildings instead of the tin and wooden lean-to sheds that dominated most of the city and countryside. Nevertheless, the smell of human waste and death filled the air.
I played different scenarios over in my mind: one enemy popping out at one location, then another popping up at another location, and so on. I would acquire, aim, and even do a simulated trigger pull, going through my rehearsed breathing and follow-through routine while picturing the actual engagement. Then I simulated reloading and getting back into position looking through my scope, continuing to scan for more "booger-eaters" — the SEAL term for bad guys.
I had done this dry firing and actual firing thousands of times — wet, dry, muddy, snowbound, from a dug-in hole in the ground, from the window of a tall building, and nearly every which way imaginable. The words drilled into our heads since SEAL training were, "The more you sweat in peacetime, the less you bleed in war." This particular day, I was charged with making sure none of my Delta Force buddies sprang a leak as I covered their insertion into the garage. That was every bit as important as my not bleeding.
Our target for this mission was Osman Ali Atto — warlord Aidid's main financier. Atto and his boss had killed hundreds of thousands of Somalis. I felt that if we could kill Atto and Aidid, we could stop the fighting, get the food to the people quickly, and go home in one piece. But the goal of this mission was just to capture Atto, not kill him.
Around 0815 our "asset" — our informer — gave the predetermined signal that Atto was there. My SEAL teammate and I launched the "full package." Little Bird and Black Hawk helicopters filled the sky.
Delta Force operators fast-roped into the roofless garage, dropping lines from the helicopter and sliding right to the ground. Rangers fast-roped around the outside of it. Little Birds flew overhead with Delta snipers to protect the assault force.
Atto's people scattered like rats. Enemy militia shot at the helicopters.
In this environment, an enemy could appear from anywhere, dressed the same as a civilian. Even if he appeared with a gun, there was a chance he was part of a clan on our side. We had to wait until the person pointed the weapon at us. Then we would ensure the enemy ceased to exist. There was no time for makeup or second shots.
Like my SEAL teammate — his nickname was Casanova — I wielded .300 Win Mag sniper rifle. Through my scope, I saw a militiaman 500 yards away firing through an open window at the helos. I made a mental note to keep my heart rate down and centered the crosshairs on him as my muscle memory took over — stock firmly into the shoulder, cheek positioned behind the scope, eye focused on the center of the crosshairs rather than the enemy, and steady trigger squeezing. I felt the gratifying recoil of my rifle. The round hit him in the side of the chest. He convulsed and buckled, falling backward into the building — permanently.
I quickly got back into my scope and scanned my sector. Game on now. All other thoughts departed my mind. Casanova scanned his sector, too.
Another Aidid militiaman carrying an AK-47 came out a fire escape door on the side of a building 300 yards away from me and aimed his rifle at the Delta operators assaulting the garage. From his position, I'm sure he thought he was safe from the assaulters, and he probably was. He was not safe from me — 300 yards wasn't even a challenge. I shot him through his left side, and the round exited his right. He slumped down onto the fire escape landing, never knowing what hit him. His AK-47 lay silent next to him. Someone tried to reach out and retrieve the weapon. One round from my Win Mag put a stop to that.
Each time I made a shot, I immediately forgot about that target and scanned for another.
Chaos erupted inside and outside of the garage. People ran everywhere. Little Birds and Black Hawks filled the skies with deafening rotor blasts. I was in my own little world, though. Nothing existed outside my scope and my mission. Let the Unit guys handle their business in the garage. My business was reaching out and touching the enemy.
A few minutes passed as I continued scanning. More than 800 yards away, a guy popped up with an RPG launcher on his shoulder, preparing to fire at the helicopters.
If I took him out, it would be the longest killing shot of my career. If I failed ...CHAPTER 2
Hell Is for Children
My road to becoming a SEAL began in Boynton Beach, Florida. My mother had me there when she was sixteen years old — a child having a child — on November 8, 1961, in Weems Free Clinic. She couldn't afford a regular hospital. Born two months prematurely, I only weighed 3 pounds 2 ounces. The clinic was so poor that it didn't have the incubator a little one like me needed. I was so small that my mother literally carried me home in a shoe box. I slept in a dresser drawer padded with a blanket.
My mother, Millie Kirkman, was hardheaded and inflexible. She didn't show emotion. She worked hard every day in a sewing factory to help support my sisters and me. I probably inherited my hardheaded, refusing-to-quit-if-you-think-you're-right attitude from her — to a fault.
She told tell me that Ben Wilbanks, my biological father, had run off and abandoned us. I hated him for that.
The earliest memory I have of my childhood is in West Palm Beach, Florida, when I was four years old — awakened in the middle of the night by a huge man reeking of liquor. His name was Leon, and my mother was dating him. She first met Leon while working as a waitress at a truck stop.
They had just come back from a date. Leon snatched me out of the top bunk, questioning me about why I'd done something wrong that day. Then he slapped me around, hitting me in the face, to the point where I could taste my own blood. That was Leon's way of helping my mother keep her male child on the straight and narrow.
This was only the beginning. It didn't always happen at night. Whenever Leon came to the house, he took it upon himself to discipline me. I was terrified, dreading Mom's next date — literally shaking. My heart felt as though it would beat out of my chest. How bad is it going to be this time? A beating could happen when Leon arrived at the house while my mother got ready or when they came home. Leon wasn't picky about when he let me have it.
One day after kindergarten, I ran away. On purpose, I got on the wrong school bus. This guy isn't going to beat me anymore. I'm outta here. The bus took me out in the country somewhere. I had no idea where I was. There were only a few kids left on the bus. It stopped. A kid stood up. I followed him off the bus. The kid walked down the dirt road to his house. I didn't know what to do at that point — at five years old, I hadn't put a lot of thought into it. I walked down the dirt road until I got to the house at the end. Then I hung around outside not knowing what to do except stay away from the main road.
After a couple of hours, a man and a woman came home to find me sitting on the back porch, staying out of sight from the main road. The woman asked, "What's your name?" "Howard."
"You must be hungry." They took me in and fed me.
Later, the woman said, "You know, we got to get hold of your parents. Get you back home."
"No, no," I said. "Please, please don't call my mom. Is there any way I could just live here with y'all?"
I didn't know what was so funny, but I didn't tell them the situation. "No, don't call my mom. Can I just live here with y'all?"
"No, honey. You don't understand. Your mama's probably worried sick. What's your phone number?"
I honestly didn't know.
"Where do you live?"
I tried to tell them how to get to my house, but the bus had taken so many turns that I couldn't remember. Finally, they took me back to my school. There they found my aunt looking for me.
My escape plan had failed. I lied to my mom, telling her I got on the wrong bus by accident.
Within a year or two, my mom married Leon. Soon afterward, we moved to Screven, Georgia, and we went to see the judge there. In the car, my mother said, "When we see the judge, he's going to ask you if you want Mr. Leon to be your daddy. You're supposed to tell him yes." Leon was the last thing in the world I wanted in my life, but I knew damn well I better say yes, because if I didn't, I'd probably be killed when we got home. So I did my duty.
The next day, before I went to school, my parents told me, "You tell them at school you're not a Wilbanks anymore — you're a Wasdin." So I did.
Now I was the adopted child and had to see Leon every day. When a lion acquires a lioness with cubs, he kills them. Leon didn't kill me, but anything that was not done exactly right, I paid for. Sometimes even when things were done right, I paid.
We had pecan trees in the yard. It was my job to pick up the pecans. Leon was a truck driver, and when he came home, if he heard any pecans pop under his wheels, he smacked me. Didn't matter if any had fallen since I had picked them all up. When I got home from school, I'd have to go straight to the bedroom and lie down on the bed, and Leon would mercilessly beat me with a belt.
The next day at school, whenever I used the toilet, I would have to peel my underwear away from the blood and scabs on my butt to sit down. I never got mad at God, but sometimes I asked Him for help: "God, please kill Leon."
After so much, it got to the point that when the 250-pound man's belt cut across my lower back, butt, and legs, I wasn't afraid anymore. Calm down. Stop shaking. It isn't going to make it any better or any worse. Just take it. I could literally lie there on the bed, close down, and block out the pain. That zombielike state only pissed off Leon more.
Dad and his older brother, my uncle Carroll, owned a watermelon field where I started working after school and during the summer. Those two were all about work. When they weren't working their farm, they were driving trucks. As I started contributing to the family, my relationship with Dad, who had stopped drinking, improved.
In South Georgia, where the heat exceeded 100 degrees and the humidity neared 100 percent, I would walk through the field cutting 30-pound watermelons off the vine, place them in a line to throw them over to the road, and then toss them up onto the pickup truck. One of the older guys would back the truck up to the trailer of an 18-wheeler, where I helped pack the watermelons onto the rig. After loading thousands of watermelons, I'd ride on the truck up to Columbia, South Carolina, in the early hours of the next morning to unload and sell the watermelons. I'd get about two hours of sleep before riding back.
When there was an hour or two to spare, my family would sometimes go for a picnic. On one of these picnics, I taught myself how to swim in the slow-moving waters of the Little Satilla River. I had no swimming technique whatsoever, but I felt at home in the water. We went there on a number of weekends: swimming and fishing for largemouth bass, crappie, redbreast, and bluegill.
Occasionally, after working in the watermelon patch, the crew and I went blackwater swimming in Lake Grace. Because of all the tannic acid from the pine trees and other vegetation, both the Little Satilla River and Lake Grace are so black on a good day that you can't see your feet in the water. In the summer, dragonflies hunt down mosquitoes. From the surrounding woods, squirrels chirp, ducks quack, and wild turkeys squawk. Those dark waters hold a mysterious beauty.
After work one day, the watermelon crew and I had a contest to see who could swim the farthest from the pier underwater at Lake Grace. As I swam beneath the surface of the dark brown water, I breathed out a little air. When I came up, someone said, "You had to be farting. There's no way you had that much air in your lungs."
Dad didn't mind if we spent a few hours swimming or fishing, but we never went hunting. My dad let me shoot his gun once in a while, but hunting was an all-day event. That would take too much time away from work. Work was his focus. If I made a mistake or didn't work hard enough, he beat me.
In junior high school, I hurt my leg playing football in gym class. One of the coaches said, "Let me check your hip out." He pulled my pants down so he could examine my right hip. He saw the hell that covered me from my lower back down to my upper legs where my dad had recently beaten me. The coach gasped. "Oh, my ..." After checking my hip, he pulled my pants up and never said another word. In those days, whatever happened in the home stayed in the home. I remember feeling so embarrassed that someone had discovered my secret.
Despite everything, I loved my parents. It wasn't entirely their fault they were uneducated and didn't know how to nurture children. It was all they could do to put food on the table and keep four kids clothed. For the most part, my parents never used bad language. They were God-fearing people. Mom took my sisters and me to church every Sunday. They saw nothing wrong with their child-rearing skills.
Two men filled in with encouragement that probably saved my life. One was Brother Ron, pastor of First Baptist Church. I once got in a fight with another kid right in front of his church, starting a feud between our families that lasted weeks and nearly turned to shooting before Brother Ron got everyone to make peace. I believed in Brother Ron and looked up to him. He was like the town celebrity. Brother Ron was the glue that held the community together, and the community helped shape who I was.
Besides Brother Ron, another man who influenced me was Uncle Carroll. He didn't have Dad's hot temper. He may not have been well educated, but he was intelligent — especially in his dealings with people. Uncle Carroll had friends everywhere. He taught me how to drive a truck because Leon didn't have the patience. Leon would be angry at the first mistake I made picking watermelons, driving, or anything — it didn't matter. Uncle Carroll took the time to explain things. Being around Uncle Carroll, I learned people skills. Uncle Carroll was the only one who ever showed me any affection. On occasion, he'd put his arm around my shoulders if he knew Leon had been on my tail unrelentingly the way he usually was. He gave moral support, even a kind word on occasion. Through everything, Uncle Carroll's support was priceless. The best thing was that Uncle Carroll gave me words of encouragement. His influence was as critical as Brother Ron's, maybe even more. Without them, I would've harbored some dark thoughts. Probably suicide.
I spent my high school years as an Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) geek. I loved JROTC, with its discipline, structure, and nice uniform. I was always the outstanding cadet: ranking officer, color guard commander. It gave me something to do and excel at. The light came on, and I learned that I could lead pretty easily.
When it came to girls, though, I was a late bloomer. In October, I needed a date for the JROTC military ball. My JROTC buddy had a sister named Dianne; everyone called her Dee Dee. I hadn't really thought about her, but now I figured maybe she would go with me to the ball. Scared and embarrassed, I asked her, "Will you go to the military ball with me?"
Excerpted from I Am a Seal Team Six Warrior by Howard E. Wasdin, Stephen Templin. Copyright © 2012 Howard E. Wasdin and Stephen Templin. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 Reach Out and Touch Someone,
2 Hell Is for Children,
3 Russian Sub and Green Hero,
4 The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday,
5 SEAL Team Two,
6 Desert Storm,
7 SEAL Team Six,
8 Born-Again Sniper,
9 CIA Safe House-Hunting for Aidid,
10 Capturing Aidid's Evil Genius,
11 Eyes over Mogadishu Mission,
12 Battle of Mogadishu,
13 From the Ashes,
14 Fish out of Water,
Special Operations Warrior Foundation,
About the Authors,
Reading Group Guide
When the Navy sends their elite, they send the SEALs. When the SEALs send their elite, they send SEAL Team Six--a once-secret unit, now famous for its dramatic attack on Osama Bin Laden's compound.
In this young reader's edition of the New York Times bestseller SEAL Team Six, Howard Wasdin tells how he overcame a grueling childhood to live his dream and enter the exciting and dangerous world of Navy SEALs and Special Forces snipers.
After escaping an abusive father, Howard joined the Navy so he could complete his college education. Always driven to master the next challenge, he quickly moved through the best units in the military, eventually joining the legendary SEAL Team Six. Soon he was fighting for his life in the Battle of Mogadishu, when his small band of soldiers found themselves cut off from help and desperately trying to rescue downed comrades.
For Howard, the result of that battle was a series of new and unexpected challenges, with surprising changes in his life and beliefs.
This young reader's edition tells the entire story from the adult edition in a slightly condensed form.