The Navy SEAL is almost legendary when it comes to the popular imagination: A combination of peak-perfect athletic form, superior mental aptitude and combat abilities honed to a razor point, Navy SEALs do the impossible day or night, anywhere in the world.
The very best of the best hardly begins to describe the kind of mental and physical toughness required to be a SEAL. The selection process for those who wish to join this elite cadre of warriors is legendarily brutal, and ninety percent of those who volunteer for training fail to complete its first phase, BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALS) training. The most infamous phase of BUD/S training is known as “Hell Week,” and it truly earns the nickname: SEAL candidates work through four days and nights of tests of physical and psychological stamina designed to weed out those unworthy of the SEAL trident. Candidates spend the entire time in and out of the ocean, and get only four hours of sleep during the entire week. Instructors actively encourage the men to give up the entire time.
The struggle doesn’t end with BUD/S, either. That’s just the beginning. Months of specialized training in a variety of operational techniques must be completed and performed to the satisfaction of stringent SEAL standards. Only after passing through this gauntlet will a candidate be presented with the coveted SEAL trident. What happens then? More training, of course.
It takes almost three years before a SEAL is ready for deployment on his first mission, and they’re not used lightly. The loss of a SEAL represents not just the loss of a husband, son, brother, father or friend, but also hundreds of thousands of dollars in training costs. They’re not easy to replace, and there are only around 2,000 SEALs in existence.
SEALs are generally tight-lipped about their work, and are commonly described as “quiet professionals.” SEALs don’t usually publicly brag about their work, and as a matter of fact, some consider this kind of behavior to be a major giveaway when it comes to identifying SEAL impersonators. It’s hard to believe that anyone would be foolish (or brave) enough to impersonate a SEAL, but it does happen.
Despite their quiet work ethic, the public does occasionally learn about the SEALs’ missions. Some recent high-profile examples include the rescue of an American sea captain from Somali pirates, and the killing of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden. Who knows how many other anonymous acts of valor SEALs accomplish around the world? A scant few, and they’re not talking. Mostly.
Largely, the SEALs are known by most through their depictions in novels and movies. They’re irresistible for writers; strong, smart and dedicated, Navy SEALs are real-life superheroes. Video games like SOCOM: US Navy SEALs, Call of Duty and Medal of Honor all feature SEALs as playable characters. Movies like “Act of Valor” (produced with the cooperation of the Navy) and Navy SEALs (produced with the cooperation of Charlie Sheen) have put the quiet warriors on the big screen. They’re a mainstay of military and espionage fiction from authors like Tom Clancy, Brad Thor, and Robert Ludlum. There’s nowhere on Earth that the SEALs can’t operate, and seemingly the same is becoming true of fiction. While most of the time the SEALs are depicted in “real life” settings, the SEALs have appeared in science fiction as well, including James Cameron’s “The Abyss” and Michael Bay’s “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.”
Lately, the SEALs have infiltrated into romantic fiction, or more properly, military/romantic suspense, thanks to the efforts of writer Suzanne Brockmann. Her Tall, Dark and Dangerous series chronicled the exploits — romantic and otherwise — of a fictional group of SEALs. The series proved popular with readers – popular enough to warrant almost a dozen novels. While that series is over for now, Brockmann has not forgotten about the SEALs. Her most recent novel, Born to Darkness, is a work of science fiction/romance featuring a disgraced Navy SEAL who finds work as a test subject at a mysterious research facility. It’s the first volume in a new series Brockmann has titled Fighting Destiny.
Whether it’s in the arctic, desert, high seas, jungle or – ahem – bedroom, the Navy SEALs bring their elite skill and dedicated professionalism to the delight of their admirers and the terror of their enemies.