Book Review | BYU Studies

Book Review

Hammerhead Six
August 31, 2017
Book Review
Hammerhead Six: How Green Berets Waged an Unconventional War against the Taliban to Win in Afghanistan's Deadly Pech Valley
Cless Young

This daily feature is an introduction to a full book review by Cless Young. To read the full text of this review, follow the link below.

Hammerhead Six tells the story of U.S. Army Captain Ronald Fry and his elite team of Special Forces soldiers tasked with the difficult 2003 mission of tracking high-value targets in one of the most dangerous regions of Afghanistan, the Pech Valley. But this is not a typical blood-and-guts, Rambo-like war story. Although the mission called for these soldiers to seize weapons caches, hunt down hardened Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, and avoid IED booby traps, it was their maturity, cultural sensitivity, and humility (a trait not often associated with Special Forces personnel) that made it possible for them to fulfill their military objectives while winning the trust of the locals. 

A major theme of the book is the tension between two missions undertaken by Fry and his team: they were primarily a fighting unit, tasked to track down and destroy the enemy, but they were also committed to winning the hearts and minds of local villagers. Like the combat conditions in Vietnam, it was often difficult to distinguish friend from foe. A Taliban could detonate an IED and then return immediately to herding his goats, appearing to be an innocent bystander. The skilled Hammerhead Six team had no problem using their considerable firepower and Special Forces training to hunt down and destroy terrorists in their area of operation, but they were also motivated by their own deeply held moral convictions and the Green Beret motto, “To Free the Oppressed.” The background and values Captain Fry brought to his command made it possible for his unit to succeed with both objectives.