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Extreme SEAL Experience Blog


Saturday February 09th 2008 - 10:36 AM EST
Added by: Don Shipley

Patrolling as a SEAL was tough work. Getting to a target is never easy. Never easy because we never take an easy way to get there. Through swamps and briers, up mountains and down rivers always where they won’t be looking for us. Most of our movement is at night and often the patrols last for day covering many miles.

In the Arctic, Jungle or Desert, getting there and back was usually the hardest part as once we were there, we had always done some great planning for the "Hit." What you could never plan for was much of the terrain.

Looking at a map, planning a route, and actually walking through what the map showed with its pretty colors, neat lines, legends, and features, even to the best SEAL Point Man, was often not quite right and "WTF have you led us into" was the topic of the night during breaks and map studies along the route.

What the map showed as a creek often turned into a river with a really nice swamp that required swimming and dragging ourselves through miles of mud it seemed.

I was grading a squad one night and had joined their patrol. A very dark night, I was at the back of the squad and had my hand on the guy in front of me, as did everyone, ensuring we did not become separated.

From the front of the patrol I began to hear muffled moans and thuds growing louder the closer I got to it. Aaaaa Oooo, Aaaaa Ooooo, Aaaaa Ooooo, Aaaaa Ooooo.

Louder and louder it grew and just as my curiosity peaked I discovered what it was as I walked off the deep ravine with everyone else and made the same Aaaaa sound as I fell.

When I finally landed on top of the pile of twisted bodies and weapons I made the Ooooo sound as all the air was forced from my lungs.

We laid there laughing. It was going to be a long night.

In Alaska, we moved up a mountain range once and crossed a very large, very wide area between two mountains during the day and spent the next few doing various training. We left at night on the third day and began moving across the large vast area again.

Very strange moving through snow at night with a featureless looking terrain. With the white of the snow, everything looked flat, perfectly flat... Featureless and flat. Very strange...

Being the Platoon Chief I was always at the back of the 16 man patrol in the second squad. We were moving slowly, very slow, and guys were starting to freeze up. WTF, I was thinking? A clear beautiful night we should have been kicking ass and moving fast over such nice terrain and not whacking guys from the cold.

Taking it as long as I could and being the most experienced guy I finally got pissed and skied to our Platoon Commander at the front of the patrol and asked WTF is the problem SIR, why are we moving so slow? He replied that he remembered a "Drop Off’ when we skied this section a few days earlier and he had the Point Man moving slow so we didn’t go off it.

I don’t remember any "Drop Off", you’re freezing the guys up in back, I replied.

Now I had a point, nothing was worst in the Arctic than moving too slow, and guys getting too cold was a bad thing and just as bad as over-heating from moving too fast.

The Arctic was as tough a place as any SEAL ever operated and it could go from bad to really bad in a nanosecond. Danger Cold, quick...

Anyhow, not remembering any "Drop Off," being cold, and the town of Anchorage waiting, I said "I’ll take Point" and I slid around Point Man Bill (One of our Instructors) and began skiing quickly and using my pole as a wand in front of my skies slapping the snow, searching for the "Mystery Drop Off."

I found it less than a minute later!

I remember falling, but I don’t think I began screaming until I was half way through the free fall into the unknown and realized how far I was falling.

What my Platoon Commander called a "Drop Off" I didn’t remember. If he would have said a "Cliff." Then yes, I did remember a cliff along the route. "Thanks Dude." I augured in hard.

It was strange but I landed straight up. I was buried to my chest and my skis were bowed tightly around my front and back and with the heavy pack they saved me from being buried completely.

As I shook it off and looked back up I could see my fearless leader at the top looking down at me. I could not see a single feature on his face being dark that night.

All I could see were his big white teeth glowing like a "Chem Lite"on a dark face and knew it was an ear to ear smile of satisfaction from him, an "I told you so, Oh Experienced One."

Korea was always a "Bear." Up and down, up and down some of the most undulating terrain in the world and cold beyond words.

Exercise "Team Spirit" was a classic each year. A huge exercise held in Korea, the missions we did were painful. The worst part was doing "well" against our Korean targets. If we did well, the Koreans often "lost face" (embarrassed) and losing face to a Korean is as bad as it gets.

We smoked the Koreans like a cheap cigar on a mission that no one had ever been able to accomplish in years past. All we did was something no one had ever thought to do before. The two targets we were hitting were about a mile apart and connected by a underground power line. Our mission was to knock out power to them so the invasion could begin. Instead of assaulting the targets, we dug up the power lines and cut them.

It went badly for the Koreans who had not thought of us doing that and we watched the beating from a distance when they figured out what we had done. Bad news, big loss of face.

We didn’t care, but somebody did, and we were ordered to do another mission. The new one guaranteed failure for us and allowed them to save face. The mission was to "Snatch" a Russian General, and no big deal for us. What was a big deal was we would be extracted on the other side of a large city with the General. Our chances of getting through the city undetected were zilch but we’d try anyhow.

A couple SEALs played the General and his bodyguard with both looking the part in authentic uniforms. Fooling a couple SEALs ain’t easy, but our roadblock looked so real they stopped and we grabbed the General and patrolled toward the city for extraction.

Korea is also a big problem operating in because of the threat from the North. South Korea takes unique precautions to deter North Korean agents from infiltrating and their National Guard (Home Guard) are one of the best and basically consists of any South Korean with a gun or pitchfork.

They don’t play very nicely in the sandbox with others.

Our patrol was a mix of us and Korean SEALs and led by a Korean SEAL Officer which should have been a big help if we encountered trouble. It wasn’t...

We entered the city sewer system underground and became kinda lost. We found a way out and were going to get our bearings and re-enter the sewer. Outside that night and sneaking through a crap canal, word was sent back that we were passing a sentry on the bank, stay quite, move slowwwwww...

I could clearly see his outline as I snuck passed him at about 20 feet away. We weren’t so lucky with our rear security who tripped and took a plunge in the poop ditch and I heard a weapon bolt slide home from the sentry and he began blowing a whistle.

Off we went and fast, while all along the canal banks weapon bolts began snapping home and more whistles blowing as we were in "Home Guard Central" and busted big time. Why we didn’t stop and lessen the risk of being shot I don’t know, we just kept running until the canal intersected a larger canal like a "T" and the first three guys who entered became stuck chest deep in the mess and could not move. We were surrounded quickly.

We were surrounded by men and women and most of them armed with something.

We froze in place saying nothing and the Korean Officer finally spoke to the group. These people had no idea who we were, no knowledge of an operation taking place, no radios, phones, nothing. Nothing except believing they had captured North Korean infiltrators in a pool of dung and they were very nervy and unpredictable, a kind of scared excitement and very dangerous in this state.

Whatever the Officer said they didn’t buy it, and in unison every gun with an empty chamber was quickly loaded and every weapon was leveled at us. This was it, I remember thinking, my last breath would be in a Korean Benjo Ditch, when suddenly it went from bad to really bad as the General decided he should speak and defuse the whole situation.

Throwing his arms in the air he shouted "DON’T SHOOT, WERE AMERICANS!"

I guess wearing the Russian uniform made him less convincing to the Koreans and it turned a bad situation even worse as an already tense group thought we were making a play. Remember we were fully armed (with blanks but they didn’t know that) and wearing face paint.

As quickly as he said don’t shoot, the whole situation flashed at all of us at the same time. Were in a shit ditch up to our waists, were only here because we did a good job in the first place and were seconds away from being killed by a bunch of farmers.

We started laughing loud as the whole thing seemed extremely funny for all of us at that very moment.

Something only SEALs would do in such a bad situation.

Our laughter probably saved us. They still believed we were bad but they lightened up and began to ask questions to the Officer. The other thing that probably saved us was their reluctance at having to drag our bodies out of the cesspool.

If we’d have been in clean water I’m pretty sure they would have shot us.

A couple hours passed while we waited in the dung ditch before they discovered who we were and let us go.

The strangest part was finishing the extraction. The operation was over, we’d been busted, so with camouflage faces, machine guns, and the General, we walked to the other side of the city like we owned the place. There was no way any word of us could have spread. We just acted like we belonged there and no one said a word or questioned us in any way.

We should have done that in the first place instead of sneaking around.

On the other side of the city we could hear the helo’s coming. In the middle of the night we stopped traffic on a 4-lane Korean highway, the helo’s landed and we left.

Only in Korea.

I’d like to be stopped on a highway in the US and watch a Korean helo pick up a squad of Koreans.



Comment by: doug shelton
Saturday February 16th 2008 - 14:04 AM EST

Great idea awesome read. Looking forward to reading more. I'll be seeing you on Hellnight for the Mashing in March.

Reply By: Don Shipley

Thanks Doug.  I've tried to show another side of SEAL Team, one that most people never hear about or read. I'll keep them coming. We're looking great for March.  Kick some ass...


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