My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I decided to read this book because every time I stumble across the TV show "The Unit," I really enjoy the show and I thought I would enjoy reading the book that serves as its basis. I was not disappointed, this was a very enjoyable book.
As a memoir, there's no real formal plot to follow, but Haney does a great job of creating a narrative flow that makes sense. The reader is guided through the creation of Delta Force from the perspective of a member seeking admission. Readers learn about how the selection process works gradually, just like Haney does as he's going through it. Once on the force, Haney guides the reader through the intense training required to prepare for real-world missions. Finally, Haney takes the reader through several early Delta Force missions, demonstrating how all the selection and training was essential to creating a team that was able to effectively respond to worldwide threats.
I'm not a military buff, and I appreciated that the book was written in such a way that was accessible to me. I learned enough about the military to properly frame the events described, but not so much that it was completely overwhelming and took away from the narrative. Additionally, much of what Haney describes with respect to discipline, training, honor, dedication, etc. is not limited to military life -- these principles are directly applicable in business settings or anyone's personal life. From that standpoint, there is much in that book that is generally inspirational.
As I read, I highlighted several passages. Haney's matter-of-fact observation on winning versus losing battles struck me as interesting and true:
In combat, there are no winners. The victors just happen to lose less than the vanquished.The book is full of statements like that, where Haney makes an observation and moves on without getting mired in attempting to discuss deep philosophy.
Haney's observation on how to improve an organization struck me as applicable to a business setting as to the military:
There is no better way for an organization to improve itself and move forward in a professional manner. But it is a process that must be fundamentally rooted in trust and mutual respect. The very instant it becomes a weapon rather than a lens for diagnostic analysis, the process is dead.This observation was made after describing the process of an "after-action review" where "each man's actions were gone over in complete detail... mistakes were analyzed and successful methods were noted." It seems that Delta Force was able to successfully perform self-analysis -- including detailed examination of errors -- without using that analysis as a way to punish the low performers. This is how teams are successfully built and strengthened, and is something that the business world would do well to take note of.
Finally, one of my favorite quotes from the book came as Haney discusses the problems encountered when decisions were made and/or overruled by top officials who didn't have a good understanding of what was actually happening:
Nothing is impossible for those who don't actually have to do it.I see this mentality all the time.
A note about the Kindle edition: the book contains a selection of photographs. For the print version, I don't know how the photos are presented in the book, but it's somewhat awkward in the Kindle version. They photos are stuck at the very back of the text, with no explanation or indication that they are there, and appear to simply be a direct representation of the photo page. I think the formatting of those photos could be improved. As far as the text goes, it was formatted for the Kindle just fine.
Do I recommend this book? Unquestionably yes.
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