“Oleg, are you fucking chumming for Goddam sharks?! You’re putting the whole class at risk of shark attack right now,” said Instructor Deek Gammin.
Gammin was a skinny stone-cold killer from Hollywood, Florida or “Hollyweird” as the other instructors reminded him daily. He was your typical mullet-wearing, gator-stomping, half shirt-wearing, Florida redneck who found direction in a steel cage as a teen.
That cage was the UFC. He was a rising welterweight MMA star and then all of a sudden, after reading American Sniper and The Red Circle back-to-back, he said fuck it and joined the Navy to become a SEAL.
Two combat tours in Iraq, 28 confirmed kills, one with his bare hands, and now he was dealing pain to students like a five-deck 21 dealer in Vegas while finishing up his BA in philosophy at San Diego State. “A total pussy buffet,” he liked to remind his fellow, mostly married, instructors every minute he could. “If ya don’t have any photos to share, then keep that shit to ya self, you redneck, squirrel eatin’, pussy hound mother fucker,” Jackson would say with a big grin on his face.
“Hooyah Instructor Gammin”, said Olga.
It was dark so it was hard to interpret if that was a fuck you Hooyah or not, but, in any case, Gammin let it go. Olga was one tough cookie. She’d outlasted over 140 of her male classmates, who had all rang the bell and quit since week one.
Her tampon had embarrassingly dislodged itself in the surf zone as the whole class was being cold-surf-punished for some reason nobody could remember anymore. It was Wednesday evening of Hell Week and the class was down to 64. The hallucinations due to sleep deprivation had started.
“Just my fucking luck I have my fucking period during Hell Week. Oh well, fuck the period,” Olga thought to herself.
JJ and she had become what BUD/S students call, “The Gray Man.” They were just above the middle of the pack, did everything right, and most of the time the instructors forgot they had two women among the rest of the mostly male class.
The rest of the week would have been a blur except for Thursday’s midnight pool session.
A student, Seaman James Claudmoore, from Akron, Ohio had gulped too much water and drowned to death.
The Navy docs were always on standby but sometimes someone just doesn’t have the stamina to be revived. That night it was Claudmoore, the big goofy kid from Ohio who drove everyone nuts playing his harmonica at night in the barracks.
God knows Hell Week is a nuclear bomb to the human body and mind. Five days and then some of no sleep and extreme physical activity.
Another non-verbal DOR.
Friday finally arrived and the California sun came out just long enough for the class to be secured by Captain Raven.
“You all have done something very few people on the planet could hope to accomplish. While you all have a long way to go, you should be proud of yourselves. Rest up, the real work starts in Phase 2. Go grab your new shirts,” said their Commanding Officer.
They lined up and one by one they stripped off their wet, sand- and blood-stained white T-shirts and donned warm and dry brown ones with their last name stenciled on the front center.
“I never thought I’d be so happy to put on a fucking shirt in my life,” said JJ glancing over at Olga.
“Da,” replied an exhausted Olga.
A brown shirt signified to EVERYONE on the naval amphibious base that you had successfully completed Hell Week.
To say it was a huge bragging right would be an understatement. Everyone, even the instructors, gave you more respect for it.
Your odds of graduating also went up over 50 percent. In the instructors’ eyes, you were now worth just slightly more than a pile of dog shit.
The girls went to sleep Friday afternoon and woke up on Sunday around noon 48 hours later having to take a gut-busting piss.
Olga and JJ put on their sweat pants and new “Hell Week” shirts and walked out into the warm California sun. It was the first time JJ could remember actually being warm and rested. She glanced around and could see a few familiar faces cleaning up the barracks but they quickly glanced away from the two women of BUD/S.
X division… where the quitters went to work until they were shipped off to the USS Never Dock. One of the X division group even made a shirt as a joke, “The Only Easy Day is Every Day!” They were the quitters of BUD/S, destined for some shit billet that needed to be filled immediately by the Navy.
“Come on JJ, nobody likes a quitter,” said Olga.
“I hear you… fucking sucks to be them. Let’s go,” said JJ.
They met up with the rest of their class at the Sunday buffet at Marie Callender’s in the Park Plaza, Coronado.
It was a tradition for each class to make custom “Hell Week” shirts. Usually one of the artists in the class came up with a design and they printed them up for those that would finish.
“Hell is a cold dark place,” was the main slogan on the front of their shirts and most SEAL students would agree with that statement.
The manager of the place gladly took a loss on the SEAL students eating 10 times what a normal person ate, mostly because it was good for business. The students attracted more than enough customers to make up for their elephant-like appetites.
Wedge, their class leader, waved the girls over to his table with the assistant class leader Randy Chang and another enlisted student Ty Hardin. Wedge and Chang both knew and respected each other from the Naval Academy. Out of all the officer billets for SEAL training, the Academy gave 16 — a majority, of the coveted officer spots. It was an incredibly competitive process, including “Mini BUD/S” and also explained the reason why 95 percent of the officers made it through training.
Hardin was someone who didn’t say much, ever. He just let his actions speak for him. He was one of the best athletes in the class and very humble. First on the obstacle course, first on the timed runs, and in the top four swim pairs on the two-mile timed ocean swims. The fact that he was athletically gifted and wasn’t a show-off just made him more likable to his classmates.
“How you guys feeling?” asked Wedge.
I’m sore as fucking shit!” said JJ.
“I feel like a new woman,” said Olga.
They all laughed.
Olga and JJ were the two toughest people he’d met. The amount of abuse thrown at them for being women was over-the-top in his opinion but he understood that the process had made them fit in and earn the respect of their entire class. Better that way than to go light and diminish the accomplishment thought Wedge.
The table nodded in acknowledgment.
The following Monday was a blur for the whole class.
The day started with room inspections.
“What in the fuck are you doing with all these Goddamn tambourines Chang?! You some kinda one-man-band or somethin’?” barked Jackson.
“No Instructor Jackson,” said Chang.
“No fucking what? No shit? No fucking clue? No these ain’t mine officer?!”
“Online business,” Chang said.
“You the next Bezos of fucking music business Chang?”
To make things worse, just then, the entire stack of tambourines came crashing down, along with Chang’s collection of Chinese porn magazines and a full-size Indiana Jones poster in his locker.
Randy just stood there and winced.
“Oh my fucking lawd!? You some kinda bang bang pervert Chang? And how fucking dare you insult one of the greatest action movie heroes of all time, Indiana Jones himself. Good God man, you stuffed Indy in a fucking closet full of sticky porn pages and tambourines. Oh shit, we gonna work this shit out Bang Bang. You and Wedge get your skinny officer asses out on the beach with the rest of your class before I lose my shit,” said Master Chief Jackson.
Wedge started to crack a smile but bit his lip to hold back the laughter, which he knew would cause a lot of hardship for the class if he couldn’t hold it in.
The class, in full dress uniforms, was standing in thigh-high surf with arms locked and uniforms in tatters. They had just had one of the worst surf and sand beat downs of their lives. Muscles ached, still sore from Hell Week. But it was a good kind of sore, like hitting the gym after taking a long break. However, they had had enough at this point and, as was common practice, they were being pushed and getting used to their breaking points.
Jackson was now giving a final sermon from the top of the sand dunes with a megaphone. “Now listen up you skinny white motherfuckers.”
Even though the class was a healthy mix of ethnicities, and had the first two women to make it through Hell Week, for some reason Jackson enjoyed calling everyone skinny white racists. It was actually kind of funny to most of the class but nobody dared laugh.
“We got ourselves a fucking tambourine banging pervert among us. Isn’t that right Mr. Randy ‘Bang Bang’ Chang?”
“Not only that, you don’t get to fuck with Indiana Jones on my watch you twisted sheboy, jacking off, perverted, motherfucker.”
Jackson unraveled Chang’s Indiana Jones poster and held up some freaky Chinese centerfold next to it. “You see this Chang? I’m going to make sure Indy here, and all this perverted shit goes to a good home, not stuffed in some dark closet. You action hero desecrating motherfucker. You hear me, sir?”
“Hooyah Instructor Jackson,” Randy replied.
“Hoo fucking yah is right,” replied Jackson.
“Now get your class of white racist asses back to the barracks Mr. Wedge, clean your Goddamn rooms and muster on the dive phase grinder after lunch at 1300 sharp. And don’t be late motherfuckers, or Hell Week will look like a fucking spa trip compared to what me and the staff will do to you.”
Two hours later they were standing on the black asphalt grinder under the hot sun. Their sweat was steaming from the run back from lunch.
In dive phase, they had an entirely new set of instructor cadre to know. Second phase of BUD/S training concentrated on basic scuba and the Draeger rebreather. The Draeger recirculated pure oxygen and scrubbed CO2 while producing no bubbles that could give away a combat diver’s position.
The biggest obstacle to passing this phase was “Pool Comp,” or the pool competency test. Students started out with a full kit at 20 feet in the dive tank and three instructors proceeded to torture the diver, each making passes and taking gear or delivering a well-placed blow. The idea was to suffer and not bolt to the surface. More than one person would have to suck bubbles directly off the scuba tank to grab a little bit of air. Failure rates were high for a reason.
Being a SEAL was about being comfortable in, around, and under the water.
During dive phase, the four-mile run, the tw0-mile ocean swim, and the obstacle course times were lowered.
By the end of second phase, the class was thinned out even more. It was now down to 32.
They had just completed a punishing land navigation course up in the mountains east of San Diego during heavy snowfall. They lost another four students from cold casualties and due to poor navigation skills resulting in them getting lost in the snowy mountains after dusk.
Now the 28 students were headed out to “The Rock” at San Clemente island 80 miles off the coast of California.
On the Rock, they would learn basic marksmanship skills, weapons cleaning and breakdown, how to build electric and standard demolition charges, small unit tactics, and then do all that in and out of the water. It was basically pre-school for what was coming when they would graduate and go on to the three months of SEAL tactical training and then onto more core training in their SEAL platoons.
Everyone was fired up, and they could taste graduation: it was so close but so far away.
Everything got tougher on the Rock. The class worked with bare minimum sleep, three-four hours a night, and was expected to be sharp on the firing line and demolition range.
The students were mentally tough, their minds were like a katana blade, honed razor sharp. They could take almost anything at this point. And the instructors knew that they had essentially created Godzillas in the closet who were banging to be let out.
Olga and JJ were the top shooters in the class. It didn’t matter what weapon system. Be it the HK .45, M4, or M60, they were deadly accurate, much to the surprise of their class.
The first time Olga felt the rumble of the big M60 in her hands she was hooked, like a heroin addict after shooting up dope for the first time, she couldn’t get enough. But she, JJ, and the rest of the class would face one of their biggest challenges in the weeks to come.
Every day, every minute, was a test for them. They were pushed harder and harder. The instructors knew they had to mold them into hardened steel because life in the Teams was harder.
“The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday.”
To be continued…
“The Reservation” is a new experiment, a novel in progress, shared with SOFREP readers weekly and created by former Navy SEAL sniper Brandon Webb. Stand-by for weekly updates as the story unfolds and our unit wanders “off the reservation.”