SEALgrinderPT catches up with Navy SEAL and SEALFIT Kokoro Coach Kenny Breen. Kenny knows what it takes to march through the jungles of Hell and make it through alive. He has fought many battles in the trenches including coming back from an awful head injury suffered in football. Check out this interview with Kenny as he lays it all out for us.
SGPT: Tell us about yourself and what your doing these days?
KB: My name is Kenneth M. Breen. I’m 39 years old, and I married my wife Ann Marie on 2-8-04. This happens to be the day between our birthdays. We live in northern California, Clearlake Oaks, its out in the country surrounded by national forrest and blm land. A lot of my time at home is spent dealing with my animals, 2 horses, 1 pig, 2 dogs, 6 cats and a flock of chickens. We also garden for a large portion of our food.
I served my country from 1990-1998, four years active duty and four years active reserves. I went through Seal training “BUDS” class 179. With just over a week left in training I blew out the orbital in my left eye while completing a 3 mile ocean swim. When my swim buddy and I were swimming into the beach a wave picked me up and face planted me head first into the sandy beach. After that I was flown back to San Diego to be treated at Balboa Hospital. The injury caused me to have double vision, only time would tell if it would clear up. Luck, good DNA and a lot of training was what it took to get back. They all fell into place, and I joined class 182 for the Island portion of training and graduated with them in the summer of 1992. After, I got orders to Seal Team One where I was assigned the duties of 1st Lieutenant rep (responsible for all platoons transportation on land or water) and M-60 gunner for my platoon (responsible for throwing lead down range)
After active duty, while in the active reserves at Seal Team Three I suffered a Sub-dural hematoma playing college football in San Diego. After ten years of rehab, therapy and an amazing amount of help and support from my wife, I was able to get back to working. I’ve been working as a superintendent for a construction co. for the past 6 years.
I started coaching a the SealFit academy back in August of last year for Kokoro class 11. I’ve been a part of each Kokoro since, I just can’t get enough. I feel so alive during the camps and completely exhausted after.
SGPT: What BUDS class did you go through?
KB: Started with class 179, had eye injury on the Island portion of training, and finished with class 182.
SGPT: What was the hardest part of BUDS for you?
KB: Dive hell week. I never had any previous experience with breathing under water and then being mugged. Lets just say I was mugged but I didn’t get my ass kicked. And of course the mental games, getting frustrated over not being able to complete a task repeatedly, until I realized, that was the task. Last but not least, my eye injury, just another opportunity to climb back up the mountain.
SGPT: If you were going through BUDS again what kinds of training and conditioning would you be doing?
KB: Well of course I would be doing Sealfit (running, swimming and weighted work) and some Crossfit, with the main focus on my core strength. I would also work on “Laser Focus” and last but most important, breathing. Just as important as to what you are doing, is who your doing it with. Seek out individuals / training partners with similar goals and work together.
SGPT: How important do you think the mental side is when going through BUDS?
KB: Its huge, I used to say 90% of everything we do is mental. It’s mind over matter, what dog are you feeding? The courage dog or the fear dog? Most of us have the tools to do what we want to do, and I believe that to be your heart, guts, warrior spirit (Kokoro). What ever you call it, I believe that is what separates the doers from the talkers, the elite from the average. So for me, I would say mental and heart are very important for each individual who wants to make it through BUDS and be a good operator in the teams.
SGPT: Tell us about your time in the Teams.
KB: It was like being on top of the world, I felt like a rock star, movie star, or a professional athlete. Though I have to admit that I have very few memories prior to my brain injury which happened after my time on active duty. But the memories that I do have are of things happening as a team, or with my swim buddies. The importance of team is the one constant.
SGPT: What elements of your past training do you carry with you today?
KB: I use so many elements, the ability to adapt and over come any obstacle or situation is one that can be applied to most anything. The mental element, is where I would have to say it starts, because if you believe “That which does not kill you, only makes you stronger” then you can continue to overcome.
SGPT: You sustained a bad injury in college. Can you tell us about that and how it has effected you today?
KB: In August of 1996 at 230 lbs. playing fullback for Grossmont College I went out for a pass, diving to catch the ball my head was driven into the ground, by the tackling linebacker. That hit caused a bleed on the right side of my brain, which continued for the next 10 days. On the tenth day while sitting in history class I started losing feeling to the left side of my body. At that point I was sent to the hospital ( allowed to transport my self ) to get an MRI. After, emergency surgery took place to relieve the blood pressure in my brain, (they drilled two hole the size of quarters to relieve the pressure on the right side). The bleed caused the right hemisphere to be pushed over to the left side of my skull. As far as appearances went, all looked good on the out side ( except for the bandage on my head ). But, as far as my head was concerned, everything was scrambled inside and I didn’t know how to connect things together. The way I generally explain it to people is that I had to re-learn everything all over again. It was like I was a little child again having to learn appropriate responses to everyday happenings. This was very difficult at age 26/27, people don’t expect a healthy looking grown man to start crying in public for any reason. The primary area damaged was to my emotional centers. One might say that I am in-touch with my feminine side, others would say I cry a lot. Either way, my emotions are written all over my face. The term I heard a lot was un- inhibited. I also suffer from chronic headaches and struggle with memory issues daily. Every aspect of my life has been affected, too many to ramble on about. One thing I do remember from the teams was that we always needed to be able to “adapt and over come”. So that’s what I’m doing these days, with a lot of people helping me. Adapting & Overcoming.
SGPT:You are a SEALFit Kokoro Coach. Can you tell us more about that?
KB: Wow, how can I put into words what it has meant to me to be apart of coaching the men and women on their journey to finding their “warrior spirit’. No matter what each students individual life goals are: spec ops, ultra athlete, college sports, or career choice: banker, chef, or mother of 3 kids, all who complete the journey, find along the way their warrior spirit. When that moment happens you can see it in their eyes. For some, it is early into the 50 hour Kokoro camp that they find their warrior spirit, its like they just found cruise control. For most it doesn’t happen until they are secured at the end of camp. Then its “wow I did it, what did I just do???”
SGPT: What are some things that you think Kokoro students need to work on prior to attending the event?
Team work, breathing exercises, laser focus and the standard Seal stuff: running; with and without load, swimming; expose yourself to being wet and cold even if you can’t swim, use a hose. Because you know that I am going to. And we can’t forget about PPS, push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups. Only count the reps that you do correctly, good form and full range of motion because that’s how we count them here.
SGPT: You keep yourself in really good shape. What types of training do you do now?
KB: I would say that I’m in good shape, mostly from dealing with my animals, which I refer to it as Farm fit. That of course consisting of moving 75-150 lb hay bails, 50 lb feed bags being put into containers, and shoveling horse pooh. Not to mention all the general up keep of the gardens. Doing that keeps me in good shape. A huge part of anything I do includes stretching daily. After that, running is what I do the most. There are a lot of hills around my house, so either direction I choose it’s going to be a hard run. I love doing Sealfit and Crossfit, I’m looking forward to getting more equipment and work out partners in my area so I don’t have to modify the work outs quite so much.
SGPT: Are you reading any good books now?
KB: “Men in Green Faces” by Gene Wentz and “Think like a Champion” by Mike Shanahan
SGPT: Thanks so much for the interview Kenny, we greatly appreciate your time.
KB: Many thanks to SGPT for the chance to reflect on my past and share my experiences with others. Congratulations to you for providing such a complete service to those who desire to be their very best.
Keep up the good work Coach Brad!