Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Guest Blog--Cold, Wet, and Sandy

Posted on behalf of Genuine Class

Cold, wet, and sandy seems to be the constant state of being for the men in the U.S. Navy Special Forces. Otherwise known as the U.S. Navy SEALs, this military acronym stands for Sea, Air, and Land commandos. Two books, The Warrior Elite and The Finishing School, by Dick Couch describe the torture, determination, and dedication of these men who volunteer for some of the most hazardous combat duty in the world.

These books are not war memoirs but deal mostly with the training of wannabe Navy SEALs and their instructors. They describe what it ultimately takes to become a Navy SEAL. Dick Couch, who himself was a former SEAL during the Vietnam War, does tell a little bit about his experiences during his deployments in Indochina but mostly sticks with the present, or to be exact pre-9/11, training of these men.

The first book, The Warrior Elite, details the training of the infamous BUD/S, another acronym meaning Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL. This six-month program consists of four phases. In the first, Indoc, the BUD/S trainees prepare physically for the next phase called First Phase. During First Phase, the men endure more physical punishment in preparation for Hell Week, which is a 5-day crucible, with only three hours of sleep in total, to see who’s got what it takes to endure the most. This crucible is the real gut check and has the highest rate of DORs (another acronym meaning Drop On Request) in the entire program. Second Phase deals with diving qualifications, and Third Phase includes land warfare where the trainees finally get to blow stuff up.

The second book, The Finishing School, discusses what happens to the men after BUD/S and how these men are finely tuned to become Navy SEALs. It will take almost 18 months before they earn their Tridents, the gold eagle holding a trident and cocked pistol pendant that displays their MOS, or Military Occupation Specialty, as U.S. Navy SEALs. This book is more about guns, bombs, and the skills necessary to become the elite warriors as well as what these men do to prepare for a deployment. It concludes with the preparations of one SEAL team to deploy for six months.

Both books are well written, and the fact the author is a former Navy SEAL gives them authenticity. Dick Couch was allowed to watch, record, and interview both the students and instructors. This interaction helps give the books a personal touch and also debunks a lot of myths about the men who become or who are Navy SEALs. I personally enjoyed reading about the struggles that each student has during the course of his training. Many who should have made it do not, and many made it who should not have because of their physical prowess.

I first become interested in these books when I read a war memoir by Marcus Luttrell called The Lone Survivor. In Mr. Luttrel’s book, he references Dick Couch as his sources on BUD/S training. I enjoyed Mr. Couch’s books a lot more than Mr. Luttrell’s. Yet, like The Lone Survivor, both The Warrior Elite and The Finishing School are pretty liberal with their praise of all things Navy SEALs. Everyone is the best or the greatest and the most professional: the candidates, instructors, and history of the SEALs. Too often, it seems like Mr. Couch is trying to compare his days as a SEAL with those of these prospective candidates, almost like he is saying “the older I get, the better I am.”

It is enjoyable to read about the pre-9/11 training because many of these men talk about terrorism in an abstract, naïve way. This theme continues in the second book which includes the build up to the Iraq War; many of these SEALs worry they will miss out on the fight. They had no need to worry because I am sure that each one of these SEALs has since been in combat. This fact makes the book bittersweet because people like Marcus Luttrell have now endured loss of life and injuries that probably were not a reality when they were first in training.

Anyone interested in the qualifications or instruction it takes to become a Navy SEAL should read these books.


Wanna-Be Lit said...

Hmm, did a SEAL enthusiast post this?

notaconnoisseur said...

Gosh, one scout sniper in the family is enough. I hope this Navy wannabe is happy to live on a boat! I beg your pardon...ship.