On October 16, St. Martin’s Press released the newest combat memoir to be written by a former soldier in the U.S. Army’s elite 75th Ranger Regiment. “When the Killer Man Comes: Eliminating Terrorists as a Special Operations Sniper” takes the reader on real combat missions in Afghanistan alongside Paul Martinez, who served as a Ranger and Ranger sniper for seven years.
The title pays homage to an infamous Ranger re-enlistment poster that was used in the early days of the regiment. It features a machine-gun-wielding, beret-wearing Ranger running toward the sound of gunfire with the text, “I’m not the killer man, I’m the killer man’s son. But I’ll do the killing till the killer man comes!”
Fans of military history books may recognize Martinez as the sniper who accompanied Nicholas Irving into combat; his exploits were detailed in Irving’s best-selling books “The Reaper” and “Way of the Reaper.” Martinez was trained by Irving and ended up with a total of six deployments to Afghanistan.
With Martinez joining the ranks of Rangers-turned-author, readers are offered a different and rare glimpse into the 75th Ranger Regiment. Martinez details his experiences with Team Merrill, a little-known, Ranger-led special operations task force that undertook some of the most dangerous missions in 2010 and 2011, suffering heavy losses in the process.
Coffee or Die Magazine was given an advance copy of the book, and as a former Ranger myself, I was proud to find that the writing was as good as the men it was about. But in particular, a few quotes caught my eye while reading.
Early in the book, Martinez called attention to the bravery shown by Afghans who helped his task force, a message more Americans should here.
“He was an Afghan citizen who was embedded with us because he couldn’t stomach what the Taliban was doing to his country. It was a life-changing decision, because once he had thrown in with us, he was a dead man walking if the Taliban caught him. It’s hard for us in the United States to understand how brave these Afghan interpreters are, and we need to do more for them after they dedicate their lives to supporting us.”
Martinez did a good job of dispelling stereotypes about the modern Ranger, something those who served in the Regiment will appreciate.
“Mac and I began piecing together and analyzing our enemy. You might think that the last thing Rangers involved in a firefight would do is analyze anything, but we do. That’s how you win and, frankly, how you stay alive.”
Martinez hit on another point later in the book that many don’t understand about Rangers: we are meticulous when it comes to care of equipment and preparing for a mission.
“It’s not the guns and gear or muscles and tattoos that make this work. It’s the boring stuff: checking, double-checking, and then checking again. When you’re operating at the extreme ragged edge of a human being’s performance envelope, anything left to chance will kill you.”
Afghanistan and the way our nation has approached the war there has been the subject of fierce debate over the course of our 17-year involvement. Martinez addresses his own self-doubt when faced with conducting a counter-narcotic mission; as a native Coloradoan, the idea of risking his life to go after people growing cannabis seemed ridiculous. He was undoubtedly not the only one who fought in Afghanistan that felt that way.
“I tried to process exactly how I was feeling. I was conflicted. On the one hand, I would proudly fight anyone, anywhere, for my country, death and injury be damned. On the other hand, I imagined how I would feel if I had to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair if my legs got blown off by an IED while we were burning cannabis for the DEA. Worse still, how could I reconcile the loss if one of my brothers died doing that?”
There was one line in this book that really struck me for its simplicity. It certainly isn’t the first time this sentiment has been expressed, but I believe it’s relevant on many levels.
“But nothing in this world is perfect, and in war even less so.”
You can find Paul Martinez’s “When the Killer Man Comes” here and at all major book outlets in e-book, hardcover, and audiobook formats.