Extreme SEAL Experience Blog
SEAL Blog. A Comedy of Errors.Sunday February 10th 2008 - 12:38 AM EST
I remember a course we did here where I was explaining to the guys how
SEAL Operations are a "Comedy of Errors" from start to finish. Thirty
minutes after that, while moving them by boat to their insertion point, we
ran up on and were stuck on a hidden snag in the river. Stuck so hard and
with so much gear we had to transfer guys into another boat and abort that
method of insertion for another.
Good thing we had a plan B, objective taken, mission complete . . .
There is a mystique out there that makes it seem like SEALs are so good
that we dont screw up on missions. We do, and it seems like we make them
throughout the mission. The good side of that is they are normally small
ones and we recover quickly.
Having a plan A, B, C. The "One is None, Two is One" mentality of
carrying extra gear in case something breaks, and the never ending "What
Ifs" that are included in every brief.
What Ifs are where we all think of things that can go wrong and what
well do about it if it does happen.
What If - were detected on insertion What If - we lose a jumper What
If - we have a guy wounded Contingency plans are discussed and made from
all the What Ifs.
When the plan does go bad or when a mistake is made we usually quickly
recover and drive on with the mission. All from very complex planning.
No one has a clue what we do on missions, just no idea the complexities,
challenges and struggles to accomplishment that mission until you go on
one. Take the "Support Guy" for instance.
During an exercise in Alaska we had three missions to do and a 16-man
platoon to do them. A SEAL platoon has two communicators in it. We needed a third . . .
We travel around with Support Guys ( Non-SEALs) who look after gear and
the like. Their main function is to get SEAL platoons anything we need for
a mission, to support us, and theyre very good.
We broke down into three elements and my element would need a communicator
support guy to handle the radios and comms for the mission. He was going
in with us . . .
This operation started going South from the start. The river we inserted
on did not have enough water for the boat, forget about using the engine.
On a frigid Alaska night we walked through the middle of the river
dragging the boat to deeper water a long way down stream.
We had exposure suits on to avoid getting wet but they only work if zipped
up as the support guy discovered when we made deeper water and he flooded
out with a big time suit of cold water.
We planned for it with extra clothing and in the middle of the night we
stripped him down and dressed him back up and continued the mission.
Alaska, with its mountains, is a tough place to make comms. He was unable
to receive or transmit a single call that night and we had no idea if our
mission had changed or updates on the intelligence.
We planned for that!
Leaving the river we took a major beating in the open ocean and his
primary radio flooded out from a wave and not waterproofing the radio well
enough. We had another though.
As we were moving close to the target our support guy broke out a red-lens
flashlight and began searching for something. We freaked! WTF Dude! we
whispered, kill that light He replied he lost his contact lens in the
bottom of the wet, sandy boat. Huh, What!!!
We didnt know how they knew, but the Bad Guys were waiting for us and as
we approached the beach they opened up on us. Very dark, they could hear
the engines low hum but could not see us. We dropped the engine in
reverse and slowly backed out. Mission over, we blew it.
We blew it all right, and it was going to be a long night as just as
quickly two Huey Gunships took off from the beach and with powerful search
lights began looking for us.
They knew where we had come from and concentrated the search in that area.
Whenever we were hit with the lights wed stop the motor and lay very
still and they never saw us.
This went on for over an hour until we stopped the engine too slowly and
they busted us and gleefully followed us to our extraction under the
powerful lights with us waving friendly obscenities at them.
Up the river and through the woods we went as day break arrived. It had
been one Hell of a night.
After the debrief, the support guy came up to me with a haggard look of a
hard mission we all had and with a cammie smeared face he said "I had no
idea what you guys did on missions and Ill never bitch when you guys turn
in a broken radio again, I just had no idea!"
We later discovered that our Army Aggressors had somehow listened to our
brief and knew what we were doing. If you aint cheating, you aint
Payback came a few days later for us as we bet big with the Army on the
Super Bowl and lulled them into believing wed be watching the game.
While most of them had their feet up watching the game we inserted and hit
them hard with everything we had taking the target and having the last
laugh... If you aint cheating, you aint trying.
In the end, most mistakes can be avoided with careful planning. The ones
that cant be avoided are usually overcome with careful planning.
Careful planning and What Ifs in SEAL Team or any job you do most often