Every once in a while you need to stop and read a good book. A book that will make you laugh, cry, and rethink how lucky you are not to be in war or working in one of these hostile nations. The book Zero Footprint is one of those type of books. Written by Simon Chase (aka Scott Charnick) and Ralph Pezzullo, the book details the life of a PMC (Private Military Contractor) in the modern era of Blackwater type mercenaries.
The British Military
Scott Charnick spent 15 years in the British military, serving in Northern Ireland and overseas. Before Sept 11th, he was working in executive protection for very rich families such as those of philanthropist John Paul Getty Jr. and Prince Aga Khan IV. He has recently been reported to guard such high profile athletes as American Swimmer, Michael Phelps.
Now after I read Zero Footprint but before I wrote this review, I checked Amazon and a few other places and apparently some people are claiming the author, Scott Charnick (Simon Chase), stretched the truth and embellished quite a few stories in his book. I do not know if it is true that he embellished stories and frankly, from a pure entertainment perspective, I enjoyed the book immensely either way.
Related: Book Review American Sniper
I was mad for a minute when I first read that some of the stories were embellished but with Hillary Clinton claiming to be shot at by snipers in Bosnia and Brian Williams claiming that his helicopter in Iraq was hit by an RPG, I guess I am used to people stretching the truth a little bit (Never let the truth get in the way of a good story). Also, who knows, maybe the people who are trying to discredit him are from an embarrassed government trying to cover up that the CIA was trying to ship weapons to Libya through a British holding company. Either way, Zero Footprint is great, fast paced, and you will not find yourself wishing there was more action.
Zero Footprint begins with the author growing up in a tough neighborhood in England and eventually finding his way into a choice between the military or jail. From there his military adventures begin but Charnick would eventually get hurt and was discharged from her majesty’s service. From there he fell into the executive security field and eventually landed in the Private Military Contractor role after 9/11.
The CIA Lies?
What I like about Zero Footprint is that there are some lighter moments that remind me of my time in Marine Corps where someone would say something in a dire moment and everyone would start dying laughing. One of those moments came during the early stages of the Afghanistan war where Scott (the author) found himself working as a contractor for the CIA. The CIA paid him and his mates in cash, a lot of cash. The problem was how were they going to get all of that CIA cash back to the UK without paying 60% in taxes. Their CIA contact (Michael S.) told Scott that he and his teammates should give their money to a stranger in Kabul who will call his cousin in Dubai and the money will be waiting for them once they landed in Dubai. When Scott tries to sell that to his mates, they look at him like he is bonkers. One of the guys starts yelling in his face “Are you fucking on drugs mate? Who told you that?” – Scott responds “Michael S” and his mate says “Well, Michael lies for a living.” I found that moment in the book particularly funny considering Michael S was a CIA agent.
The book has some sad moments as well. When the bullets start flying in these hot spots, good people inevitably die. Many of Scott’s friends die in conflicts with terrorists around the globe and each one has a devastating effect on his mental health and plays a role in the unwinding of romantic relationships which is detailed in the book as well. I have several friends who are in the PMC contractor world and I think this book gives a good perspective on how it is not all fast pace action with your hair on fire. A lot of what you do is very tedious work and sometimes you are not treated very well by the people you are protecting.
Overall, I think this book is worth the read. The author does not take the politically correct tone when it comes to the middle east, he basically says it is all one big shit hole. Which we all pretty much know. Whether or not the book is a 100% accurate will be for someone else to research and comment on. Either way, I really enjoyed the read. The book was a page turner and the action was fast paced when it came up. There might be a movie in the works based on Zero Footprint. I would definitely go see that.
About Mark: Former Marine Reconnaissance Team Leader, Marine Infantry Officer, Cross Fit Coach, Endurance Athlete, and Survivalist.