UDT/SEAL Boot Camp

We have for the most part seen the videos of SEAL Training.

They show it, but can’t begin to explain it from the point of view of a guy who absolutely refused to quit.

By Jim O’Neill

SEAL TEAM II

 

Welcome to San Diego

In July of 1970, I had just emerged from six weeks in the Wyoming Rockies when I received word that I had been drafted.

None of the popular choices of that time, college, Canada, or the Army – appealed to me, so I decided to enlist in the Navy.

My dad had been in the Navy during WW II and I’d always liked the water, so what the heck, why not.

I asked my local Navy recruiter back home in Pennsylvania if I could get into underwater photography (combining two pursuits I was interested in at the time).

“Sure!” he replied, and with a grin handed me a large glossy pamphlet titled “Men With Green Faces” about the UDT/SEAL Teams.

After looking through the pamphlet I thought to myself, “What the heck, in for a dime in for a dollar,” and told the recruiter to go ahead and sign me up for the UDT/SEAL stuff (whatever a “SEAL” was).

Fast forward to late December of 1970, and I’m flying from Philadelphia to San Diego to start boot camp.

The Navy had just begun sending East Coast recruits for UDT/SEAL to Coronado, so San Diego (and UDT/SEAL boot camp) was my first stop.

After deplaning at the San Diego airport, I made my way to where a sizable group of us waited to be transported by bus to boot camp.

After he was awarded his Tridant !

Left: Bad company…Jim in glasses…with buds, South Africa

 

Soon a not nice man in a sailor’s uniform barked at us to “Get in line and stand at parade rest!” A parade what? The man explained what he meant, and so I stood in line with the other recruits, at parade rest, thinking “They’ve got my butt for four frigging years – what have I done?”

Four years seems like an eternity at that age, at least it did to me.

If you get the impression that I arrived at boot camp with a less than stellar attitude you are reading me correctly, but I would undergo a major attitude adjustment during the UDT/SEAL phase of training – which, along with regular boot camp, took place within the San Diego NTC (Naval Training Center).

Left: Navy SEALS can be mean or cool.

Here is Jim, the taller, looking cool with a teammate, Brad. Both looking very cool.

I spent several weeks in a regular boot camp company before transferring over to the UDT/SEAL compound, but I want to get to the UDT/SEAL part quickly, so I will gloss over my first weeks and only mention one thing that sticks out in my mind.

We were given medical shots – several of them.

But the penicillin shot was in a league of its own.

I guess they wanted to wipe out everything from scurvy to crabs because they shot an elephant’s dose of penicillin into us all at once – it felt like they had embedded a tennis ball under your skin.

Col. George Paccerelli  and Jim in Russia

All the recruits were given the shot on the same butt cheek so we could march with a synchronized limp – you could tell which companies had recently received their butt shot by their distinctive marching style.

Jim received his graduation certificate from BUDS, not a SEAL yet.

See the entire article below:

 

Okay, enough of that. After a few weeks of regular boot camp I and one other guy from my company reported to the UDT/SEAL boot company (he had flown across country with me from Philadelphia). We simply checked out of our old barracks, and checked into the UDT/SEAL barracks, both located within NTC San Diego.

though, so I tried my best to look like I was trying. But the instructors had an uncanny ability to sniff out fake trying.

I was doing a decent job (at least in my own opinion) of faking trying to do a pushup when one of the instructors came over to me and yelled “You’re not trying! What’s your name?” I told him and he said, “Here, let me help you,” and stood on my back. “Try it now!” he yelled encouragingly.

“Why are you not doing a pushup for me? Do you not like me?” the instructor asked.

“Yes instructor,” I managed to gasp out.

“Yes you don’t like me? I’ll be keeping an eye on you O’Neill.”

With that he stepped off my back and moved on to “help” some other poor bastard. I quickly decided that (1) I did not want any instructor’s help, and (2) that as long as I really tried to do what was asked of me the instructors would probably not attempt to help me again. So, I tried, really tried – lesson learned.

After we finished the first night’s “Breakout” my companion from my original boot camp company shocked me by saying that he was quitting and going back to our old company. I couldn’t believe it – he was bigger and stronger than me, and generally in much better physical condition than I was. This was my introduction to the truth that bigger and stronger doesn’t necessarily mean better – a truism I was to see demonstrated time and time again in BUD/S.

Oddly enough, I never seriously entertained the thought of quitting. For the entire time that we had been in our original boot camp company, myself and the other guy slated for transfer to the UDT/SEAL company were treated with a subtle, silent respect – merely because of where we were headed. I found that I liked that feeling of “specialness.” I couldn’t see myself returning to my old company with my tail between my legs. Turned out I had a stubborn streak – who knew?

Welcome to the Hospital

I made it through the three nights of “Breakout,” but as I say, after the first night things were mostly a blur. I remember honing my swimming skills (especially the side-stroke, breast-stroke, and back-stroke), and I recall swimming relay races in the pool while holding a bath towel by the end in each hand. I remember running laps with severe shin-splints in both legs, and I remember being taken to the base hospital by ambulance.

Which was not as serious an event as it might sound…or maybe it was. I’ve been told that having a temperature of over 105 is nothing to mess around with, and that’s what I had. I don’t know how long I had a fever, and I never found out what caused it, but it no doubt contributed to “The Blur.”

people, only half-jokingly, that my “BUD/S” was actually boot camp, because that is where I learned how to be what I needed to be in order to become what I had chosen to become.

My friend LCDR Rick Green (USN Ret.) and I go way back – we were housemates when our SEAL 2 platoon was stationed in Souda Bay, Crete in 1973, ‘74. Rick went through San Diego UDT/SEAL boot camp shortly after I did, and has told me that, for whatever reasons, the intensity of the training had been considerably toned down and ratcheted back compared to when I went through.

I feel myself very fortunate indeed, blessed even, to have received exactly the experience I needed, at precisely the right time. Without it I would not have made it through BUD/S, and would never have had the life-defining experience and honor of serving as a US Navy Frog and SEAL.

So, I am deeply grateful for my experiences in UDT/SEAL boot camp, and raise a glass in toast. Hooyah!

[Addendum: I would like to thank Capt. Larry Bailey (USN Ret.) and CMDR Rick Green (USN Ret.) for their friendship and help in preparing this article. Larry served as a CO of BUD/S, and I ran my article by him to get his take on it. His suggestions no doubt made this a better article than it would have.

“It is my distinct displeasure to welcome you to UDT/SEAL boot camp tadpoles…wait, you’re not even tadpoles are you? I don’t know what you people are, but whatever it is it’s lower than whale shit!”

Such was the greeting extended to the dozen or so of us UDT/SEAL wannabes. We had arrived from various regular Navy boot camp companies to begin our training at the Team boot camp compound. I was to receive a similarly warm welcome from BUD/S when I arrived there (“Do yourself and us a favor and quit right now — you’re not going to make it anyway”) – but that’s a tale for another time.

The guys who were already a part of the UDT/SEAL recruit company clued us new guys in on what we could expect – and the news was not good. Apparently, after the rest of the company had returned to the barracks to wind down after the day’s activities, we new guys would undergo something called “Breakout” – which would occur the first three nights in a row. The “old hands” told us that it was not something we should look forward to, and they weren’t wrong.

The night of our first “Breakout” was the beginning of what I think of as “The Blur.” I call it that because the rest of my time in boot camp became something of a blurry hodgepodge of pain and exhaustion – like some fevered dream run on automatic pilot.

It all began with “Breakout.” The UDT/SEAL instructors ushered us new guys outside to a grinder next to the barracks. The instructors were dressed in their usual “uniform” of green fatigue shorts, blue ‘n’ gold tops, and jungle boots; while we newbies wore nothing but swim trunks.

Permit me a few words here about the weather in “balmy southern California.” The average nighttime temperature in San Diego for January of 1971 was between 48 and 49 degrees F. Not freezing cold I grant you, but when you’re exposed to that environment wearing nothing but swim trunks and are being constantly hosed down with cold water (one of the joys of “Breakout”) it does feel a bit nippy, trust me.

In any event, “Breakout” consisted of doing various calisthenics, such as jumping jacks, pushups, sit-ups, etc. in multiples of hundreds at a time, over, and over, and over again. All while being sprayed with cold water and “helped” by our instructors. It wasn’t long before my body felt like a cup of soggy ramen noodles.

I was not in the best of shape to begin with, and “Breakout” soon drained what small reserves of energy I had. I did not play sports in high school and the farthest I had ever run was twenty feet to catch a bus. What the hell am I doing here? Oh yeah — underwater photography.

After the first few hundred “evolutions” I knew there was simply no way I could do one more whatever, for whatever reason. So, I stopped trying. I wasn’t about to quit.

“It is my distinct displeasure to welcome you to UDT/SEAL boot camp tadpoles…wait, you’re not even tadpoles are you? I don’t know what you people are, but whatever it is it’s lower than whale shit!”

Such was the greeting extended to the dozen or so of us UDT/SEAL wannabes. We had arrived from various regular Navy boot camp companies to begin our training at the Team boot camp compound. I was to receive a similarly warm welcome from BUD/S when I arrived there (“Do yourself and us a favor and quit right now — you’re not going to make it anyway”) – but that’s a tale for another time.

The guys who were already a part of the UDT/SEAL recruit company clued us new guys in on what we could expect – and the news was not good. Apparently, after the rest of the company had returned to the barracks to wind down after the day’s activities, we new guys would undergo something called “Breakout” – which would occur the first three nights in a row. The “old hands” told us that it was not something we should look forward to, and they weren’t wrong.

The night of our first “Breakout” was the beginning of what I think of as “The Blur.” I call it that because the rest of my time in boot camp became something of a blurry hodgepodge of pain and exhaustion – like some fevered dream run on automatic pilot.

It all began with “Breakout.” The UDT/SEAL instructors ushered us new guys outside to a grinder next to the barracks. The instructors were dressed in their usual “uniform” of green fatigue shorts, blue ‘n’ gold tops, and jungle boots; while we newbies wore nothing but swim trunks.

Permit me a few words here about the weather in “balmy southern California.” The average nighttime temperature in San Diego for January of 1971 was between 48 and 49 degrees F. Not freezing cold I grant you, but when you’re exposed to that environment wearing nothing but swim trunks and are being constantly hosed down with cold water (one of the joys of “Breakout”) it does feel a bit nippy, trust me.

In any event, “Breakout” consisted of doing various calisthenics, such as jumping jacks, pushups, sit-ups, etc. in multiples of hundreds at a time, over, and over, and over again. All while being sprayed with cold water and “helped” by our instructors. It wasn’t long before my body felt like a cup of soggy ramen noodles.

I was not in the best of shape to begin with, and “Breakout” soon drained what small reserves of energy I had. I did not play sports in high school and the farthest I had ever run was twenty feet to catch a bus. What the hell am I doing here? Oh yeah — underwater photography.

After the first few hundred “evolutions” I knew there was simply no way I could do one more whatever, for whatever reason. So, I stopped trying. I wasn’t about to quit.

 

THE END

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About JCscuba

I am firmly devoted to bringing you the truth and the stories that the mainstream media ignores. Together we can restore our constitutional republic to what the founding fathers envisioned and fight back against the progressive movement, Obama and the liberal media.
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