Discover what it means to "Ring Out" and "Get Wet" through the eyes of Blue the Black Fish, an actual day-by-day journal of BUD/S class # 86.
The physical requirements are extreme, picture a fourteen-mile, soft sand beach run. Glimpse the mental skills required to master scuba diving, handle explosives, and perform hydrographic reconnaissance. You will see the pictures of weapons training and the end result of a five-mile ocean swim where
Blue's eyes are nearly swollen shut from inflammation and fatigue. Enter the real world of US Navy SEAL training where
"the only easy day was yesterday."
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.21(d)|
About the Author
a Florida native, resides in Orlando.
Read an Excerpt
Blue the Black FishThe Evolution of a Navy SEAL
By Steven King
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Steven King
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIt was another hot and humid Saturday at the city pool. The sun was high and wispy white clouds streaked across the light blue sky in interesting patterns that slowly morphed into a series of irregular shapes. An occasional hot breeze stirred the still, sticky air as the temperature hovered in the high 90s.
The pool was crowded with children of all ages; some swimming, some floating leisurely under the intense summer sun, while others just splashed about in the shallow end creating undulating waves as they played in the pool's clear blue water. A rambunctious child filled with youthful energy and unchained bravado, was showing off. Egged on by several other boys, he deftly jumped in the pool feet first with his arms extending upward. Instantaneously, any semblance of skill vanished as things went from fun in the sun, to the sheer panic of drowning.
The frantic mother's scream pierced the jovial sounds of laughter as the ever-vigilant lifeguard jolted into action. He spotted the floundering child and blew his whistle making a shrill sound that immediately focused the attention of swimmers and bystanders alike. People were scrambling to get on the pool deck as the lifeguard instinctively dove from his perch into the chilly water. He quickly negotiated between and around the scattering bathers and swam to the youngster in record time, although it seemed like an eternity to the child's mother whose body was as tense as a taut guitar string and her heart was pounding like a drum. Swiftly and with relative ease, the lifeguard brought the child out of the water and gently laid him down at poolside. The boy's small body was limp and a quick check of the child's pulse indicated a heart beat but more than a few seconds had passed and there was no indication that the child was breathing. There was an eerie quiet as people looked on with both anticipation and dread. The lifeguard tilted the child's head back to clear his airway. As he pinched the nose and leaned close to execute rescue breathing, the boy spontaneously sputtered small spurts of water and simultaneously emitted noises that were a combination of coughing, gagging and crying.
A horrified mother, now crouching by her son's side, heaved an audible sigh of relief. Her son seemed to be out of danger. The lifeguard smiled and reassured her that everything was ok. The tension that had enveloped the crowd quickly dissipated as the pool began to fill with children who, because of the frightening incident, were now playing in the water with a bit more caution than usual.
The lifeguard was very relieved that a potentially deadly crisis had been averted. He was also feeling a sense of pride that he had skillfully executed his duties by successfully rescuing the young bather. He returned to his stand and like an eagle with long outstretched wings resumed his watch over the community pool. This alert, attentive lifeguard is an eighteen year-old high school senior.
All stories worth telling have a beginning. This story begins in 1955 in the central Florida town of Orlando where Theodis Springer was born.
At the age of five he moved to the small Atlantic coast town of Stuart, Florida. Theodis, who preferred to be called Theo, was one of six children who lived with their mother, on the east side of Stuart throughout the 1960's. Friends and family called Theo "Blue" and that nickname would follow him for the rest of his life.
Theo was like most black kids growing up in Stuart; he went to school and played hard. However, he was different from most black kids because of his fascination with the water and his desire to excel as a swimmer. Whenever possible, he would watch Seahunt, a very popular underwater action television series that featured a former Navy Frogman turned undersea investigator. In Seahunt the star Mike Nelson became a free agent and operated from his boat the Argonaut. In the true spirit of a Navy Frogman Nelson performed salvage operations, rescues and got involved in anything that might happen in the water. Hundreds if not thousands of people were inspired to become divers as Seahunt introduced many, including a young Theo Springer to a whole new undersea world.
Growing up Theo would visit the beach a few times a year and there was no pool to speak of in his community. He went to the Eagle Army Navy store in Stuart and bought his first kiddy fins and kiddy diving mask. His mother would not splurge for such non-essential items so Theo hustled to buy his swim gear. Theo cut grass in the neighborhood and redeemed bottles to pay for the equipment.
The people in the local Eagle Army and Navy store knew him by name. He was the only black kid who would come in and purchase swim items like kiddy diving mask, fins, and face goggles. Even the kids in the neighborhood thought he was crazy. Some would point fingers and laugh; other would make comments like, "Man you can't swim with that stuff" or "boy! You're crazy". He didn't care because he knew with every aspect of his being that he would become a great swimmer.
Outside of the occasional visit to the beach Theodis did not have a place to even try to learn to swim.
During his beach visits, he did little more than wear his fins and goggles as he waded along the shore pretending to be the star in Seahunt.
This all changed one day when Theodis was about twelve years old. One of his friends took him to the mud hole. The mud hole was a retention pond for the city's water treatment plant. It was about the size of an average hotel pool and twelve feet deep in places. The water was milky white and surrounded by mounds of crushed limestone. Determined to learn how to swim he bought several books on swimming. Theo was able to dog paddle around the mud hole with difficulty and he would practice swim moves on the ground and on his bedroom floor as he set out to learn how to propel himself through the water. The mud hole was off limits and Theo and his friends had to keep their clandestine activities at this retention pond from parents. They developed a code to communicate when they would meet. Hum-guava was the code name.
The mud hole was located about half a mile from his neighborhood. It was murky and unclean but it was the only place that Theo had to practice what he read in his swimming books. Theo would visit almost daily in the summer and on weekends during the school year. Theo and his friends would put Vaseline on their skin after swimming in the mud hole. This hid their limestone-chapped skin from parents.
Theo was popular in high school and had a diverse group of friends. At the age of fifteen he noticed that after school some of his friends would get on a school bus and drive off to an event of some kind. Theo asked one of his buddies boarding the bus where he was going. The young man replied that he was a member of the school swim team and he was off to practice.
Theo watched them drive off and knew that he wanted to be on that bus. Theo ran as fast as he could home, all the while thinking how he would love to be a member of the team. He bought a gym bag and some baggy swim trunks that very afternoon.
The following day, the swim team bus pulled up with the coach at the wheel. Theodis Springer climbed aboard, along with the team, and sat down. Theo asked the coach if he could join the swim team and Coach Dick Wells said, "sure son lets go". They drove the twenty or so miles from Stuart to Ft. Pierce Indian River Community College pool.
Theodis looked out at the Olympic sized swimming pool and stood in awe at the clear blue water. There were diving boards and the racing lanes were clearly marked. This state of the art pool facility was a far cry from the mud hole where Blue and his friends swam in Stuart. Coach Wells told Theo that if he were going to be a member of the swim team he would need the proper swim attire. Wells handed Theo his very first pair of black Speedo swim trunks.
Blue hit the locker room and changed into the Speedo trunks. He returned to the pool edge and prepared to enter the water.
On that day 15 year old high school sophomore Theodis Springer entered an actual swimming pool for the first time in his life.
Coach Wells immediately noticed Theo's rudimentary swimming style and took special interest in helping him develop swimming skills. Under the tutelage of Coach Wells, Theo spent the next couple of months practicing the fundamentals of swimming. Much of this time was spent doing nothing but learning how to properly kick his feet behind a kick board.
The outside most lane of the pool became known as Blue's lane as this is where Theo spent countless hours focusing on swimming basics. The rest of the team honed their swimming skills racing the clock and each other in search of better performance.
Blue learned quickly and progressed to master the freestyle and breaststroke.
By the end of his sophomore year Theodis Springer was competing. Coach Wells and the team all rallied around Blue, encouraging him during every meet. Theo's challenges were far greater than just that of swimming; he also had to overcome the challenges of racial bigotry.
One day the team traveled south to Lake Worth to compete, everyone exited the bus and entered the locker rooms. Theo and a teammate took their time getting off the school bus and walked into the building.
The boys were stopped and told that Theo could not pass through. Blue tried to convince the guy he was part of the team while his teammate ran for help. Coach Wells immediately returned and confirmed that Blue was a swim team member. Although Theo lost his heat, he gained a life long friendship with some of his teammates as well as his coach. It was Coach Wells, who encouraged Theo to lifeguard over the summers.
Blue's swim team involvement fueled his passion for water activities. He became a Red Cross water safety instructor and was certified to teach lifeguarding and swimming.
Theo spent his high school sophomore and junior summer vacations teaching others to swim. One of his classes was featured in the local newspaper. Blue was confident in the water at this point and was signing his name on informal notes ... Blue the Black Fish.
In 1974, Blue was a senior in high school. He aspired to go to college. Theo wanted to teach history and coach swimming. He was contemplating a stint in the military as a way to pay for his college education.
Blue received pamphlets from all armed service branches. One particular brochure stood out to Theodis. The brochure showed a group stealthily coming out of the water. It showed guys repelling from helicopters, on jungle patrol and performing underwater demolitions work. This specialized group also retrieved the space capsule and astronauts from the ocean after splash down. The brochure said, "Be Someone Special, Be a Navy SEAL". Theo was enthralled with the advertisement and decided at that moment he was going to join the Navy and become a SEAL.
In June of 1974 on the morning of his senior graduation, Theo went to the Navy recruiter in Ft. Pierce and began the enlistment process. With pamphlet in hand, Theo sat across from the recruiter and explained his desire to become a SEAL. The recruiter chuckled as he stared back at the black recruit, and then instructed him to fill out the forms. Two months later Blue was shipped off to Orlando to begin Navy boot camp.
The first day of Navy boot camp began Theo's four-year enlistment. Day one was described as chaos. Moving from a free spirited high school experience to the structure of Armed forces basic training was taxing to Blue. At the time Navy boot camp was very demanding but Theo described the overall experience as a cakewalk compared to some of the future trials and tribulations he would encounter.
During the first week of training you have to take a swim test. You must be able to swim or to agree to let the Navy teach you how to swim. Theo's unit marched down to the pool in order for their swimming skills to be assessed. Blue was so excited as he jumped in and swam. He quickly demonstrated that he met all the Navy swim requirements. Others in Theo's unit were not so lucky. Blue remembers many of his unit could not swim at all.
Part of the swim requirement was to jump in the water off of a diving board. Some members of the unit clung to the diving board like a scared dog or cat and had to be prodded into the water with a pole. Some were jokingly threatened with a court martial in order to get them in the water. The Navy of course had people in the water to assist so no one would drown.
Navy Boot camp had a company called the Rock Company. This consisted of all the recruits that could not swim. Theo recalls that young black sailors made up the majority of the company. Rock Company recruits spent their time learning how to swim before continuing on with their basic training.
Navy boot camp was nine weeks long and on the fifth week they had what was called service week. This is where the recruits got a chance to work in various occupations throughout the base.
Blue thought that with his lifeguard and swimming background he would be able to spend service week assisting at the pool. Instead of a week at the pool, Blue spent service week working in the mess hall.
Blue made it no secret that he wanted to be a Navy SEAL. His boot camp company commander told Theo that he really didn't want to be a SEAL. He said training was rigorous and most men failed. Blue was determined to pursue SEAL training later on down the line. For now Naval boot camp graduation consumed his thoughts. Blue volunteered for many leadership positions in his company but was passed over by his chain of command.
Theo passed boot camp and requested a job as an Oceanographic Specialist. The Navy had other ideas and assigned Blue to an Amphibious Construction Battalion stationed in Little Creek Virginia. Blue didn't really pay attention to where he was assigned. His recruit class was sent to assignments all across the globe and Blue's luck of the draw just happened to be the Little Creek Naval Amphibious base in Norfolk Virginia.
Blue arrived at Little Creek with several other recruits. Although he was assigned to the Amphibious Construction Battalion he did not have a specific job rating. He was presented with the option of being a Yeoman. The primary job of the Construction Battalion was constructing pontoon bridges. The Yeoman slot was an administration position that was an office job. Theo preferred the inside work to the cold windy waterfront where the construction occurred. Blue had taken a high school typing course that came in handy with his new job.
Blue soon discovered that Little Creek housed various amphibious units and most importantly is the east coast home base for the United States Navy SEALs.
Theo began training whenever possible for the strenuous Navy SEAL assessment test. He told his immediate supervisor of his desire to be a SEAL. The supervisor said "Blue don't be glory hunting, you don't want to be a Navy Frogman just do your job here and be a good clerk".
Another name for Navy SEALs is Navy Frogmen. Before the SEALs were commissioned in 1962 the World War II underwater demolition teams were called Frogmen. Blue most certainly did want to be a Frogman. The fact that Theo's barracks was across the street from where Navy SEAL team UDT 21 resided only fueled the drive to pursue his dream. Blue felt that fate brought him to Little Creek for a reason. That reason was crystal clear to the young man from South Florida, he was destined to become be a Navy SEAL.
On weekends when his buddies were going to clubs Blue was exercising in his room preparing himself to apply for SEAL training. Theo spent the next few months working in administration and working out.
Theo was jogging along the beach one evening and found a partial page from a demolition instruction manual. Theo ran along the same beach where the Navy SEALs trained. Theo would hear the explosions from the base and get even more excited about becoming a Navy SEAL.
During one of Blue's evening beach runs he encountered a Navy SEAL from UDT 21. Theo jogged alongside the sailor and told him of his wish join a SEAL team. The SEAL gave Theo a pair of jungle boots and told him to run in them. The two became friends and Theo was able to get a few hints on how to prepare for SEAL training.
Excerpted from Blue the Black Fish by Steven King Copyright © 2010 by Steven King. Excerpted by permission.
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