Extreme SEAL Experience Blog
About 150...Wednesday April 29th 2009 - 15:13 PM EST
It’s been said, and I believe it, that guys who join the Navy model themselves after their first Chief Petty Officer they are assigned to. My first Chief when I was 17 and stationed on a Frigate in Japan was named Lafond.
The sun rose and set on the ship with Chief Lafond and he commanded respect.
Me… I was just scared of him…
He was a decorated “Brown Water” Navy vet from his time in Vietnam on Gunboats and every so often, he’d tell us about being ambushed on a river and doing CPR with his foot on his buddy who had been shot during the firefight.
Lafond stayed in the fight manning a deck mounted .50 machine gun returning fire and used his foot on the wounded mans chest to perform chest compressions.
A no nonsense guy who simply believed in the “work hard, play hard” mentality with his subordinates. If you worked hard for Chief Lafond, then nothing bad would happen to you and I tested him on many occasions.
I was always in trouble for fighting on liberty. Yokosuka, Japan was a Sailor town and the standard practice was going before the Captain to receive punishment at “Captains Mast.” After the charges were read and pleading my case of “total innocence” to the Captain, the Skipper would ask Lafond standing behind me if he had anything to add that might change the punishment.
Blah, blah, blah… Lafond would go on about how great a young Sailor I was to the Captain, and I’d normally get off with a slap on the wrist because of him.
Before “Mast,” we’d wait our turn outside the Captains Quarters and Lafond would continue to light a Zippo lighter over and over. It signified I was about to be “Burned” by the Captain for getting in the trouble again and it intimidated the hell outta me.
In the end… he’d always save me and I will never forget him and all he did for me…
My first SEAL Platoon Chief was named Mike and we addressed him as Mike. A really big man, Mike was part Indian. Dark completion, big white teeth and a huge head… Mike ran SEAL Team ONE and all respected ANYTHING that came out of Mike’s mouth.
He’d been a SEAL for a long time and if there was anything you had any question about, Mike had the answer… He was a great Platoon Chief and protected all of us like a wet mother hen as well. In Foxtrot Platoon, there was no doubt who was in charge and that Mike had our backs no matter what happened.
I always felt protected being around Mike…
My second Platoon Chief was named Frank and he was the most orneriest SEAL I have ever met. A tall SEAL with a medium build, Franks nose had been broken so many times in fights that it was a noticeable disfigurement on his face. Where Mike was known as Mike, Frank was known as “Pig” and that’s what everyone called him. Frank said he got the nickname because he liked standing Shore Patrol as a young SEAL and roughing Sailors up in the performance of those duties.
In any case, Pig had an incredible background as a SEAL, a fist fighter, and an arm wrestler. He was also a scary guy who’s solution to performance problems from us was a major ass beating.
Pig did not MESS around, but we trusted and loved him…
Andy became my third Platoon Chief in SEAL Team and I made Chief myself in his Platoon and I had no other Platoon Chiefs after Andy. It was my turn as Platoon Chief now…
Andy was the best demolition guy and SEAL sniper I’d ever been around and I learned a lot from his low profile demeanor, as Andy never had a lot to say unless it needed said. When he did speak… you could hear a pin drop as he was always right and made sense in bad situations all SEAL Platoons find themselves in.
As my wife says… Andy was also the best-looking SEAL in the Navy…
Taking the “Best” from all the finest examples I had growing up with in the Navy, I struck out on my own as a Chief Petty Officer with nine years in the Navy. A very young Chief, I made it after so much trouble for fighting, but I made Chief so early because of so many other Chiefs who looked after and protected me.
Protecting others was in my blood.
The Chiefs that looked after me all those years’ simply excused stupid mistakes all young Sailors make and believed that there are, and should be, second chances for good guys who screw up.
I was a classic example of that…
My guys were my guys… My Platoon was my Platoon… and I didn’t like anyone f**king with my Platoon or my guys. What ever happened was my responsibility and you could have my “Head,” but do not mess around with my young SEALs…
There is so much that can go wrong in a SEAL Platoon… Piles of weapons, ammo, demolitions... Parachute jumps, submarine work, and just untold amounts of dangerous work day and night, in the US and abroad, that it becomes difficult at times to balance “work hard, play hard.”
You have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror each morning as a Platoon Chief and know “I did the right thing,” even if that means doing wrong…
We all make mistakes, but a smart guy learns from those mistakes and improves himself and others around him. You don’t learn ANYTHING until you’ve made a mistake, and I’m very proud of giving guys a second chance that needed one.
While my SEAL Son is back at it again, I take great comfort in knowing his Platoon Chief is one of the most decorated and fiercest fighters SEAL Team has ever known and that he has my Sons back “No Matter What.”
Another Chief he has is also a great friend of mine, and he gave a brief to all of SPECWAR before I retired about his exploits in Afghanistan. He and a British SBS Commando, for three days, virtually singly handedly, fought a huge numerically superior force.
When he finished nonchalantly describing the carnage they endured, the JDAM Strikes he called in on their own position, the never-ending machine gun and rocket propelled grenade fire they survived, and the endless Taliban attacking them with hand grenades from 30 meters away… I asked my friend when he took questions, “DUDE… How many of those f**kers did you kill ”
He shrugged his shoulders and replied, “Aaaa… I don’t know for sure.”
I asked again, “Really Bro… How many ”
He took a deep breath and said, “About 150…”
Awarded the Navy Cross for his actions, he was also awarded Great Britain’s Highest Award for Valor as well, and the only SEAL ever to be Knighted in England for his Heroism.
These are the guys my Son deals with everyday… These are my Lafonds, My Mike’s, My Pig’s, and My Andy’s… Looking back… After all these years… I have no regrets whatsoever…