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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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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Navy SEAL’s advice to grads: Make your bed every morning

During a commencement speech at the University of Texas, the commander of the forces that organized the raid to kill Osama bin Laden delivered some key advice on success.

“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed,” U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McCraven told the graduates of his alma mater on May 16.

McCraven, the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, relayed several lessons he has learned in 36 years as a Navy SEAL, starting with some advice that was music to the ears of exasperated mothers everywhere.

“If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day,” he said. “It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.

“Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right. And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made. And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”

“That’s what I always tell my son — make the bed first thing in the morning!” Natalie Morales said during TODAY’s Take on Wednesday.

McCraven’s 10 lessons also included accepting the help of others, measuring a person by the size of his or her heart, fighting through adversity, not being afraid of failure, and charging into difficult situations head-on. He also encouraged graduates to “be your very best in the darkest moment” by finding inner strength and to never lose hope or give up.

Follow Scott Stump on Twitter and Google+.

Source USA Today

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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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R.I.P. Petty Officer Neil Roberts

BUD/S Class: 184
SEAL Service: 10 years
Rank: Petty Officer First Class
Age: 32
Home: Woodland, CA
Assigned: Naval Special Warfare Development Group
Died: March 4, 2002
Operation: Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan)


Roberts was killed in combat during a clandestine insertion, when the MH-47 Chinook helicopter he was readying to exit made a rushed take-off from a 10,000 foot mountain after it was hit machine-gun fire.

The Chinook helicopter was about to set down when machine-gun fire ripped into the fuselage, cutting a hydraulic line. The chopper jerked and swayed as the pilot struggled to regain control. Intelligence for Operation Anaconda had indicated that this particular mountain top landing zone was unoccupied. The ambush opened the curtain on the bloodiest fight in the Afghan war, a battle that unfolded in the frigid mountain region of Gardez, Afghanistan, in the dead of the winter. The pilot managed to gain a little altitude, and then veeredoff. Petty Officer First Class Neil Roberts was standing in the rear by the open exit ramp when the first rounds struck. With the severed line spraying hydraulic fluid everywhere and the chopper jerking this way and that, Roberts lost his balance and fell to the snowy ground below. Roberts collected himself, activated his emergency beacon, and then took stock. His only weapons were a pistol and two hand grenades. Unfortunately his light machine gun had not fallen out of the chopper, too. Three al-Qaeda fighters began moving in. Roberts crawled toward better cover, engaging the terrorists with the pistol and grenades. He soon ran out of ammunition. Nobody knows what happened next. Images broadcast by a Predator unmanned aerial vehicle showed three men dragging him away. A rescue team later recovered his body. Roberts had been shot to death.

On 7 October 2001, the United States had embarked on Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan with the deadliest and most technologically advanced armed force the world had yet seen. No other conventional opponent could match it in combat. From the war’s opening day, Navy and Air Force bombs rained down on Taliban and al Qaeda targets with the highest level of accuracy achieved to that time in military history. The enemy, however, behaved like ants. When the bombs started falling on the anthills, many enemy fighters simply scattered, switched sides, or melted away into the mountains to regroup and fight another day. Although the U.S. arsenal boasted the most sophisticated technology in the world, it couldn’t help Neil Roberts. In the end, he fought alone on a frigid snow-covered mountaintop against enemies he could see and hear yards away. Even in the 21st century, war pits man against nature and man against man.

“Although I sacrificed personal freedom and many other things, I got just as much as I gave,” he wrote his wife in an “open in the event of my death” letter. My time in the Teams was special,” Neil Roberts, 32, wrote. “For all the times I was cold, wet, tired, sore, scared, hungry and angry, I had a blast.”

To his last action, Petty Officer Roberts was true to his SEAL ethos and to the unconditional commitment he made to the Navy when he enlisted. His moment of truth came when he was utterly alone, surrounded by a ruthless enemy deep in hostile territory and undoubtedly knew there was no chance of escape or rescue. Never forget that it is Sailors like Petty Officer Roberts and his shipmates currently engaged in the fight who we are serving.


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