No Easy Day Summary

Kevin Maurer and Matt Bissonnette

No Easy Day

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No Easy Day Summary

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Providing a rarely seen insight into modern military training, protocols, and operations, No Easy Day is the autobiography of a soldier who served on the team that killed Osama bin Laden. The story begins several years prior to this operation, with the author, writing under the pen name Mark Owen, recalling the test exercises he undertook to gain entry into SEAL Team Six, an elite Navy SEALs anti-terrorism unit.Over nine months, candidates trained in shooting, close quarters combat, and explosives, and completed numerous grueling tests and scenarios. Although many were eliminated, Owen made it into the unit.

Owen recalls missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and the skills he developed along the way. He describes being part of a team dropped on an enemy roof at night and realizing that they are on the wrong building. However, they are fortunate in this as they later discovered they would have been trapped by enemy soldiers. On a different mission, Owen’s team helped clear out a village believed to be harboring dissidents, and discovered fighters and stashed weaponry. In another, they took part in the operation that helped saved Captain Richard Philips from pirates aboard the cargo ship, the Maersk Alabama (an incident that would later be portrayed in the 2013 film, Captain Philips).

Owen describes several more operations but also notes that there were growing restrictions placed upon them and that it was increasingly difficult to gain permission for certain missions or the use of certain tactics. Nonetheless, in 2011, Owen found himself heading to North Carolina for training for a top-secret, special operation. Here, a team of twenty-eight specialists, including a highly-trained dog, discovered that their mission was to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, the founder of al Qaeda, which had claimed responsibility for numerous terrorist attacks, including the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.The CIA had tracked bin Laden to a compound in Pakistan by trailing his courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, and had gathered enough information to build a replica compound for training. Owen’s job was to help secure a smaller house in the compound while other teams tackled the main, three-story house in which bin Laden lived. They practiced rigorously and were posted out to nearby Jalalabad but had still not received news that the mission would definitely go ahead as several other tactics were being discussed.

When they finally heard that the operation was definitely happening, they departed by helicopter in the dead of night. However, the helicopter malfunctioned, and they crashed directly into bin Laden’s compound. Knowing that they would soon be discovered, they had to immediately put this terrifying moment behind them and get on with the plan. Owen’s team entered the guesthouse, where they believed al-Kuwaiti was housed. Gunfire narrowly missed them as they returned fire, calling for al-Kuwaiti to surrender. Instead, his wife came out carrying her child and saying that al-Kuwaiti had been killed in the shootout. Owen’s team entered and confirmed this, before clearing the house of fighters and heading over to the main building where other teams were looking for bin Laden. They moved up to the third floor and saw the body of bin Laden’s son, but met little resistance.

On the third floor, the SEALs shot a man who appeared in a doorway and entered the room to find women crying over his body. Believing the man to be bin Laden, Owen took photos of his face and eyes, while his comrade took a blood sample, and other team members gathered computers and other evidence.They left, carrying the body and the evidence, moving as quickly as they could because they were at risk of insurgent retaliation or being discovered by Pakistani forces who were allies but had not been briefed on the operation, creating a difficult diplomatic situation. Not only that, the crashed helicopter had been rigged with explosives so they would not leave evidence or technology in enemy hands. Just as their original aircraft exploded, Owen’s team escaped in a replacement helicopter, which Owen realized was low on fuel and flashing warning lights.

Cramped and overwhelmed, they managed to escape and return to Afghanistan without further incidents and injuries. Additional DNA samples were taken from bin Laden’s body, which was then taken off for burial. Owen and his comrades watched President Obama announce that bin Laden had been killed in a U.S. operation, although the details were kept secret, as they had hoped and expected. However, in a matter of hours, the information that the Navy SEALs had been responsible for the mission had been leaked to the media and, by the time Owen arrived home, he was inundated with messages asking if he had been part of the team. Owen and the others were distressed when it was suggested that they had been responsible for the leak, and suspected that it actually came from Washington or the White House itself. The SEALs were concerned that they and their families would be at risk if it became publicly known exactly who had been part of the team that killed bin Laden.The book ends with Owen expressing the disappointment and disillusionment that the SEALs felt at being put in danger in this way by politicians.

Despite Owen’s complaint that he suspects secret details of the mission were released by the government, the United States Department of Defense claimed that the book itself contained classified information that put lives at risk. Many experts did not agree with this, but the book remained controversial, and some critics did accuse Owen of endangering lives. The Department of Defense has continued to look negatively at Owen’s decision to publish without first having the book vetted by officials and, in 2016, Owen was ordered to pay $6.8 million of royalties to the U.S. government.