This is Part I of a three-part series on Navy SEAL sniper Matt Axelson. You can read Part II here and Part III here

“Listen up, gents. The next 90 days are going to be some of the toughest you’ve ever experienced. You’ll be put under more pressure and greater mental demands than you’ve ever been under before, and with zero tolerance given for error.…”

Déjà vu. I’d heard this speech before, or one much like it. Back in the summer of 2000, Glen Doherty and I had been inducted into the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) sniper course with a welcoming pep talk just like this one. The world had gone through a century of change in the four years since. It was now the summer of 2004, and this time the guy giving that speech to a fresh batch of incoming sniper students was me. 

“You’ll be expected to deliver at a level of perfection that will at first seem unrealistic, unfair, and unreasonable. We will push the limits of your performance to such high levels that even when you are rusty, tired, or unpracticed you will still outperform the enemy…”