Wayne is a good friend of mine, and has a very accomplished track record in the SEAL community and now as an Executive in the Defense industry.  We were both talking and swapping sea stories when Wayne said, “we should do a weekly series where guys can share there experiences with the SOFREP community”.

So I give you”No Shit There I Was”, our new weekly column on SOFREP. We’ll share our stories, but we also want to hear yours. If you are active, reserve or a veteran, then please share your war stories with us via the Comms Check Portal. Just don’t forget to change the names to protect the guilty…

No Shit There I Was: Navy SEAL FNG

By: Wayne Stansel

My first Team out of BUD/s was SEAL Team Four.  When my BUD/s Class received our orders, I was ecstatic to learn that I would be joining Team Four, and I was also the envy of most of my classmates.  The reason for their coveting of my orders was that Team Four’s Area of Operations was South America, and OPERATION JUST CAUSE had recently kicked off.  This meant that I would likely be getting in the shit right off the bat, or so I thought.  Little did I know the latter was not to be, for a couple reasons, not the least of which was the fact that the conflict was short lived.  Noriega and his cronies wound up being no match for our U.S. Special Operations Forces.  Our quick victory in Panama did not come without cost, as Team Four took a big hit during the Patilla Airfield raid and sustained 4 KIA and twice that many WIA during the ensuing firefight.  It was a dark day for our community and for the team.  It was also a somber and humbling experience for me.  It made me realize very quickly that being a team guy was much more than just making it through BUD/s and showing up at the team.  I had a long way to go, and a lot to learn before I would be ready to deploy, and even if the conflict had lasted longer, I was far from ready at that point to be any good to anybody in an operational situation.  What I would come to realize pretty quickly is that BUD/s is hard, because being a Team Guy is hard.   I would experience challenges at Team Four and other places in my career over the years that were harder than anything I experienced in BUD/s.

Showing up as an FNG to a SEAL Team fresh off the battle field was, let’s just say… interesting.  It was far from a warm welcome, and the lessons came hard and often.  I remember walking down the hall upon arrival and getting one dirty look after another from dudes that looked like they had just popped straight out of a Tom Clancy novel.  Sam Elliott mustaches, goatees, and hair that rolled over their collars, seemed to be standard issue at the team, as were the non-conformal grooming standard waivers that accompanied them.  Another thing that was obvious about these guys was that they all had the thousand yard stare.  I didn’t… not yet anyway, and I was fish out of water.  I felt like a steak that had just been thrown to a pack of wolves.  It wasn’t that the guys didn’t like me, but as a new guy, they didn’t know me, and more importantly, I had not yet earned their trust or respect.  Little did I know at the time, but making it through training simply meant that I had been given an opportunity for a shot at earning my place amongst these warriors.  They would decide if I deserved to be there, they would pin the Trident on my chest… if I earned it, and nothing was guaranteed.


Having just experienced the sting and pain that accompanies the loss of Teammates in combat, their tolerance for mistakes was non-existent, and the bar they set for operational performance was very high.  I was expected to show them I deserved to be there, and that I was operationally ready to be trusted with their lives.   They knew better than I did at the time that my actions would affect the team as a whole.  They also knew that my potential mistakes would most likely result in someone else’s death or injury rather than my own.  These guys weren’t about to just hand me that without knowing that I was good to go.  My teammates and the leadership of my first platoon taught, mentored, and coached me through those early days.  Although it was not always obvious to me at the time, everything they did was for the betterment of me and to strengthen the team as a whole.  The result was that I became a valuable and respected member of the team.  Once I had earned their trust and confidence, they welcomed me with open arms into their brotherhood.  Through the lessons and teachings of the Team Four Operators, I discovered that being a good team guy is pretty simple as long as you can follow three rules.  These rules are the fundamental building blocks upon which you build the foundation of your life in the Teams.

1)    Make yourself the best operator you can possibly be.