15 Revelations from the Man Who Shot Osama bin Laden

February 11, 2013

The Navy SEAL who shot Osama bin Laden told his story to Phil Bronstein in a piece published in Esquire Monday.

The shooter, who cannot disclose his name for security reasons, detailed the events of bin Laden’s death. He also spoke about the challenges that face veterans once they return to civilian life.

Below are some highlights of the details the Navy SEAL shooter revealed:

1. Girl dumps you? Join the Navy.


The shooter told his story about joining the Navy at nineteen, after a girl broke his heart. To escape, he almost by accident found himself in a Navy recruiter's office. "He asked me what I was going to do with my life. I told him I wanted to be a sniper.

2. The shooter was in the Navy for 16 years.

He was part of hundreds of combat missions and 12 long-term SEAL-team deployments. He also killed over 30 enemy combatants during his time in the Navy.

3. Bin Laden is taller in person.

Osama bin Laden / Wikimedia Commons
Osama bin Laden / Wikimedia Commons

[The shooter] is the one who rolled through the bedroom door solo and confronted the surprisingly tall terrorist pushing his youngest wife, Amal, in front of him through the pitch-black room. The shooter had to raise his gun higher than he expected.

4. The $25 million bounty on bin Laden will probably go to no one

The U.S. government put a $25 million bounty on bin Laden that no one is likely to collect. Certainly not the SEALs who went on the mission nor the support and intelligence experts who helped make it all possible.

5. He will not receive a pension, healthcare, or military protection

'My health care for me and my family stopped at midnight Friday night," [the shooter] said in the days after he left the service. '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-ck yourself."

6. Bin Laden = "Poopyface"

After bin Laden's face appeared on their TV in the days after the killing, the shooter cautioned his older child not to mention the al Qaeda leader's name ever again "to anybody. It's a bad name, a curse name." His kid started referring to him instead as "Poopyface."

7. His service cost him his marriage

The couple is officially separated, a common occurrence in ST6. SEAL marriages can be perilous. Husbands and fathers have been mostly away from their families since 9/11. But the shooter and his wife continue to share a house on very friendly, even loving terms, largely to save money.

8. The government lied to SEAL Team 6 about their destination


'The first day's briefing, they actually kind of lied to us, being very vague. They mentioned underwater cables because of the earthquake in Japan or some craziness. They hinted at Libya. They said it was a compound somewhere in a bowl and we were going to have two aircraft get us there and we don't know how many are inside but we have to get something out. You won't have any air support. I assumed it was WMD, a nuke, because why else are they sending us to Libya?"

9. He thought it was a one way mission

'I was usually the guy to joke around when we were planning these things—we all dick around a lot. But I was like, ‘Hey guys, we have to take this f-ing serious. There's a 90 percent chance this is a one-way mission. We're gonna die, so let's do this right.’"

10. The pension for a Navy SEAL is not much

Even if he had stayed in [the Navy] for the full twenty, his pension would have been half his base pay: $2,197 a month. The same as a member of the Navy choir.

11. The men in the compound used their wives as shields

In one flurry, a SEAL shot Abrar al-Kuwaiti, the brother of bin Laden's courier, and his wife, Bushra. 'One of our guys involved told me, ‘Jesus, these women are jumping in front of these guys. They're trying to martyr themselves.’"

12. 'You killed yourself. You passed." Becoming a Navy SEAL is really hard.


"One of the tests is they make you dive to the bottom of a pool and tie five knots," the shooter says. "One guy got to the fifth knot and blacked out underwater. We pulled him up and he was, like, dead. They made the class face the fence while they tried to resuscitate him. The first words as he spit out water were 'Did I pass? Did I tie the fifth knot?'"

13. SEAL Team 6 used Metallica to break terrorists

"When we first started the war in Iraq, we were using Metallica music to soften people up before we interrogated them," the Shooter says. "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.’"

14. Bin Laden’s son was his last line of defense

'I was about five guys back on the stairway when I saw the point man holding up. He'd seen Khalid, bin Laden's [twenty-three-year-old] son. I heard him whisper, ‘Khalid ... come here …’ in Arabic, then in Pashto. He used his name. That confused Khalid. He's probably thinking, ‘I just heard shitty Arabic and shitty Pashto. Who the f-k is this?’ He leaned out, armed with an AK, and he got blasted by the point man. That call-out was one of the best combat moves I've ever seen. Khalid had on a white T-shirt and, like, white pajama pants."

15. He felt conflicted about killing bin Laden

'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? The bad part was security. He was their prophet, basically. Now we killed him and I have to worry about this forever. Al Qaeda, especially these days, is 99 percent talk. But that 1 percent of the time they do shit, it's bad. They're capable of horrific things."