Six Days


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The SAS assault on the Iranian Embassy in April 1980 is still one of the seminal moments in special operations and counter-terrorism. Although the obvious inspiration for Lewis Collins’ 1982 Who Dares Wins, this action has been largely ignored by the entertainment community. Until the Bin laden raid in 2011, this lack of attention has probably not seen as a bad thing by the special operations community.

We had Ultimate Force with the bloke from EastEnders, and then The Unit led by the melting moments Terminator but it wasn’t until Six that we started to see some credible small screen special operations. On the large screen, Blackhawk Down was really an anyman story of soldiers at war, The Great Raid was pretty tame and also the tale of a large scale operation. The Odd Angry Shot is an Aussie classic but more COIN than SO. For the most part, the most significant of special operations have been largely ignored by credible story tellers…Even the first that I remember, Entebbe, has only been told  well once and that is the Israeli Operation Thunderbolt (still worth a watch if you can find it on Youtube)…

I read Bill McRaven’s (the ‘make your bed’ guy)  Spec Ops when it was first published – passing the time during a week in Waiouru Hospital in 1996 – and it must have been a tough decision to note include it as one of the case studies. It contains all the elements of McRaven’s theory of relative superiority and would certainly have survived scrutiny against his principles of special operations: simplicity, security, repetition, surprise, speed and purpose.

I was discouraged from buying Six Days for a long time because of its 90 minute run time: 90 minutes or less always suggests to me ‘made for TV’, never a good sign; and I was wary of whether it would be worth watching or just be loosely based on reality.

I need not have worried. It is very good and gets all the key elements of the story into 90 minutes without feeling crammed or forced. Watching the credits (as I may do if the remote is beyond my reach), I could see why as I recognised, with surprise, some of the consultants’ names. More so when further credits revealed that this is very much a Kiwi movie production-wise as well: another result of Helen Clark’s decision to invest in and support our fledgling movie industry in the early days of the Lord of the Rings saga.

Six Days is a great account of a small team that pulled off a nigh impossible task under the most challenging conditions, not just those of a task never attempted before but one conducted under live TV cameras and global scrutiny. All part of Margaret Thatcher’s hard line of terrorism, and a harbinger of that same hard line two years later when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands.

Searching for it just now, I was pleased to still be able to find Spec Ops on a shelf. When we Bookabached the Lodge while living in Waiouru, we pitched the library as one of its features. That was a little naive as library holdings diminished over that winter – a good reason to inventory everything so you actually know what might be missing and not just tearing the place apart looking for something that’s no longer there.

Nana doing Nana stuff 010.jpgMoving here was the first time  that I was able to have all my books unboxed and shelved since leaving home. Having to rebox it all up again for an indefinite period will be like losing a bunch of old friends:  Kindle just isn’t the same has holding old paper in your hands or glancing around for a reading target of opportunity…

Bill McRaven did much more than just write a book but it may be most remembered popularly for his ‘make your bed’ speech – better than ‘Wear Sunscreen’…

Part of the reason behind this big writing jag at the moment is that I was disappointed to see that my blogging efforts for 2018 fit onto a single WordPress preview page. The rescue helicopter campaign was unexpected – a reminder that stupidity can break out anywhere at anytime – and consumed way more time and effort than expected. I was writing so much in support of our helicopter bases, that it was a challenge to take up the keyboard for anything else…making up for that now…getting back into the swing of a post a day if I can…setting challenges to get me out of bed and keep me of the couch…

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