Leadership tested in the fire of combat! April 24, 2009
takes his 20+ years of leadership experience in the Navy and uses them to write an honest, emotional work about his experiences
in combat and in command. He doesn't pull punches, and he does an excellent job of relaying the leadership traits and
tools that worked well for him during his career. I particularly enjoyed how he in detail relayed how he got to the root of
the problem in the various units in which he served. Those techniques could be used in the military today, and even in civilian
leadership roles. Billings embodies servant leadership, taking care of his troops even at great personal risk and expense,
and though not as polished as some other career officers, he had the right ideas at the right time to complete the mission.
Current military and civilian leaders alike would do well to take note of his no-nonsense, cut-to-the-chase approach, as well
as his practice of making decisions and standing by them, despite the consequences.
In addition to the important
leadership lessons, the book had some fantastic sea stories to keep things light and moving, and any Navy vet will find something
to relate to within its pages.
I recommend this book for any current military officers or senior enlisted, as
well as civilian managers. The style described might not work all the time for everyone, but there is value in the approach
R. Ballister, author, "God Does Have a Sense of Humor"
Morris and I want you to know how much we have enjoyed your book. Your
keen ability to take the reader right into whatever action or feeling you’re experiencing speaks volumes about your
talent. I could literally feel the story you were talking about. I realized the first
night I started the book that I could not keep from constantly clenching and unclenching my toes. Morris
felt the same way – our daughter who is 31 experienced the exact same thing so your reach is for these younger ones
who have such an interest in this war. She read all night the first night – could not stop herself.
Thank you for the hours and hours of work that went into this book. Please write another –
about any subject! You have captured the ( ) audience.
We have great appreciation for some of the pain that must have come to you in this process. You
are a true gentleman and officer.
Your book is great--I have had a hard time putting it down.
I would like to call you and discuss your book if that is OK with you. I applaud you for standing your ground and your
beliefs-- It would have been an HONOR & PRIVILEDGE to have flown with you-- I will let everyone know how excellent your
book is. Mike
Just finished your book last night. Outstanding reading-very, very difficult to put down once you started
reading. I sometimes wonder how secure we are with all the base closures and the quality/knowledge of the people running the
services and our country. It is still apparent that the ol' boys club is still in existence--has been and probably always
will be. But there is always hope that people with moral conviction will rise above these type people and those will be our
I don't know how to start this, except by saying "THANK YOU".
You and your cover ship kept my patrol from being wiped out, Dec. 8,'68. I have wondered for 40 years who you were, and
to thank you. Had you guys not shown up when you did , we would not have, I believe, made it out of the Te Vi that day.
I was the rear gunner on
the lead boat and took control of the boat that towed the stricken boat away during the firefight.
Your willingness to put your ass on the line for us, and your
incredible flying skill when we dusted off our shipmates can be considered nothing less than heroic.
Take care and again, many thanks for your dedication to duty
and combat brotherhood.
Al Johnson (GMG2)
Finished the book last
night....excellent thank you !!!!! You had a very interesting career in the Navy and some of the attitudes are the same the
world over in many walks of life..I did 30 years with BOAC/BA and those kind of "political" people were all over
the place. Usually screwing up big time..getting promoted or leaving to screw others up....you would see the same mistakes
being made time and time again but they would never listen !
I have passed on all the details of your book to our
ANA branch over here as well as the Perth Australia branch I hope you get some orders from them as your book and stories definitely
deserve to be read.
Thank you very much again
Re: the great book; I
really enjoyed it. I and two other guys went to the North Island Helo Group a week ago Friday and spoke
to about 400 guys. They told us they were a training unit, very few had been to Iraq, most had been all over
the Pacific area. We were one from the WWII in the Philippines, one from USS Pueblo, & me from the ETO. They seemed to like
our stories, we had 45 minutes each; and then they took us to lunch at the golf course. I told everyone about your book; and
all the tours you have done and recommended it to each of them.
I'm trying to get it back from my Grandson Jarod; he has it
I finished reading your book yesterday, an interesting perspective of the Navy and Seawolves. Based
on your stories, I would have been proud to ride in the left door, in the back with you.
Great read! The book brought back tons of memories for me about
people and events in my 23 years. You and I, being Navy helicopter pilots, have many similar experiences
between us and that's what I liked about the book. When I send my sons their copies and when I tell friends to buy
the book, my point will be that Al Mears is not Al Billings but read the book to see what a helo pilot in a certain era went
through. So thanks for the book Al. I'm glad you put your experiences down on paper. Hope
you live a long and rewarding life.
Best regards, Al
Great book! Never had the flying experiences with engine failures that you had. My
wife is reading the book now. We were married just as my reserve time ended. I told
her it would give her insight into what it was like being a Navy helo pilot. She has been very positive about it so
Anyway I would like to order
another book and have it sent to a friend of mine. Could you sign it for him? Here is the address:
I have been meaning to write you. I loved your book. IT is just
wonderful. I didn't realize you were such a cowboy. I plan on giving it to my brother in law as he was a Vietnam
Vet and I think he would thoroughly enjoy it. I look forward to meeting you one day and having a few drinks to get more info
for sharing the book with me. It was a great read.
Your book is great. It is
one of the best books on leadership I have ever read. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were asked to
go on the lecture circuit.
book was great! I could hardly put it down.
After the first third, I thought, “Boy he thinks he can walk on water and part seas”,
Then after the 2nd third, I thought, “Now I understand the passion in your life and how you no BS live it
– PC or no PC (politically correct). Then after I finished it, I wished I had had the opportunity
to serve under you because I saw some of me in you when I was a commander. I lost some ground in my “career”
because I picked my men over “the system” several times. We would have made a good team.
I gave it to my son-in-law and he would like to meet you. He has already passed it on to a friend.
I just wanted to tell you that I thought
the book was great. If I had read a book like yours I would have signed up for the military during Vietnam.
Keep up the good work.
I have a son
who flies MH 53s out of Corpus Christi.
Mike Prince mentioned to me you had written a book about your
Navy experiences, and I bought the book to read. Well done, I hope the book accomplishes what you wanted
it to accomplish. I will send it to my son, as he has already verbalized much of what you wrote.
I was a 90
day wonder out of OCS at Newport then, and was stationed in the Arabian Gulf, communications officer
for COMMIDEASTFOR when you were in the southeast Asia theatre.
Hope everything is going well for you.
Thank you and regards
I finished your book about a week ago. I found it difficult to put down and went through
a couple of days of sleep deprivation. Cheryl, my fiancée, is interested in reading it and has some editing experience
so I'll be interested in her opinion especially since she doesn't know you and would view it from a fresh perspective. I'm
not sure if you plan to pursue any serious promotional efforts but I feel it is a story that would be of significant
value to prospective leaders if presented properly. I'm not sure if the general military leadership style has evolved
in the intervening years but my guess is that certain things don't change much, but not having any current references I
could be mistaken.
Again, I really enjoyed reading your book and would like to discuss it more with
you at some time. I hope you consider further promotion; after all, you are approaching retirement and may be able to
devote more time to it.
I heard about your book from some of the associates and just wanted to thank you for
writing it. My son is 17 years old and just signed up for the National Guard so I bought your book off
the internet. He has told a number of the new recruits in his company and they have asked for copies from
their parents when they graduate. He really enjoyed your book and wants to know when the next one is coming out.
I just wanted
to let you know I think you book is great. I am almost finished but my husband and I keep fighting over
the book to see who can finish it first.
Great story, I’ve told everyone in my office to buy a copy because they can’t borrow my copy.
When is your next book coming out?
You introduced me to a former employee who was a Navy helicopter pilot.
I gave his book to my son who enjoyed
it very much.
My son would like to offer this man a speaking engagement before active
duty helicopter pilots,
which I assume he might want to consider to help
sell the present and possibly future books. I wonder if you can
how I can find this person's contact information.
I have not had a book like this that I had difficulty putting down in years. In addition to everything else, you are
quite the writer. I think this should be required reading by all medical students and psychiatry residents. I
plan to purchase a few and assign it as reading for anyone I supervise. I have to keep the one you sent me to myself
as it means so much to me. Hope things are going ok for you. Didn't you tell me you are in the process of
a second book, and if so, will that be a continuation or on a different topic. I can think of several people involved
in the treatment and assessment of veterans and a few politicians I may send a copy. I also plan to make it one of my
primary gifts throughout the year for special occasions, because I think it is a great read in addition to the insight into
the realities of war and the effect on the people involved.
“Seawolf 28” arrived last Tuesday. Thank you so much for both your kind inscription and your personal
note – I was and am deeply touched by them. You are most kind.
I started your journey the next day.
WOW!!! One hell of a ride, Sir !!! I am awe!!! There is no doubt in this “old” (I think
we are the same age – 63?) SSgt’s “military mind” that you were a very rare and special officer.
Your journey is awesome and inspiring! When I finished the book, I was just kind of numb. Yeah,
you sure did do it your way, Sir. Thank God you did!!! I use the word “is” because I have the strong
feeling that your journey isn’t over yet. Your sense love of duty, honor, and country are that of legends!
I did go to amazon.com and read everything pertaining to “Seawolf 28” and your life since discharge
is also nothing but tremendous personal and professional accomplishments!!! Gee, no surprise there!!!
I completely agree with every word that Bill McDonald wrote in his MWSA review. Very succinct and my very
thoughts! He said it much better than I ever could (guess that’s why he’s president of MWSA!).
I’ve again read Author’s Views and you have hit the nail on the head on each point! I have printed
them out and am mailing them in the morning to my son who lives in Goose Creek. He’s an IT guy at MUSC in Charleston. His father-in-law was in subs and lives
Amazon.com says that you are working on another book. True
? If so, please let me know all the particulars. Obviously, I want to get in line to get a copy from you.
Speaking of my son, I’m sending you a check (in the morning mail) for another copy of “Seawoulf 28”
and ask that you autograph it and send it to him:
Al, Books arrived yesterday's mail. Read mine before taps. Great read and great career. Would
have loved to have served under you. You are my kind of people. I flew with and served under some real assholes
during my 20 years. Made the good ones stand out even more.
I thank you for
the great service to our nation. I also thank you for a great job during your time in one of my favorite outfits.
I still pet the HUP every time I get to Pensacola.
Highest regards, Mike Taylor
Your book arrived Tuesday afternoon. I couldn't
put it down, and finished it
this AM. Wow! Besides being
enlisted, it almost felt like what I had
during my 22 years. I too could write a book about
but you have said it for me. I applaud your service, and thank
you for your outstanding contributions to our Navy.
Thanks for such a prompt
response. I've already written the check with a cover note. Will go out in the morning mail.
FYI - I had found out about your book on http://www.leatherneckpublishing.com/ , then checked it out on Amazon (WOW, great reviews!), then checked your WEB site.
Commander, from an old former SSGT and veteran of both VN (active duty) and the sandbox (reserve called up) - you've
had one hell of a ride! "You've gotta giant pair"! I salute your service and sacrifice, Sir.
God Bless you and keep you and yours safe.
With deepest sincerity and humility - THANK
I finished your book today. You are a remarkable guy and had an incredible career!
I truly enjoyed the read and it brought back a lot of memories. I did my Escape, Evasion & Survival course in Hawaii,
When I read about your SERE experience I had the feeling I was back in that POW compound myself. And although the names were
different, I encountered many of the same personalities that you did. I hadn't thought about most of them in years. But
when I read your descriptions those faces reappeared.
Thanks so much for sharing your story.
Don Anderson; I suggest the book "Seawolf 28". One of the best books I have read. This
book gave me a whole new prospective on leadership. I wish there were more senior leaders like "Hollywood Al".
wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your book and how refreshing it was to see a man with your accomplishments, the
rank that you had achieved in the Navy and " The Balls to tell it like you see it". That is unfortunately
all to rare in our world.
could not have achieved in life what I have, without the education I had in life, especially my Vietnam experiance,
and the bonds that were formed with those that I trained and served with. I soon learned what life felt like
by the very fact that my life depended on them and their life depended on me, and of course that includes "SeaWolf"
who bailed our asses out many times.
I found myself feeling bad for you as I was reading the book, but you did not allow that to last, because you made sure that
I knew that you needed to do what was right and they could keep the bullshit part if that is what they needed to do.
Thank you Al for you service and Thank you
for writing your book, I am proud to know that you served our country for the same reasons that I served our country.
"Because it is the Right thing to do"
Take Care and God Bless. Guy Arrans
Finished the book
last night....excellent thank you !!!!! You had a very interesting career in the Navy and some of the attitudes
are the same the world over in many walks of life..I did 30 years with BOAC/BA and those kind of "political" people
were all over the place. Usually screwing up big time..getting promoted or leaving to screw others up....you would see the
same mistakes being made time and time again but they would never listen !
I have passed on all the details of your book to our ANA branch over here as well as the Perth Australia
branch I hope you get some orders from them as your book and stories definitely deserve to be read.
Thank you very much again