When I went through training back in 1997, it was the hardest thing physically that I’d ever done.  I checked into BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training) fresh off a six month deployment on the USS Kitty Hawk as an Aviation Warfare Systems Operator/Helicopter Search & Rescue Swimmer (H60’s).  After failing the initial physical training entry test (I had one more shot at it) in this order:

  • 500M swim
  • Pull Ups
  • Push Ups
  • 1.5M Run in Boots

I rehearsed it over and over in my head, then pushed myself and was able to pass the initial Pre Training PT test a second time around. By the time I got to 1st Phase of training after a few weeks of “Indoctrination” I was a complete train wreck. Blisters, torn callouses, sore muscles and a bruised ego.  I was targeted by the instructor staff for termination and they threw everything they had at me (just ask anyone in my class and they’ll agree).  You name the punishment or extra duty and I was a participant:

  • The Goon Squad-nasty extra PT work for not keeping up with the head pack on runs. While everyone else stretches and drinks water you and a select few get your ass handed to you a few yards away.
  • Remedial PT-extra PT after morning chow (this is after a 0500 PT session).  Run back early and get hammered times two. Not fun.
  • Ole Misery-this is an over-sized log much larger than the telephone poles used in log PT.  Misery loves company and she had plenty with me under her.
  • Extra Love-sign up for BUD/S and find out for yourself.

I can honestly say quitting never entered my mind in BUD/S but I did have an “ah ha” moment in the first phase of training that really cemented in my situation.  It came when our fastest runner, a guy who was always being rewarded praised by our instructors  (“It pays to be a winner gents”….), rang the bell and quit training one Monday morning. We have a saying in BUD/S, everyone wants to be a Frog Man on Friday.

Navy SEAL BUD/S training: Drown proofing in 1st Phase. Later, students will have their hands and feet tied up.

Apparently Monday rolled around and the idea of laying down in the icy pacific and experiencing hypothermia (it’s a BUD/S right of passage folks) did not appeal to him much anymore.  He figured out Hell was indeed a very cold place and rang out (rang the bell) of training.  I thought to myself that if this guy quit, then surely it’s just hanging in mentally, and I’m good-to-go, just don’t quit.

I graduated class 215 in February of 1998.  We started training with 220 and ended up with 23 originals.  Some classes have graduated zero students.

It’s about mental toughness and a no quit attitude.  This is something all SOF Operators come to know through their various selection courses. After all we are all SOF brothers and cut from the same fabric of cloth.

I get asked the same question all the time by people of all ages and aspirations. “So what’s the secret to BUD/S?”.  I reply with two honest, heartfelt words.

Don’t Quit.