Modern American Snipers, my new book with SOFREP.com and St. Martin’s Press, has officially released and is now available for the world to read. That’s obviously a major milestone in what’s proven to be an occasionally frenetic yet continually rewarding creative process.
Brandon, Jack, and the rest of the crew at SOFREP have built the site’s credibility and reputation based on their prior combat tours serving as SEALs, Rangers, and other special operations forces. They call upon the insight and connections they first began to foster on the battlefield in order to provide their audience with an insider’s perspective of global special ops that is unrivaled.
I’m the exception. I’m a journalist with nearly two decades of experience — primarily covering motorsports of all things. The fact that they’ve entrusted me to uphold the SOFREP name and believe in my work enough to stand behind it in the way that they have is not only an honor, it’s a responsibility, and one I take seriously.
Some of you may be familiar with some of my earlier work, particularly that which was published at SOFREP: Shaping the World from the Shadows: The (Open) Secret History of Delta Force, Post-9/11 and Beyond Neptune Spear: The (Open) Secret History of SEAL Team Six, Post-9/11.
Since those two series originally ran, we’ve been looking for an opportunity to work together again on something even larger. And finally, the opportunity, idea, and timing synched up just right to make that a reality.
If you read either of those ebooks, you already have something of an idea as to my style and approach. Modern American Snipers builds on that but is thoroughly augmented across the board. Imagine something along the lines of those projects on steroids and with the added element of extensive interviews with, and profiles of, some of most accomplished snipers the nation has produced over the past two decades.
I’m guessing some of you are already sold: “Great! Another sniper book!” And yes, we have you covered. SOF snipers, their training, the technology, the trigonometry… all that stuff is here for you.
But I’m also guessing some of you are a little more skeptical: “Oh great… another sniper book…” Well, I honestly think we have you covered as well. A primary motivating element behind this book was to demonstrate how modern-day SOF snipers fill roles and perform duties that greatly outstretch the more conventionalized notions of what they do and who they are.
These are among the most experienced warfighters the world has ever known. A substantial portion of them would have qualified as such before they were even first trained as snipers. And in fact, many were specifically chosen to become SOF snipers for that very reason. So even if the word ‘sniper’ doesn’t immediately grab you, if words and phrases like ‘recce,’ ‘black ops,’ ‘close target reconnaissance,’ ‘close quarters combat,’ ‘clandestine,’ and/or ‘low-vis operations’ do, this book should be right up your alley as well.
While the Delta Force and DEVGRU ebooks that ran at SOFREP helped in large part to create the opportunity to pursue something larger with SOFREP.com, the idea for Modern American Snipers actually grew out of another project entirely.
When discussion of potentially tackling a book together came back around, I was hard at work on what can only be described as an insanely deeply researched fiction series — Engines of Extinction. Set in the real world and thoroughly enmeshed into today’s geopolitical climate and emerging technologies, the series is on one hand a SOF/espionage thriller. But Engines of Extinction also pushes the aforementioned technologies to the point that unquestionably and unabashedly qualifies it as science fiction. (That said, the real-world battlefield is fast resembling what’s more often thought of as ‘sci-fi’ as well.)
Based on the research I had previously done for Shaping the World from the Shadows and Beyond Neptune Spear, I decided to give Engines of Extinction’s protagonist a background as a JSOC recce sniper. That led to even deeper research on the matter, including phone calls to inside sources knowledgeable of such things.
While doing so, it rather quickly occurred to me the wildly disproportionate roles these exceptionally adept recce operators — along with other American SOF snipers — have played throughout the Global War on Terror… and on any number of levels.
The light bulb flashed as I realized there was a nonfiction book on the subject just begging to be written.
As I said before, the timing to attack this project finally worked out as well. I was in a position to move a few things around and dive into this book, but we had to work fast — extremely fast — to be able to bring it to you by Christmas as was our ambitious plan.
Engines of Extinction was temporarily placed on hold (well, that’s not entirely accurate; the massive amount of follow-up research conducted specifically for Modern American Snipers is now feeding directly back into EoE as it rapidly approaches the March 2015 release of its first episode) and this new sniper nonfiction book idea became my day and night life.
Modern American Snipers involved an extended string of seven-day-per-week, 6:00am-2:00am work ‘days.’ But fortunately I had a clear vision throughout the process which allowed me to continually work forward toward the end goal without suffering any major missteps or drama.
And it was also fortunate that the content I was being provided by the book’s interview subjects was consistently absolute gold as well.
I had already developed some useful contacts through my earlier work. Meanwhile, my association with SOFREP opened several other doors and helped put me in touch with a large number of well-placed individuals. And all the while, I worked hard to build up some new contacts myself along the way.
Some came easily and others were more hard-won. One happened purely by luck, and another was right in front of me my entire life yet nearly went overlooked.
My girlfriend and I happened to buy a house and move in while all this was taking place. That made the entire writing process all the more… let’s say, ‘interesting.’ And believe me, it sure is ‘interesting’ to write a book in a brand-new home while your office is still in the process of being finished. The office was actually completed (albeit barren) just in time to make use of for the final two days of writing.
Anyway, it just so happened that our realtor had been an F-16 pilot who worked with Rangers and special mission units in Iraq. He was the contact that came by luck.
Meanwhile, during my conversations with JSOC recce snipers, more than compared their work with that conducted by MACV-SOG — the legendary black ops unit of the Vietnam War. It only occurred to me relatively late that it might be a good idea to grab some quotes from my father, who just so happens to be a highly-decorated Army Special Forces/MACV-SOG recon veteran. While I was initially simply looking for a few words from him about the basics of what they did and the classified nature of the work to flesh out the comparison, the interview actually provided one of my very favorite vignettes of the entire book (a little story about prizes dangled for executing successful cross-border snatch-and-grabs that’s even better than it sounds on the surface).
And the modern-day SOF snipers were a fascinating crew to talk with as well. While they shared some common traits with one another, including the fact that they were all exceedingly knowledgeable, their personalities were all over the map. Some were very welcoming and gracious, others more guarded. Some were modest while others were larger-than-life.
There was also a surprising amount of humor to relate in Modern American Snipers, sometimes due to the dry humor of the snipers themselves, and other times due to the absurdity of the scenarios they occasionally encountered.
Dealing with this group of all-star warriors was a bit surreal at times. Even though the book became my primary focus, I still had some motorsports-related responsibilities to attend to. On more than one occasion, I was covering a world or national championship motorcycle race and received either a call or a text from a JSOC sniper while attending a race press conference. Juggling MotoGP world champs and Tier 1 operators is probably not what would be considered a typical work experience.
Finally, when the draft was completed and turned in to my editor at St. Martin’s, my girlfriend and I packed up and took a much-needed (research) vacation out East.
While I’ve done plenty of writing over the years, my previous work had all been for magazines or websites, along with the two self-published ebooks. Modern American Snipers is my first honest-to-goodness-on-the-shelves-at-Barnes-&-Noble- Walmart-and-probably-even-your-friggen-local-gas-station hardcover release.
I found out rather quickly that there’s still a great deal of work left to be done for the author after turning in that first draft. It’s considerably different from magazine work, for example, which is much more fire and forget.
What was intended to be a relaxing sightseeing trip that also included some location scouting for Engines of Extinction, turned into long nights in DC at my computer. And later, while my girlfriend was out laying in the sun by the ocean in Virginia Beach — complete with dolphins playing just offshore and a steady stream of FA-18s, AV-8Bs, and even F-22s flying overhead — I was in the hotel room, making last-minute tweaks to the manuscript.
Ultimately, it was all worth it and we ended up with a book I’m very proud to share.
As a brief overview, Modern American Snipers follows four primary threads:
- The macro-level story of the evolution of both national-level (JSOC) and theater-level spec-ops (SEALs, SF, and MARSOC) since 9/11.
- The overhaul of the SEAL sniper program and a close-up look at one of the new program’s first products, Chris Kyle, including insight from his one-on-one SEAL sniper mentor, Eric Davis, and several others who either trained him or trained alongside him. Chris is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the new generation of SEAL snipers, and we go into that as well.
- A look at the 75th Ranger Regiment’s 3rd Battalion’s sniper platoon, which is a uniquely capable asset. Ranger snipers are perhaps the purest expression of SOF sniper in the American military and the 3/75 sniper platoon has a fascinating history and its own share of fascinating characters.
- And finally, a deeper look at the mysterious recce snipers of Delta Force and DEVGRU, along with the intertwined and sometimes tumultuous relationships between the units.
The book blends macro-level considerations with sniper profiles, and detailed looks at key operations.
The sheer amount of talent and accomplishments boasted by the veterans who lent their time and insight to the book is simply astounding. If I did my job properly and effectively got that across on the page, this should prove to be a book you’ll really enjoy. I hope you’ll check it out.
Chris Martin is also the author of Engines of Extinction, available now on Amazon.
(Featured Image Courtesy: DVIDS)