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Originally kept anonymous to protect him and his family, "the Shooter" has since the story's publication identified himself as SEAL veteran Robert O'Neill. Phil Bronstein is the former editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and currently serves as executive chairman of the Center for Investigative Reporting.
This piece was reported in cooperation with CIR. The man who shot and killed Osama bin Laden sat in a wicker chair in my backyard, wondering how he was going to feed his wife and kids or pay for their medical care. It was a mild spring day, Apriland our small group, including a few of his friends and family, was shielded from the sun by the patchwork shadows of maple trees. He stood up several times with an apologetic gripe about the heat, leaving a perspiration stain on the seat-back cushion.
He paced. I didn't know him well enough then to tell whether a glass of his favorite single malt, Lagavulin, was making him less or more edgy. We would end up intimately familiar with each other's lives. We'd have dinners, lots of Scotch. He's played with my kids and my dogs and been a hilarious, engaging gentleman around my wife. In my yard, the Shooter told his story about ing the Navy at nineteen, after a girl broke his heart. To escape, he almost by accident found himself in a Navy recruiter's office.
I told him I wanted to be a sniper. You do not have snipers in the Navy. I ed up on a whim.
I would come to know about the Shooter's hundreds of combat missions, his twelve long-term SEAL-team deployments, his thirty-plus kills of enemy combatants, often eyeball to eyeball. And we would talk for hours about the mission to get bin Laden and about how, over the celebrated corpse in front of them on a tarp in a hangar in Jalalabad, he had given the magazine from his rifle with all but three lethally spent bullets left in it to the female CIA analyst whose dogged intel work and intuition led the fighters into that night.
When I was first around him, as he talked I would always try to imagine the Shooter geared up and a foot away from bin Laden, whose life ended in the next moment with three shots to the center of his forehead. But my mind insisted on rendering the picture like a bad Photoshop job — Mao's head superimposed on the Yangtze, or tourists taking photos with cardboard presidents outside the White House.How to look for a fuckbuddy
Bin Laden was, after all, the man CIA director Leon Panetta called "the most infamous terrorist in our time," who devoured inordinate amounts of our collective cultural imagery for more than a decade. The -one celebrity of evil. And the man in my backyard blew his lights out. ST6 in particular is an enterprise requiring extraordinary teamwork, combined with more kinds of support in the field than any other unit in the history of the U.
Similarly, NASA marshaled thousands of people to put a man on the moon, and history records that Neil Armstrong first set his foot there, not the equally talented Buzz Aldrin. Enough people connected to the SEALs and the bin Laden mission have confirmed for me that the Shooter was the " two" behind the raid's point man going up the stairs to bin Laden's third-floor residence, and that he is the one who rolled through the bedroom door solo and confronted the surprisingly tall terrorist pushing his youngest wife, Amal, in front of him through the pitch-black room.
The Shooter had to raise his gun higher than he expected. The point man is the only one besides the Shooter who could verify the kill shots firsthand, and he did just that to another SEAL I spoke with. But even the point man was not in the room then, having tackled two women into the hallway, a crucial and heroic decision given that everyone living in the house was pd to be wearing a suicide vest. But a series of confidential conversations, detailed descriptions of mission debriefs, and other evidence make it clear: The Shooter's is the most definitive of those crucial few seconds, and hiscorroborated by multiple sources, establishes him as the last man to see Osama bin Laden alive.
Not in dispute is the fact that others have claimed that they shot bin Laden when he was already dead, and a of team members apparently did just that. What is much harder to understand is that a man with hundreds of successful war missions, one of the most decorated combat veterans of our age, who capped his career by terminating bin Laden, has no landing pad in civilian life. Back in April, he and some of his SEAL Team 6 colleagues had formed the skeleton of a company to help them transition out of the service. In my yard, he showed everyone his business-card mock-ups. There was only a subtle inside joke reference to their team in the company name.
It strains credulity that for a commando team leader who never got a single one of his men hurt on a mission, sunglasses would be his best option. And it's a simple truth that those who have been most exposed to harrowing danger for the longest time during our recent unending wars now find themselves adrift in civilian life, trying desperately to adjust, often scrambling just to make ends meet.
At the time, the Shooter's uncle had reached out to an executive at Electronic Arts, hoping that the company might need help with video-game scenarios once the Shooter retired. But the uncle cannot mention his nephew's distinguishing feature as the one who put down bin Laden. Secrecy is a thick blanket over our Special Forces that inelegantly covers them, technically forever.
The twenty-three SEALs who flew into Pakistan that night were directed by their command the day they got back stateside about acting and speaking as though it had never happened. In fact, seven active-duty Team 6 SEALs would later be punished for advising EA while still in the Navy and supposedly revealing classified information.
With the focus and precision he's learned, the Shooter waits and watches for the right way to exit, and adapt. Despite his foggy future, his past is deeply impressive. This is a man who is very pleased about his record of service to his country and has earned the respect of his peers. It's not that there isn't one. The U. Certainly not the SEALs who went on the mission nor the support and intelligence experts who helped make it all possible. Technology is the key to success in this case more than people, Washington officials have said.
The Shooter doesn't care about that. After that mission, I knew what it was. Others also knew, from the commander-in-chief on down. The bin Laden shooting was a staple of presidential-campaign brags. One big-budget movie, several books, and a whole drawerful of documentaries and TV films have fortified the brave images of the Shooter and his ST6 Red Squadron members. There is commerce attached to the mission, and people are capitalizing.
Just not the triggerman. While others collect, he is cautious and careful not to dishonor anyone. His manners come at his own expense. But the Shooter will discover soon enough that when he leaves after sixteen years in the Navy, his body filled with scar tissue, arthritis, tendonitis, eye damage, and blown disks, here is what he gets from his employer and a grateful nation:.
No pension, no healthcare for his wife and kids, no protection for himself or his family. Since Abbottabad, he has trained his children to hide in their bathtub at the first of a problem as the safest, most fortified place in their house. His wife is familiar enough with the shotgun on their armoire to use it. She knows to sit on the bed, the weapon's butt braced against the wall, and precisely what angle to shoot out through the bedroom door, if necessary. A knife is also on the dresser should she need a backup. Then there is the "bolt" bag of clothes, food, and other provisions for the family meant to last them two weeks in hiding.
After bin Laden's face appeared on their TV in the days after the killing, the Shooter cautioned his older child not to mention the Al Qaeda leader's name ever again "to anybody. It's a bad name, a curse name.
He loves his kids and tears up only when he talks about saying goodbye to them before each and every deployment. And he calls his wife "the perfect mother. In fact, the couple is officially separated, a common occurrence in ST6. SEAL marriages can be perilous. But the Shooter and his wife continue to share a house on very friendly, even loving terms, largely to save money. Essentially deleting him from our lives, but for safety reasons. We still love each other. When the family asked about any kind of government protection should the Shooter's name come out, they were advised that they could go into a witness-protection-like program.
Like Mafia snitches, they would not be able to contact their families or friends. That shouldn't go to waste. The mentor himself took a familiar route — through Blackwater, then to the CIA, in both organizations as a paramilitary operator in Afghanistan. Private security still seems like the smoothest job path, though many of these guys, including the Shooter, do not want to carry a gun ever again for professional use.
The deaths of two contractors in Benghazi, both former SEALs the mentor knew, remind him that the battlefield risks do not go away. By the time the Shooter visited me that first time in April, I had come to know more of the human face of what's called Tier One Special Operations, in addition to the extraordinary skill and icy resolve.
It is a privileged, consuming, and concerning look inside one of the most insular clubs on earth. And I understood that he would face a world very different from the supportive one President Obama described at Arlington National Cemetery a few months before. As I watched the Shooter navigate obstacles very different from the ones he faced so expertly in four war zones around the globe, I wondered: Is this how America treats its heroes? The ones President Obama called "the best of the best"? The ones Vice-President Biden called "the finest warriors in the history of the world"?
The reason we knew this was a special mission, the Shooter said as our interviews about the bin Laden operation began, is because we'd just finished an Afghanistan deployment and were on a training trip, diving in Miami, when a few of us got recalled to the Command in Virginia Beach. Another ST6 team was on official standby — normally that's the team that blows out for a contingency operation. But they were not chosen, to better cloak what was going to happen. There was so much going on — the Libya thing, the Arab Spring. We knew something good was going to go down. We didn't know how good.
The first day's briefing, they actually kind of lied to us, being very vague. They mentioned underwater cables because of the earthquake in Japan or some craziness. They hinted at Libya. They said it was a compound somewhere in a bowl and we were going to have two aircraft get us there and we don't know how many are inside but we have to get something out.
You won't have any air support.The Search For Bob
I assumed it was WMD, a nuke, because why else are they sending us to Libya? It was also weird that the entire Red Squadron was in town, but they kicked everyone out of the briefing except those guys who were going, twenty-three and four backups. We'd leave the room to get coffee and stuff, and the other guys were like, "Well, what are you guys doing?
The Shooter was a mission team leader. Almost everyone chosen had a one or two ranking in the squadron, the most experienced guys. The group was split into four tactical teams, with the Shooter as leader of the external-security group — the dog, Cairo, two snipers, and a CIA interpreter to keep whoever might show up in the area out of the internal action.
That's when the wheels started spinning for me: This is big.
I've had some close calls with death, bullets flying past my head. Even just driving, weird stuff. Every time, I would tell my mother, "There's no way I'm going to die, because I'm here to do something. I don't know what it is, but it's something important. By Monday the team was assembled in a big classroom inside a one-story building. They actually had security sitting outside. No one else was allowed in. He kind of looked at us and we looked at him and nodded. There was none of that cheering bullshit.
We were thinking, Yeah, okay, good. It's about time that we kill this motherfucker. It was simple.
This is what I came for. Jealousies aside, one of us is going to have the best chance of killing this guy. During the daylong briefing, the SEALs heard how the government found the compound in Abbottabad, how they were watching it, analyzing it, why they believed bin Laden might be there. He, UBL, had become known as the Pacer, the tall guy in satellite imagery who neither left nor mixed with the others. It was the CIA woman, now immortalized in books and movies, who gave the briefing.
This is him. This is my life's work. I'm positive. By then, government and military officials had been considering four options.Find fuck buddies in Iron gate Virginia
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