The following is an interview I conducted with former teammate Chris Sajnog. Chris and I worked briefly at the sniper course together, it was great to catch up with him again as we haven’t spoken in years, other than through our correspondence as fellow board members of the Navy SEALs Fund.
BRANDON: You and I served at the sniper course together right before I put on Chief. I have a ton of respect for you standing up to our old Master Chief friend when he was having a negative impact on the staff. You stood up for the guys when few people would. I talk about this in my memoir, The Red Circle, but just want to give you credit again.
I know your career took a hit for taking this stand, but in my eyes you did the right thing, and ultimately, it weighed into my own decision to stand up for the guys after you left, and made a huge difference when I came forward with similar complaints about bad leadership issues. If I remember correctly, our “friend” was offered to retire or take orders to Bahrain! Without getting into too much drama, can you tell me what your thoughts are regarding situations like this at work, and how important it is to stand up for what you believe in, but also being respectful of leadership?
CHRIS: Thanks Brandon, I appreciate your support since unfortunately back then, I didn’t have any. It was one of the few times as a SEAL I was actually given the excuse, “Because he’s a Master Chief, and your not!”
I think most people would not imagine this type of leadership existed in our community, but at the school house, it was a different world. My Navy career did take a hit for standing up for what I (and the guys who worked for me) knew was right. It’s why I was a Chief for nine years, with no chance of making senior. But I wouldn’t change anything I did or said in a million years. I may have opted to crush that weasel’s skull with my fist when – as I was cleaning out my desk – he says, “No hard feelings.” What a turd. The good news is that in the end, the community realized I was right and he was shown the door.
As for its importance, I don’t think there is anything more important than standing up and doing or saying what you know is right. Now, I very well may not be the right guy to ask. Look what it did to my career. I know a lot of guys I respect in the teams who have tamed their tongues when it comes to leadership, and they are fast-tracked for advancement. Maybe it takes both types for a community to succeed, but I spent my junior years in the teams saying, “When I’m a Chief, I’m going to raise the bullshit flag!”
BRANDON: Can you give the SOFREP readers a little background on your career?
CHRIS: I joined the Navy to be a Corpsman. My Company Commander in boot camp was a diver and he talked me into being a Dive Med Tech, so after Corpsman A school I went to Dive School in Panama City, FL.
While I was there I met a bunch of SEALS in the gym that worked on base. I graduated first in my class and got to pick my orders, so I decided to hang out with my new SEAL buddies. I got orders to the dive locker there in Panama City and that’s where I became part of the community back in 1989. They of course convinced me to become a SEAL.
I started BUD/S with class 198, got rolled post-Hell Week for flesh-eating bacteria (2-weeks in hospital) in both elbows and both knees. Graduated with class 199. Duty stations: NSWU-4, ST2, SBU-12, (Got offered a commission to fly jets and turned it down when I made CPO), LCPO Scout Sniper Course – Developed curriculum, got course certified by CNET, got award, turd MC **** decides, hey, all the work’s done, let me got take over! SQT Marksmanship and Medical Instructor (Master Training Specialist), NSWC – SEAL Motivator, Plank Owner Support Activities Two – More deployments, two kids who need a dad at home…retired with 70% combat-related disability.
BRANDON: We’ve both become extremely busy and lost touch, other then the occasional email. What are you up to these days with life and business?
CHRIS: I started Center Mass Group in 2011 to offer training to military, law enforcement and civilians. With the gun laws in California, I’ve just been running courses for DHS, teaching shooting and CQC. This has kept me busy and I’ve had to add to my instructor qualifications. I’m now a certified DOD and DHS counter-terrorism instructor, as well as being certified by the State of California. Other than that, I spend a lot of time with my wife and kids, I volunteer as a cub scout leader and I’m on the board of directors (with you!) of the Navy SEALS Fund.
BRANDON: What inspired you to write your book?
The same rules in California that are keeping me from running the open-enrollment courses I want to are what got me to put it on paper. I had so many people contacting me to run courses that I figured I’d write a book and just talk about the things I teach on the range. Originally, it was just going to be a PDF that I figured only a the few hard-core shooters who were hounding me would buy, but then people wanted it for the Kindle, then they wanted paperback. Now I’ve had sales in the thousands and it’s rated 5-Stars on Amazon.
BRANDON: If there’s one thing for people to take away from your book, what would it be?
CHRIS: Shooting is not magic. With the right instruction, anyone can “Shoot Like a Navy SEAL.” All you have to do is dedicate you life to it, practice every day, think positive and sell your soul to the devil…oh, I mean dry fire.
Seriously, not to give away the “secret,” but it’s hard work. I don’t hide this fact in my book. Honestly, most people don’t have what it takes to put in the work needed. It’s the very reason only 20-25% of the people make it through BUD/S. The same 20-25% of people who read my book and do what it says will improve their shooting dramatically. The other 75% will finish reading the book, put it down, and say to themselves, “WTF? I’m not a better shooter!” then go buy another book or video hoping to find the “magic.”
BRANDON: What are your future plans? Any other books on the horizon?
CHRIS: Yes. How to Shoot Like a Navy SEAL – Combat Marksmanship Fundamentals is the first book in a series. I’ve already started working on the second book, which will cover movement, manipulations and malfunctions. Like the first book, this one will contain several exclusive video links to compliment the text.
Future books will include Long Range Shooting, CQC, Combat Medicine, and…who knows. One thing is that I only write about things I feel I’m an expert at. I’ve had a few people ask me to write about re-loading or knife fighting, and honestly, I’m not an expert and I don’t like playing pretend. I’m also in pre-production with a producer on a video series which will mirror the book series, and we’re looking to run hosted courses outside of California.
BRANDON: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our community?
CHRIS: I’d like to thank everyone who’s bought the book, and let your readers know that I answer every question that readers send in on shooting (though it sometimes takes a few weeks). I really do enjoy teaching and think it’s awesome when I know I helped someone out and they write and share their success stories. Other than that – Buy the book on Amazon! (It’s already discounted! Bastards!) leave a review and shoot me any questions. I have a blog and I try to post to weekly, so sign up for updates!