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Book Excerpts




What makes a young man decide to face the challenge of becoming a Navy SEAL? What sparks that difficult journey, and what makes some candidates succeed where so many will fail? The truth is—no one knows.


The first step to becoming a Navy SEAL is a course called ‘BUD/S’: Basic Underwater Demolition, SEAL training. BUD/S is regarded as the toughest military training in the world.


How difficult is the challenge?


In an average year, 800 men and women will climb Mount Everest. The number of men who graduate from BUD/S training each year is classified, but I can tell you it is a small fraction of the number of climbers who summit the world’s highest mountain. Let’s say it’s a very small fraction.


Despite the Navy’s best efforts, no tests can reliably predict who will pass and who will fail. Most aspirants are winnowed in BUD/S’ infamous “Hell Week,” a merciless 24-hour-a-day combat simulation and endurance test. Classes will lose as many as 40% of their candidates in the first few hours; by the end of the week, another 20 or 30% will quit or be forced to drop out with serious injuries. The cut has been made.


A few of the injured, a select group of determined souls who have impressed their instructors with grit and determination, may be given a second chance to “roll back” and restart training—from the beginning. These “roll backs” are the hardiest of all— and David Brown was one. He started in my training class, 114, was rolled back with an injury, and graduated one class later with 115. There is no greater testimony to a man’s fortitude.


But Hell Week is only the beginning. Following that test come f ive more months of demanding and technical instruction: diving, land and underwater navigation training, and demolitions, combat f irst aid and hyperbaric medicine, maritime sabotage, hand-to-hand combat, and the intricacies of small unit and guerilla warfare. Nor is the challenge of BUD/S merely physical—many buckle under the academic coursework. After six grueling months, the 150 to 200 men who started a class will normally be winnowed down to a couple dozen. The few who graduate together will be forever bonded, but even still, they are not yet SEALs. Only after another year and a half of advanced (and classified) training will BUD/S graduates earn their place among the smallest and most elite units of the United States military—the operational SEAL Teams.


David and I were classmates in 114 and later, teammates at UDT-21 and SEAL Team Four. Everyone called him “Brownie.” It was his moniker and callsign. He had entered BUD/S at 18 years old, just barely a man. Standing 5’3” and weighing a mere 110 pounds, his quest seemed beyond ridiculous to ordinary people. But in the attributes that define a SEAL, there is no “ordinary.” The community of Naval Special Warfare is a rigid meritocracy; a SEAL’s personal and operational reputation is everything. David was respected by his teammates as a brother and was known as an Operator who could be counted on. A SEAL can earn no higher accolade than the esteem and trust of his teammates, and David had both.


Every SEAL will tell you that the job is all-consuming. Though deployments will take a SEAL around the globe, a SEAL’s world, ironically, can feel like it’s getting smaller—not larger. Inevitably, a SEAL’s group of friends becomes the small group of Operators he works with. A SEAL trusts his life to his teammates on a daily basis, and they, in turn, put their lives in his hands. It is an exacting profession. Eventually, it can become difficult to relate to others outside “The Teams.” Many SEALs can feel isolated in this world. The attributes that made them what they are make them different from other people—not better or worse, but separated and profoundly different. Sadly, the unique burdens of a SEAL’s life can eventually take a toll not only on the individual but on his loved ones and family.


Brownie’s life has been one of perseverance, tenacity, and achievement—from childhood adventures to love lost and found, to BUD/S, the Teams, an exciting career at NCIS, and then a steady climb to the top echelons of Federal law enforcement. And Goliath is Brownie’s story of BUD/S, the Teams, and what comes after—the good and the bad, a story told with candor and courage.


Chuck Pfarrer
New York Times Best-Selling author, screenwriter, film producer, and former SEAL Team Six squadron leader

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