I just finished reading Nicholas Irving’s memoir “The Reaper,” and found it to be a great read. Nick and I served in the same sniper section, but at different times. I got to Ranger Battalion in 2003, so I was a sniper by the time Nick finished RIP in 2005. I didn’t even know about Nick’s antics until years later when we were filming “Inside the Team Room” with Nick and my friends Clyde Carmody and Isaiah Burkhart. Back when we were doing airfield seizures, some private in Charlie Company lost his Mk48 machine gun on a jump as he exited the aircraft. I didn’t know who he was, but I was cursing him as I was balls deep in the swamp looking for his weapon! It turns out that private was one Nicholas Irving.
Nick is a good friend, and reading his book was a great way to find out what the boys were up to after I left 3/75 to begin the Q-course in 2006. Not to my surprise, they were out there kicking ass and taking names. “The Reaper” primarily focuses on one of Nick’s deployments—an especially hot one—an extended operation involving Ranger recce elements. Unfortunately, Ranger Ben Kopp lost his life while defending his platoon. Nick’s account of the battle is brutal and uncompromising.
It turns out, this was a part of Afghanistan that the Marines would not go into with less than a brigade. The 3/75 Rangers went in with a platoon and a small recce detachment that day.
Echoing Chris Martin’s book “Modern American Snipers,” “The Reaper” described how snipers are often used in the War on Terror. Special Operations task force members are usually tasked with conducting short or no-notice direct-action raids to capture or kill high-value targets. Ranger snipers support the assaulters by providing overwatch, and if need be, taking out any bad guys who get froggy. This is something I got to experience myself as a sniper. Later, as an assaulter, I was comforted knowing that my buddy Burkhart always had our backs. More than once, he and his sniper buddy saved our asses on target. This was Nick’s job as well.
Aside from combat, Nick writes about his growing up as an Army brat and how he dreamed of being a sniper from an early age. I had to chuckle to myself, recalling the time I told my high school guidance counselor that I wanted to be a sniper in the Army. Suffice to say she was a little freaked out by that. That is the great thing about reading books written by other Rangers, you realize how much we all have in common.
Nick also relates some humorous stories and others that are downright bizarre. One is about his sniper partner, Pemberton, who fell down an 80-foot well on an objective. He was trapped down there treading water for hours until the Air Force PJs could extract him. They never did find his rifle, as the PJ diver estimated that the well was another 60 feet deep from the water’s surface.
If you want to to know what Rangers do in combat, and how snipers perform in the War on Terror, then this is a book you won’t want to miss. You can order a copy here.