Aug 072011

Vice Admiral William McRaven is a bit of a legend in the Special Ops world. The current head of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) has been leading, planning and directing SEAL Team Ops since Jesus was playing fullback for Nazareth.

Word on the street is he played a pretty key role in the death of Bin Laden. He may not have pulled the trigger but it was his command that planned and executed the Op. Panetta, former head of the CIA, is said to have handed Operation Neptune’s Spear over to McRaven and his team of Counter Terrorism specialists.

Most of those within the Special Operations community would recognize his name from the seminal book, Spec Ops: Case Studies in Special Operations Warfare: Theory and Practice, so I thought I’d have another look over it and do up a review.

Spec Ops was published in 1995, when McRaven was commanding a SEAL Team. It’s basically a historical look at ‘Direct Action’ missions from 1940 through to 1976. Direct Action (DA) is a term used in the Special Ops world to describe a short offensive action against a target (person or building), usually behind enemy lines. DAs are known for their precision and violence.

McRaven’s book is well researched and referenced, and his subject matter expertise is evident throughout. In fact it has become a bit of a ‘bible’ for Special Operations theory. The Admiral convincingly argues his theory of ‘Relative Superiority’ and his six principles of Special Operations. Worth the read just to pull out these little gems.

So who should read it? Well, the book’s a must for any serious student of military history or  any Special Ops buff. It’s the definitive academic reference on Special Operations theory for Direct Action on heavily fortified targets. The lessons and theory drawn out of it remain relevant for current day operations, as evidenced in the success of Neptune’s Spear.

However, it does have some  limitations. This book isn’t an up-to-date classified tactics and procedures manual. Special Ops have advanced leaps and bounds since the 70’s, particularly in the fields of intelligence, air support, cyber warfare and insertion techniques. In short, Spec Ops is a well-researched history on DAs. If you’re after something more entertaining with a bit more bang, grab a PRIMAL book.

Till next I blog,