Friday, 21 July 2017

The Last Punisher - Kevin Lacz

This review has been submitted to Sabretache Magazine

Title: The Last Punisher
Author: Kevin Lacz
ISBN: 978-1-5011-2724-3
Publisher: Threshold Books
Year: 2016
Pages: 320
Photographs/Maps: 30

The Last Punisher is the author’s account of his training and operational experience as a member of Seal Team Three during the Battle of Ramadi. This is not an operational analysis of the battle nor a discussion of the tactical methods used by Special Forces, more it is a memoire of the authors time with the SEALS, the impact that the men of his team had on him and his outlook as well as how he matured both as an operator as well as a man as a result of his experiences (both positive and negative). The book is a quick read and has the four key elements of special forces (specops) operations: team loyalty, elitism, aggression and plenty of dip.

A number of themes come out of the book, ones that reflect the unique nature of the specops environment:

 1.      A strong sense of team cohesion and loyalty. While there is definitely a pride in one’s country, the driving sense of supporting the men of your stick is one that permeates throughout the narrative;
2.      The unique command relationship that exists within a specops environment. The role of officers, NCO’s and soldiers is not as defined as in conventional forces. This relaxing of the rules is supposed to be offset by the level of professionalism and training of the operators. One of the challenges however, rests in the rapid expansion of specops soldiers in the last ten years. This expansion naturally runs the risk of diluting the experience and professionalism that provides the foundation of the specops ethos;
3.      The us/them approach to other members of the armed services adopted by the specops teams. In his book Lacz alludes to this when he discusses joint ops with conventional forces. It is always a challenge to remember that everyone plays a role and it is critical that there is an appreciation of what those roles bring to the mission;
4.       The key role that specops soldiers play in training Iraqi soldiers and the difficulties associated with this. Lacz discusses this at some length and does acknowledge improvement and engagement by the indigenous forces with the passage of time;
5.      The disdain with the structure and regulation of the conventional military. Again, this is a reflection of the elitism that permeates the specops culture. Balanced against performance and professionalism this may be managed but left unchecked it can lead to a sense of superiority that can easily undermine the cohesion of the larger military and serve as a negative example to line soldiers;
6.      The sense of purpose, discipline and structure that the SEALS provided for Lacz. Certainly, this is not limited to specops soldiers and it is a truism that military service can focus the efforts of capable but drifting young men and women. Lacz mentions this repeatedly and with a profound sense of gratitude; and finally
7.      Lacz writes of his ability to walk away at the end of his service period and not live a life focussed in the past. For many military members and specops soldiers, it is extremely difficult to leave the sense of comradery and purpose that reflects military life. Reintegrating into a civilian environment is challenging and unsettling for many whose bonds have been forged in combat.

There is no question that Lacz feels very strongly about his team mates, his country and the role that he played in the War on Terror. His book serves as a testament to both his team-mates and the opportunities that his country has provided him. It is also a recognition of the role that his family’s support provided him in his reintegration back into civilian life. The Last Punisher is an honest tribute his years as a SEAL and the impact that it has had on his life. Recommended.

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