"In that second, I shot him, two times in the forehead. Bap! Bap!"
The former SEAL Team 6 member who killed Osama bin Laden offered new details about the raid that has been dramatized in books, video games, and movies in an interview with Esquire.
The interview also revealed some of the struggles the Navy SEAL has faced since leaving the military. Here are some of the highlights:
He told Esquire that since he left the Navy after serving for 16 years, he had lost his health insurance. However, in a post by Stars and Stripes on Monday, the publication said the SEAL would, in fact, be eligible for health insurance through the Department of Veterans Affairs. When soldiers leave the Armed Forces, the Department of Veterans Affairs provides five years of insurance, the Stars and Stripes post said.
- "My health care for me and my family stopped at midnight Friday night. I asked if there was some transition from my Tricare to Blue Cross Blue Shield. They said no. You're out of the service, your coverage is over. Thanks for your sixteen years. Go f*** yourself."
The Esquire piece also quoted the Navy SEAL as saying that the team initially had been given instructions to surrender if they found themselves surrounded by the Pakistani military during the raid on Abbottabad complex where bin Laden had been living.
- "The original plan was to have Vice-President Biden fly to Islamabad and negotiate our release with Pakistan's president. This is hearsay, but I understand Obama said, "˜Hell no. My guys are not surrendering. What do we need to rain hell on the Pakistani military?' That was the one time in my life I was thinking, I am f***ing voting for this guy. I had a picture of him lying in bed at night, thinking, "˜You're not f***ing with my guys.' Like, he's thinking about us."
While the team was training for the mission, they were introduced to the new, and highly classified, stealth Black Hawk helicopter that would fly the SEALs under radar over the Pakistani border. After seeing the new equipment, he jokes that it changed his view on their chances for survival.
- "We turned the corner, saw the helos we'd actually use, and I started laughing. I told the guys, "˜The odds just changed. There's a 90 percent chance we'll survive.' They asked why. I said, "˜I didn't know they were sending us to war on a f***ing Decepticon.' "
The SEAL also discussed the issue of enhanced interrogation techniques. He said the toughest techniques he used were repetitive questioning and loud music to induce fear.
- "When we first started the war in Iraq, we were using Metallica music to soften people up before we interrogated them. Metallica got wind of this and they said, "˜Hey, please don't use our music because we don't want to promote violence.' I thought, Dude, you have an album called Kill 'Em All.
- "But we stopped using their music, and then a band called Demon Hunter got in touch and said, "˜We're all about promoting what you do.' They sent us CDs and patches. I wore my Demon Hunter patch on every mission. I wore it when I blasted bin Laden."
The SEAL gave a detailed account of the raid: from the downed helicopter to moving up the stairs to the third floor, where bin Laden was found. As the SEALs climbed to the third floor, the men in front of the shooter dispersed into different rooms. Then, he entered the bedroom to find bin Laden and his youngest wife, Amal. The third floor action, he says, only took 15 seconds.
- "I'm just looking at him from right here [he moves his hand out from his face about ten inches]. He's got a gun on a shelf right there, the short AK he's famous for. And he's moving forward. I don't know if she's got a vest and she's being pushed to martyr them both. He's got a gun within reach. He's a threat. I need to get a head shot so he won't have a chance to clack himself off [blow himself up].
- "In that second, I shot him, two times in the forehead. Bap! Bap! The second time as he's going down. He crumpled onto the floor in front of his bed and I hit him again, Bap! same place. That time I used my EOTech red-dot holo sight. He was dead. Not moving. His tongue was out. I watched him take his last breaths, just a reflex breath.
- "And I remember as I watched him breathe out the last part of air, I thought: Is this the best thing I've ever done, or the worst thing I've ever done? This is real and that's him. Holy s***.
- "Everybody wanted him dead, but nobody wanted to say, Hey, you're going to kill this guy. It was just sort of understood that's what we wanted to do.
- "His forehead was gruesome. It was split open in the shape of a V. I could see his brains spilling out over his face. The American public doesn't want to know what that looks like."
After the SEALs bagged up bin Laden's body, they went to different rooms to gather computer materials and other intelligence information. Then, he said, they found something fascinating.
- "In each computer room, there was a bed. Under the beds were these huge duffel bags, and I'm pulling them out, looking for whatever. At first I thought they were filled with vacuum-sealed rib-eye steaks. I thought, "˜They're in this for the long haul. They've got all this food. Then, wait a minute. This is raw opium. These drugs are everywhere.' It was pretty funny to see that."
SEALs rarely thank SEALs, he said. But after his comrades spread the word that he killed bin Laden, praise came his way.
- "One backup SEAL Team 6 member on the flight asked who'd killed UBL. I said I f***ing killed him. He's from New York and says, "˜No s***. On behalf of my family, thank you.' And I thought: Wow, I've got a Navy SEAL telling me thanks?"
After the SEALs made it back to Afghanistan to inspect the body and debrief, the famed CIA agent who spent her career tracking down bin Laden was there.
- "While they were still checking the body, I brought the agency woman over. I still had all my stuff on. We looked down and I asked, "˜Is that your guy?' She was crying. That's when I took my magazine out of my gun and gave it to her as a souvenir. Twenty-seven bullets left in it. "˜I hope you have room in your backpack for this.' That was the last time I saw her.
He later added:
- "The moment truly struck at Bagram when I'm eating a breakfast sandwich, standing near bin Laden's body, looking at a big-screen TV with the president announcing the raid. I'm sitting there watching him, looking at the body, looking at the president, eating a sausage-egg-cheese-and-extra-bacon sandwich thinking, "˜How the f*** did I get here? This is too much."
The SEAL's wife also reflected on their marriage, saying the relationship sometimes took a backseat to his work as a SEAL and that was "a casualty of his career."
- "He gave so much to his country, and now it seems he's left in the dust. I feel there's no support, not just for my family but for other families in the community. I honestly have nobody I can go to or talk to. Nor do I feel my husband has gotten much for what he's accomplished in his career."
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.