News & Politics

What to Wear to Kill Osama bin Laden

In “No Easy Day,” author Mark Owen details the essential gear for an assault mission.

The king of night vision goggles (NVG) Mark Owen wore the night Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden. They were distinctive because of the sophisticated four tubes. Photograph courtesy of Owen.

There are many revealing parts in
No Easy Day, Mark Owen’s controversial account of the murder of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
One in particular stands out: The author, writing under a pseudonym, details the methodical
way he dressed himself before departure for the bin Laden compound in Abbottabad,
Pakistan. “Sitting on my bed, I started to get dressed,” he writes. “Nothing I did
from the moment I started to put on my pants was random. Every step was carefully
planned.” He said this was the same process he went through before every mission as
a “way to focus.”

Here’s an inventory of those steps, and how he got dressed, for a mission that would be over in 24 hours.

—First he laid out his Crye Precision Desert Digital combat uniform,
a long-sleeve, partially camouflaged shirt and cargo pants combo with ten pockets,
“each with a specific purpose.”

—In the pockets he put assault gloves, leather mitts for “fast-roping,” an assortment
of batteries, energy gel, two PowerBars, an extra tourniquet, rubber gloves, an SSE
(forensic) kit, an Olympus point-and-shoot digital camera, and $200 in cash. The money
was for a bribe or a ride, if needed. “Evasion takes money, and few things work better
than American cash.”

—On the back of his belt, he placed a Daniel Winkler fixed-blade knife.

—In a pouch on his back he had bolt cutters and antennae for the two radios he would
wear and use to communicate with other team members.

—Other items included:

  • A “breaching charge,” used to blow open a door or other locked or closed barrier.
  • His helmet, which weighed under ten pounds and included $65,000 night-vision goggles
    with four tubes instead of two, and a Princeton Tec charge light.
    The helmet “could officially stop a nine-millimeter round, but in the past . . . had
    stopped AK-47 bullets.”
  • A small laminated booklet—a “cheat sheet for the mission”—that included a mini
    grid reference guide (GRG) with an aerial view of the bin Laden compound, a list of
    radio frequencies, pictures of the targets (bin Laden, his son, his brothers) with
    stats such as height, weight, and any known aliases. For bin Laden and his son there
    were several renderings of what they “could look like now.”
  • Salomon Quest boots.
    Owen “tied the loops of my laces down in a double knot and tucked them into my boot
  • A 60-pound armored vest with ceramic plates that covered his vital organs in the
    front and back.
  • Mounted on the front of his vest were two radios on either side; between them were
    three magazines for his HK416 assault rifle
    and one “baseball-size” fragmentation grenade, as well as several chemical lights,
    including the infrared version for night vision.
  • His “bone” phones. They sat on his cheekbones and allowed him to “hear any radio
    traffic through bone conduction technology.”
  • His assault rifle. He checked out his EOTech sight with a 3X magnifier. He pulled
    back the bolt and chambered a round and made sure it was “safe.” He tested his red
    laser and flipped down the NVGs to test the infrared laser, too.

Then, “all of my checks were done,” he writes. “I’d completed my steps to prepare
for the mission. I took one last look in the room to make sure I didn’t forget anything,
and headed out the door.”

Photograph courtesy of Owen.