Learn from BUD/S Dropout Interview Roger Sierra

buds-navy-seal-bell-on-beachNote: Name and class number changed to protect the identity of this trainee.

SGPT: Tell us about yourself?

RS: I am a 21 year old from California who did two years of college prior to joining the US Navy.

SGPT: Were you an athlete growing up?

RS: Yes. I played hockey mostly from a very early age all the way through my first year in college.

SGPT:  What inspired you to join the navy and go to BUD/S training?

RS: When I was in 8th grade my dad gave me the book ‘Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10.

Once I read that book I was hooked on the idea of becoming a SEAL.

SGPT:  So did you go to a pre-BUDS training camp? How does that work?

RS: No I did not go to any BUD/S specific training camp prior to shipping out. I did however attend my mentor’s local PT session after our PST every single Wednesday. I still believe today that some of those workouts were harder than some beatings we received in BUD/S.

SGPT: And then you went to BUD/S. What did you do when you first got there?

RS: When you first arrive at the base you check into your Basic Orientation barracks and receive bed sheets and instructions on how to stencil all your gear correctly. The next couple of days are spent prepping gear and squaring yourself away. You also get to know your OIC (Officer in Charge) and other officers and rollbacks who will be a part of your class.

SGPT: What is a typical day like in BUD/S? What types of training? What time do you wake up and go to bed?

RS: Basic Orientation and first phase are very different. A typical day in BO is spent doing water skills at the pool for hours, doing class pt, ocean swims, and soft sand runs. A typical day in first phase would include getting wet and sandy at 4 AM then heading over to the pool for tests/practice of water skills. In the late morning/afternoon you will usually have a boat either on your head or under your feet.

Surf passage and boats on heads runs are constant and never ending in first phase. You should also expect at least 1-2 log PTs during the first week. I was able to get 6-7 hours of sleep a night. You will usually go to bed around 11 pm and wake up anywhere from 3-5 am depending on what’s scheduled.

SGPT: Did you have a running background before BUDS? What was your longest run prior to entering Navy?

RS: I never had a running background. I started two years before I shipped out. I was lucky enough to live by the beach so I would run in the sand every day. As I got within 6 months of shipping out – I started adding miles to my week. I would run every day on sand, dirt, trails, and concrete. By the time I shipped I was running 25-30 miles a week. The most I ever ran at a time was 10 miles. I also did a majority of my running in boots and long pants. In BUDS you run everywhere you go so get used to the idea of running upwards of 10 miles per day.

SGPT: What was the hardest part for you?

RS: The hardest part for me was Land Portage. This is when you get the boat up on your head and run at high speeds with it in soft sand for about 5 miles. The hard part isn’t keeping up, it’s dealing with the feeling that your neck is going to break any second from the tremendous weight of the boat. It doesn’t help to have a few boat duckers in your crew but they tend to go away very quickly. DO NOT BE A BOAT DUCKER.

SGPT: How many guys classed up to start BUD/S?

RS:  We had 235 men start BUDS Orientation and we classed up into first phase with 200.

SGPT: How many guys had dropped by the time you left? Do you know how many graduated?

RS: By the end of the first week we were down to 115 men. By the time I left we were at 92. Only 42 secured hell week and out of those 42 only 7 of them were originals from my boot camp class. The rest were officers and rollbacks.

SGPT: How did you train to get ready for BUD/S?

RS:  I swam and ran every day. I lifted weights 3 times a week and did grinder pt 6 days per week. I also rucked and ran in boots and long pants. I swam both with and without fins. My numbers for running was around 25 to 30 miles per week. I had absolutely no problems with my legs throughout BUD/S.

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SGPT: Knowing what you know now, how would you train to prepare differently?

RS: I would have done a ton more strength training. Yes, bodyweight workouts are important, but you need to be able to perform in order to succeed in BUD/S. All BUD/S is boats and logs. YOU MUST BE ABLE TO PERFORM IN THOSE TWO AREAS. Focus on deadlifts, squats, and bench press. Get strong as hell! Also run every single day. Do a minimum of 4 miles per day.

Our first week of phase we ran over 80 miles total. I would lean more towards sand bags, rucking while walking, etc. because I do agree that is a very effective way of training. I followed a lot of your advice before I shipped and it helped me greatly in BUDS. Swimming is also important but BUD/S prep school will get you more than prepared in that area.

SGPT: Did you have a strength training background before entering the Navy?

RS: I personally didn’t have a strong weight lifting background prior to BUDS so I think that’s why I have that approach. The guys who did the best in my class used to be football players and wrestlers. They had a strong lifting background and then started doing more body weight prior to shipping out. I didn’t want to make it sound like weights are the only way to go. The point I was trying to get across was you need to be the complete package.

SGPT:  What kind of boots do they issue you to train with in BUDS?

RS: We are issued Bates 922 boots. Very comfortable once the heel is removed. I almost prefer running in them over some tennis shoes.

SGPT: How many push-ups do you think you do on average during a day at BUD/S?

RS: To be honest you lose track. You do push-ups in every single evolution so I would have to guess upwards of 1,000 per day. It depends on how much you or your class screws up that day. Our class tended to screw up a lot so we got to know how to count out our sets of 20 very well.

SGPT: How did you wash out of BUDS?
RS: I suffered a concussion during Land portage on the Friday of week 1 of phase. One of our guys was ducking boat and the extra weight caused our head guy to trip, bringing everyone down including the boat on top of us. I smacked my head in the dirt and the boat then came down and hit me again.

My left arm was numb, I felt extremely dizzy, and my speech was slurred. I finished the evolution and the rest of the day but went to medical over the weekend and was diagnosed with a concussion. On Tuesday of week 3, after being light limited duty for a week, I was sent into a review board and dropped from the program. The only positive I can take away from that day was that I never had to ring that stupid bell.

SGPT: What are your next goals?

RS: I want to finish my time in the navy and then go back to college to get my masters in sports psychology. I learned a lot about myself at BUD/S and I learned that your body is capable of doing so much more than your mind usually limits it to.

SGPT: Thanks for the interview

RS:  No problem! I hope this helps future SEAL candidates out in their training and prep and good luck to everyone going to BUD/S in the future!

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