Comment by Jim Campbell Citizen Journalist, Oath Keeper and Patriot.
Who are the men who make up America’s Elite Navy SEALs?
Put on your crash helmets and fasten your seat belts you are about to find out.
“THE ONLY EASY DAY WAS YESTERDAY!” • The Journal of Frogmen.
By Jim O’Neill
Let me fill you in on the truth: the truth is that BUD/S 62 not only did have a “Hell Week,” but it was, in all probability, one of the hardest BUD/S classes ever.
Keep in mind the fact that I was just a lowly enlisted tadpole at the time, so it’s not like I was getting memos from Fleet Command or anything — but from scuttlebutt, and what the instructors told us, this is what went down:
The powers that be (TPTB) in the US Navy have, for a long time, had a back-and-forth tug of war with the Teams (espe- cially BUD/S Training) over quality vs. quantity.
(Jim O’Neill back in the day)
The attitude of TPTB is, “We need more SEALs, and we need them now — we don’t care how you do it — lower your standards if you must — but do it, and do it now!”
Whereas the attitude of the Teams has always been, “We can’t lower our standards — if we lower our standards you’ll get more of something — but they won’t be SEALs!” This back-and-forth goes on to this day in all probability — if anything it is probably worse today.
At any rate, near as I can figure out, some high Navy muckety-muck in the Pentagon decided that BUD/S needed to drop “Hell Week” in order to increase their graduation rate. So the word (order, I should say) was passed down, and eventually reached the BUD/S instructors — who, as you might imagine, were none too happy about the whole scenario.
I’m sure that they could picture their buddies in the Teams screaming, “What kind of b.s. are you trying to push on us? Take this c—p back and send them to us when they’re real frogmen!”
There was a war going on for God’s sake – you think that the Team guys wanted less than the best watching their backs? You think the East Coast (who had just shut down their BUD/s training program) wasn’t going to pay special attention to what the West Coast was now sending them?
Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place; on the one hand the instructors had their orders, and on the other hand, they knew that they had to keep up the standards — what to do, what to do?
What they told us they were going to do (this was the instruc- tor’s game plan) was to spare us going though “Hell Week,” but they would make up for that by making the first three weeks harder than usual.
“We have good news, and bad news, tadpoles. The
good news is that you will not be having a ‘Hell Week.’” (“Awesome,” I thought to myself.) “The bad news is that in order to maintain standards, your first three weeks of training will be harder than they have been in the past.” (“F—k,” I thought to myself.)
And I would bet big money that both pre-training and our first three weeks of BUD/S were harder than they had been in the past. By the time we reached the fourth week of training, about one hundred tadpoles had “rung out.”
So now we were at the fourth week, and there was “not going to be any ‘Hell Week,’” remember? Sad to say, our instructors had tricked us (I’ll pause for a moment of shocked silence)………………
Yes, they did. I don’t know whether it was their game plan all along, or the fact that we were all out on San Clemente Island, and therefore “off radar,” as far as TPTB were concerned, but for whatever reason we did indeed have a “Hell Week.” A “Hell Week” just like every other BUD/S class.
Our instructors told us as much after they had loosened up after a few beers at our “end of phase” party. (At that time BUD/S had three “phases” and there was a party at the end of each one, where the instructors and tadpoles mixed together, drank beers, and shot the breeze.) “Congrats to you tadpoles for passing ‘Hell Week,’” they said. The words,
“Great, but you told us that…” started to form in my mind, but a strong sense of self-preservation quickly stifled any further progression along that line of thought.
I won’t go into an in-depth description of our “Hell Week,” but I will point out a couple of details and events that were meaningful (to me): After the first couple of days I was a zom- bie on automatic pilot for the remainder of the week.
Sleep was a rare and precious commodity, and any chance to grab some was jumped on. At the time, I estimated that I managed to get only three-and-a-half hours sleep during those five interminable days. I may have dozed off while standing, and otherwise added to my count, but each moment of sleep was so precious that I counted each minute of it like I was counting gold coins — so although my count may not be exact, I am sure that it was (is) pretty darn close.
One other anecdote from our “Hell Week”— this one can turn into a fairly long “hairy dog” story when told in a bar, but I’ll give you the “short and sweet” version: During our Not Hell Week, but “back in the day.”
Author pictured with most of his ST-2 platoon after rappelling from a Huey chopper at an air-show in VA (in 1973 or 74). Brad Hamilton is third in line; Jim is fifth, (Chief) Frank Mulcahy is between them. Dan Sharpe — another graduate of BUD/S 62, is off to the far right.
Jim O’Neill and Brad Hamilton at Athens airport.
The BLAST • Summer 2014 • Vol. 46, No. 254
Long swim (six miles) we were told that as soon as we reached the beach at the end of the swim we could sleep until the last swim-team arrived. Talk about incentive!
My partner (who shall remain nameless — in any event, Ken told me that he had “passed on” several years back) and I started out going great guns. We were not leading the pack, but we were definitely among the frontrunners. “Beddy-bye here we come!” But alas, it was not to be.
About half-way through the swim, my “swim-buddy” started acting strange, and his behavior kept on getting stranger as we swam. I noticed that he was sucking on his swim-vest’s oral inflation tube a lot, and had turned ashen gray. He would at times swim in circles, and, at other times, gaze blankly and just tread water. We went from being near the “front of the pack” to being dead last.
But that was of little concern to me at the moment; I just wanted to know what the heck was wrong with my swim partner. Would we even make it to the beach? What the h—l’s going on here?
We did (thank God) eventually make it to the end of the swim, and my swim-buddy staggered onto the beach and was promptly whisked away in an ambulance (he returned after
a few hours, and finished the rest of “Hell Week” with us; no harm done, at least no permanent harm).
One of the instructors later explained to me what had hap- pened. Apparently, soon after our swim had begun, my partner had used his oral inflation tube to add a little air to his swim-vest (maybe he was a bit negatively buoyant — I don’t know). This was something we had been instructed not to do, and I hadn’t done it, and was unaware that he had done it. No big deal, in and of itself, at least in my book, “whatever gets you through the night,” as John Lennon once sang.
What neither of us knew was that my swim-buddy’s auto- matic inflation CO2 cylinder had obtained a pinhole puncture in it that was slowly leaking carbon dioxide gas into his vest. At first, as his vest kept inflating more and more, my partner just assumed that he had blown more air into it than he had meant to, and he attempted to remedy the situation by suck- ing out some of the “air” (now actually an air/CO2 combina- tion) using his oral inflation tube.
Eventually, he had sucked out all the “air,” and every time
he inhaled from his oral inflation tube he was getting straight hits of carbon dioxide. The only reason why he didn’t pass out was the fact he was breathing pure air in between his CO2 hits. You would think that he would have come to the conclu- sion that “Hey, I have definitely sucked out more air than I put into this thing,” but by the time that became obvious, he was so screwed up with CO2 poisoning that it did not compute.
I, of course, was totally clueless that any of this was going on, and I suppose that it is something of a minor miracle that we made it to the beach at all.
In conclusion, I do not know what the official record for BUD/S 62 says; it may indeed say that officially we had no “Hell Week,” but I’m here to tell you that we damn well did, and what’s more, I have been, and always will be, convinced that the weeks leading up to “Hell Week” were indeed more grueling than what most BUD/S classes went through. So we got it both coming and going, and then got saddled with a rep for skating through BUD/S.
Far from skating through BUD/S, BUD/S 62 was one of the hardest BUD/S classes (I’m tempted to say the hardest – but most everybody knows that their class was the hardest) to ever be trained in Coronado, up to that point. In the grand scheme of things, what I’ve been discussing here is no doubt a tempest in a teapot, if that, but still…I’d like to set things straight, just for the record.
Proof the tadpole graduated to become of of the very few that didn’t ring the bell.
Below,the author, Jim O’Neill at his wedding 3/29/14. Pictured, from left to right: Rick Green (former ST-2 platoon-mate), Jim Barnes (WW II Scouts & Raiders — served in the Pacific theater), myself, Art Kling (WW II US Navy — served at the landings at Okinawa and Iwo Jima), and Brad Hamilton (former ST-2 platoon-mate).