Way of the Reaper: My Greatest Untold Missions and the Art of Being a Sniper

Way of the Reaper: My Greatest Untold Missions and the Art of Being a Sniper

by Nicholas Irving, Gary Brozek

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From the New York Times Bestselling Author and Co-Star of Fox's American Grit comes a rare and powerful book on the art of being a sniper. Way of the Reaper is a step-by-step accounting of how a sniper works, through the lens of Irving's most significant kills - none of which have been told before. Each mission is an in-depth look at a new element of eliminating the enemy, from intel to luck, recon to weaponry. Told in a thrilling narrative, this is also a heart-pounding true story of some of The Reaper's boldest missions including the longest shot of his military career on a human target of over half a mile.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, Nick Irving earned his nickname in blood, destroying the enemy with his sniper rifle and in deadly firefights behind a .50 caliber machine gun. He engaged a Taliban suicide bomber during a vicious firefight, used nearly silent sub-sonic ammo, and was the target of snipers himself. Way of the Reaper attempts to place the reader in the heat of battle, experiencing the same dangers, horrors and acts of courage Irving faced as an elite member of the 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, while also examining the personal ramifications of taking another life.

Readers will experience the rush of the hunt and the dangers that all snipers must face, while learning what it takes to become an elite manhunter. Like the Reaper himself, this explosive book blazes new territory and takes no prisoners.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250088369
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 08/09/2016
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 75,531
File size: 616 KB

About the Author

NICHOLAS IRVING spent six years in the Army's Special Operations 3rd Ranger Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment, serving from demolitions assaulter to Master Sniper. He was the first African American to serve as a sniper in his battalion and is now the owner of HardShoot, where he trains personnel in the art of long-range shooting, from olympians to members of the Spec Ops community. He also appears as a mentor on the Fox reality show American Grit. He lives in San Antonio, Texas.
GARY BROZEK has co-authored 20 books, including five New York Times bestsellers.

NICHOLAS IRVING is the New York Times bestselling author of The Reaper and Way of the Reaper. He spent six years in the U.S. Army’s Special Operations 3rd Ranger Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment, serving in a wide range of positions, from assaulter to Sniper Team leader. He was the first African American to deploy in the G.W.O.T as a sniper in his battalion.

Irving is now the owner of HardShoot, where he trains personnel in the art of long-range shooting, from Olympians to members of the Spec Ops community. He also appeared as a mentor on the Fox reality show American Grit, and has consulted on various films and television shows. He lives in San Antonio, Texas.

GARY BROZEK has collaborated on more than twenty books, five of which have gone on to become New York Times bestsellers, including Trident K9 Warriors. He lives in Evergreen, CO.

Read an Excerpt

Way of the Reaper

My Greatest Untold Missions and the Art of Being a Sniper

By Nicholas Irving, Gary Brozek

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2016 Nicholas Irving
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-08836-9



I'M A HANDS-ON LEARNER. I mean no disrespect when I say this, but because of that, I often felt like much of the time I spent back in the States doing classwork assignments was a waste. I know that there were some other guys that I went through various training program with who benefited from watching PowerPoint presentations, but I really didn't. I mean, I sat through them and I understood the information and the strategies that were being discussed, but a lot of times that didn't translate when it came time to perform during an operation while I was downrange in Iraq. It's also important to understand that in those early years of the conflict, we were all learning a lot about urban warfare. Back stateside, we could sit there and have things drawn up for us on paper, but what I learned in that first deployment was that things are sometimes a lot more fluid out on the battlefield. Forgive my play on the word "fluid," considering that some of what I was experiencing on that operation — the fatigue and some of the disorientation and foggy thinking — was due to dehydration.

The higher-ups seemed to understand how important it was for us to have on-job training and how hard it was to simulate that in an exercise. At least in my experience, they tried to ease us into the really nasty shit. Think of it as kind of like how some people prefer to get into a body of water a bit at a time versus those who like to just dive right in. Diving into the middle of hot combat isn't the best thing for anybody — too many lives could be placed at risk. For that reason, a lot of what I and the other new guys did on operations was to sit in one of the vehicles we used to get to a zone and listen on the comms — our communications systems — while the more veteran guys went out and performed. Another way to think of it is like being a rookie on a team or the underclassman who was brought up to play varsity. The coaches expect you to sit there and pay attention and learn from watching, but even that isn't enough to prepare you for how chaotic a firefight can be.

I'm not trying to pin the blame on anybody else for some of my early mistakes. That's not the point. Everybody was doing their best to prepare us, and I was trying to pick the brains of some of the guys coming back who already had three or four deployments under their belts. Even doing that, I wasn't as prepared as I would have liked. I wasn't alone in that. The 75 Regiment, 3 Ranger Battalion, was undergoing a big change as we moved toward a fast-strike and small-unit strategy. We were adapting methods that other elite units — the SEALS, Delta Force, and other Special Operations (Spec Ops) teams — were utilizing and evolving best practices as time went on. Before I was first deployed, what the Rangers were mostly doing was pulling outer security for Delta Force when they went in and did room-clearing operations. Once we proved that we were capable of doing that, when the Delta Force guys were engaged in other operations we earned the right to take on more of those responsibilities. It was a cool time to be in the Rangers, to see how things were changing, but I can't say that I sensed all of that at the time. I was just glad to be a part of the in-and-out operations that involved enemy captures and kills.

I'd wanted to be involved in combat for so long that I was always pretty impatient and had a hard time following rules. Some of what we were told seemed flat-out stupid — for example, that as machine gunners we shouldn't fire our weapons unless ABSOLUTELY necessary so as not to reveal our weapons strength. Some rules made more sense to me, but I went ahead and violated them anyway. For instance, on one operation I took the suppressor that one of the assaulters never used. He kept it with the rest of his gear, and when we were called out on an operation, I took it and put it on the end of my M4 for no other reason than that I wanted to see what it would be like. Snipers used them all the time, and I wanted to do what they did.

Juan was my team leader at that point and, when he heard the distinctive sound of a suppressed weapon being fired — something that no weapons squad guy had any need to be doing — he gave me the evil eye. He was cool about it, knowing how eager I was and all. Everything would have gone down better if I had immediately put the suppressor back where I'd taken it from. The assaulter — I've long since forgotten his name — came back and was in a panic. He knew he'd catch hell for losing that piece of equipment. Before I could explain anything, his commander was all over him, giving him a dressing-down for losing an item that cost thousands and thousands of dollars.

I did what I had to do. I stepped up and said, "He didn't lose it." I felt like I was going to lose my lunch when the commander glared at me like I'd shit on his shoe or something.

I held out the suppressor. "I took it. I used it."

I knew it was going to take some time for the commander to trust me. I took my punishment like a man, but in the end, things weren't too bad. I better understood what my role was and where the lines were that I wasn't to cross. That didn't mean I didn't ever cross them again, but at least I wasn't so obvious about it. Every soldier needs discipline, but I think that if you turned us all into computers or into some other kind of instruction-and-rule-following machines, we wouldn't be as successful of a military unit as we are. You still need guys to be flexible and to think on their feet and to want to test limits.

I can't say that I looked at it like that when I was a nineteen-year-old kid out there on the pavement in Iraq at our forward operating base in 120degree temperatures, changing the oil in one of the Strykers. I knew that I sure as hell didn't want to be doing maintenance work like that for the rest of my deployments, so I'd better become a better soldier. That meant paying my dues and not fantasizing so much about where I wanted to end up, but focusing on doing a better job at what I was assigned to presently. That's not easy when you're nineteen — or twenty-nine or thirty-nine, I imagine — but I was going to give it my best shot.

I also knew this, and it didn't take me spending any time in a classroom to understand it. We had to have each other's backs out there. Even when I screwed up and took that suppressor, I knew that I had to step up and admit that I was the one who took it. I couldn't see another guy taking the fall for something I did. From early on in my days in the military and through the end of my time, the bonds that I formed with the guys went deeper than any other relationships I had. That camaraderie and brotherhood was one of the most special parts about serving in the Army, and in Spec Ops that was even truer, because you were dealing with a smaller set of guys. It was one thing to be in boot camp and be all excited about being part of a team, but when you saw that in action out on the battlefield, it was way more impressive. It wasn't so much that you talked about it; you just went out there and lived it. That's the way I liked it.

My second deployment found me in the city of Mosul in 2007. I didn't know a whole lot about Mosul prior to learning that it was our next base of operation. Once I found out where we were headed, I learned a few things to help me prepare for another go downrange. Mosul was a sprawling city of about 2.5 million people in northern Iraq. It was situated right along the Tigris River and had been strategically important to Saddam Hussein because of its location close to the Kurdish territories. The other major thing I knew about Mosul was that Saddam's two sons, Uday and Qusay, a couple of really, really evil dudes, had been killed there early in the war in 2003.

The 101st Airborne had set up operations there and the Battle of Mosul was won in November of 2004, but at a pretty high cost. A lot of the Iraqi security forces fighting on our side left the area. It was hard to blame them. The insurgents had come in and let loose with a series of attacks against the police and security forces. They weren't the only ones who left. About a half million or so other Iraqis got the hell out of there because things were so unsafe.

Without those security groups in place, the city was left in chaos for a while. With no homegrown security forces, and with infrastructure and things like power plants being severely damaged, it was a bit of a Wild West town, with the bad guys running loose. We were there to try to keep control and help with the rebuilding efforts; but we'd been trained to fight battles, and this transitioning into the roles of peacekeepers and rebuilders wasn't what most of us had signed up for.

We were in country less than eight hours when we were sent out to do a bit of recon in the area. I was thinking of it as a tour of the city to help us get a sense of what was where more than any kind of really detailed exploration or intelligence gathering. Because the regular Army forces were on rotations that lasted anywhere from a year to a year and a half instead of the 90 to 120 days our Special Operations units were doing, and none of us had been in Mosul before, we hooked up with a guy from the 101 Airborne to be our tour leader.

Keith was a good guy, a gangly blond with a horsey grin who was really amped up to be working with us. I can still picture him coming up to us, his feet wide and his hips thrust forward, looking like he'd just gotten off a horse a few seconds earlier.

"Well, all right then. Rangers need some showing around. I'm down with that."

He stuck his hand out and I shook it, noticing how bony it was and how pale it was compared to his deeply tanned face. He took off his Oakley sunglasses to look me in the eye, and I could see the faint lines where the glasses' temples had blocked the sun, giving his face a kind of war-paint look.

I was still so new that I didn't think much about how I was a Ranger and he was just a regular grunt. I was on his territory and wanted to learn about the best routes through the city and what we were supposed to be on the alert for and where. I didn't say anything to him like this, but I was really pretty concerned about — okay, scared of — improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

By that time, probably everybody in the States and definitely everybody in the military knew about this tactic that the insurgents employed. They'd taken the old idea of mines — their use goes back centuries and centuries to when gunpowder was first developed — where you'd have to come in contact with a pressure plate or some other device to detonate an explosive charge. Those kinds of things were manufactured in mass quantities back in the day and were planted in the ground in big numbers in certain locations to keep infantry and vehicles from getting though.

An IED has five components: a switch (activator), an initiator (fuse), a container (body), a charge (explosive), and a power source (battery). What the Haji — a term we used for any of the various factions we fought against — had figured out was how to set them off in sophisticated ways that didn't require coming in contact with them. They'd figured out ways to have them explode by remote control. That was scary to me in a way that a more passive land mine wasn't. Just the idea that some kind of sophisticated electronics were involved made them feel more deadly, maybe because I grew up in an age when electronics and technology had become so advanced it was hard to understand how things worked. I guess we fear more what we don't understand.

Eight hours into my time in country, I was at the controls of a Stryker following our tour guide. Richie, a guy who was just a couple of months ahead of me in Ranger School, was the tank commander (TC). We had about the same amount of experience, so Richie was always pretty cool in dealing with me as equals. Because you don't drive a Stryker by looking out a view port or window, the TC and the driver have to coordinate their efforts. I was looking at the little 10-by-12-inch screen, which really only gave me a view of what was directly ahead of me maybe ten feet or so, while listening to Richie guide me through a series of right- and left-hand turns.

We were in an older part of Mosul and the streets were so narrow I couldn't believe that they were designated as two-way streets. The Stryker barely fit in between the cars parked haphazardly along each side of the road. At one point, I popped open the hatch to get a wider view. The rest of the guys — there were three of them in addition to Richie — were all hanging out of their ports in the back. We weren't on a formal operation, so we felt comfortable being exposed like we were.

Our guide, Sergeant Davis, was calmly narrating for us, and his voice had started to become white noise, like the sound of the engine and the tires crunching over rocks and bricks, debris from the bombing we'd done there.

"We're going to make a left here onto a route designated Chicago, but what we call RPG Alley."

That got my attention. I felt a quick flutter in my gut as RPGs — rocket-propelled grenades — got added to my list alongside IEDs. I turtled my head closer to my shoulders and felt my helmet drop lower over my night vision goggles, suddenly immersing me in darkness. A few seconds later, I adjusted everything and I had to squint to make out anything beyond the greenish glare flaring from glass on the road and from the parked vehicles. My eyes climbed the walls of the buildings, using the pockmarks from shrapnel as visual footholds.

What had left those marks?

I scanned the rooftops. In my mind's eye I saw, from that heightened perspective, an RPG like a hard-thrown but wobbly football coming right at us.

At that point, I felt my knees go a little weak and I started to bounce my legs a bit with nervous anxiety.

"We're going to make a left again and then another left and head back in," Davis said, his voice again soothing and practiced, like a tour operator in Chicago pointing out the city's architectural highlights. "This is the easy route back. Been down this way a bunch of times. Nothing ever goes on. The people along here seem friendlier than a lot of other folks. Not sure why, but we get a few smiles and waves and nods."

I settled back down inside the Stryker and gunned the throttle to keep our spacing. We were moving pretty good, rumbling along at about thirty-five miles an hour. The Stryker's chassis was sending pleasant vibrations up through my boots, a gentle kind of massage.

A few seconds later, the lead Stryker, carrying our tour guide and piloted by Keith, was suddenly engulfed in a plume of black smoke rising up out of the ground. A moment after I saw that on the screen, I could feel the concussion wave knocking my head from side to side like I was a bobblehead doll wobbling before it stilled.

"IED. IED. IED," I screamed over the comms while simultaneously thinking, "WTF could have lifted that Stryker off the ground like that?"

I didn't have much time to think of an answer. I immediately went into autopilot; we'd trained and trained for situations just like this one. I throttled up and maneuvered alongside the damaged vehicle, Richie's instructions barely registering in my mind. I popped back up into the open air, the smell of burning rubber and superheated metal stinging my throat and nose. I could barely see through the smoke, but I could make out the sides of the Stryker, streaked with oil and singe marks like some kind of horrible camouflage. I couldn't see any of the guys in Keith's Stryker moving around outside the vehicle. A terrible thought hit me. What if its fuel tank had ignited, and with all the electronics down and the hatches inoperable those guys were trapped in there? How frigging awful would it be to get incinerated inside that thing?

Fortunately, the emergency hatch had a mechanical release, and I saw some of the guys spilling out the back of it. We'd trained for those kinds of exits. The guys were moving quickly, but they didn't look panicked.

Over the sounds of my thoughts and the clamor inside our rig, I could hear Keith yelling, his voice high-pitched and rapid, "I'm hit. I'm hit. My leg. I think it's fucked up. It might be gone. Holy shit."

I watched as a guy from our unit named Lash, one of the really balls-out assaulters, clambered onto the top of the Stryker. He knelt down and started yanking at the hatch above the operator's position. Finally, he got it open and then reached down with one arm like he's sticking it down a storm drain, and I saw his white teeth through the swirling smoke. A few seconds later, Keith's helmet came out, and it was bobbing around while Keith was still yelling that's he's been hit. In a way, it was like I was watching some kind of bizarre birth scene. Lash reached in again, this time with both hands with his legs spread and his feet on the rim of the opening for leverage. He leaned back and heaved, and Keith emerged, bloody and screaming.


Excerpted from Way of the Reaper by Nicholas Irving, Gary Brozek. Copyright © 2016 Nicholas Irving. 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


Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Author's Note,
1. Band of Brothers Plays at the Hotel Party,
2. Think First, Ask Questions, and Then Fire,
3. The Virtues of Patience,
4. Someone to Watch over Us,
5. Finding Your Focus on a Hell Night in Helmand,
6. Without Remorse,
7. Keeping Track of Yourself,
8. Timing Is Everything,
9. Missing the Action,
10. After Action Report,
Also by Nicholas Irving,
About the Authors,

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Way of the Reaper: My Greatest Untold Missions and the Art of Being a Sniper 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Meet him Saturday in Houston. He tells of his life in the Service and what it was like after serving. Great man. Reading his book now. I admire these men. May God bless him.