Confessions Of A Former Navy SEAL

April 4, 2018 | No Comments » | Topics: Life Experiences

Why did you become a Navy Seal?

I have struggled with this question for a long time. To be brutally honest I would say insecurity. I had to prove something to myself. I chose SEAL training because it was regarded as the hardest thing you could do. To answer the next logical question here, yes I did prove it to myself and I a have lost quite a bit of my insecurity.

Did you do anything to prepare for the training before you joined?

I ran track in high school. My advice is run a lot. Run in soft sand if you can. Check out Crossfit too, it is actually some good stuff. The Crossfit football program will make you vomit blood, but it will get you in shape. DO NOT start the football version without doing the regular version for a while first.

What was your most difficult moment during training and how did you overcome it?

Thursday of hell week we were sitting in the water in the bay. It was freezing and I literally felt like I was going to die. Everything was going numb and I felt a small bit of life left in my chest. It felt like a ball of life and it was getting smaller. I overcame it by simply accepting that I was going to die before I quit. I should probably note that I had been hallucinating for over a day at this point.

I’ve heard that the part where the recruits all stand and watch the sunset while the sergeants are telling you about the hot showers and food you’d get if you quit was the hardest. What was it like?

They made us stand on a sand berm and wave good by to the sun every night. It is a terrible feeling watching the sun go away. They taunt you the whole time about hot showers. They feed you constantly so I can say I was never really that hungry. You would probably actually die if you weren’t getting a constant stream of food.

What sort of things do you have to do during “hell week”?

Mostly you just run around with boats on your head, swim, sit in the ocean, roll around in the sand and do various other types on non stop working out. I lost all the skin on the upper part of my legs and most of the skin on my dick from abrasion.

How cold was the water/air?

Can’t give you an exact number but it was fucking cold. It was winter (in San Diego) and this happened sometime between midnight and 4AM.

I am very interested in the “mind over body” thing I hear SEAL candidates employ to get through BUD/S and subsequent training. What tricks of willpower did you employ during moments when you might have wanted to quit, that kept you going? Do you think “ordinary” (non-SEAL material) people can learn to utilize these methods to get through challenging times?

Simple trick. Don’t quit. As long as you remove the possibility of quitting from your mind it is no longer an option.

This philosophy works great for situations like SEAL training. Not necessarily the best philosophy for life. There are plenty of situations in life where it is the far smarter decision to simply quit.

Regarding ordinary people, I’m not sure. My class started with 180 people and graduated with under 25. I saw people who I thought were way harder than me quit. I have no idea what the secret formula for being able to make it through BUD/S is or what motivates each individual. SEALs are a very diverse group and find motivation from a wide variety of philosophies.

What was the first thing you did/ate after you learned that hell week was over?

Ate a pizza and slept for a full day. I tried to go out two days later for dinner but I passed out in the restaurant at the table. You swell up really bad after you start to heal and look like you got in a fight with a bear. It took me a month to start walking right again, but I had an injury to my leg. You also tend to piss yourself in public for a while.

How come you piss yourself in public, is that a psychological effect of the training?

During hell week you spend a lot of time in the ocean. You just pee wherever you are. Towards the end of the week you are wet all the time anyhow so you tend to just go where you are. You will be back in the ocean in a minute anyhow. If you’re not careful you will continue the habit post hell week.

BTW, peeing yourself in the ocean is a brief moment of bliss from the warmth.

Was there anything that you did as a SEAL that was as physically and mentally demanding as hell week training?

When you go through BUD/S the instructors always say “You think this is bad, wait till you get to a team!” I always thought they were full of shit. The first time you spend 3 hours on bag (underwater) freezing to death under a pier waiting for someone else to show up those words will come back to haunt you. That or getting absolulty tossed over the beach with all your gear by giant evil waves. I have crawled up on the beach so weak and beat up that a Girl Scout troop could have come over and stomped me to death.

Are there any pop culture depictions of Navy SEALs or other special forces that you think are well done? I remember hearing a former Army Ranger say Black Hawk Down was pretty accurate. Any others?

I really liked Black Hawk Down with the exception of the “My finger is my safety” part. I seriously doubt that anyone would ever be so stupid as to leave their weapon off safe while walking around.

I’m struggling to think of any other movies that had SEALs that were accurate. For that matter most war movies get it very wrong. The one exception to that was the movie Jarhead. That was a chilling look at the realties of the Marines.

Do you support the US’s policy on the war in the middle east?

Now that I am out I can say no.

What do you disagree with?

The nation building aspect of what we do. The indigenous people of these countries don’t want us there. It is fun to sit back and think we are going to be able to make a difference and “stand up for human rights,” but the reality is that every time you push on one side you cause a problem on the other.

This world is too complex to undertake complex actions without unexpected repercussions.

I would have supported a hard strike package to Afganistan to kill those who directly attacked the US. The US military has done its part, but to think that we were going to be able to put a non-corrupt replacement to the Taliban in charge was probably not wise.

Put another way, the US military should not be used as a police force. It is unfair to the members of the military to have them fill this role.

In all the missions you were sent on, how close did you come to losing your life? Any bad training accidents? 

The only time I came close to loosing my life was a drowning accident. I got trapped underwater and no one had seen me go under.

A boat rolled on me in the surf and my pack got snagged on the tiller arm of the motor. I was pressed flat against the sand with the boat on top of me. I had to wait for a swell to come and tried to escape only to find that my pack was snagged. Had to wait for a second swell to drop my pack, then a third swell to get free. It was fucking scary and I didn’t stop shaking for about two hours after.

What is the camaraderie like amongst the SEALs?

Camaraderie is amazing. It’s one of the things I miss the most. The community is awesome and I will never work with such interesting and strange people again.

Do you still keep in touch with any other SEALS? Is that even allowed?

I do keep in touch. There is not nearly as much “super secret classified” stuff as everyone thinks. I just had a few beers with some guys I used to work with earlier today.

Are you even allowed to tell us you’ve been a Navy SEAL ?

Yes. This is a huge misconception about SEALs. The fact that you are or were a SEAL is in no way a secret. My service is spelled out in detail on my resume for example. Some guys don’t tell people they are or were a SEAL because you tend to get cornered at parties and such. I don’t usually tell people unless it’s relevant to the conversation.

After you left the SEALs, what was the biggest change you felt?

Not having a real purpose in life. When your in everything matters. If you mess up people die or get badly hurt. When your out there is a period of time where it feels like everything your working on is just a circle jerk.

So going to a corporate job after would not be ideal? It seems like the constant politics and he-said she-said would seem so trivial and lame after being in the SEALs.

There is a lot of politics in the SEAL teams. I would say there has been a lot less of that since getting out.

Is it true that SEALs get to overrule non-special Forces officers on how their operations are planned?

You are not supposed to overrule a non-SF officer. Rank is still rank in the military. Now I know I have told people including higher ranking SEAL officers to fuck off before.

In a combat situation I can see a SEAL telling just about anyone to fuck off. I wouldn’t blindly follow an order that would get me or my buddies killed for no reason.

Do special forces tend to look down on the regular grunts?

They do and I wish they didn’t

What other teams on an international scale do you think are hard and why?

Aussies are not only hard as nails but funny as hell. Can’t say I have ever worked with any other units that were notable. I would expect that the British are equally bad ass, and we had some Germans running around the team for a bit who seemed bad ass too. Never worked directly with either though.

Compensation while being a SEAL?

An E6 makes the equivalent of 70k. SEALs get paid base pay plus dive, jump and demo pay. Those three pays are not exactly a ton of money. Maybe it has changed recently, I have been out for a bit.

What is the longest period of time you have gone without sleep?

It was three days and it wasn’t during hell week.

I just wanted to ask about something I have heard repeatedly when watching documentaries about the specialized military forces: Its the idea that soldiers are emotionally and mentally “broken down” to then be rebuilt in a way more suited to their duties. It sounded a little too much like brainwashing/forced behaviour modification so my question to you is: Do you remember this being applied to you when you were in training and do you think it worked in the way they suggest? Did it make you a better soldier? Less inclined to question orders?

I don’t think that SEAL training specifically tries to brainwash you. They are looking for people who are already a certain way. Everyone else is gotten rid of. SEALs are professionals, but if you had to rank the units on willingness or ability to take orders I’m not sure they would surface at the top.

I think the brainwashing aspect could be very true of other units.

What weapons where you trained on? What was your favorite rifle and sidearm?

M14,M4,MK48,MK46,203, Sig 226 (mildly on the AK47) and HK something or other 45 side arm. My favorite rifle… Can’t say I have ever shot anything but the M4 and M14. I didn’t really like either.

If you had a choice, would you have chosen non-standard US weapons?

I do like the Sig 226 quite a bit. If I had to choose I would take an HK 7.62 battle rifle of some sort, but that might be a grass is greener thing.

What role did you fill on your fire team? How much do they cross train people? i.e. is everyone trained to be a sniper? Medic? Comms? Machinegunner? etc.

No specifics on my role, but yes everyone has a role. No not everyone is a sniper. I never got sniper school and I am still pissed about it.

There is quite a bit of cross training. I can give an IV fairly well and have done so when hungover a few times (yes, given myself an IV). Everyone really should know everything in theory. In practice…

What in your opinion would be the best handgun for A) home defense, B) personal defense while in public (ie legal concealed weapon)?

Believe it or not being a SEAL doesn’t necessarily make you an expert on such things. I have a Sig P226 and a Sig P228 (both 9mm) but that is only because I am super familiar with the guns. For home defense I have a Mossberg pump action.

The thing about carrying a gun around in public is that they become quite uncomfortable and heavy if it is a full frame gun. If I had to carry all the time I would probably carry the 228 or a small wheel gun.

My guess is a gun expert would say to carry a .45 of some sort.

What happens after you leave the SEALs? Does the Navy have some sort of program where you’re put into a comfy job whereever you like? Or do you have to fend for yourself? What are the post-SEAL benefits after your service (vs. non-special forces service)?

The Navy has various transition programs but nothing specific to the SEAL Teams. I already had several job offers (the reason I got out actually). I did not retire so I have no benefits.

How has being a SEAL affected civilian life? (Never get lost in a new city, find yourself planning exit strategies during dinner, etc…?)

I walk down the street looking for threats. It took me a long time to realize that normal people don’t do this.

What’s your opinion of private security forces? Blackwater (now XE) Aegis Defense DynCorp International, Fluor, GardaWorld, et al.

Some are good to go and some are in it to make a buck. The units that are good to go are the ones you don’t hear about. The ones that are in it to make a buck use cheap labor or don’t properly equip the guys. People get killed as a result.

I have friends who have worked for XE and DynCorp. I don’t think they would do it again. They are much happier working for the smaller “boutique” companies.

Why don’t SEALs allow women to serve?

It is a DoD policy not a SEAL policy. That said lets be honest about the differences between a man and a woman. Men are built different and I have never once met a woman who would have made it though SEAL training.

I am a huge supporter of women’s rights, but this is just a reality. The human species is just not setup that way.

I guess I should clarify. It is mind over body because everyone in training is on the same playing field for the most part regarding physical strength. You have to go through a physical test just to get into training and that washed tons of people out (they are not counted in the drop out numbers).

The physical demands are overwhelming and no matter how strong you are you will eventually be pushed past your physical breaking point. Then it becomes mental. I do suspect that a woman might be able to make it through BUD/S, but that is just the beginning. Operating gets a hell of a lot harder and more physically intense. Oddly during BUD/S you are not asked to really carry much gear. Logs, boats, but not much in the way of guns, water and ammo. I have carried packs that weighed over 180lbs (not easily, that was a ridiculous amount of weight).

Imagine this scenario (taken from memory with a few details changed).

It is 3am and you have been in a small boat getting your ass kicked by waves for the last two hours. Your hands are frozen solid and you can’t feel your toes. Your wearing body armor, a bunch of ammo, a small amount of water, various types of crashes/grenades, two radios (one inter squad and a big heavy (20lb) satcom unit.)

You pull up along side an unsuspecting ship and {edited for classified reasons} you start to climb. It is a good 50′ climb to the deck and just as you get on the {classified} a swell comes and puts you under water. You are getting torn off the {classified} and cannot breath. The swell goes past and you haul yourself, now soaking wet with maybe 100lbs of wet guns, ammo, radios and equipment up onto the deck. After maybe a one minute break you are running, climbing, kicking and shooting all over the ship. You fight from the lower decks all the way up to the bridge and then all the way back down to the engine room to stop the ship. Along the way you have to take two prisoners that you physically have to wrestle to the ground. When you move you are holding your gun up level to the ground the whole time. All this with your gear on.

I guess the point is that they don’t make lighter guns, radio and ammo (made out of lead) for girls. The worst part of the job is hauling all that shit around. On top of that you have to haul it all around like it isn’t there. You are expected to be able to run down a guy wearing just a pair of running shoes while you are fully loaded up.

So I guess your final answer, it does come down to a certain level of physical strength I am fairly certain no woman could ever achieve.

If it was just about pain I think all SEALs would be women. I’ve watched childbirth and… ouch.

 

Recommended Reading: Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10