Navy SEALs: Pressure on standards?

San Diego Union-Tribune Online, Sept. 27 | Jeanette Steele

As SEAL leader recommends opening to women, former SEALs discuss issues facing elite branch

In the Navy SEAL world, “standards” is the word of the hour.

As momentum builds for the elite Navy branch to open its doors to women, former SEALs are concerned there will be pressure to subtly change the training process that molded them — even as some agree that the time has come for gender equality.

On Friday, news broke that Rear Adm. Brian Losey, commander of the Coronado-based SEALs, has recommended that the elite branch open to women.

The top SEAL wrote that there are “no insurmountable obstacles” to integrating women.

But, he added, they may be more prone to injuries and probably won’t enhance the fighting effectiveness of SEAL teams, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press.

Losey’s memo was to the head of the U.S. Special Operations Command, Gen. Joseph Votel, who is expected to soon make his own recommendation about admitting women to the special-operations brotherhood, which includes Army Rangers and Green Berets.

All of this is precursor to an upcoming decision by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter about whether any part of the U.S. military will remain closed to women.

Losey’s leaked recommendation is particularly noteworthy because it differs from the Marine Corps, whose then-commandant recently asked to continue excluding women from some direct-combat jobs.

Former SEALs point to various possible pitfalls ahead — all related to what they predict will be an inherent pressure to see a woman pass SEAL training.

Ed Hiner was training officer at the Coronado Naval Special Warfare Command before retiring in 2012.

He said SEALs probably won’t touch the written standards, such as timed swims and runs throughout basic training conducted in Coronado.

That training is a 21-week ordeal known as Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL, or BUD/S. At least 70 percent of the men who try out fail.

It’s the stuff not on paper that might yield to pressure, said Hiner, who lives in La Jolla.

For instance, BUD/S candidates run a mile each way to meals. That’s six miles a day that aren’t part of the official standard.

He said SEAL leaders might be coaxed into cutting those runs to lessen stress fractures among women, for example.

“Those type of in between the standards, as I call it, those type of things have been such a part of training for so long … those things are part of what has produced probably the best fighting force in the world,” Hiner said. “At the end of the grinding process, we came out with what we wanted. If you undo the grinding, it’s not going to be the same training — not even close to the same.”

If there’s a perception that the rigor has lessened, the SEALs will no longer attract the best of the best, he added.

Another former SEAL, Brandon Webb, said he hopes there won’t be spoken or unspoken quotas to fill.

He pointed to missteps when women first became Navy fighter pilots in the 1990s.

Famously, Lt. Kara Hultgreen fatally crashed her F-14 Tomcat while trying to land on the aircraft carrier Lincoln in 1994. Later, an inspector general probe determined that the Navy botched the initial placement of female combat pilots aboard the carrier.

The investigation found that women weren’t given preferential treatment. However, it concluded that instructors didn’t give the female pilots the help they deserved and that enormous media attention on the issue stigmatized the women and made it hard for them to be accepted in squadrons.

The report admonished the Navy not to “accelerate” the training of female aviators but to put them in the fleet after adequate and complete instruction.

Webb, who served from 1993 to 2006, said he hope the SEALs learn from aviation’s mistakes.

“Lives were lost as a result of ‘push through,’” Webb said. “This ultimately defeats unit morale, gets people killed and diminishes the accomplishment of those women who actually meet the standard.”

Losey, the Naval Special Warfare boss, addressed this issue in his memo, acknowledging there may be “external” pressure.

“With the recent female graduates from the Ranger course, there may be an expectation that there will soon be female graduates from BUD/S,” he wrote. “We will welcome any candidate who meets standards.”

Despite their concerns, both former SEALs said it’s right for women to get a shot.

Hiner said that he has personal reservations, which he admits are based in notions such as chivalry. But, he added, “Intellectually, as a leader who says ‘let’s be fair to every human being in this society,’ we have to open it up.”

Webb said women have earned the chance to try.

This echoes Losey’s memo, which noted that about 500 women already serve alongside SEALs in support jobs. They have been deploying with units for more than a decade, in wars where the “frontline” is blurred by guerilla-style fighting.

“We live in the 21st century where women have proven they can compete on the same level as men,” Webb said.

Still, in the tight-knit circles of former SEALs, people said the chief emotion in the active-duty ranks is dread.

That mirrors a recent RAND Corp. survey of special-operations troops that reflected doubts about whether women could meet the overall job demands. It also found concerns that sexual harassment or assault could increase, and cited worries about “unequal treatment” of special-operations candidates and personnel.

SEAL teams are known to be a rough-and-tumble environment full of high-octane personalities. One retired SEAL officer said heated arguments and even fistfights occur. Will SEALs feel compelled to treat women with a lighter touch, he wondered?

Losey addressed some of these issues in his five-page memo, which has not been released publicly.

He downplayed the risk of women wrecking team cohesion, saying that while some may not want women serving alongside them, “acceptance is expected to increase over time.”

The Coronado SEAL command has spent the past year examining its standards.

Currently, just to enter BUD/S, candidates must be able to do 10 pull-ups in two minutes and 50 push-ups in the same amount of time, among other swimming and running tests.

The people who survive training usually score well above the minimum, according to people familiar with the process.

In addition, the SEAL command looked at how both genders might be accommodated in regards to living conditions and how women might be incorporated into training command staffs.

Unlike the Marine Corps — which released the results of its study earlier this month — the SEALs have done this quietly, without sharing their conclusions.

Until now.

In his memo, Losey said officials expect higher injury rates for women during training. He called for more education and study on the issue, according to the Associated Press.

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Compass and a Camera, A Year in Vietnam

With a compass to direct him in his job as a forward observer and a personal camera to document his experiences and keep him connected to his creative side, Vietnam veteran Steven Burchik was lucky enough to make it home and years later decided to write about the most challenging year of his life.

compass-cameraLike any experience, his year spent with the First Infantry Division stationed in the rice paddies near Saigon included good times as well as bad. He candidly recalls how, although he believed communism to be a serious threat in the world, he soon learned that a guerrilla war is a difficult one to fight, and survival rather than victory quickly became his focus. But he also remembers the exhilaration of helicopter rides over serpentine rivers and the time he introduced village kids to a gumball machine.

A unique memoir of the war, Compass and a Camera pulls not only from Burchik’s memories, but also from the daily letters he wrote to his fiancée and includes numerous photographs from his collection of over four thousand. The images alone make this book a must-have for any history buff or fellow veteran.

Available on

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The Making of a Navy SEAL by Brandon Webb

The Making of a Navy SEAL: My Story of Surviving the Toughest Challenge and Training the Best Hardcover – August 25, 2015
by Brandon Webb (Author), John David Mann (Author), Marcus Luttrell (Foreword)

Brandon Webb is a former U.S. Navy SEAL; his last assignment with the SEALs was Course Manager for the elite SEAL Sniper Course, where he trained some of the most accomplished snipers of the twenty-first century including Marcus Luttrell and Chris Kyle.

The Making of a Navy SEAL is a guts and glory tale of an American boy pursuing an American dream. Having literally grown up at sea, Brandon was an experienced boatsman and rescue diver by the age of sixteen. Searching for a purpose and path in life, Brandon learns about the SEALs one day by some fellow divers and from that moment on, he knew what he wanted to do.

Overcoming one obstacle after another, Brandon’s grit and perserverance kept him on point with his goal of becoming a SEAL. Brandon does a fantastic job of describing the struggles and challenges of SEAL training, fleet operations, and mission deployments.

This book is as much about leadership as it is a window into the life of military special operations. I was particularly interested in his experiences with the implementation of mental management with his students and continuous improvement with his courses. Brandon raised the bar and made significant contributions to America’s strategies, preparedness, and fighting men and women.

The challenges, stories and insights are of value to any audience, whether military, business, or other. Once again, character and competence surface as the two most important ingredients in the excellence recipe.

Grab this book, read it, and pay it forward.

The Making of a Navy SEAL will be released on August 25, 2015.

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Q&A on USS America


It’ll be a different kind of (amphibious ready group.) And the Marines are working through what their concept of operations is going to be. They’ll take a different (vehicle) load … It’ll be a different capability. Much stronger in some areas, not as strong in other areas.


Q: What’s the strength of this new arrangement?

A: Certainly, we can do every mission out there — forward presence, power projection, deterrence. We’ve got a ship with 1,700 Marines with this great capability these new aircraft are going to bring. We can get a whole bunch of Marines behind enemy lines in a hurry. We can evacuate people in a hurry. We can sustain operations out there on station.

Q: What’s the weakness?

A: I don’t think there is a weakness. You know, we can’t bring a tank ashore. But if we are in an (amphibious ready group), that’s what these other ships can do.

Q: How are the ship’s sailors affected by the new paradigm?

A: We have more sailors onboard dedicated to the aviation mission. We have more aviation maintenance folks and flight-deck personnel.

Q: When America is on the horizon, will we see any visual differences from the current big-deck amphibious ships assigned to San Diego — the Makin Island, Boxer, Essex and Peleliu?

A: If you are looking at it from the stern, we don’t have the big gate in the stern. It’s just all steel all the way up. That’s the only perceptible difference. We’re a little bit heavier because we filled in that (well deck) gap with machinery.

Q: Ships usually have memorabilia on board that celebrates the vessel’s namesake. What do you have, or plan to have, for the America?

A: We have some things from the previous (aircraft carrier) America onboard. As far as for the country, we’re designing things. We have some great American slogans we’re going to put throughout the ship. Military slogans from past eras: “I have not yet begun to fight.” On the mess (cafeteria) deck, we plan on calling it the Heroes Café. We’ll have a lot of Medal of Honor pictures, with the citations of what they did for our country.

(The ship’s motto is) “Bello Vel Pace Paratus,” which means “Prepared in War and Peace.” It really fits perfectly. We have a lot of capability to serve in wartime, definitely, but in peacetime also with humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Q: Since it’s a post-9/11 ship, are you planning any tributes to those killed in the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks?

A: We’re still designing everything. One of the things we are planning is to have a big timeline of American history.

Q: As a ship named for the entire nation, you have a big potential fan base. What kind of feedback are you getting from the public?

A: On our Facebook page, people are very excited to have a ship named America. It’s an honor, it’s also a big responsibility. Where you sail, when you sail, you sail as America. The crew understands that, and they are looking forward to that.

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Corpsmen Celebrate 115 Years of Service

By MC1 James , Naval Hospital Pensacola Public Affairs
PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) — Hospital corpsmen have a long and proud tradition of excellence, honor, bravery and sacrifice as the Navy’s enlisted Medical Corps.

On June 17, 2013 the Navy’s Hospital Corps celebrated 115 years of service.

Wings of Hope

Hospital corpsmen perform their duties as assistants in the prevention and treatment of disease and injury and assist health care professionals in providing medical care to DoD personnel and their families. They may function as clinical or specialty technicians, medical administrative personnel or health care providers at Medical Treatment Facilities. They also serve as battlefield corpsmen with the Marine Corps, rendering emergency medical treatment to include initial treatment in a combat environment.

Since the inception of the Navy in 1775, the need for Sailors dedicated to the caring of the sick and injured has been a priority. There were surgeon’s mates in the late 1700’s, loblolly boys in 1841, male nurses in 1861, baymen in 1876 and finally the establishment of the Hospital Corps in 1898. The hospital corpsmen have a long and proud tradition of taking care of those in their charge.

Read the entire story here

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Tribute to Navy Corpsmen

Thanks to Ben Cascio for passing this along…

For those of us who heard and used the term ”Corpsman Up,” it is a term that remains everlasting in both our hearts and our minds. The truth is that we ask and expect far too much from these young men and women who are called Corpsmen, and who like most young Marines were first exposed to the horrors of war in ways most will never forget. Those assigned to the Fleet Marine Forces Marines (FMF) lived the way we did and that of the units to which assigned, and they endured and participated in every hardship and disappointment, as well as the praise and glory awarded their units.

The truth is many in Vietnam were 18 years old and upwards, and were just as fearful of being hurt or killed as the rest were and like the rest failed to receive mail for extended periods of time. Like every other Marine in the ground combat units, Corpsmen dug their foxholes with other Marines, ate the same C-rations as the rest, felt the stings of ants, leeches, bees, and scorpions, and they also dug their own toilets like the rest of us and they also buried their cans, papers, etc., after cooking and eating their meals. They were Just as tired as the rest and at times just as afraid of the unknown as was anyone else. However, Corpsmen still had to check on the sanitation of our locations, as well as tending to the minor and major injuries and ailments suffered sooner or later by all. And those aliments and injuries ran the gamut from diarrhea to coughs and colds, and from Elephant grass cuts which usually festered into very large and ugly sores, to the usual heat related issues such as heatstroke, and on to more serious mental and physical issues to include VD and other issues of that nature.

Our Navy Corpsmen did all that while still carrying the gear needed to care for a platoon or company sized unit as well as carrying their own gear and weapons. And often times they were told to help out the locals with their illnesses, injuries, or wounds, and that in turn meant using up precious bandages and medications, which the Corpsman had carried in his pack and medical bags for his fellow Marines. That then caused the Corpsman to pray or ask help from somewhere that he would not run short of needed medications and supplies, and just in case and when the next firefight, or mine explosion, or enemy mortars or artillery might happen upon his unit.

To ask the above of a young 18-22 year old FMF Corpsman, is asking much more than many in the field ever realized until much later and after the fact. After all, that Corpsman is thought by many to be an “expert” on wounds, or how to handle other major injuries, in addition to which medication might be needed and requested to be used for everything from fleas or hair lice to trench foot or crotch rot or pink eye. While every Corpsman that our units had in Vietnam might not have been quite as astute, courageous, gifted, and the logically- minded individuals we make them all out to be, I would love to have just one more time to shake their hands and hug them all, and to thank them all for that which they did for so many over the years, and especially for those units I was honored to be a part of.


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Band of Brothers Day

Brother, life is too short to wake up with regrets. So love the people who treat you right. Forgive the ones who don’t, just because you can. Believe everything happens for a reason. If you get a second chance, grab it with both hands – those of you who served in Viet Nam know this. If it changes your life, let it. Take a few minutes to think before you act when you’re mad. Forgive quickly. God never said life would be easy, he just promised it would be worth it.

Today is Band of Brothers’ Day; send this to all your brothers, fathers, sons and fellow veterans you know. Happy Brothers’ Day!

To the cool men that have touched my life: Here’s to you!! I was never a hero, but I am thankful I served among them.

A real Brother walks with you when the rest of the world walks on you.

~Author Unknown

And Sisters!

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Navy Corpsmen: A Marine’s Best Friend

Here’s a great excerpt from ABOUT.COM regarding Marines and Navy Corpsmen. Photo courtesy of
~Cpl. Beddoe

While Corpsmen are expected to be cure-alls for whatever ails a Marine, they know that their medical expertise only comes into play when it’s needed. Otherwise, they’re Marines in every sense of the word.

Navy Corpsman treats a Marine (Vietnam)

“Corpsmen need to know hand-to-hand combat skills because when they go out with Marines they might have to get down and dirty during a fire fight,” said Sgt. Michael Belliston. “They might have to fight their way to a hurt Marine, or fight his way out with that Marine.”

So the Corpsmen learn. They learn how to fight hand-to-hand, how to fire MK-19 grenade launchers, drive Humvees, rappel, take point on a patrol, etc. And they do it on the front lines, not just during training exercises back in the states.

The Sailors hold their own.

“I’ve always been impressed with the level of skills they possess from the relatively short amount of training they go through,” said Morse. “My Corpsmen can jump on any weapon out here and perform as well as any Marine. Heck, I’ve met some docs who could outshoot every Marine in his platoon.”

Still, the Marines would rather the Corpsmen not have to prove their battle readiness during a firefight.

“A good Corpsman will put rounds downrange if we need him to,” said Morse, “but we try to keep them in the rear so they are around to save us.”


HR – Hospital Recruit (E-1)
HA – Hospital Apprentice (E-2)
HN – Hospitalman (E-3)
HM3 – Hospital Corpsman Third Class (E-4)
HM2 – Hospital Corpsman Second Class (E-5)
HM1 – Hospital Corpsman First Class (E-6)
HMC – Chief Hospital Corpsman (E-7)
HMCS – Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman (E-8)
HMCM – Master Chief Hospital Corpsman (E-9)

See also:

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I Will Never Quit

A quote from Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell; Brother Texan and American Patriot!

“I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.”

~Marcus Luttrell

See my review of “Lone Survivor”

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