Be Someone Special

If you were to ask ten people at random what words they think hang above the PT (Physical Training) podium on the “grinder” (place where you feel like you went through a meat grinder) at BUD/S, I’d guess nine out of ten would say, “The only easy day was yesterday.”

And that would be a good guess — though not the right answer. True that is an iconic saying of Frogmen everywhere, but the words that you see as you look up at the instructor’s podium are, “Be Someone Special.”

I graduated BUD/S with class 199 and years later was lucky enough to come back as an instructor. During this time I learned something very interesting about this seemingly innocuous saying. I learned that not everyone took the words to mean the same thing.

I always thought they meant, “You had to work your ass off every day (and night) of your life to be better than your enemies. You had to strive to uphold the strong traditions and honor the brave men who went before you as US Navy SEALs and UDTs. When you decide to take this path in your life, you need to forever strive to ‘be someone special’.” But you see, I graduated…

There is a second interpretation of, “Be Someone Special” that I learned from watching those who didn’t make it through BUD/S or later from those who somehow failed to get weeded out, and that is basically this: “If I make it though this initial assessment training, then I will automatically — as if by magic — BE SOMEONE SPECIAL!”

A few problems there, Rainbow-Warrior: Number one — the use of the word “If” at the beginning of the sentence. You see IF you go to BUD/S with the mentality that there is a chance you won’t make it through training…guess what? You won’t make it through training! And part B: Saying, “then I will be…” No you won’t! BUD/S doesn’t make you a different person. If you were not special before BUD/S, you won’t be special after BUD/S.

Did you think BUD/S was a special factory where we manufacture special people? Crap in — Crap out. What we do at BUD/S is find out who the SEALs are in each class. If you were a SEAL when you showed up, you make it though the filter. Everyone else goes away. It’s like the famous saying goes, “Champions aren’t made in the ring; they are merely recognized there.”

Same thing happens at BUD/S and it comes with a free haircut.

To be fair, the filter’s not perfect. There are plenty of great guys who get hurt and want to continue, but can’t. That truly sucks, but of the ones I’ve kept up with, they’ve all gone on to do something else impressive with their lives. Sometimes the shit filter is not working and a turd makes it through training.

Luckily they usually get kicked out of the Teams and/or the Navy and finish their careers working at a non-NSW command. Finally there are those who just aren’t cut out for cold water, no sleep and a life of pain. Nothing wrong with that, just don’t go back to the fleet saying how “the instructors had it out for you.” We have it out for everyone!

So what are you going to do when you face your next challenge? I’m sure you’re going to be someone special, but do you know what it means now?



  1. Thanks Chris. I have been reading a lot lately, including books about SEALs so I can understand the mindset, and you hit it on the head with this post. Goes along with this quote: “Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.” – John Wooden. I helped a barely 9th grade literate lady see her talents with dogs to create a business with her talents training service dogs, not because she had never graduated from high school, but of her love of dogs. Mind if I quote you? 😀

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