Authors: Scott McEwen
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Sitting with a couple of SEAL Team buddies at Danny's Bar in Coronado, I was introduced to an individual that both of them described as one of the most badass SEALs they knew. I thought to myself:
The two guys I'm drinking with are probably the baddest-ass characters I know, so if they think this guy is badass, he must be.
About twenty-five years old, 5'8" and roughly 170 pounds, a guy who I will call “Gil” is introduced to me. The conversation starts calmly, as I am introduced as the coauthor of the book
, etc. We have a couple of beers and I am “vetted” by Gil through his subtle yet insightful questioning of my motive. I then found out why Gil was “badass.”
Gil was shot more than fifteen times in a single battle somewhere outside the wire. After several more drinks, Gil proceeded to show me the entry and exit wounds that literally covered his body from his legs to his neck. These were not flesh wounds in any sense, but direct hits from 7.62X39-AK-47 rounds. What struck me from
the discussion was not that Gil was “proud” of his battle scars, but instead he was proud that he stayed in the fight the entire time before being evac'd for medical attention.
This book is dedicated to the warriors of the SEAL Teams that are always in the fight, even when dealt serious injuries and overwhelming odds. The fictional accounts are based on actual Black Ops missions.
The horse was a four-year-old gray Appaloosa mare named Tico Chiz, but Navy Master Chief Gil Shannon simply called her Tico. He spent time with his wife, Marie, and his mother-in-law on their horse ranch in Bozeman, Montana, but his true home was the Navy. Most of his life was spent either at the Naval Training Center Hampton Roads in Virginia Beach, Virginia, or off in faraway corners of the globe doing what Marie, a bit too often for his taste, derisively referred to as
serving his corporate masters.
The life of any camp follower was difficult, but being the wife of a US Navy SEAL was just plain grueling at times, and there was a bitterness within his wife that Gil could see growing slowly stronger with each passing year. The hard truth was that he and his wife shared only a few things in common. They both loved Montana like their next breath, had horse blood in their veins, and they shared a
chemical attraction for each other strong enough to rival the force of gravity.
He put his boot into the stirrup and hauled himself up into the saddle as Marie came into the stable dressed in jeans and boots and a maroon Carhartt jacket. He looked at her approvingly, touching the brim of his hat. “Ma'am,” he said, his blue eyes smiling.
She smiled back in the same shy way she always did after they'd made love, her brown eyes twinkling, long brown hair loosely braided. She was thirty-six, one year older than her husband, and at the very least his intellectual equal. Crossing her arms, she leaned against a support post cluttered with tack. “You know that horse likely forgot your name last time you were away.”
Gil grinned, sidling Tico over to the wall where he took down a Browning .300 Winchester Magnum with a 3 to 24 Nightforce scope. “I ain't all that convinced she ever knew it.” He shucked the rifle backward into the saddle scabbard. “Self-centered beast that she is.”
“You know there ain't nothing out there gonna hurt you.”
“Well, all the same, I like to have it along,” he said quietly, never liking to disagree with her, their time together always being too short.
She arched an eyebrow in warning. “You'd better leave my elk alone, Gil Shannon.”
He laughed, knowing he was caught, removing a pouch of tobacco from his tan Carhartt and rolling himself a cigarette. There was a Zen to the process that helped keep him anchored whenever he felt the waves of anxiety slapping at his hull. The sad reality was that life on the ranch was too slow for him, too tidy and safe, and he sometimes began to feel as though he might crawl out of his skin. He understood why this was, of course. He'd been raised the son of the warrior, and as a result carried much of the emotional baggage that often came along with being the son of a Green Beret who had served multiple tours during the Vietnam War. He was extremely proud of his heritage, however, having consciously chosen a form
of service that meant he would spend most of his adult life far away from the Montana of his youth. Montana would always be there, he told himself. And when he finally grew too old to run, jump, and swim for the Navy, he would retire there and finally settle down with Marie, secure in the knowledge that he had done all that he could to defend this great land.
He smiled at his wife, poking the cigarette between his lips. “Don't worry. Old man Spencer said I could hunt his place anytime I want.”
Marie understood that her husband had demons he kept deep inside. She could see them in the shadows that crossed his brow in those painful moments when he thought she wasn't looking.
“I see,” she said thoughtfully. “So you're letting out for the high country.”
He drew from the cigarette and exhaled through his nose. “I'll stay below the snow line. Don't worry.”
“I never worry when you're home,” she said, stepping from the post to touch his leg. “I already told you there's nothing out there gonna hurt you. Montana's where you draw your strength.”
He leaned to kiss her and straightened up in the saddle. “Have you seen Oso this morning?”
“Out back watching the colts, as usual. He thinks they're his.”
Gil gave her a wink and pressed his heels into the flanks of the horse to set her walking out the door. As he rounded the corner, he saw the Chesapeake Bay retriever sitting over near the paddock where two painted colts were kept with their mothers.
“Oso!” he called, and the dog came trotting. His full name was Oso Cazadorâbear hunterânamed by Gil's late friend Miguel, the dog's original owner who had raised him to go grizzly hunting with him in the high country outside of Yellowstone. Miguel had died the year before of cancer, and his daughter, Carmen, had shown up with Oso at the funeral, asking Gil if he would let the dog come to
live on the ranch, claiming that her apartment back in LA was just too small for a 120-pound animal. Before Gil even had a chance to think it over, Marie had taken the leash and welcomed Oso into the family. The arrangement had worked out well, too. Oso kept the coyotes away from the colts, looked after Marie and his mother-in-law whenever Gil was away, and had a keen eye for the movement of game at long distances.
In truth, Oso was something of a devil dog, overly protective of Marie whenever Gil was not at the house, and he had this way of showing his teeth when he was happy, a kind of menacing canine smile that could be hard to interpret. In a way, he reminded Gil of the young SEALs he worked with: fiercely loyal, intelligent, athletic, and fearless, though hardheaded at times. And like those young men, Oso was known on occasion to challenge Gil for his position in the hierarchy. It was through sheer force of will, however, that Gil was able to impress his alpha status upon man as well as beast. It was the iron will he had inherited from his father, and he was more grateful for that than any other trait. He was not the strongest in the DEVGRU teams, or the largest or the fastest, or even the best shot, but during numerous trials in the field, his will alone had enabled him to succeed where men of apparent superior physical prowess had failed.
This was the reason he was so often considered the go-to man.
He reined the horse around and headed off toward the high country at the trot. Oso tended to travel inside the horse's shadow even when the weather was cool, and though Gil wasn't entirely sure, he thought it must be to keep the sun out of his eyes.
Within twenty minutes, they passed through the gate on the western border of the ranch, and Gil stopped to roll another cigarette. As he sat in the saddle smoking, he took a Milk-Bone from his pocket and tossed it down to Oso, who immediately dug a shallow hole with his forepaws and dropped the bone in, using his nose to cover it over. Then the dog sat down and barked, wanting another.
Gil smiled, drawing deeply from the cigarette and tossing down another bone. Oso ate it immediately.
Two hours later, they made the crest of a high ridge where Gil dismounted and stood holding the reins as he overlooked the Spencer Valley below. He knew there were elk down there, moving carefully among the brush. Rut would be starting soon, and they would grow careless, but for now, they were still lying low, and this was when Gil preferred to hunt them. For him, there wasn't much of a trick to shooting an animal hopped up on hormones, bugling its ass off, almost daring you to squeeze the trigger.
A large bull elk stepped from the trees to his left, roughly a hundred yards off down the slope, and Oso lowered himself to the ground to signal that he had spotted their prey.
Gil took the rifle from its scabbard, popping the lens caps and shouldering the weapon for a closer look. The bull was mature and well racked with ten points, chewing a mouthful of grass without a care in the world. He capped the lenses and returned the rifle to the scabbard. At a hundred yards, he could almost take it out with a stone. He never wasted a bullet on game at less than five hundred yards, valuing the challenge far more than the kill itself.
He tied Tico's reins off to a dead tree standing nearby and removed her saddle. Then he poured water into a canteen cup for Oso and cleared a spot on the ground for himself to settle in behind the saddle. When the firing position was prepared, he retrieved the rifle and settled in to wait. He spent his time gauging the slight breeze, unconsciously doing the math in his head for different target areas within the valley. He almost never dealt in actual numbers anymore, the calculations as automatic in his brain as 2 + 2 equaling 4.
After forty minutes, Oso stood up and stared straight down into the valley.
Gil took up the rifle and searched far below their position, spotting the young, four-by-four-point bull standing broadside at the
edge of the tree line a thousand yards off down the 30-degree slope. The scope on the rifle was set to compensate for the drop of the bullet over flat terrain, so Gil knew without even thinking that he would need to aim slightly lower than he normally would, in effect compensating for the preset compensation of the drop. This concept was often one of the toughest for raw SEAL Team recruits to wrap their brains around.
He placed the reticle on the ridge of the bull's spinal column just behind the shoulder blades where he wanted the 7.62 mm round to strike. Then he lowered his aim slightly, as if he were about to engage a target at just over 800 yards instead of 1,000. There was no real way to teach this kind of shooting. This was the kind of precision developed over thousands of rounds fired downrange. Had there been any concern at all in Gil's mind the round would maim the animal or cause it any pain, he would simply have aimed for the much easier-to-hit heart.
As he drew a shallow breath, preparing to squeeze the trigger, it happened againâthe memory of his first kill in combat coming back in living colorÂ .Â .Â .
THE SECOND IRAQ
War was only a month old. Gil and his partner Tony had been called into a small town outside of Baghdad to relieve the pressure on two companies of Marines who were being decimated by enemy sniper fire. One of the Marine snipers was already dead, and their morale had begun to flag in a way that only enemy sniper fire can cause. So their CO had called for tactical support, and half an hour later a Cayuse helicopter dropped Gil and Tony in the Marines' rear. It was during their march forward over five blocks of hell that the two SEALs were able to collect real-time intel from the grunts on the ground.