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Extreme SEAL Experience Blog Archives

SEAL Blog. Training for BUD/S

Added: Saturday February 09th 2008
By: Don Shipley

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I graduated BUD/S Class 131 in February of 1985. I served at Team One and Team Two as well as Naval Special Warfare Group Two and The Naval Special Warfare Center as an Advanced SEAL Instructor. I retired after twenty-four years and contracted in Pakistan and Afghanistan with Blackwater.

The attrition rate at BUD/S, 70-80%, is simply because guys have no idea how hard that training is. They underestimate it in a big way, they aren’t prepared mentally or physically and they drop fast.

One major tip for BUD/S... Be in the top percentages of the class physically. Everyone hurts, but guys in the lower percentages really hurt and begin to question the commitment quick. Where you begin in BUD/S is where you’ll finish. You improve but you will never catch anyone physically stronger than you because they get stronger as well and maintain a lead. Again, where you start is where you’ll finish. Being in the back of the pack also brings much...



Added: Saturday February 09th 2008
By: Don Shipley

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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...


SEAL Blog. Fire in the Hole!

Added: Saturday February 09th 2008
By: Don Shipley

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There are only two things in my life I’ve been absolutely sure of.

1. If my Dad had not sold our farm when I was young I’d still be there and would have never spent a single day in the Navy.

2. If SEALs didn’t do any Demolitions, I would not have been a SEAL.

My first Platoon Chief was a "Rock Star" at everything SEAL and demolitions were no exception. My first real exposure to the teams, Uncle Mike was my "Sea Daddy" and as fine a leader as they come and very respected. Mike started me on a SPECWAR career of blowing shit up the world over.

Being a West Coast SEAL at Team One, we trained at a isolated SEAL camp in Niland, California in the Sonoron Desert. Hot, miserable living conditions, we had a hoot doing pretty much what we wanted, when we wanted, and demo was no exception.

I went out to Niland as a New Meat to help out with another SEAL who had been around for awhile....



Added: Saturday February 09th 2008
By: Don Shipley

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I’ve been COLDDDD so many times it’s hard to say what the worst time was.
But scary cold had to be in a Submarine Trunk in Hawaii. At 60 feet and
warm water, I locked out swimmers from the trunk, closed the side door, and
was draining the flooded coffin alone to get another group of guys for the
next cycle. It wouldn’t drain. We had a problem...

The water wasn’t all that cold,  I was in a tee-shirt and shorts. But
prolonged exposure to it was a problem and I was forced to wait chin deep.
As the clock ticked away, I began to jackhammer. When they finally got me
out, I was a hypothermic mess and one of my coldest experiences was in
beautiful Hawaiian waters.

Doing Submarine Training was never any SEALs favorite training, but was
often some of the most challenging and dangerous we did.  Subs are small,
everything on them is for something and somebody, except SEALs. There were
just two...



Added: Saturday February 09th 2008
By: Don Shipley

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Never tell a Helo Pilot he can’t scare you. As young SEALs, we’d always 
tell Pilots this and we were always wrong as they can and would scare the 
Hell out of us.  As I got older,  I’d make it a point to tell my guys not 
to encourage or dare the Pilots, and I meant it, as I’ve had my share of 
No close calls with their bravado, very skilled guys, they just knew what 
they could do to "freak us out."

The close calls came when just regular things happened on-board Helo’s, 
and with so much time on them,  lot’s of regular thing happened and no need 
in making the normal ride any worse.

Our platoon was tasked with a POW Rescue. It was a training mission in 
California at a Navy compound that taught "Survival, Escape, Resistance 
and Evasion (SERE) Training.
Before we raided the camp and rescued the prisoners we sent...


SEAL Blog. Combat Swimming

Added: Saturday February 09th 2008
By: Don Shipley

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Smiling now. 10 minutes later the Seal attacks.

My buddy and I were attacking a Ship in San Diego Harbor late one night. Black from head to toe we were sliding down her side moving to a weak area of her hull to place our mines. She had a small floating barge along side of her and with us underwater just a couple feet we were moving between the Barge and the Ship.

I looked up and could clearly see a Sailor standing on the barge pissing in the water just above me. He could not see me in the dark water and being on a mission I should have just kept going and ignored him but I could not resist as I kicked hard coming half out of the water and grabbed his leg.

Even with my mouthpiece in I made a loud growling sound but his was louder as he screamed like he’d been harpooned and fell over kicking himself away from me with piss flying everywhere.

I slid back in the water, we placed our mines and extracted.

Combat Swimming was always where we earned our pay. In each Platoon we’d go through a 3-4 week...


SEAL Blog. A Comedy of Errors.

Added: Sunday February 10th 2008
By: Don Shipley

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 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 don’t 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 



Added: Tuesday February 12th 2008
By: Don Shipley

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Tom on Ambush. Vietnam

I’ve had three Sea Daddy’s in SEAL Team. Uncle Mike my first Platoon Chief, Uncle Tom a Vietnam Vet SEAL who took me under his wing, and Uncle Frank my Third Phase BUD/S Instructor who said something to our class in BUD/S while he was giving a lecture on conducting "Long Range Operations" in SEAL Team that I’ll never forget.

Weapons, packing gear right, what to take and what not to take, Frank finishes with "Bring a Comb."

Bring a Comb? SEALs, long range, all kinds of things to remember, once you’re out there if you don’t have what you needed, you’re kinda screwed and Frank comes up with bring a comb. Why, why would we need that.

Frank was a nice Instructor in BUD/S and the class loved him. Being a nice Instructor in BUD/S doesn’t mean you’re all that nice, you’re just nicer that the really not so nice Instructors. Frank could and did throw down with the best of the Instructors as far as handing us our asses. But Frank taught Third Phase and...


SEAL Blog. The Night Stalker.

Added: Tuesday February 19th 2008
By: Don Shipley

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In 1985 Richard Ramirez, the "Night Stalker" had been terrorizing Los Angles raping and killing women after killing their husbands in bed. It was all the news, everyone was scared. He began moving South toward San Diego and was hitting beige houses near major Freeways.

I lived in a beige house near a major Freeway in San Diego.

He wasn’t going to get my wife and I. Each night as we went to bed I’d string a Booby Trap Simulator across the stair case. We used the simulators in training. Complete with a trip wire, when set off this particular kind made and incredibly loud, long whistle complete with sparks and smoke.

At the Team for the past week I’d been training for my first Skydive. The course was two weeks long with the first week spent learning to pack chutes and body position during exit and in free fall as well as the all important landing and emergency procedures.

There was a lot to remember.

On Monday morning I would throw myself...


SEAL Blog. The Devils Fleet.

Added: Wednesday February 20th 2008
By: Don Shipley

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We were frequently tasked to do demonstrations and we called them Dog and Pony Shows. On the West Coast, the big one was the Fourth of July demo and on the East Coast it was the SEAL Reunion demo.

Those were big deals but we did so many other smaller ones as well to show our capabilities.

Most went very well. Some, well, not so good.

Harbor Feast is a huge event and held in Norfolk each year. Bands play, concession stands all along Norfolk’s Harbor Side Waterfront and the crowds are huge. All kinds of activities during a three day blowout with the SEALs jumping in being a highlight.

My Platoon was tasked to jump for all three days. It was a lot of pressure as the drop zone in the Harbor was small and the guys who did it the year before put a jumpers on one of the tallest flag poles in Virginia. Suspended high in the air, he waited for rescue. With the large crowds, stages, concessions stands and traffic, it took the Fire Department a few hours...


SEAL Blog. Looks like a Warm One.

Added: Sunday February 24th 2008
By: Don Shipley

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A SEAL is always either too hot or too cold, and is always carrying too much gear and we would not have it any other way. My career of being too hot began at our Desert training camp in California and ended in the Middle East many years later.

The camp was a "Bear" heat wise with triple digit temps most of the time. We’d freeze our canteens before going out on operations and during the day training we’d gear up and jump in the shower soaking ourselves before beginning. We also had a canal that irrigated the farms in the area near the camp and after a tough day it was platoon swim call to cool off.

The operations we conducted in the desert were always tough with the worst usually being "Laid Up" during the day, waiting for it to get dark again, so we could continue the mission for days at a time. My worst heat injury came in nearby Yuma, Arizona during a training operation.

We were tasked to watch (Recon) an Airfield and report the planes coming in and out....


SEAL Blog. It’s getting Chilly.

Added: Tuesday February 26th 2008
By: Don Shipley

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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.

Fairbanks, Alaska.

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...


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