The Man Who Shot bin Laden Can’t Find a Job

February 15, 2013 |

alleged photo of SEAL Team 6

An experienced veteran has next to no success finding a career in the civilian world: Is this just another example of the difficulties former servicemembers are facing on the job market, or is it a case of sour grapes from a man who isn’t making the best use of his military experience? That’s the question when it comes to “the Shooter,” a former member of SEAL Team 6 and recognized as the man who shot Osama bin Laden.

In a lengthy Esquire feature last week that’s already stirred plenty of discussion, the Shooter goes into detail about the operation that led to the takedown of the Taliban leader, and also has plenty to say about his lack of success in transitioning to the civilian world. Who or what is to blame? The Shooter and the Esquire article’s author, Phil Bronstein, seem to point at inadequate transition resources as the culprit:

[W]here do [the Shooter’s] sixteen years of training and preparedness go on his résumé? Who in the outside world understands the executive skills and keen psychological fortitude he and his First Tier colleagues have absorbed into their DNA? Who is even allowed to know? And where can he go to get any of these questions answered?

There is a Transition Assistance Program in the military, but it’s largely remedial level, rote advice of marginal value: Wear a tie to interviews, not your Corfam (black shiny service) shoes. Try not to sneeze in anyone’s coffee. There is also a program at MacDill Air Force Base designed to help Special Ops vets navigate various bureaucracies. And the VA does offer five years of health care benefits—through VA physicians and hospitals—for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but it offers nothing for the shooter’s family.

It seems as though the Shooter is not the only man from his unit who has apprehensions about the future.

The Shooter’s friend is also looking for a viable exit from the Navy. As he prepared to deploy again, he agreed to talk with me on the condition that I not identify him.

“My wife doesn’t want me to stay in one more minute than I have to,” he says. But he’s several years away from official retirement. “I agree that civilian life is scary. And I’ve got a family to take care of. Most of us have nothing to offer the public. We can track down and kill the enemy really well, but that’s it.

“If I get killed on this next deployment, I know my family will be taken care of.” (The Navy does offer decent life-insurance policies at low rates.) “College will be paid for, they’ll be fine.

“But if I come back alive and retire, I won’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out for the rest of my life. Sad to say, it’s better if I get killed.”

No doubt there’s many complications when you transition from a high-pressure, covert job in DEVGRU to a completely different life out of uniform, especially when a leakage of your true identity might lead to you becoming a top target on a terrorist hit list. On the other hand, we read about how special operations veterans are the best of the best in training and support, with that support network extending to civilian life, where many of them find jobs as advisors, motivational speakers, as members of management teams, and even part of video game teams (to be fair, the Shooter applied for just such a position in Electronic Arts, with no success). So is our Shooter coming up short in taking advantage of the resources, skills and experiences he’s gained? Or is the military falling short in providing him with the support he needs to create a new life for himself? It’s a question that may have more than one answer, and we invite you to chime in with your thoughts in the comments section below.

[For military transition resources, and to create a transition plan for yourself, visit the Transition Center.]

About Ho Lin

Ho Lin is an editor at His interests include naval history, the New York football Giants, and loud rock music.


  1. Dennis says:

    why does he not apply for the state Department ? Obama should give him a position in his security detail .

  2. mack says:

    He should become a LEO instructor and on FBI counter terrorism team. Firearms and tactics instructor to tier one group like tiger-swan, triple canopy and as overseas contractor. An other resource would be apply for DEA, FBI, CIA .at or I know with his credentials he can become a great TLO/ asset for multiple swat teams in the country.

  3. DKM says:

    I am sure a firearms manufacturer can use a consultant to test and train employee or future customers and what better representative than a member of an elite group! Like many of them I can relate I was looking for a different field after military as District rep for a top fortune 500 group but but ultimately I came full circle to what i know best weapons and training, a life of service and oath as a LEO i get the compare and team environment without to deal with family anxiety! You can't explain it to the civilian out there who wants an operator to transition behind a desk. Not going to happen! That's why I didn't go federal, FBI.

  4. Chris says:

    Having served and had above top secret clearance when I got out most places still required other things for employment. I was a FMF corpsman, dive qualified but still when I got out I had to go through paramedic school and re qualify my dive status. This guy has numerous qualifications I'm sure and status without doubt but the economy and possibly limited education because of his commitments limit him greatly

  5. Jim says:

    As a Huey gunship jock we supported SPEC ops. I always wondered how it would be for these men in years to come. All missions I flew were clandestine (69-70). Never knew any by their name and rarely spoke. My crew and I new when we dropped them off someone died. Several close calls were compromised and had to emergency extractions. Just by looking at these men gave me a sense awe just to watch them work. I know what it took to become a seal. You could tell they fine tuned to a knifes edge. I admit I didn’t want to be one. My wife of 37 years still don’t know what I did in NAM. After 40 years finally they’re doing something about it.
    My heart goes out to to those dedicated men and the wives that stand them.
    With the current administration and the private army “O” is building their services may be used again if they cal for our weapons!!
    May God Bless you and your family!!!


  6. Mike says:

    I'm a recruiter and actively recruit from all branches of the Armed Services. I would love to speak with him. Here is my email address in the event the magazine would like to pass him my information. Thank you.


  7. Retired BubbleDale says:

    This guy is not alone. There are tons of military service fields that do not convert easily to civilian employment. While some vets can parley their experience into related employment (i.e.civil service, shipbuilding, equipment maintenance, software engineer, airline pilot) many of us move on to career fields that have nothing in common with our past experience. My nephew is a recently retired Gunny, MP type, bomb dog handler. He tried like hell to find that good-paying civilian 9-to-5 job. No luck, but SOC hired him for 100+K per year, and he's back in the sandbox sniffing out IED's. It ain't 9-to-5, but he's supporting his family.

  8. KMJ says:

    Does DEVGRU or the overall SEAL community not have a "hook a brother up" concept? "Shooter" is not the first alum to ponder his future outside of hunting bad guys. I agree that the TAP stuff is very generic but it's hard to believe that SEALs don't have their own informal spinoff. Granted he's got a different experience than the average veteran bear, or even other spec ops, but the guys who shot down the WWII Imperial Japanese Navy heavy hitters and the Red Baron had to get jobs also, not to mention readjust to Tuesday night grocery shopping.

  9. jennifer says:

    Stay in until they kick you out. Your wife does not know how hard it is to find a job. Yes it looks like the people support us and the Gov. is doing so much for us Vets. Let me tell you, I served 13 years and because of an injury I got out. I have been looking for a job for four years now. Stay in….