Sunday, August 30, 2015

Urban Ops in Your Plotline? Info for Writers with NY Times Bestseller Stephen Templin

I would like to welcome Stephen Templin back to ThrillWriting. If you missed his first article about SEALs you can find it HERE

Stephen Templin is a New York Times and international best-selling author. He co-wrote SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper and is the author of Trident’s First Gleaming, the first in his Special Operations Group Thriller series.

After high school, he completed Hell Week, qualified as a pistol and rifle expert, blew up stuff, and practiced small-unit tactics during Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training. Later, Steve left the Navy and became a missionary. Then for fourteen years he lectured as a tenured professor at Meio Universityin Japan, where he practiced the martial art aikido. His PhD is in education.

He has a new book out From Russia Without Love, that I devoured in one sitting.

SEAL Team Six veteran Chris Paladin left the Navy to become a pastor, but CIA spook Hannah Andrade pulls him back into Special Operations Group to locate the White House Chief of Staff’s kidnapped son-in-law before he is executed by Greek terrorists. Cantankerous Army Delta Force operator Sonny Cohen reunites with Chris and Hannah as they race the clock to save the hostage.

In Athens, Chris and his teammates discover that Russia is secretly behind the kidnapping, part of a murderous plan to attack the flow of natural gas in Europe. The Cold War has heated up again.

Chris and his crew’s rescue quickly changes into a mission to capture-or-kill a Russian spy.

Amazon Link
First let me say - what a fun read. And I very much appreciated the romantic non-romance

Steve -
Oh, thank you

Fiona - 
Steve, you just came out with a new black ops novel called From Russia Without Love, and it started with a bang, literally.

Steve -
Yes, love to start with a bang.

Fiona - 
It was actually quite a complicated issue of a three man black ops team (well one woman) trying to follow a businessman around an area with rifles.

Can you tell us some of the issues that came up with writing this scene right? Let's start with what kinds of guns and why?

Steve - 
Yes, it was easier before they knew an assault was about to take place. They could travel lighter. But once they figured an attack was about to happen, they wanted to be better armed, and that required some more tricks and concealment.

With the rifles, a .223 caliber assault rifle is nice because it can be short for use in tight places such as inside buildings, yet reach out and touch someone--out to 300+ yards

It's quite versatile

For a sidearm, there are two trains of thought--the lighter 9mm pistol and the heavier .45 pistol.

The 9mm is a bit smaller, easier to conceal, holds more rounds, and reaches out a bit farther.

The .45 packs a meaner punch and is useful for shooting through a car window.

SEAL Team Six vets like the main character Chris aren't bashful about using the 9mm. Army Delta guys tend to like the .45.

The 9mm is also easier to obtain abroad. 

Fiona - 

  1. Will 9 mm not shoot through a car window? Or does that depend on the bullet choice? 
  2. What was your bullet choice for urban area?
Steve - 
I would use a special type of ammo to shoot through a car window with a 9 mm.

Urban or in the outdoors, either 9 mm or .45 are fine

With rifles, you'd want something longer for longer distances like the outdoors.

Fiona - 
Were you using hydro-shock or hollow-point to stop the bullet from flying through the bad guys? (see BULLET blog article)

Steve -
Either of those are good rounds.

Fiona -
You tricked out the weapons with specialized equipment, suppressors and so forth, a
nd modified the firearms to fit their shooter. Is there a difference between red dot and laser?

Steve - 
Red dot is something that only the shooter sees in the scope, and the optics could be magnified or not. That's great for all around use.

Infrared is more specialized for night ops. Shooting becomes more like a video game--the technique is different. Infrared laser can be seen by the shooter with infrared vision. So you just line up the laser with the target. Different from lining up a red dot with a target. Or a front sight-rear sight with the target.

Just regular laser is a bit dangerous because the target can see where the laser is coming from.

Fiona - 
That's what I thought and too doesn't it make the shooter dependant? SEALS don't normally use that do they?

Steve -
SEALs use a variety of weapons and optics. The red dot seems the most common, but it all depends on the mission, the platoon, and the individual.

Fiona - 
Your team modified their firearms to fit their shooter - what kinds of modifications might a professional want to include?

Steve - 
For the Glock 9 mm pistol, the main character Chris (and I do, too) takes off the plastic sights and replaces them with more durable metal sights.
He puts a plug in the empty space near where the magazine is inserted, so debris doesn't clog up in that empty space. Chris also uses a match grade barrel for improved accuracy.

For wet or sweaty hands, it can help to add some stipple to critical spots, to help maintain one's grip when those parts get slippery.

These are not so many mods. Some people do more, but often doing too much can ruin a nice weapon like this one.

Fiona - 
Match grade barrel simply refers to the quality of engineering it has a tighter tolerance and is used professionally or for competition. Correct? 

Steve -
Yes, the match grade barrel is a higher grade that is used for professional shooting matches. And efficient killing of terrorists.

Fiona -
So now your heroes have the right equipment for shooting. You also gave them some interesting comms. Can you talk about the ear piece and vocalization?

Steve -
Yes, they use a wireless throat mic.

It's mounted on a band and is concealed by the collar. It transmits via vibrations in the throats rather than over open air. More covert.

And the earpiece is a magnetic wireless bud about the size of a pencil eraser that's dropped inside the ear canal. Because its magnetic, it can be retrieved via something metal such as a key.
Also quite covert.

Fiona - 
ThrillWriters/Readers here's a video quick study

I want to talk with you about urban surveillance, but first let me touch on something that really needs to be considered for characters and that's weather - I know we consider night and day, but you had them in a shootout in a torrential downpour. What conditions make life difficult and if you could mention a few of the problems a non-shooter might not think about - temperature for example.

Steve -
Yes, the shootout in the rain can be tricky for a variety of reasons. One is the red dot on the rifles--when the rain gets too tough, you can't see the red dot anymore. So it's critical to have back up iron sights. In From Russia Without Love, Chris runs into this problem, so he uses the quick release lever on his red dot and pockets the red dot. Then he pops up his irons sights and goes to them. Problem solved.

Dealing with the wet and/or the cold, hypothermia can become an issue. Which can result in death if one isn't careful.

(Of course slipping and falling in the water with a loaded weapon is always of concern for buddies)

Fiona - 
Now in urban surveillance - it's important to work as a team can you start us off with a little surveillance 101 basics?

Steve - 

The challenge of urban surveillance is dictated by:
  •  the location
  •  the target's awareness
  •  available assets
  •  your purpose.

For location, if there are a lot of people around it's easier to remain concealed. Blend in with the crowd and follow your target.

As for the target's awareness, if they're a clueless person, that's wonderful. But when going spy vs. spy, it becomes more challenging.

In From Russia Without Love, Chris finds himself in a situation where he has to conduct surveillance on his own, which is the most challenging. During the Cold War, Russia would have lots of surveillance people on a target, and that's the easiest for the surveillance team.

Finally, objectives can be things like assassination, kidnapping, theft and so on.

Fiona - 
Blending - the businessman was dressed correctly but moved like a tourist instead of a fellow office worker. What are some things to keep in mind when trying to blend with your surroundings?

Steve - 
It's important to avoid marked appearance or behavior. Business Traveler was dressed right for the environment, but he erred in looking around like a tourist rather than appearing bored like others on their way to work.

Marked appearance can mean tattoos, facial hair, or other such things. Unless you're fitting into a motorcycle gang, then that'd be unmarked appearance.

For behavior, it's helpful to observe the environment and do as others are doing.

This extends to vehicles, too. An expensive vehicle in a poor neighborhood is going to stand out, and a cheaper vehicle in an expensive neighborhood will stand out.

Fiona -
Another way to blend was to peel off. Your team would watch and then walk away that way if they were made, it wouldn't seem obvious - an everyday person might not see this, would a professional spy? Would they rely on sixth sense?

Steve - 
If peeling off is done with a natural stride with the natural flow of pedestrians, that can work. But a sudden change in direction or pace will alert a professional. Yes, different people have different levels of sixth sense, so it can be helpful to not think directly about the target. So those who are sensitive to the thoughts of others won't pick up on that they're being watched.

Mostly, a professional will rely on experience, training, and instinct.

Fiona - 
I loved it when Chris wouldn't think the guys name for fear he would pick up on his thoughts. Is that something you train - something you've experienced?

Steve - 
Some train it, some don't. I've experience it and others have, too. My buddy, Howard Wasdin was a SEAL Team Six sniper, and he was careful not to raise the sixth sense of his target/subject. We mentioned it in our book, SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL sniper.

Fiona - 
Yay - that's queued up in my Kindle.

Steve -
Have you ever thought someone might be watching you and turned around and caught them? It's that.

Fiona - 
Steve, thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us.

You can catch up with Steve through this website here, also TwitterFacebook, and Goodreads.

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

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