Thursday, May 12, 2011

What makes a Navy SEAL... and what doesn't

The U.S. Navy SEALs have been getting quite a bit of publicity lately in the wake of the Osama bin Laden affair (You know: the one where there are no photos of the body that has conveniently been thrown in the ocean).

Nevertheless, the training that goes into making a SEAL is the toughest military training in the world.I came across this rather interesting article that ran in the Wall Street Journal that was written by a former Navy SEAL. The writer did a nice job of summing up who makes it through this training and who typically doesn't:
What kind of man makes it through Hell Week? That's hard to say. But I do know—generally—who won't make it. There are a dozen types that fail: the weight-lifting meatheads who think that the size of their biceps is an indication of their strength, the kids covered in tattoos announcing to the world how tough they are, the preening leaders who don't want to get dirty, and the look-at-me former athletes who have always been told they are stars but have never have been pushed beyond the envelope of their talent to the core of their character. In short, those who fail are the ones who focus on show. The vicious beauty of Hell Week is that you either survive or fail, you endure or you quit, you do—or you do not.

Some men who seemed impossibly weak at the beginning of SEAL training—men who puked on runs and had trouble with pull-ups—made it. Some men who were skinny and short and whose teeth chattered just looking at the ocean also made it. Some men who were visibly afraid, sometimes to the point of shaking, made it too.

Almost all the men who survived possessed one common quality. Even in great pain, faced with the test of their lives, they had the ability to step outside of their own pain, put aside their own fear and ask: How can I help the guy next to me? They had more than the "fist" of courage and physical strength. They also had a heart large enough to think about others, to dedicate themselves to a higher purpose.
I remember reading an entire book on SEAL training, and just reading the detailed description of Hell Week left me feeling exhausted. The hardships of Army basic training and advanced individual training were enough for me. Hell Week during SEAL training would do me in right quick, as I get quite punchy and admittedly a little panicky when I am forcefully deprived of sleep. Believe me, there were times during my years in the Army when I caught very few Zzzz's, but it was nothing like Hell Week, where you maybe get 2 hours total over a five day period. Kudos to the hard-charging men out there who are willing to put themselves through the kind of punishment that is SEAL training.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free... it expects what never was, and never will be." -Thomas Jefferson

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