As a student reporting to and going through BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/Seal), your heart pounds with excitement at the idea of having the opportunity to be one member of small and tight-knit family that has an even tighter bond than that of your family blood.  The mind races and adrenaline pumps, wondering what sort of sadistic and kick-ass training you will be put through.  Will my body hold up to the punishment that it will inevitably go through for the next 6+ months and, “in the unlikely event” that you do graduate, how long can my body handle this lifestyle?  There is no set answer.  Anything can happen at anytime to anyone.  Some SEALs have long fulfilling careers, while others don’t even make it through training.

I entered BUD/S in 1990 and successfully graduated in 1991 after one set back.  I was not the best runner and paid for it from day-1 week-1 until the last soft sand run after returning from San Clemente Island.  I was considered the “Captain” of the Goon Squad (group that does extra leg and lung exercises) after each timed run or conditioning run.  Needless to say I am not a big fan of running to this day.

After several overseas deployments, I decided to go to BUD/S and accept the role as one of the 1st phase instructors.  Being part of the selection process of one of the most elite special operations units was a great privilege and one I will never forget.

I had one small problem at the very beginning of my tour as an instructor.  I was used to the “old school” style of how instructors dealt with students.  They could drop you down for whatever they wanted to and that is how I began.  Needless to say, I was pulled off to the side by my LPO.  He explained to me that what I was doing, although completely understandable, was no longer how things are done.  If I didn’t change my way of instructing and my interaction with the students, I would be heading back to a platoon.  Well, that was fine and dandy with me.  The only problem is that would have meant that I had failed a task, course, or mission and that was unacceptable.

I changed my ways, literally overnight and showed up the next day to lead a PT (physical training).  The students were required to be there 15 minutes early to set up with rubber boats, filled with water and standing by to begin the PT session.  Most of the time I would lead the PT’s.  The students were required to do everything that I did and at my pace.  I considered myself a very fair, but highly demanding instructor.  My expectations of the students’ performance was no less than 110%.  I did not tolerate drama or anything less than each exercise performed 100% properly.  If the class began to look as if they were “sand-bagging” (not caring or not putting 110% into the exercise), I would stop whatever I was doing, shake my head and say to them “why are you embarrassing me, my instructor staff and yourselves with your slack-ass attitude?”  There was no response.  I didn’t even yell, just with a whisper to one student “go get wet and sandy…you have three minutes to hit the surf, get sand, and return to your spots in the last exercise position….do it.”  Realizing how irritated I was, the student reacted like he was shot out of a cannon.  He yelled “2**, hit the surf….wet and sandy back to your spots in the push-up position…..NOWWWWWW!”

When the 1st student returned, I dropped down to the push up position with him and waited….Realizing how serious I was,  he began yelling instructions with a sense of urgency as the other trainees returned from the ocean and sand to their individual spots.  I said in a calm voice  “Can everyone hear me?”  I received a loud and thunderous HOO-YAH!  I told them, not to ever-present that sort of attitude ever again, while in training or as a SEAL.  Needless to say, the rest of that PT rocked the entire compound and the other side of the base could hear it as well.  During the process of the next two weeks leading up to Hell Week,  it became very clear from an instructor’s perspective (mine specifically), who was determined to be a hairy-chested frogman and who was still on the fence about the whole idea of the type of lifestyle and commitment that would present itself upon successful pinning of the trident and completion of their first platoon deployment and every one after that.

Being an instructor was a challenging job.  It was like that of being a parent and cop at the same time.  There were times when I knew a solid student was having a bad day.  I would explain to them that everything comes to an end and all they had to do was put forth 110%, remember that they were already part of a team (their boat crew) and to suck it up and get their head in the game.  Others, I would try to get them to quit, by putting them in a mental or physical vice, and squeezing them to see what they would do.  If they sucked it up and rose to the occasion, I would let them move on.  If they looked as if they were wavering, I would keep on them as far as I could take it to see if they would quit.  Sometimes they would have that little bug in their head “should I quit?” and then it would be over.  Other times they would be smart enough and know that the discomfort that they were feeling wouldn’t last forever and the would overcome yet another hurdle in the great world of  BUD/S training.

We would be involved with or in charge of any one particular evolution during the day or week.  It was the responsibility of the evolution’s lead instructor to ensure the instructors were briefed on the evolution.  The great thing about working with my fellow SEAL brothers, you didn’t have to do much directing.  We all knew the policies and guidelines when it came to the BUD/S training curriculum.  If there was a question about how any particular evolution was to be run, then it would be brought forth to our Chief or OIC (Officer In Charge), whether it was Log PT, IBS Surface Passage, Obstacle Course, Ocean Swim, etc. (just to name a few).