Extreme SEAL Experience Blog
SEAL Blog. Its getting Chilly.Tuesday February 26th 2008 - 13:22 AM EST
The coldest temperatures I’ve worked in were -59 below zero without a gust of wind blowing. So cold, the nylon was ripping on the tents being so brittle and bullets were cutting through telephone poles like they were made of paper. Training on the ranges began each day by everyone skiing around, gathering fire wood for a large range fire to stay warm in the bitter cold and we’d quickly ski out, shoot some fast drills and haul ass back to the fire before doing it again. Crazy cold, the base would be shut down and the only guys doing anything were us with special permission from the CO to conduct operations in such extreme temperatures.
Our winter training usually began in early winter at some slopes in Colorado for a couple weeks teaching guys how to Telemark ski. Telemark is much different from downhill skiing, very demanding and tough to learn. Once mastered, a SEAL Winter Warrior would never stoop so low as to ski anything but Telemark or "free heel skiing."
After the slopes we’d hit the Back Country for the rest of a tough couple months of training as Telemark is Back Country skiing and few SEAL Targets are found on ski slopes for us to attack.
Back at the Team and home for Christmas we’d load out equipment and fly to Alaska in February and spend the next two months getting our asses kicked daily. Starting out slowly, SEAL slowly, which means "Full On" we do ski PT each morning which often consisted of a biathlon over tough terrain or play football in snowshoes. The rest of the day would be spent doing demolitions, shooting, avalanche training and all kinds of things that need taught or re-learned in the harsh winter
Break Contact or "Contact Drills" were unending. Simulating engaging the enemy or getting away from them was a challenge on skies, a BIG challenge. Normally we carried M-14s with folding stocks across our chests. The .308 round worked better in the snow than the 5.56 and the M-14 would always fire frozen or no matter what you did to it.
We’d start out "Slick" meaning with little gear on, to work out the tactics. Try and imagine, you’re skiing along and explosion signals enemy contact. Your weapon is across your chest, your ski poles in your hands. Drop quickly to avoid being hit, get your hands free of the ski pole straps, roll and unsnap your weapon, unfold the stock and return fire. Wait for the "Call" on what maneuver we’re doing, grab your poles, get on your feet (skies) and maneuver back or forward with the hot gun on your chest. Repeat the process over and over until yourre out of the contact.
After a lot of that, we’d break out the "Great Equalizer" as we called it. Your pack...
We called it the Great Equalizer, as no matter how good you were skiing, when the heavy pack went on, the real challenge began and doing the contact drills we were back to square one and starting over as now when you’d drop, you dropped with an extra hundred pounds on. Getting back up was a chore and doing it over and over day and night was a test but Oooo we got good.
Our training was broken up into increasingly longer patrols. We’d start out with a "Boy Scout" night out learning what we called "Tent Routine" and progress to longer operations and longer patrols lasting days.
You’d pair up with a "Tent Buddy" for the training and eventual deployment overseas. Together you’d learn how to work to survive and be effective as a team. One guy would carry the tent, the other would carry the stove and fuel, one guys would carry the cook pot, the other would carry the tent poles with all gear divvied up between the pairs.
We’d ski at night and lay-up during the day. Finding a suitable hiding spot for the patrol we’d do a variety of thing we called "Deception Tactics." One was the "Jump Off." We’d stop the patrol next to a small drop off or ledge. A couple guys in front would continue skiing for a few hundred meters down the trail and then return to the rest of us. One by one and taking turns in the same spot, we’d throw our packs over the ledge and carefully do the same with our skies and poles and then we’d jump off the trail and over the ledge putting the gear back on.
It was time consuming but necessary as anyone following us would hopefully ski past our "Jump Off Point" without noticing it and continue down the trail. The patrol would be laid-up nearby with a SEAL watching the trail we’d rotate every hour. If someone was seen following, we’d have some time to get ready as they’d figure out soon we’d jumped off when the trail ended.
We jumped off one night and the Cadre instructing us decided to roust us up. They knew where we were laid-up and instead of coming down the trail, they skied in behind us and began throwing grenade simulators wakening us up and scaring the Hell out of us after a tough night. They were cheating as they knew where we were and if they’d come down the trail we would have seen them. After the rousting, I told my buddy running the training that I’d be hanging fish hooks at face level high for them the next time they tried it. They didn’t do it again.
Fish hooks and Claymore Mines were commonly used to slow down pursuers.
We’d set up the small two man dome tents as a pair and conceal them. One guy would start setting up his sleeping bag and cooking gear while the other would fill a snow bag to make water for cooking and then he’d squeeze in with his gear. The stove would be lit and we’d be warm for the first time in many hours and begin adding snow to our cook pot for our dehydrated meals. Working so hard skiing the meals needed a boost so we pre-open them before going out and add Ramen noodles, butter and cheese for extra calories. Once the water was boiled we’d have a good meal and fill our drinking bottles for water that night. Exhausted, we get into our sleeping bags and reluctantly shut off the stove and sleep. We’d remove our socks and sleep with them on our chests to dry them out and put our leather ski boots in the bag to keep them from being frozen and lastly we’d throw a bottle of hot water at our feet to stay warm in the uncomfortable tight confine’s of the bag.
A "Pull Pole" time was given before we crashed. Pull Pole time meant packed up and on your skies ready to move at a certain time and off we’d go moving closer to our "Objective."
We were pulling pole one evening and I was dumping out the cook pot (Coffee Pot) after we had cooked a couple meals. Rolling around in the bottom of the cook pot were a bunch of little balls and I wondered what they were and how they got in there. It took a minute to realize that my buddy had scooped up a bunch of Rabbit Shit in the snow bag and we enjoyed a few meals with the condiments.
The above picture has drawn a bit of controversy from some guy on my site. The picture shows me in my Overwhites and Gortex holding an M-14 and a can of beer. I guess some people see that and assume that’s how I’d start training each day, by pounding a few beer’s.
The picture was actually taken outside our barracks in Anchorage, Alaska after extraction of the hardest operation I’ve ever done in SEAL Team. An absolute ball-buster it was a couple Hell Week’s rolled into 12 day mission in the Arctic. We skied an incredible distance with out re-supply. Everything we needed, extra food, ammo, demolitions, fuel had to be humped and without something or running out of something, we’d suffer even more.
We hit our target on the morning of the twelfth day. After we shot the Hell out of everything, I gladly placed a 20 pound haversack C-4 I’d been skiing on the target and vaporized it.
We extracted and the Cadre had some beers waiting for us when we finished. The only controversy about the beer should be how many more I drank after a few hours sleep.
That Operation was the hardest thing I’d even done and our final patrol as we’d leave Alaska and be home in a few days. I was in three Winter Platoons and ran training (Equally Hard) for Winter Platoons a few more times spending much time in the snow in this Country and abroad.
Back at the Team at Little Creek, we’d "Fall Out" for Quarters each morning with all the other Platoons in neat rows. Being March or April, it was easy to identify which Platoon out of 5 or 6 was the Winter Platoon.
All the Platoons would be wearing shorts and a tee-shirt in formation.
The Winter Platoon was always "bundled up" from being so severely cold for many hard months of training on a beautiful spring day in Virginia.