It has been nine years since SEAL Team 6 operators raided Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan and killed the leader of al-Qaeda and the man responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The effects of Operation Neptune’s Spear, however, still vibrate in the Special Operations and, more specifically, Navy SEAL community.
On April 21, No Ordinary Dog, the much-anticipated memoir of Will Chesney, a former SEAL Team 6 operator and a dog handler who participated in the mission with his Special Operations Military Working Dog (SOMWD) Cairo, hit the shelves.
On the same day, the Department of Defence (DoD) sent out a cease-and-desist letter to St. Martin’s Press, who published the book, requesting that it be taken down because it sported the SEAL Trident on the cover. The Trident is awarded to those who complete the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) and SEAL Qualification Course (SQT) training.
The Navy’s decision was first reported by Coffee or Die.
SOFREP understands that Chesney’s relationship with his former command is good. Unlike Matt Bissonnette, also known as Mark Owen, who burned down a lot of bridges when he decided to publish “No Easy Day,” Chesney and his co-author Don Layden, a journalist, went through the proper channels and review process. Indeed, the book was sent to the Department of Defense for pre-publication review and was greenlighted after an 18-month review. All servicemembers who have signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) during their time in uniform are required to go through this process in order to publish a book.
In a statement, Chesney said that “I wrote No Ordinary Dog to honor the men and K9s with whom I served and to tell Cairo’s story. I was disheartened by the request from the Navy to remove the Trident from the cover of our book – especially after we received clearance from the Department of Defense to publish.”
“To be clear, I love the Navy, and I have respectfully requested to use the insignia in order to honor Cairo,” added Chesney. “I had the privilege of wearing the Trident on my uniform during my time in the Navy. Cairo was shot in the line of duty on a SEAL operation while protecting us. In my eyes, Cairo will always have earned his trident. The trident is a symbol of who we are and the SEAL brotherhood.”
SOFREP talked to Mark Semos, CEO of The Reserve Label and also a former Navy SEAL, who has cooperated with Chesney and Layden in the publication of the book. Asked if they had received any indication from the Navy or NSW that they would receive a cease-and-desist letter, Mark said that “No, there was no indication at all. The book was up for six months on pre-sale on Amazon, with the original cover art that included the trident insignia. The Navy waited until our publication date to send the email accusing us of trademark infringement.”
As far as their next steps, Mark said that they have approached the Navy and requested the use of the Trident on the book cover. They have yet to hear back.
We’ve requested the use of the trident and the Navy has not responded to us. “Neither Will nor I want to fight the United States Navy,” added Mark. “The entire military is having trouble meeting their recruiting goals right now, especially during the COVID-19 lockdown. This book does nothing but put the Navy and the SEAL Teams a wonderful light, and could have been taken advantage of from a recruiting perspective. From my vantage point, considering the scandals that the Navy has weathered in the past year, this feels like a case of misplaced priorities.”
It is pretty obvious that the Navy is trying to make an example out of Chesney in order to prevent the future publication of books or at least disincentivize SEAL operators from telling their stories. Navy SEALs have got a bad rap when it comes to books. Many in the Special Operations community are quick to point out that SEALs won’t hesitate to record their experiences in order to profit. Another side of the argument, however, asserts that it is those very experiences that motivate a lot of people to join the Special Operations community, or indeed the military, in the first place. Furthermore, one could argue that the Navy and the Naval Special Warfare Command have historically encouraged the sharing of experiences with the public. The Top Gun and Act of Valor movies were officially sanctioned and promoted by the Navy. The latter film even had active duty SEALs in the starring roles. Although there are merits on both sides of the argument, one thing is clear is Chesney’s case: The Navy’s actions are petty.
You can listen to a podcast SOFREP Radio did with Chesney here.