“Oleg, are you f***ing chumming for Goddam sharks?! You’re putting the whole class at risk of shark attack right now,” said Instructor Deek Gammin.
Gammin was a skinny stone-cold killer from Hollywood, Florida, or “Hollyweird” as the other instructors reminded him daily.
He was your typical mullet hairdo, gator-stompin, half shirt-wearing, Florida redneck who found direction in the steel cage as a troubled teen.
That cage was the UFC octagon. He was a rising welterweight MMA star and then, all of a sudden, after an MMA friend gave him a copy of, The Red Circle, which he listened to on audio as he trained, he read everything he could get his hands on about the SEALs. Then one day he found religion and said to hell with it, walked to the town strip mall where the local Navy recruitment office was, and signed up to become a SEAL.
“You sure you wanna do this? Nobody makes it through training,” the chain-smoking recruiter said to him. Even though he had a large beer belly and inhaled Marlboros like it was an oxygen tank and his life depended on it, Deek sensed a worldliness to this guy and signed up on the spot with a “Yes sir, the SEALS, that’s for me.”
The recruiter took a long pull and breathed out a long puff of smoke.
“Alright son, you want SEALs, you got SEALs. I can guarantee you a shot at it but the rest is on you and 90 percent don’t make it,” he said as he stroked the cheap frame that held a photo of his wife and her large Filipino extended family on his desk.
SEAL training was exactly what a young unfocused Deek needed. He breezed through BUD/S training like a man on a mission but had some difficulty with the academic portion. To compensate, he stayed late each night to put in the extra effort to learn dive physics and underwater topography.
Two combat tours in Iraq with SEAL Team Seven. Twenty-eight confirmed kills: one with his bare hands, two with a knife, and the rest with his SR-25 sniper rifle.
He would have kept on deploying forever, combat suited him just fine, and he liked the adrenaline high. However, the SEAL admiral at WARCOM headquarters started mandating that SEALs take a shore duty rotation to “re-adjust” and normalize.
So, he had to rotate to instructor duty at BUD/S and now he was dealing pain to students, like a five-deck 21 dealer in Vegas, while finishing up a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at San Diego State.
“It’s a total p**sy buffet,” he liked to remind his fellow, mostly married, instructors every minute he could. “If ya don’t have any photos to share, then keep that shit to ya self, you redneck, squirrel eatin’, p**sy hound mother f***er,” Jackson would say with a big grin on his face.
“Hooyah Instructor Gammin,” said Olga.
It was dark so it was hard to interpret if that was a f**k you Hooyah or not, but, in any case, Gammin let it go. Olga was one tough cookie. She’d outlasted over 140 of her male classmates, who had all rang the bell and quit since week one.
Her tampon had embarrassingly dislodged itself in the surf zone as the whole class was being cold-surf-punished for some reason nobody could remember anymore. It was Tuesday evening of Hell Week and the class was already down to 64. The hallucinations from sleep deprivation had started.
“Just my f***ing luck I have a heavy f***ing period during Hell Week. Oh well, f**k the period,” Olga thought to herself.
JJ and she had become what BUD/S students call “The Gray Man.” They were just above the middle of the pack, did everything right, and most of the time the instructors forgot they had two women among the rest of the mostly male class.
Hell Week was like a game of psychological chess, only the instructors started and maintained positional advantage the entire game with no chance for the students.
The SEAL instructors threw everything they could at the class the first three days in order to create a sense of, “How can I finish a whole week of this?” despair within the class. It was a finely honed recipe that worked.
Day one started on Sunday evening. The students mustered on the beach in two green Army tents and were told to sleep, an impossible task with the nervous energy of the entire class like fire in a bottle. Just when some had started to drift off the M60 machine gun fire started along with heavy blasts from stun grenades.
“Get me a headcount now class leader,” barked Instructor Andretti, a giant Italian-American.
JJ looked around her; it was complete chaos. Smoke, gunfire, stun grenades, and instructions barked at her and the class from all corners of the SEAL beach compound.
After several hours trying to get the class together, they finally got a solid headcount and were told to get their swim gear.
A few weren’t up for the nighttime ocean swim, especially when one of the first phase instructors started playing the soundtrack to Jaws over the megaphone.
Two quit, then three more.
A big white diesel Ford truck held medical gear and the portable brass bell that quitters were forced to ring as part of a long tradition dating back to the WWII frogmen of the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT).
The truck also held a big thermos of hot coffee. As soon as a student quit he would be given a cup of steaming joe and sent on their way to medical for an out-processing exam.
JJ winked at Olga as they donned their green swim belts with knives and water canteens.
“Piece of cake, girl.”
“You know it,” said Olga.
“I’ll guide, you watch for sharks,” JJ said.
“F**k sharks,” Olga replied.
“I’d follow Olga to the gates of Hell,” JJ thought to herself.
Just then instructor Gammin came by to inspect the swim pair to ensure their knives were razor-sharp and all equipment was properly donned.
After inspection, they swam out through the dark surf line to the boat that marked the start of their two-mile night swim.
JJ had no idea what was awaiting her and Olga tonight.
Brandon is re-writing his novel (working title, ‘First of the Best: The Story of the First Females to Finish Navy SEAL Training’) about the first females to make it through SEAL training. To follow along please check out his upcoming work on SOFREP. You can read Part I here, Part II here, and Part III here.