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Gear Grenade

Sunday August 17th 2008 - 12:50 PM EST
Added by: Don Shipley

Hydrographic Recon Chart

August has been a nice break, with very nice weather, and very unusual for a typical August in Virginia. A nice break, but work never stops here, and my days for the next week or so are about getting prepared for the September guys.

What have I been doing

I’ve been going through every single piece of gear and equipment I have, and no small task.

While it’s not backbreaking work rifling through the many para bags and cruise-boxes I have, its always sentimental with much time spent reminiscing. 

Every piece of gear has a story or two behind it.

I still have my Escape and Evasion belt for Combat Swimmer Operations. It was simply a web belt worn over my wet suit and held a bayonet, a one quart canteen, a pistol holster, chem-lite, strobe light, spare face mask, and rubber straps in case one of my fins broke during the dive.
Diving all over the world, in all types of water temperatures, and in dark, murky harbors, its easy to remember that Combat Swimmer Operations were never any SEALs favorite missions to conduct, but they were the most challenging and I had a pile of close calls doing them.

Big Aaron Griffin, who retired a year ago after 30 years, gave me all his old gear for the courses, including all his wet suits.

In my last Platoon at SEAL Team TWO, Golf Platoon, we were measured for new wetsuits before a three-week Combat Swimmer Course in the cold waters of Rhode Island.

My wetsuit never came in.

Being the Platoon Chief, I had humped every mile, did every jump, and dove every dive, setting the example for my guys, and I was not going to sit in a boat while my Platoon got it’s ass kicked in Rhode Island because my wetsuit didn’t come in on time.

I needed a wetsuit fast and there was only one other guy as big as me at Team TWO,

Big Aaron.

Asking any SEAL to borrow his wetsuit is like asking to borrow his wife. Aaron was even worse, as he took Combat Swimming more serious than any SEAL ever, and asking to use his bubble-less, well broken in wetsuit, was like asking to borrow ALL the female members in his family.

He wasn’t happy at the thought of my “boys” being snuggled securely in the dark recesses of his dive gear, but after MUCH begging, he relented and gave me the wetsuit and a final word of caution. DON’T F**KING PISS IN IT…

I promised not to, and headed to Rhode Island where I broke that rule each time I entered the bitter cold water.

He knew I would…

Speaking of piss, I found my old Winter Warfare Piss Bottle. The piss bottle was a plastic nalgene bottle every SEAL Winter guy had. We carried several nalgene bottles for water, but on one we’d write the words “Piss,” to ensure we didn’t use it to prepare food.
We’d melt snow each day by a stove and drank constantly to avoid dehydration in the Artic.
Wrapped up in a thick sleeping bad in our tents, we’d piss in the bottle, as going outside to do it was no small event and just not happening. Once relieved, the warm bottle was placed inside our sleeping bags near our feet to keep them warm. We also slept with our ski boots in the tight sleeping bag to keep them from freezing, and our wet socks were placed on our chest to dry out during sleep.

Winter Warfare was tough and separated the men from the boys…

A couple cruise boxes contain my old dress uniforms, medals, insignia pins, and a ton of papers from a life spent in SEAL Team.  My favorite is a notebook I had in BUD/S and I laugh as I see the notes I took during classroom work where the writing started sliding down the page signaling I had been falling asleep. Other pages included Chief Ray my BUD/S Instructor who would enter the classroom with a can of spray glue and spray a few pages of our notebooks.
He was also famous for entering the class of another Instructor and scribbling that Instructors name in our books with an off colored remark and alerting the Instructor what he had discovered.

“Instructor Neno… Shipley has written that you’re a F**KING TURD in his notebook,” and I’d run to the surf zone to get wet and sandy laughing all the way. 
If you can’t appreciate the dark humor and “Nothing is Fair” mentality in BUD/S, you’ll not make it through training.

I had read something a SEAL had written that basically said, “We all think about quitting at some point in BUD/S.” While I’m sure he did, and many do, there are just as many who don’t, and I was one of those who never even came close to quitting.

Except Hydro Recon Week…

Hydro Recon Week was the week after Hell Week. Needing a week to heal up, we swam before sunrise in the morning until dark each day learning the WWII types of Beach Reconnaissance.
While the cold water and pounding surf were tough, we were used to it. What we weren’t used to was doing Hydrographic Charts, which were detailed to say the least.

Each student did the charts after swimming in under cover of darkness and gathering all information concerning the beach, backshore, obstacles, water depths, gun emplacements, and even the type of sand and gradient, as in “Would a tank or jeep become stuck during an Invasion.”
This information was documented and detailed in a nightmarishly neat and by the numbers drawing that a Battle Group Commander would use to plan an attack.

We’d work until the wee hours of the morning on the charts, sleep for a couple hours, and be in the water again before first light.
The charts were graded each morning and mine always had in BIG RED LETTERS “FAIL… Do Another Chart!” 

How does this tie into quitting

Well, a BUD/S buddy and me were the only guys in the class who had to do another chart each and every night. 3-4 hours doing the daily one, and another 3-4 hours doing the make up one.
We were alone in the BUD/S compound each night as the rest of the class and Instructors were fast asleep, and to relive tension, we’d kick our helmets across the compound and scream I’M OUTTA THIS F**KIN PLACE, I F**KIN QUIT…

Very funny now, it helped us cope, and I still have my charts that say, “Do Another” on them…

I enjoy reading my old evaluations, many written by typewriter and smeared with Whiteout correction paste. My first evaluation in 1978 contained my only negative remark ever written about me. It said, “Seamen Apprentice Shipley occasionally needs to be told to get a haircut.”
My favorite remark ever written in one of them said, “Petty Officer Shipley must be careful, lest his natural inclination to take charge be perceived as arrogance.”

Lead, Follow, or Get out of my Way. 

I gave my old Jumpsuit to my son and asked that he jump it one final time for me. When he does, I’ll hang it in the Cabin and remember all the airtime over so many countries the old suit has seen and smile at the ripped up knees and grass stains that mar the suit from so many hard landings.

The pictures in my cruise boxes are endless and show a strange progression from a knucklehead new guy, and they conclude with my retirement as a SEAL. Most of the pictures always have our arms across each other’s shoulders and with smiles from ear to ear, cammied up and carrying a machine gun or whooping it up in some foreign country kicking ass.

I loved humping the M-14 as a SEAL, but it took two rounds from the weapon to kill a man.

The first round knocked the tree over he was hiding behind.

The second round killed him…

My H-Gear still has my M-14 magazines neatly in the pouches and a map from my final operation in Norway. The sleeve that held an M-79 grenade launcher is still attached to the back of my H-gear, but sits empty of the launcher that I carried for so many years.

It was one Hell of a ride!

It was a ride I’d do all over again if I had the chance…

All except Hydro Recons…

I’ll see you September guys soon.

Kick Some Ass…



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