Desperately I gasped for air as the frigid waters of the Pacific Ocean crashed down on me. The waves were relentless. Just as one wave slammed into the beach submerging me in the cold water, another one was forming behind it, waiting impatiently to pummel any object that dared to cross its path. It was a dark morning, everyone was on the verge of hypothermia, and the mixture of crashing waves and shouting, combined with fits of coughing created a scene of pure chaos. My body was shaking uncontrollably in an effort to combat the cold, but despite all the misery, this was exactly where I wanted to be. This was BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training).
The days at BUD/S were long and filled with many weird and painful tasks called “beatings.” Many beatings started with getting wet and covering your entire body in sand followed by soft-sand runs, berm sprints, rope climbs, push-ups, pull-ups, summersaulting for two miles with a mask full of sea water and many other creative activities. Everything was done while you were wet and sandy making your body chaff so bad that every movement becomes painful.
But every day comes to an end and after enough days ended I started that one really long day known as hell week. Hell Week is one of the most defining moments in BUD/S. Its five and a half days of no sleep and being cold, wet, tired, and miserable. It tests your physical endurance, mental toughness, pain tolerance, and your ability to work and function under extreme stress.
The beginning of hell week is like getting in your daily dick-kicking contest against five days all at once (see previous blog post). So no matter how good you are at kicking the day in the dick, eventually, you will get yours kicked over and over again. It’s designed to see if you can get kicked in the dick repeatedly and keep moving forward and not quit.
My hell week started just like they all do, wet and sandy. Once the beatings commenced they never stopped. The only down time that we were given was spent lying in the surf zone right on the verge of hypothermia. As the hours and days went by, fatigue was setting in. Worse yet, everyone’s armpits, belt lines, and legs were beginning to become rubbed raw from the chaffing, creating large open wounds.
As the sun faded behind the horizon and the stars appeared in the sky on the third night of hell week we were instructed to sit across from our swim buddy and hold a boat paddle over their heads. As I sat there I could feel my eyes becoming heavy. Desperately I tried to keep my eyes open but despite my efforts, slowly they drifted shut. For the first time in hell week I was relaxed and comfortable until “WHAM.” My buddy across from me fell asleep and dropped his paddle right on my head. I immediately jumped up rubbing my head, and saw the instructors looking at us laughing. I then realized that this was happening to everyone in the class. For two hours my swim buddy and I went back and forth cracking each other in the head with a paddle as sleep over took us until finally we were told to get wet and sandy. Luckily, every day does come to an end, including that really long day known as hell week.
A common misconception is that once you make it through hell week it is smooth sailing from then on, but its not. You still have beatings and many of them are worse than that in first phase. After Hell Week, I got two new roommates and every Sundays most guys spent the day cleaning their rooms from top to bottom in preparation of the Monday morning room inspections. So on Sunday morning my roommates and I decided that we would rather enjoy the last day of the weekend than clean all day. So we decided to blow off cleaning our room.
Our plan was to spend 15 minutes dusting the room and tidying up to make it appear as though we made an effort. We knew our superficial efforts would fail the inspection and we would pay for it Monday morning. However, we reasoned that we would much rather enjoy our Sunday Funday and in turn get a severe beating rather than spend the entire day scrubbing the room and still get a moderate beating.
We knew that at the end of the day the instructors would get tired or bored of beating us and probably go home to their families or out to the bar or where ever the instructors go when the day is over and we would still be here. So really we knew we could get beat longer than they could care. This became our philosophy and we would remind each other of this when the beatings became intense. At the end of the day we could get beat longer than they could care.
Monday came and we failed our room inspection as expected and the beatings commenced. We were told immediately to get wet and sandy and start doing air squats. After doing about 300 air squats, I began to hit exhaustion. This is when from somewhere in the back of the group I heard, “STICK TO THE PLAN.” Even though my legs were on fire, this cracked me up and I started laughing, bringing some unwanted attention my way. The instructor who was in charge of running our beating session said, “Since Reid thinks this is funny he can pick the next exercise. Should you do push ups or sit ups?” My legs were on fire so I yelled out, “PUSHUPS!” Immediately the instructor said, “ He just chose more squats. Everyone thank Reid for changing it up.” I responded by yelling back, “Stick to the Plan!”
After several hundred more squats, the instructors went up to the next person and asked, “What exercise should you do next?” The response never changed with the person. “SQUATS! STICK TO THE PLAN!”
So after over 2 thousand squats and a couple trips to the surf zone our plan worked. The beatings stopped and the instructors left. Even though we could barely walk, we felt like we showed them. We got beat longer than they could care.
To make it through BUD/S you need to have the right attitude and mindset. You can’t shy away from the hardships, the misery, or the pain. You have to meet them head on as you tell yourself “I can get beat longer than you can care”. There are a lot of similarities between the struggles encountered during BUD/S as those in everyday life. When you are faced with hardships in life, whether it is with a personal relationship or financial struggle or a job that you hate doing, shying away and avoiding your problems will only make matters worse when your troubles find you (and they will eventually). Sit your ass down and have a talk with that someone you have been avoiding, set a reasonable budget and stick to it, get your work done that you’ve been putting off. Always work hard and keep moving forward. As you make strides in the right direction, life will make you do these theoretical air squats but never avoid bettering yourself because of the number of squats that life might make you do. Tell life “I can get beat longer than you can care” and let that attitude flow into everything you do.
Stick to the plan,