This BUD’S for you. Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training is, by all accounts, the hardest military training in the world. John Frogman (pronounced “Frog-min”) signed up for this, but no man really knows what he’s signing up for when he becomes a Navy Seal. All around John are high school and college track and football stars, top swimmers, wrestlers and boxers, but John knows that only 10 to 20% of those who begin BUD/S ever finish.
John’s swim buddy finishes tying his hands behind his back. It had better be tight and right, because if it comes loose, John fails. Splash. Suddenly, John is looking like a real seal with nothing but his flippers to propel him through a 50-meter swim. This drill is called “drown proofing.” Or, as John calls it: “Glub glub glub.”
Great for the pores.
Now that he’s warmed up, how about a 2-mile open ocean swim, or a 4-mile run in soft sand simulating desert ops, or running through the mountain with 40-lb rucksacks. All of these are just getting him limbered up and ready for Hell Week. John has already fought past every limit he thought he had and some he never even knew existed. “Yesterday is the only easy day.” John finally understands… what will today bring?
550 rounds a minute suddenly thunder next to his tent in the pitch-black morning. The roar of the waves on the beach as he runs in a human chain into chest deep, freezing ocean water can’t drown out the bullhorns giving the polite invitation to “quit now and avoid the rush later… because its just gets colder and it just gets harder.” John rejects the invite as they run out of the water and hear the whistles blast telling him to drop to the sand. Then two whistles blasts and he is crawling through the sand as his whole body shivers almost uncontrollably. Then back to the ocean and start all over.
That night it’s back to the surf after sunset, and the instructors bring out a bell. It ain’t the dinner bell. It’s time for the donut challenge. “Anyone who quits now,” says the nice (sadistic) instructor, “gets donuts and warm coffee. Just ring the bell 3 times.” While John grits his teeth and fights the donut demon, the bell starts ringing. First for one man, then two, and then a whole block of men quit at once.
Now after many weeks of training, John looks around and sees the quitters. They are the star athletes, the street toughs with tattoos covering their bodies, the pumped up weightlifters… all the guys who put on an outward show… gone. Yet there’s Larry, the short guy who puked after the long runs, and Juan, the skinny kid whose teeth chattered like a machine gun, and even Marvin, who was so afraid you could see it in his eyes as his body shook like a leaf. They were still there along with John, rising above their pain… somehow seeing beyond the moment and thinking about the mission, the purpose, the other guys.
They had something in their hearts that couldn’t be seen until the outer man was worn down enough to peer inside. John found his heart, and it was the heart of a SEAL.
These were the men who form the teams that rescued hostages taken by Somali pirates, secured the oil ports in Iraq, cleared out the terrorist infected town of Fallujah and finally took down Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. John Frogman was one of them.
Every day he trains for missions like these. For the Osama mission, they recreated the whole compound and attacked it until the memory of what to do was embedded in their very nerves and muscles. So when the situation changed on the ground and one of the helicopters crashed, and they had to go bottom up instead of coming down from the top of the compound, they never broke stride and never looked back until the mission was accomplished.