The book No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden (Dutton, 2012), written by a former Navy SEAL under the pseudonym Mark Owen, along with author Kevin Maurer, was published last week. As it arrived amid plenty of controversy--the Pentagon has threatened its author, Matt Bissonnette, 36, with legal action for violating confidentiality agreements, and some have pointed out that the events depicted in the book differ from the Obama administration's account--it has immediately ascended to the top of bestseller lists and unseated Fifty Shades of Grey on Amazon (AMZN).
Given that No Easy Day is a work of non-fiction, are there any brands or products mentioned that may stand to benefit (or not) from the book's surging popularity? It turns out that yes, there are. Not including the arsenal of military-grade items listed MP7 submachine guns, the Sig Sauer P226, M70 Grenade Launchers, to name a few, here are the everyday brands given prominence in Bissonnette's recollection.
The Outback Steakhouse's "Bloomin Onion"
At night in the Kunar province of Afghanistan, Bissonnette is caught off guard by a rocket-propelled grenade while urinating in an open space. The rocket emerges from the darkness and strikes "ten feet off the tail ramp of the helicopter, showering my teammates with shrapnel." He buttons up his pants and finds his way into a ditch. His description of the ensuing counterattack: "We watched as American heavy weapons started raking the ridgeline. It looked like a Bloomin' Onion at Outback Steakhouse."
According to Bissonnette, Navy SEALs are based in two places: San Diego, Calif., and Virginia Beach, Va. "A healthy rivalry existed between the two groups based mostly on geography and demographics," he writes. "West Coast SEALs have the reputation of being laid-back surfers," while the East Coast ones "are thought of as the Carhartt-wearing rednecks." While Bissonnette identifies himself as part of the West Coast tribe, he mentions the rugged outdoors-clothing brand for a second time in the book—and in a markedly more affectionate context. He recalls venturing into the Alaskan wilderness as a young man with his father. "On one cold winter day in Alaska, I was wrapped tightly in a tan Carhartt snowsuit, winter boots, and gloves."
While assembling his gear for the mission to Abbottabad, he writes: "My camera, a digital Olympus (7733:JP) point-and-shoot, was in my right shoulder pocket." This would be the camera used to photograph bin Laden's corpse and help prove his identity.
The Lord of the Rings films
Bissonnette mentions the Oscar-winning trilogy (TWX) to describe his fellow SEALs' appearances: "A former Ranger joining Delta Force, Jon had a thick barrel chest and thick arms. A brown bushy beard that was so long it brushed against the top of his chest covered his face. He looked like a taller version of Gimli, the angry dwarf in The Lord of the Rings." This isn't the only mention of Peter Jackson's adaptations of Tolkien's work. As the soldiers wait patiently in Afghanistan in the days before the raid, Owen sits at a "fire pit" with two fellow SEALs, named Charlie and Walt. "We'd already decided that Elijah Wood had Walt's role in the movie [version of the raid], since he was no taller than a hobbit."
Mary Evans/New Line Cinema /Everett Collection
Bissonnette recalls being stationed at a former Baath Party building in the Green Zone of Baghdad, where he worked "vampire hours": "Most days, I'd get up in the afternoon and wander out to the pool with my iPod (AAPL) speaker," he writes. "I'd chill to some Red Hot Chili Peppers or Linkin Park while I stretched out on an air mattress."
Pranking was popular among the SEAL team members, and the squadron eventually "built a wire diagram connecting all of the suspected culprits," he writes. While in Miami for "urban training," Bissonnette for the first time encounters a "twelve-inch-black dildo" named the "Staff of Power." It shows up later in Virginia Beach, stuffed into Mark's gas mask. That's not the end of the story. "There was always food in the kitchen, and guys used to bring massive jugs of pretzels and other snacks from Costco (COST)," he writes. "One day a bin of animal crackers appear[s] in the team room." Bissonnette describes how the Staff of Power mysteriously showed up in it. "To this day, I still can't eat animal crackers. ... To date the Staff of Power is unaccounted for."
Photograph by JR Reed/Bloomberg
In 2009, Bissonnette took part in the mission that freed the captain of the Maersk Alabama, a shipping vessel that had been hijacked by Somali pirates near the Horn of Africa. After the hijacking, the U.S.S. Bainbridge captured some of the fleeing pirates as the captain of the Maersk Alabama, Richard Phillips, was held captive in one of the ship's lifeboats. As the Bainbridge trailed the lifeboat during the ensuing stand-off, a Navy SEAL named named Gary interrogated a captured pirate named Wal-i-Musi on deck. "Hey, man, want some ice cream?" he said. "How about a cold Coke (KO)?" Bissonnette writes: "Musi and Gary struck up a friendship over food and comfort. Gary kept Musi out in the open so the other pirates could see him drinking Cokes and eating ice cream." Eventually the pirates were shot by snipers. "Back on the Bainbridge, before the last shot rang out, Gary grabbed Musi and slammed him on the deck:" "You're going to jail," Gary said. "Your buddies are dead. You're useless to me now."
In the summer of 2009, Bissonnette fought in the central Afghan mountains, about two hours south of Kabul. After a firefight: "As we crested the top of the ridgeline, we slowed down, careful not to rush into a hasty ambush. I saw three bodies lying there, one with the machine gun and one with an RPG. The dead fighters were dressed in baggy shirts and pants and black Cheetahs (CTH:MK), high-top Puma-like sneakers worn by Taliban fighters. It was a running joke in the squadron that if you wore black Cheetahs in Afghanistan, you were automatically a suspect."
In Virginia Beach, before he began training for the bin Laden raid, Bissonnette visits "command": "I ... changed into my 'working' uniform—a Crye Precision tan desert pattern and Salomon (AMEAS:FH) low-top running shoes—and dropped my cell phone in my cage. The meeting was in our secure conference room, which meant no phones." Later, on the actual mission, Bissonnette would wear Salomon Quest boots. "I swore by these boots because they protected my baby ankles, which I twisted with great frequency."
The Navy SEALs seem to use the sleep-aid Ambien often. Bissonnette describes a nine-hour flight from the U.S. to Germany, followed by an eight-hour leg to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan: "Getting as much sleep as we could on the flight was imperative. ... Once we were level, guys started to pop Ambien and settle in for the long flight." Later, on the ground in the nights before the raid, he recalls: "I popped two Ambien. No one was getting any rest without sleeping pills. No matter how much we tried to make this mission just like the others, it wasn't. It had been two days, but it felt like months."
Photograph by JR Reed/Bloomberg
After shooting bin Laden in the compound, the SEALs immediately got to work confirming his identity. "Walt pulled his CamelBak hose from his kit and squirted water on the man's face," writes Bissonnette. "I started to wipe the blood away from his face using a blanket from the bed. With each swipe, the face became more familiar."
Bissonnette returns to Virginia Beach after the mission. "On the way home, I spotted the neon drive-through sign at the Taco Bell (YUM)," he writes. "I always stopped for a south of the border fix on my way home from a deployment, usually in Germany. I had made this stop several times over the years. Pulling into the line, I ordered two crispy tacos, a bean burrito, and a medium Pepsi (PEP)."