SGPT interviews Navy SEAL Dr. Jim Uhl

Navy SEAL Dr. Jim UhlSGPT: Tell us about yourself Dr. Uhl

JU: I grew up in North Carolina and decided when I was about 14 that I wanted to be a frogman. I saw a show with Walter Cronkite called Twentieth Century that showcased them and I was sold. I wrestled in high school and some in college at NC State. Signed up my junior year for OCS and went there in Jan 70.

SGPT: What BUD/S Class were you in? Were you a winter or a summer class?

JU: I went to BUD/S on the East Coast (editors note: Yes; the early BUDS classes were held in Little Creek Virginia) where I started class 49 but had to have knee surgery and rejoined class 50 that finished in Jan 70 so I was lucky enough to get one of the last winter classes on the east coast. The water was very cold. Training was in three parts then. BUDS was in Little Creek VA and then to Roosevelt Roads for the final swimming. The final test was swim from Vieques to the mainland. It was a long day.After BUDS was diving school in Key West then jump school at Benning. Then you were assigned to a team. I went to UDT 21 and did a Med tour then over to SEAL 2 in 1972.

SGPT: What was your “WHY” that got you through training?

JU: One old chief bet me $10 that I would never make it. I think my best moment in training was standing outside before being released from Hell Week and having that chief walk out an unexpectedly give me that $10 in front of everyone. As to quitting, it never crossed my mind. I knew I would finish or else, so it never really occurred to me.

SGPT: What was the most mentally and physically challenging part?

JU: The most difficult part of training for me was recovering from my knee surgery and getting in good enough shape to keep up on the runs.

SGPT: What wars or conflicts have you been a part of? Deployments?

JU: I did not make it to Vietnam even though I had orders to go. I went home on leave expecting to go the following week but when I got back my orders had been canceled. Tom Norris who received the MOH had been shot and recovered by Mike Thornton who also later received the MOH and everything was put on hold after that. I was USNR (reserve officer) and after that they only sent regular Navy officers and only as advisers. I did spend some time above the arctic circle as somehow they figured out my complete distaste for cold water. I still hate cold water.

I got out in 1973 and went back to school for my MBA. I stayed in the reserves for 2 years I needed the $ for school. At that time there was little to no career path for officers and you were expected to go back into the regular Navy and I had no interest in that. I think this time after Vietnam was closing down was probably the most difficult time for the Teams. The regular Navy did not understand or like the Teams as they did not like anything special. I believe the officers and men from that time till Iraq were what not only kept the teams together but also maintained the capabilities and expanded them as well. They were the ones that fought the bureaucracy and drove the Teams to be what they are today. They need to get more credit than they receive.

SGPT: Do you still maintain the skills you learned on the Teams?

JU: The values that I solidified in training and the Teams are still my core values. Integrity, curiosity, respect for all your fellow team mates and a commitment to maintain those core values no matter what. That is what got me through

SGPT: What do you do to stay in shape? Fitness?

JU: I stay in shape by riding my bike and weight lifting. Over time I have run, boxed for a few years in NYC and have always stayed in good condition as it is still important to me.

SGPT: What do you do now?

JU: I went to grad school at the University on NC and then moved to NYC where I lived for about 9 years with one stint in and out of Saudi Arabia for about 2 years. I had planned to join the CIA after grad school as I had been accepted and given an assignment with the expectation to come back in house and work with their special ops. Then in May of 75 Vietnam was taken over by the North and my assignment to Vietnam went away as did the job as they had all these returning agents and no work for them. I was destined to never make it to Vietnam.

My best job in NYC was with Exxon Enterprises that was the venture part of Exxon. I worked on starting up their solar business but the economics never materialized. I got married to my current wife in 82 and we moved to San Francisco. I began working in the semi conductor industry then moved to tech publishing. In the early 90’s a venture firm asked me to help rebuild a publishing venture and I did that for about 8 years and built a very successful tech publishing company that we sold to a large British publishing house. I did two more start ups and was the in house venture guy for this venture firm. In 2004 he was taken over by a Chinese investor group and I left the venture we had started with Microsoft. Basically I retired from working for someone else and eventually I went back to school and got my PhD in 2011. I interviewed former Team guys about the concept of masculinity as my doctoral thesis. I lived in Istanbul for three years after that, and now am in Barcelona and it is a great place to live.

SGPT: Thanks so much for the interview Jim, we appreciate your time.

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