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Letter to My Former Self: Anonymous SEAL

Posted on: April 21, 2014 08:00 EDT by Naval Academy Public Affairs

A USNA graduate who is now a Navy SEAL (and wishes to remain anonymous), wrote the following letter as part of the ongoing series "Letter to My Former Self." While he directs his words to the young men who will be entering the SEAL community following graduation, some of his advice will also be useful for all the firsties who are about to graduate and lead Sailors in the Fleet.

Men,

It’s hard to comprehend what I would have liked to have known as a Firstie. At this point, I know it’s a cliché, but you literally don’t know what you don’t know. This community is unique in the fact that all the candidates think about is the near future, specifically First Phase. Not that there is anything wrong with that – it’s most definitely one of the biggest hurdles in the U.S. military and no easy task – but what I want to try and convey is there is so much more to this community than what people generally consider.

The aftermath of First Phase and more specifically after BUD/S, is what I would have liked to have understood more. All of the books, the movies, the articles, they focus on BUD/S along with the selection process and then later in a SEAL’s career. They leave out the most important step, what truly develops you into a NSW officer and a shooter.

The fact of the matter is, this part of the journey can’t be written about. It can’t be described; it must be experienced. As much as is written and as much as you may listen, this is something that every person has a unique experience with and takes something different away from. Nevertheless, I will offer some things I wish I had known before the journey, things that I had never thought about, being the short-minded individual who was only looking at Hell Week.

First of all, you will lead men, many of whom are of greater caliber than you. These are thinking men, therefore you must push situational awareness. Keep them informed of everything, even if you think it’s insignificant. They are intelligent and have earned the right to know what’s going on.

Second, stay flexible. This job requires thinking shooters, ready to adapt to their environment. Adaptability is key.

Next, trust your gut. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book on the subject, his general gist being that your gut reaction, the decision your subconscious makes in a fraction of a second and your first instinct, is usually right. Go with what you feel is the right decision. Don’t over analyze.

Finally, and most importantly, remember the hunger you feel now, that desire to do the best job in the world. There will be many dark and painful times in your journey, but remember how fired up and ready to take on the world you feel now, especially in your darkest moments of training. If you can hold onto that, regardless of how miserable any specific moment can be, you will be unstoppable, and that’s exactly what’s needed.

I leave you with this: Think about the short term, plan for the long term. The fire hose of experience is in the near future, and you must be ready for it and at the same time be ready to take everything you can from it. You owe it to yourselves, but more importantly to your future teammates and those who have gone before you.

Best of luck, fellas. 

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