I first started learning about the Navy SEALs a couple of years ago, as I was reading a book written by Eric Greitens, retired Navy SEAL and founder of The Mission Continues. In it, he talks about his training and his intrinsic desire to be tested — to prove himself worthy.
Here’s his description of Hell Week at Basic Underwater Demolitions and SEAL (BUD/S) training:
Every man has a different story of Hell Week; they remember particular classmates, particular instructors, their own most difficult moments. But in a larger sense, every Hell Week story is the same: A man enters a new world with the aim of becoming something greater than he once was. He is tested once, twice, three, four, five times, each test harder than the last. Then comes the most difficult test of his life. At the end of the week, he emerges a different man. He has met the hardest test of his life, and he has passed or he has failed.
As the Special Operations Forces of the Navy, the SEALs have always had an unspoken creed of valor and honor. It wasn’t until 2005 that a formal creed was adopted. I first came across it while watching a video about Michael A. Monsoor, a SEAL who was killed in Ramadi, Iraq in September 2006 after he used his body to smother a grenade that had been thrown onto a rooftop where he and several other SEALs, as well as a number of Iraqi soldiers, were positioned.
On April 8, 2008, Monsoor was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush. According to his citation, “By his undaunted courage, fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of certain death, Petty Officer Monsoor gallantly gave his life for his country, thereby reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”
As journalist and author Sebastian Junger notes:
The classic story of a man throwing himself on a hand grenade–certain death, but an action that will almost certainly save everyone else–is neither a Hollywood cliche nor something that only happened in wars gone by. It is something that happens with regularity, and I don’t think it can be explained by ‘army training’ or any kind of suicidal impulse. I think that kind of courage goes to the heart of what it means to be human and to affiliate with others in a kind of transcendent way. Of course, once you have experienced a bond like that, everything else looks pathetic and uninteresting. That may be one reason combat vets have such a hard time returning to society.
Even though there are parts of the SEAL’s creed that apply only to SEALs, I have heard Brett talk of the importance of these values, and I have come to believe that each and every one of us has a responsibility to uphold the values it lays out.
In times of war or uncertainty there is a special breed of warrior ready to answer our Nation’s call. A common man with uncommon desire to succeed.
Forged by adversity, he stands alongside America’s finest special operations forces to serve his country, the American people, and protect their way of life.
I am that man.
My Trident is a symbol of honor and heritage. Bestowed upon me by the heroes that have gone before, it embodies the trust of those I have sworn to protect. By wearing the Trident I accept the responsibility of my chosen profession and way of life. It is a privilege that I must earn every day.
My loyalty to Country and Team is beyond reproach. I humbly serve as a guardian to my fellow Americans always ready to defend those who are unable to defend themselves. I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions. I voluntarily accept the inherent hazards of my profession, placing the welfare and security of others before my own.
I serve with honor on and off the battlefield. The ability to control my emotions and my actions, regardless of circumstance, sets me apart from other men.
Uncompromising integrity is my standard. My character and honor are steadfast. My word is my bond.
We expect to lead and be led. In the absence of orders I will take charge, lead my teammates and accomplish the mission. I lead by example in all situations.
I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.
We demand discipline. We expect innovation. The lives of my teammates and the success of our mission depend on me–my technical skill, tactical proficiency, and attention to detail. My training is never complete.
We train for war and fight to win. I stand ready to bring the full spectrum of combat power to bear in order to achieve my mission and the goals established by my country. The execution of my duties will be swift and violent when required yet guided by the very principles that I serve to defend.
Brave men have fought and died building the proud tradition and feared reputation that I am bound to uphold. In the worst of conditions, the legacy of my teammates steadies my resolve and silently guides my every deed.
I will not fail.