The Warrior Elite: The Forging of SEAL Class 228

The Warrior Elite: The Forging of SEAL Class 228


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400046959
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 01/28/2003
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 260,799
Product dimensions: 5.38(w) x 10.88(h) x 0.81(d)

About the Author

DICK COUCH graduated at the top of BUD/S Class 45 in 1969. He commanded a SEAL platoon in Vietnam and led one of the only successful POW rescue operations of that conflict. Mr. Couch is the author of four novels and lives in Ketchum, Idaho. This is his first nonfiction book.
CLIFF HOLLENBECK is an award-wining photographer and photojournalist. He served with Naval Special Warfare Units, including Underwater Demolition, and was a naval aviator. He has written numerous books on photography and has two novels in print. Mr. Hollenbeck lives in Seattle.

From the Hardcover edition.

Read an Excerpt

The Beginning

Monday, 4 October 1999. A fine mist hangs over the Naval Amphibious Base on Coronado as a cool marine air layer steals in from the Pacific, extinguishing the stars. The lights along Guadalcanal Road are a harsh, haloed yellow. The base is quiet. Behind a chain-link fence with diagonal privacy slats, Class 228 waits anxiously, seated on the concrete pool deck. The new BUD/S trainees wear only canvas UDT swim trunks. They are compressed into tight rows, chests to backs, in bobsled fashion to conserve body heat. The large clock on the cinder-block wall reads 5:00 a.m.-0500, or zero five hundred, in military jargon. They are wet from a recent shower. Neat rows of duffel bags that contain the students' uniforms, boots, and training gear separate each human file. The pool-officially called the combat training tank, or CTT-has already been prepared for the first evolution. The students had arrived thirty minutes earlier to roll and stow the pool covers and string the lane markers.

"Feet!" yells the class leader.

"FEET!" The voices of nearly a hundred young men answer in unison as they scramble into ranks.

"In-struct-tor Ree-no!" intones the class leader.

"HOOYAH, INSTRUCTOR REE-NO!" the class responds in full roar.

The first day of training has begun for Class 228. It's pitch black except for the building lights that cut into the mist and the underwater pool lights that illuminate a blue mirror surface. The members of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Class 228 stand at attention in fourteen files, each file forming a boat crew of seven BUD/S trainees. Instructor Reno Alberto, Class 228's proctor for the two-week BUD/S Indoctrination Course, surveys the pool. Apparently satisfied the CTT is ready, he turns and regards Class 228 for a long moment.

"Drop," he says quietly.

"DROP!" 228 echoes as the class melts to the deck, each student scrambling to claim a vacant piece of concrete. They wait, arms extended, holding their bodies in a rigid, leaning-rest position.

"Push 'em out."

"Push-ups!" yells the class leader.

"PUSH-UPS!" responds 228.





Class 228 loudly counts out twenty push-ups, then returns to the leaning rest. "In-struct-tor Ree-no," calls the class leader.

"HOOYAH, INSTRUCTOR REE-NO!" the students yell in unison.

Reno stands off to one side, arms folded, apparently uninterested in the mass of students leaning on their outstretched arms.

"Push 'em out," he commands softly.



After two more rounds of this, Reno leaves them in the leaning rest for close to five minutes. By now the students are twisting and thrusting their buttocks into the air in an effort to relieve the burning in their arms.

"Recover," he says in the same measured voice.

"FEET!" the class responds, this time with less zeal.

"Give me a report, Mister Gallagher."

Lieutenant (junior grade) William Gallagher takes the class muster board from Machinist Mate First Class Robert Carreola, 228's leading petty officer, or LPO. Gallagher and Carreola are the class leader and class leading petty officer, respectively, as they are the senior officer and senior enlisted trainee in Class 228. Carreola is five-ten, but he appears shorter-partly because he has a broad, highly developed upper body and partly because his lieutenant is six-two.

Bill Gallagher is a slim, serious young man with a shy smile. He came to the Naval Academy from northern Virginia, recruited to play lacrosse for Navy. Gallagher has wanted to be a Navy SEAL since 1982, when his father gave him an article from Parade magazine with pictures of SEALs and BUD/S training. He was seven years old. Bill Gallagher was unable to come to BUD/S from Annapolis, so he went directly from the Academy to the fleet. Now, as a qualified surface warfare officer with two years at sea, he stands at the head of Class 228. His goal is still to become a Navy SEAL. Bob Carreola has been in the Navy for eleven years; this is his second try at BUD/S. He is thirty-one years old with more than a decade of service in naval aviation squadrons. His goal is also to be a Navy SEAL.

"Instructor, Class Two-two-eight is formed; ninety-eight men assigned, ninety-five men present. I have one man on watch and two men at medical for sick call."

"Ninety-five men present, Lieutenant?"

"Hooyah, Instructor Reno."

"That's wrong, sir. Drop and push 'em out. You too, Carreola."

While Gallagher and Carreola begin pushing concrete, Reno turns to the class. "The rest of you, seats."

"SEATS!" bellows Class 228 as the young men hit the concrete. They return to their compressed boat-crew files. They will sit like this often in the days and weeks ahead, hugging the man in front of them to stay warm. Gallagher and Carreola finish their push-ups and chant, "Hooyah, Instructor Reno!"

"Push 'em out," Reno replies.

This is not the last time that Lieutenant Gallagher and Petty Officer Carreola will personally pay for the sins of the class. One of the boat-crew leaders failed to report to Gallagher that one of his men was UA, or an unauthorized absence. This oversight caused Gallagher to give a bad muster; the actual number of men on the pool deck this morning is ninety-four. When one man in the class screws up, sometimes the whole class pays the tab. Sometimes a single boat crew pays or just the class leaders. But someone always pays.

"Now listen up," Reno says, turning to the class, finally raising his voice. He glances at his watch; it's 0510. "This is bullshit. You guys better get it together . . . now! Things are going to start to get difficult around here. We know most of you won't be here in another two months, but if you don't start pulling as a team, none of you will be here! It's a simple muster, gentlemen. If you can't get that done, what are you going to do when you get into First Phase and things really become difficult?" The class listens silently. Gallagher and Carreola continue to push concrete.

Reno regards the files of young men seated on the pool deck, then turns to the two sweating trainees. "Recover." They scramble up and take their places at the head of their boat crews. "This morning, gentlemen, we're going to take the basic screening test. You all passed this test at your last command or you wouldn't be here. If you can't pass it again this morning, you'll be back in the fleet just as soon as we can get you there. Understood?"


. . .

BUD/S training is conducted in three distinct phases. First Phase is the conditioning phase, followed by Second Phase-diving-and Third Phase-weapons and tactics. In order to prepare them for the rigors of First Phase, the trainees must first complete the two-week Indoctrination Course. Here they will learn the rules and conventions of BUD/S training. They will learn how to conduct themselves at the pool, how to run the obstacle course, and how to maneuver small boats through the surf. They will also learn the complex set of procedures and protocols needed in First Phase and the rest of BUD/S training-customs they must observe if they hope to survive this rite of passage. During this indoctrination period, they also begin to learn about SEAL culture and begin to absorb the ethos of this warrior class. In these first few minutes of the Indoctrination Course, Class 228 has already learned something about accountability and leadership. An officer or petty officer must always account for his men. SEALs have died in combat, but never has one been left behind.

The Indoctrination Course, or Indoc, also helps the trainees to physically prepare for First Phase. Some members of Class 228 have been at BUD/S for a few days, a few for as long as two months. Eight are rollbacks from a previous class-men recently injured in training who are beginning again with Class 228. These two weeks of pretraining are designed to physically and mentally bring the class together. This is a very important time. Most of the students have prepared for this individually. Now they will live and train as a class-as a team.

One hundred fourteen souls were originally assigned, or had orders, to BUD/S Class 228. Most are relatively new to the Phil E. Bucklew Naval Special Warfare Center, Coronado, California, where BUD/S is conducted. Twelve members of 228, like Bob Carreola, are here for a second time. If a student quits, he must return to fleet duty for at least eighteen months before he can return for another try-if he demonstrated potential on his first attempt and was recommended for a second try.

Class 228 had 114 men who thought they wanted to become Navy SEALs. But only 98 are on the roster on the first day of indoctrination. A few of the no-shows were sailors who were unhappy with their ship or duty station. They were fit enough to pass the BUD/S screening exam and accepted the orders to BUD/S as a way to make a change. Others found the relatively modest conditioning swims and runs before Indoc more than they bargained for. And there are always a few who, upon their arrival at BUD/S, are simply intimidated. When they see what SEAL trainees are asked to do, they quit before they begin. So the attrition began even before Class 228 started its first official day of training. Any student at BUD/S, at any time, can DOR-drop on request. All he has to do is say, "I quit." Those assigned to Class 228 who quit prior to the beginning of Indoc will be reassigned back to the fleet.

Today, Class 228 has to earn the privilege of continuing with the Indoctrination Course. Each trainee must again pass the BUD/S screening test:

1.A five-hundred-yard swim using the breast- or sidestroke in twelve minutes, thirty seconds

2.A minimum of forty-two push-ups in two minutes

3.A minimum of fifty sit-ups in two minutes

4.A minimum of six dead-hang pull-ups

5.A mile-and-a-half run in eleven minutes, thirty seconds wearing boots and long pants

All but one in Class 228 passes the screening test. This buys the trainees a ticket to proceed with their training for two more weeks. A few of the men are close to the minimums, but most handle the run and the swim with at least a minute to spare. Eighty push-ups, a hundred sit-ups, and fifteen pull-ups are not uncommon. There are those in the teams and among the instructor staff who think the screening minimums are too low-that the bar should be higher for those entering BUD/S.

This test is not a perfect predictor for who will succeed and who will fail. In the demanding days ahead, a few of those who struggled to pass the screening test will make it to graduation. Those are the ones who arrived at BUD/S with a soft body and a strong spirit. Some of the more physically gifted will find that they have no stomach for the punishment that lies ahead, and they will quit as soon as they become tired and cold. They will be timed and tested during Indoc, but only two things can remove a student from the two-week Indoctrination Course: a DOR or failing a comprehensive psychological evaluation given to each new arrival. Only one member of Class 228 fails the psych exam.

After the screening test, the men of Class 228 gather their gear from the pool deck and hustle off to chow. Following their morning meal, they will run in formation across the Naval Amphibious Base to the Special Warfare Center located on the ocean side of Highway 75, which bisects the base. The Amphibious Base is the host facility for the West Coast SEAL teams and other Naval Special Warfare commands, as well as the Naval Special Warfare Center.

Coronado is a near-island that sits in the center of San Diego Bay, connected at its southernmost tip to the mainland by way of a narrow, eight-mile-long sand spit called the Silver Strand. The Naval Amphibious Base is located on the northern portion of this narrow strand, just south of the village of Coronado. The north end of Coronado proper is occupied by the massive North Island Naval Air Station. Known as NAS North Island, this facility is a major maintenance, training, and repair depot for the naval air arm of the Pacific Fleet. Aircraft Carrier Number One, the USS Langley, moored at North Island in 1924 and pioneered naval aviation in the Pacific. Today, North Island is home for two West Coast-based aircraft carriers. The Naval Amphibious Base, built on reclaimed land in 1943, is a relative newcomer.

Nestled between NAS North Island and the much smaller Naval Amphibious Base on the Silver Strand is the idyllic resort community of Coronado. "Idyllic" is an understatement; Coronado is a neat, manicured residential setting of expensive homes with broad, white-sand beaches on the Pacific side and the San Diego skyline on the bay side. Anchoring the western end of Orange Avenue, a palm-lined main boulevard of eateries, boutiques, and art galleries, is the famous Hotel del Coronado. This historic hotel has been a favorite of presidents, royalty, and movie stars for over a century. When it was built in 1887, it was the largest resort hotel in the world. Today it stands as an elegant architectural monument to the grace and splendor of a past era. Just south of the Hotel del (as it's sometimes called), between the hotel and the Amphibious Base, is a series of modern, high-rise beach condominiums. These stark, concrete towers, punctuated by pools, gardens, and verandas, couldn't be more dissimilar to the graceful wooden curves and red-pinnacled roofs of the historic and charming Hotel del Coronado. Further south, the contrast increases. Less than three hundred yards from the concrete condo towers on this gorgeous strip of white-sand beach, the U.S. Navy conducts the toughest military training in the free world.

. . .

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From the Publisher

"Couch has written an exceptionally nuanced and insighful book." —-Washington Post Book World

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Warrior Elite 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 83 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In this book, The Warrior Elite by author and experienced Navy SEAL Dick Couch is an amazingly inspiring book which follows Class 228 as they travel through BUDS Training, the first step in earning the prestigious Navy SEAL Trident. Dick Couch shadows the class through all of the training, through all of the struggles, and through all of the team building. There are four phases of training which the BUDS Trainees go through, but throughout the training they consistently and constantly have men DOR, or Drop On Request. There are some who don't make it through the first hour before they quit, but then there are those who persevere and who endure to reach their ultimate goal. The training focuses on the truth that it pays to be a winner. Life isn't all simple and nice, but it is full of competition and occasional disappointment. When the trainees win a race they are rewarded, but if they don't they are forced to do more physical training. Because of the excessive amount of physical torture that these trainees are put through they are as a result mentally tested as well. It is amazing what the human body and mind can endure when it is focused on achieving one goal. The book also largely focuses on the theme of endurance. The Trainees quickly realize that having this trait is not enough to pass BUDS Training- no, they must have their entire life focused on this trait. In fact the training starts out with over 150 zealous, enthusiastic trainees who have all excelled at their various Basic Navy schools. There they were above average, but at BUDS Training they will have to be far more than that to survive and endure the ruthless training they face. There was also a large focus on teamwork. These young men are put through incredible tasks together. Because of this they learn to work with one another. They learn each others strengths, weaknesses, and places for improvement. The BUDS Training is also strategically difficult. It is such a smart system because it quickly weeds out the ones who will not excel and help out the team. The teamwork and bonds that they create with each other is also so important because of what these trainees are actually training for. Unlike a sports team, these men are being trained to kill and survive. If they aren't connected with each other then it could literally result in the death of fellow comrade and friend. I really like how Dick Couch was able to create a bond between the young men in the book and the reader. When they excelled you felt inspired, when they failed you felt sad for them. I wish that the author had described in more detail what they went through though. Because the BUDS Training is a 9 month process Dick Couch leaves out lots of experiences for lack of time. But he uses amazing imagery in the parts that he chooses to share with the reader. Overall I would give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars. It was very entertaining, inspiring, and well written. Dick Couch has a true gift of making the reader feel like part of Class 228 and I am looking forward to his next book.
QuziePip More than 1 year ago
Informative inside look at what these men "really" go through. Quite impressive!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book. For a SEAL candidate, this book serves as a BUD/S roadmap. For a civilian, it serves to give legitimate insight into a misunderstood and Hollywoodized warrior culture. Dick Couch has done the Navy SEALs and all special operators past, present, and future a great service in telling their stories in his books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Capt (Ret) Couch leads us through what it takes to become one of the Navy's Elite. He gives detailed, yet easy to understand descriptions of tactics and weapons. I am an USN Intelligence Officer, having served 15yrs. I have worked with SEALs from time to time, but until this book, never full appreciated what it took to become a SEAL. A great account of BUD/S and SEAL training!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Capt Couch has written the very best account on Navy SEAL training that I have read. He graduated from class 45 himself, he served in Nam, and walks the talk!! Truly a marvelous read for all who love good reading of the Military variety!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A very readable, exciting book about the the toughest men the U.S. could ever want to send on missions. From the start of their training, they willingly endure physical and mental punishment beyond belief to graduate into almost undefeatable fighters. They have incredible willpower that never lets them quit. They are loyal to their teams no matter what the outcome of any mission. It is easy to see why a class of over 100 men graduates only about 20%. They are the pride of our Navy and our country.'They also inspired me to finish whatever I start, no matter how hard it is!
Guest More than 1 year ago
As Dick Couch follows class 228 through BUD/S, the reader gets a very personal view of individual's experiences during each phase of training. Couch's detailing of the progress of the trainees as the weeks went on makes the reader feel like a spectator rather than just a reader. This book is captivating, informative, and inspirational!
Jeff10ct1 More than 1 year ago
If you thought you had any idea what our special operations people go through, you need to read this book. It is amazing the work that these men are asked to put out  - and that's just to qualify for TRAINING. You will have a new found respect for the special operations community, and come away with a new confidence in those who are protecting us.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book. Good detail
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