To call former naval officer John "Jocko" Willink "intense" would be something of an understatement -- like calling Mount Everest "big" or Antarctica "cold."
Willink's 20-year military career saw the enlisted radioman rise through the ranks to command Navy SEAL teams in one of the most pivotal battles of the Iraq War.
As a commander for Task Unit Bruiser, Willink led SEALs through some of the most intense fighting of the entire war: the eight-month Battle of Ramadi, then the epicenter of the Iraqi insurgency.
That's just where the legend of Jocko began. Before retiring from the Navy in 2010, Willink would oversee the training of all West Coast SEAL teams.
His experience in both leading and following led to "Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win," a book he co-wrote with fellow SEAL Leif Babin. Today, he is the founder of the executive consulting agency Echelon Front and host of his own show, "The Jocko Podcast."
So when Willink talks, people listen. You can tell by the marked silence that fell over a TEDx crowd when he took the stage to speak about leadership at the University of Nevada in 2017.
In the TEDx talk, Willink discusses some of the same principles he wrote about in "Extreme Leadership," this time in one brief narrative where he describes a combat action in Ramadi during the spring of 2006.
"Brutal and determined terrorists ruled the streets with torture, rape and murder," he said. "In one area of that city, during an operation that I was in charge of ... all hell broke loose. We had multiple units out on the battlefield fighting the enemy."
He described the participation of troops from the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, the Iraqi Army and his SEALs. But then, he said, the fog of war rolled in, bringing confusion, chaos, gunfire, blood and death.
Throughout the talk, the audience is so quiet, rapt in Willink's words, that any and all shifting backstage can be heard if you listen closely. When he pauses, only the sound of air in the room can be heard.
"In that fog of war, through a series of mistakes and human error, Murphy's Law and poor judgment, a horrendous firefight broke out," Willink recalled. "This firefight wasn't between us and the enemy. ... This firefight was tragically between us and us."
Fratricide, he said, is the mortal sin of combat and the most horrific part of war. This his "brutal teacher" about extreme ownership -- the idea that only through accepting responsibility for what goes wrong can problems be solved and avoided in the future.
The intensity of the speaker and the audience response wasn't lost on viewers at home, either. After 14 minutes of Jocko's riveting storytelling, the viewers were ready for some comic relief.
The comments on the video's YouTube page are funnier and more descriptive than any Chuck Norris joke. After 3.6 million views and more than 5,400 comments, the top comment says it all: "His microphone wasn't working. That's just his normal voice."
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