Chris Kyle wakes up to the words, “We got a tanker.” He and the other SEALs of Team 3 are sailing through the Persian Gulf, approaching a huge oil tanker. The SEALs’ job is to inspect the tanker and, if necessary, turn it over to the authorities. At the time, the United Nations have put trade sanctions on Iraq, which means that the tanker, in all likelihood, is breaking international law by trying to sneak oil out of the country.
At the beginning of his military service, Kyle is enforcing international sanctions designed to weaken Iraq’s economic position. It’ll be a little while before he becomes a sniper.
Kyle and the other SEALs board the tanker. Suddenly, the tanker picks up speed—as if the captain of the ship is trying to escape. Kyle rushes to the captain’s cabin, where the captain tries to attack him. Kyle says, “I took the muzzle of my gun and struck the idiot in his chest. He went right down.”
It’s worth noting how much pleasure Kyle seems to take in hurting his enemies and punishing them for trying to resist. Some critics and soldiers have suggested that Kyle was a sadist, while others have argued that it’s impossible to be a SEAL without enjoying combat on some level.
Kyle takes a step back to explain why he and Team 3 were stationed in the Persian Gulf. In the winter of 2002, Team 3 was shipped out to the Persian Gulf, near Iraq, in order to enforce U.N. sanctions, which forbade oil and other goods from leaving or entering Iraq. (Onboard the oil tanker, for example, Kyle found oil, as well as other goods.) Kyle and the SEALs worked alongside the GROM—the Polish counterpart to the SEALs. Together, the SEALs and the GROM boarded dozens of Iraqi ships every night.
The War on Terror was a collaborative effort between many different countries, as evidenced by Kyle’s close cooperation with the Polish GROM.
Team 3 receives an order to board a North Korean ship suspected of running missiles to the Middle East. Near the coast of Djibouti, Kyle and his friends prepare for their mission, and then board the ship. Onboard, they find thousands of tons of cement, and beneath them are fifteen huge Scud missiles (a particularly deadly kind of long-range rocket). Team 3 confiscates the missiles and arrests the captain. It’s unclear where North Korea was sending the missiles, Kyle notes, but it’s possible that they were bound for Yemen or Libya.
After 9/11, George W. Bush made a speech in which he argued that North Korea, along with Iran and Iraq (together, the “axis of evil”), was a major sponsor of terrorism and crime around the world. In this passage, Kyle seems to give credence to Bush’s assertion, showing that North Korea was, in fact, shipping dangerous missiles to the Middle East, and quite possibly sponsoring terrorism in the region.
Kyle spends Christmas of 2002 on the Persian Gulf, missing Taya. The SEALs stay in Kuwait, at a large military base that played a major role in the Gulf War of the 1990s. In Kuwait, Kyle is assigned to carry an M-60, a machine gun built for lightness and convenience. His cohorts nickname him “Tex.”
For the time being, Kyle’s nickname is “Tex,” a testament to his obviously Texan attitude and values. Later on, Kyle will acquire other nicknames that testify to his bravery and deadly skill.
The SEALs begin patrolling the Kuwaiti border. They drive “badass” Desert Patrol Vehicles, or DPVs. Kyle enjoys riding his DPV through the sand, and notes that firing his “big machine gun was fun!”
Again and again, Kyle writes about how much he enjoys firing a gun and killing people. Kyle’s descriptions of warfare clash markedly with those of other soldiers who served in Iraq, who were deeply traumatized by their killing.
By February of 2003, Kyle is eager to begin fighting for his country. However, Taya is terrified that Kyle will get hurt. She’s particularly worried after Kyle is involved in a minor helicopter accident. One evening, shortly after Kyle’s accident, Taya turns on the news and sees that a SEAL team in the Middle East has been in a serious helicopter crash. Frightened, she waits for Kyle to call her and say that he’s okay—when he does, she bursts into tears. Afterwards, she stops watching the news.
In some ways, Taya goes through more stress and fear than Kyle does: she can’t help but worry about her husband’s safety every day. Because communication between Taya and Kyle is spotty, Taya often has to wait days without hearing from her husband, and during this time, she can’t help but assume the worst.