Wednesday, August 31, 2022

"Death in Navy SEAL Training Exposes a Culture of Brutality, Cheating and Drugs"

Predictable result when the determined competitors train for the actual test, and not what organizers are allowed to say is the test (article has some graphic, tragic anecdotes):

When the Navy gathered [the dead candidate's] belongings, they discovered syringes and performance enhancing drugs in his car. The captain in charge of BUD/S immediately ordered an investigation, and soon about 40 candidates had either tested positive or had admitted using steroids or other drugs in violation of Navy regulations.


In a perverse way, the drug problem at BUD/S is a natural outgrowth of the mind-set the SEALs try to cultivate, according to Benjamin Milligan, a former enlisted SEAL who recently published a history of the force, “Water Beneath the Walls.”

The SEALs want operators who can find unconventional ways to gain an advantage against the enemy, he said in an interview.

“You want guys who can solve problems in war, guys who know how to play dirty, because war is a dirty game,” he said.

An often heard unofficial adage in the SEALs holds that, “if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.”

During BUD/S, he said, the “enemy” to be outfoxed is the course itself.

“No one can do everything the instructors ask, so you have to learn how to cheat to get through,” he said. “Everyone knows it happens. The point is to learn how to not get caught.”


Sailors who enter the program bolstered by steroids and hormones can push harder, recover faster and probably beat out the sailors who are trying to become SEALs while clean, said one senior SEAL leader with multiple combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. The inevitable effect, he said, is that a course designed to select the very best will end up selecting only the very best cheaters, and steadily fill the SEAL teams with war fighters who view rules as optional.

“What am I going to do with guys like that in a place like Afghanistan?” said the leader. “A guy who can do 100 pull-ups but can’t make an ethical decision?” 


The Navy has made hundreds of changes over the years meant to improve safety and increase graduation rates. At the same time, the SEALs who run the course have quietly resisted anything they see as lowering standards. So no matter how much the Navy has tried to make BUD/S easier, it seems to only get harder.


If enough people in a community are doping, he said, it spreads risk even to those who are clean, as the level of competition rises and more people are pushed to exhaustion and injury.