When I wrote my first SEAL book, back in 2011, I was afraid of getting things wrong. My relative, who was an active duty SEAL at the time, actually stopped calling me back, I had so many questions. But I wanted to be as accurate as possible.
I've since learned to trust my research, and if I can't find reference to things, then they are obscure enough not to make a difference. Getting the characters right, IMHO, is what it's all about, and makes for a compelling story. The details can sometimes take a reader out of a book if they are grossly wrong, like SEALs flying their own Helo on missions with the Team, or having a Navy SEAL own a whorehouse for secondary income. Yes, I've actually read those SEAL books.
It's an interesting discussion. My SEAL relative sat me down and we went frame by frame though Act of Valor, which was the documentary they were shooting as a recruiting tool for SEALs, and later decided it was too good for that and turned it into a full length feature film. "Yes, we do that on a mission," or "Well, they did that, but we do it this way." Truth is, every squad has their way of doing certain things a certain way. And depending on the expert, their combat experience and when he was on active duty, the answers to our questions for accuracy could be vastly different.
I corrected an expert this weekend, who had many more years in the SEAL community than I. But his experience was from nearly 30 years ago. Things have changed.
Today, medics are chosen out of the SEAL class, not chosen to accompany them in a support role. They can do one or two other disciplines as well in case their squad expert is incapacitated. Everyone is cross-trained today.
I spoke with an author who was being edited by a New York house, and the editor was actually giving wrong information, requesting her manuscript be changed.
We all have to remember that our romance novels are a work of fiction. Just about everything I write about never happened although parts of it might have happened in a different context. Some of my characters are based on real people I know, but never on a real SEAL or other character. I once had someone question my use of the term medic, instead of corpsman, which used to be the standard label for a Navy Medic. But in time, these terms have morphed in the SEAL community, and they more commonly use the term Medic or Corpsman interchangeably.
In otherwords, you have to pick your battles carefully. As an author, do as much research as prudent but don't copy. And remember, it's your story, afterall. I do a lot of "what-if's" with my sources, and learn tons from non-fiction readings, especially biographies.
But at the end of the day, it is still your story. My story. Our story. Just do the best you can and don't worry about the Fact Police. Most readers will never know the difference. They're looking for a story, after all. If they wanted reality, they could read a dictionary.