Don Shipley will present you what it"s like to go v SEAL training, all while utilizing YouTube to hunt down the phonies.


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The following morning, people are up before sunrise, stretching and debating i beg your pardon breakfast item aren’t likely to resurface later. The job starts in ~ 0700 hours—at 6:55, we line up. Shipley warned us that getting here five minutes early on is top top time. Getting here on time is late.

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The others are clearly excited to acquire going. I’m regretting providing up my hotel. Shipley is wade the line, promising that the next 24 hours will it is in the hardest of ours lives. Us won’t sleep, pretty much like in a real SEAL’s Hell Week.

“You’re a bunch the strange males to be here,” Shipley says. “You’re weird. Anyone else is earlier home resting one off.” There’s proud in his voice. Monster is good.

Within minutes, we’re all face-down in the dirt because that push-ups, the first conditioning that the day. I can’t yes, really remember what a “good” push-up watch like, however I know everything I’m law isn’t it. We’re an alleged to store going for two minutes, however 30 secs in, mine ass is arched for this reason high my human body looks favor an Egyptian pyramid.

The real BUD/S screening check requires, amongst many other destructive things, a minimum of 50 push-ups in these 2 minutes, a target I miss out on by multiples of multiples. ~ a 15-minute run through the woods, it’s time because that the day’s first maritime exploit. For most armed forces units, water is an obstacle. But to SEALs, water is home. The very first SEALs battled in the canals of Vietnam, a couple of years after chairman Kennedy created the unit. They wore pantyhose beneath your camo to ward off leeches and also painted their faces swamp green, their amphibious stealth therefore fearsome that the Vietcong told ghost story of the “devils with green faces.”

Our task is a long swim. Two lengths the a wide-open lake. Likely nothing much more than a brisk paddle to real SEALs, who learn exactly how to glide prefer a fish v a “combat sidestroke” that have the right to keep them alive over miles-long littoral treks. I’m no fish—flailing and also gulping water, my eight weak indigenous the push-ups.

On the various other hand, I’m no the kid onshore wiping breakfast off his chin.

Proud that my puke won’t it is in the an initial to fight Facebook, ns follow our instructors on an additional run with the woods. The lake felt good, cooled me down. I begin to think that perhaps this won’t it is in so bad after all. Till we prevent suddenly and I check out it because that the first time. The mud.

And there’s Shipley, was standing on the other side of the putrid pool, ready for a ring of Hide the Trainee.


“We favor the suck,” says Shipley, explaining what urges SEALs to crawl v mud. “We don’t like it when it’s happening, however we prefer it after ~ the fact. Several of the insane stuff that we do, job on end, in the desert—what you yes, really remember is how poor things were and the males that you shared it with.”

Shipley invested his childhood hunting and trapping on his family’s Pennsylvania livestock farm. When he was 16, his father, a fighter pilot rotate airline captain, relocated the family members near Easton. Shipley felt that didn’t right in there. Through his parents’ permission, the quit institution to join the Navy. “Next thing, ns was gaining tattooed in Hong Kong in ~ 17.”


After 32 months at sea, he transferred back to the States and landed on one of the very first Navy ships with women aboard, which is wherein he met Diane. Shipley eventually uncovered himself stationed in Coronado, California, whereby he got his an initial glimpse that the SEALs at your West coastline headquarters. “I remember questioning somebody, ‘Who are those guys?’ ” that says. “At the point, there to be no publications written around SEALs, over there weren’t any movies. Friend heard crazy stories and also hushed shit around it. But I just thought it looked cool.”

As a SEAL, Shipley went to postwar Bosnia to transport people wanted for war crimes to Geneva for trial. He aided guard the us Embassy in Liberia after it was assaulted by gunmen. In 1996, a mechanical explosion brought about a massive fire on a vendor marine vessel near West Africa. Shipley rappelled the end of a helicopter come rescue the burn ship’s stranded crew. That’s how he won his heroism medal.

“We to be the only option,” that says. “Eight of united state went onboard in the flippin’ middle of a typhoon and also stayed with ’em because that 18 hours. Evacuated as countless as us could, cleared out the dead, make the efforts to keep the ship afloat. It to be a actual mess. Coolest thing I ever did.”

By comparison, life after ~ the SEALs deserve to seem a letdown. Numerous retirees finish up in a boardroom, drafted by a business world attractive to their cachet. No Shipley. He want to remain in the suck. After ~ retiring in 2003, he worked for Blackwater in Pakistan and also Afghanistan. Climate he started his boot camp, recreating the rarefied world he loved so much.

Hunting under phonies was at first just another method to maintain that world. Then it became entertainment, too. At one point, Shipley says, some Spike television executives preferred the To capture a Predator element of his collection and approached him v a deal. However they pulled the plug prior to the pilot come together.

Shipley claims it would be difficult for fact TV come woo the again. “They gotta at least have as lot balls together I perform or I’m just not even remotely interested,” that says. “And castle don’t.” yet watch that on camera—the way he roll his eyes because that the audience together a phony prattles on, the sudden cutaways to his BS-ing through Diane—and you deserve to see just how much that relishes the act.

For now, Shipley is professionalizing the display himself through a brand-new content site. Because that $10 a month, you deserve to surf networks such together Ask Don and Diane Shit and also watch a slicker variation of “Phony marine SEAL that the Week.” The backdrop is no much longer Shipley’s living room. He states the phonies captured on to his MO and hung up when they well-known his voice or caller ID. So instead of speakerphone, Shipley now confronts his targets in person, cameramen in tow.


It’s not prefer you dunk your head in the mud once during Hide the Trainee and also you’re done. Shipley has actually us “hide” again and again. Mine sneakers are clogged v slime, making the butterfly kicks they pressure us to do all the more taxing. Every time i surface, i shoot brown snot from my nose and spit out muck that tastes like sour milk. That is the genuine suck.

“To endure Hell Week, a trainee needs to do 2 things,” retired SEAL prick Couch wrote in The Warrior Elite, “take the punishment gift dished out, and get past thinking about the penalty to come.” This translates into a SEAL mantra: simply make it come the next meal.

In my case, that method forgetting it’s just 10 am. Or that the obstacle course is up next. Forget around how much it damages to hurl medication balls and sprint across a sun-cooked ar wearing a mini-parachute for wind resistance and also a 20-pound weight vest just because.

Just think about chow time. Hope it’s not hot dogs.

Shipley started extreme SEAL experience in 2006, expecting to cater only to marine candidates. He was surprised as soon as his very first class contained a middle-aged southern African carpet maker. Older guys, foreign guys, world who had actually no on purpose of actually joining up. Vietnam vets have passed through, as have three pastors and a male who was almost blind. Females aren’t enabled to be SEALs, yet one go come through Shipley’s camp—a fellow YouTube personality.

More than 350 world attend each summer. Some return—a member that my course was ~ above his fourth tour. But every year, one or two drop out. They’re regularly the young guys, the ones who thrived up playing speak to of Duty and picturing combat-action ribbons in their future. “The dream is dead,” Shipley remembers one telling him. The summer, among the instructors to be a SEAL whose bicep was ruined by an AK-47 ring in Iraq. Aspiring SEALs check out that, Shipley says, and also “realize this isn’t a video clip game.”

He’s proud of his low dropout rate but wants the lower. There space no instructors screaming in your challenge at excessive SEAL Experience, no malicious will to the drills. “I gained guys f—ing comes from Brussels, from China,” Shipley speak me. “To have actually that male fail? and go all the means back to China?”

During the afternoon, we obtain lessons in prisoner handling, clearing a room, and also knife fighting (SEALs have actually been recognized to carry tomahawks for hand-to-hand combat). Reasonably easy stuff. That is, till I hear Shipley shout, “Log PT!”

Log PT (the PT is brief for “physical training”) is one more SEAL tradition, appropriated native WWII-era british commandos who exercised with call poles. It’s about teamwork, each man draining self to bring his component of the weight. SEALs contact it the the next you’ll obtain to see God.

We need to lift a log onto our best shoulder, then under the left. Caterpillar one between our legs. Absent another throughout a ar as we race on our asses to the various other side. Every team rotates logs, dreading the short, fat specimen called Ol’ Misery the weighs 350 pounds. “Come on, you know you want to offer it up!,” ns hear in ~ one suggest when mine team is fighting to save the log above our top the longest.

Win one challenge and you obtain to sit one more out. It’s a common motivating tactic in SEAL training, wherein the saying is “It payment to it is in a winner.” come me, the seems like the rich acquiring richer. While my elbows room quaking under the load of Ol’ Misery, an additional team relaxes, no doubt regaining stamin to victory the next challenge, too.


Before 9/11, there were only around 1,500 active-duty SEALs, according to Couch’s book. Because of the require for more bodies in Iraq and also Afghanistan, today’s pressure is an ext like 2,500, compared with 326,000 all at once in the Navy. The elite unit is still extremely small, in various other words.

But once SEALs make the news for a heroic mission favor the bin Laden raid or a SEAL-penned memoir like American Sniper becomes a bestseller, the posers come the end of the woodwork. 2 years ago, Shipley’s verification requests began coming in so quick that he began charging $20 a pop.

“I’m certain there to be phonies who declared to it is in the sole survivor that Thermopylae,” Shipley says. “Guys that claimed service at Gettysburg, valley Forge. However they can only job it under a couple of barstools in ~ the village pub. Currently with the internet, you deserve to be anyone you want to be.”

According to Shipley, there space phonies that lie to scare their girlfriends into staying in abusive relationships. “I deal with a the majority of women who room terrified of this guys,” he tells me. The average poser is simply out for sex, totally free drinks in ~ the regional bar, or just a nice ego stroke.

“People look at for part deep-seated reason why they do this,” claims Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran and also fellow fake-soldier hunter. “But ns go earlier to the old comment around asking a bank robber why the robs banks. ’Cause that’s wherein the money is.”

In 1998, Sterner started compiling a publicly database the Medal of respect winners. Prior to long, civilization called come ask why who wasn’t listed. It should be since he’s lying about winning the medal, Sterner would reply. His database because that commemorating heroes soon came to be one for exposing charlatans.

For years, you can pose together a vet with tiny fear of punishment. Sterner and also his wife aided fix that. She started a lobbying press for a federal law, and in 2006 President shrub signed the steal Valor Act, which criminalized lying about military records. The FBI go after a range of offenders—the Louisiana man who allegedly claimed to have a violet Heart in bespeak to obtain a unique license plate, the Virginia county commissioner found guilty the lying come receive disability benefits.

But in 2012, the can be fried Court struck under the law, calling the lies protected totally free speech. The adhering to year, conference passed a watered-down steal Valor Act that made the illegal to fake details credentials, however only if done because that tangible benefit. Sterner to trust the law is weak, and also enforcing that is not a high priority. (When ns asked an FBI representative how numerous Stolen Valor instances it has actually worked, ns was said the number “are not readily available.”)

That means the only sanction some fakers will face is Shipley’s vigilante justice. Many will likely proceed to obtain away through it. That’s since for the typical citizen who tries to verify someone’s army service, the process isn’t specifically straightforward. Ns know because I chose to revolve the tables and also look increase Don Shipley myself.

The instructions i either found or got—from the nationwide Archives and, later, the marine Personnel Command—were both dense and also conflicting. One fax i was told come send vanished right into the bureaucratic ether. Frustrated, I referred to as the Navy push liaison (yes, ns realize this is cheating a small bit), who stated I should write to its flexibility of information Act office, also though that’s no advertised as the optimal route. I waited practically three mainly for greatly redacted documents confirming Shipley’s military service to arrive. (He was undoubtedly a SEAL.)

When Shipley does it, he has an advantage: the SEAL database. Would-be SEALs might think they can hide behind the unit’s code of silence and the share nature the its work, but because Shipley has decades’ precious of names and BUD/S course numbers—18,000 and counting—he can take down a phony nearly instantly.

How walk Shipley store tabs ~ above each new cohort of SEALs? He claims a network of other phony-hunters—mostly former SEALs—feeds the updates with each brand-new class: “A many of human being find this hard to believe, the there’s a perform of this guys, because it appears so secretive, yet that’s bullshit—there are records kept, and we have ways to access them.” (The marine SEALs push office doesn’t comment on the action of its previous members.)

Shipley likes to allude out the his an approach is endorsed by the marine brass. A few years back, he acquired a call from a mrs looking come vet her boyfriend’s purported SEAL credentials. She’d been referred to him by her boss, a high-ranking admiral. “Instead of putting her v the red tape,” he speak me, “he stated to ‘call Shipley to hook friend up.’ ”


By 2100 hours, night has actually fallen on basic camp and it’s time to walk on a mission. We’re going to infiltrate a building. The an initial team will use its brand-new prisoner-handling an abilities to record a high-value target. Mine will plant a pretend bomb. (Just together well, since during the prisoner-handling lesson, ns was much more likely to uncover myself being handled.)

We smear paint on ours faces and also strap on fake an equipment guns. Shipley explains that the mission calls for us to go off-property, an initial in small Zodiac boats, then on land. Need to we conference a policeman, that warns, tell him you’re through Don Shipley. And take her hands off your weapon.

“Also, when you’re in the boat, watch out for drunk f—ing catfishermen,” the says. “You’re pull on in camo top top a black watercraft in the dark, and they will plow right right into you.”

The “fake” mission is suddenly feeling alarmingly real.

We launch our Zodiacs right into the night and also start paddling under a boggy stretch that the Northwest flow in silence. Because that all we know, there are hostiles lurking somewhere in the quiet deep, instructor Shipley planted come sabotage us.

The extreme conditioning us did all day has drained us. The point now is to check our abilities also in this deteriorated state. ~ docking the boats, we proceed on foot right into a forest. No a glimpse that moonlight penetrates the treetops. No trail, either—just thickets of tangled branches the we have actually no selection but to press through. Ns can’t see 6 inches in former of me, and it seems choose miles prior to we rendezvous v the various other team. I start to fantasize the if we finish on time, we’ll obtain to take the rest of the night easy. Yet even in mine delirium, I understand that’s unlikely.

Suddenly, it’s go time. We breach the building’s gate. I hear someone yell, “Bang!”

The very first team moves inside to obtain their man, when mine dashes come the perimeter to plant the bomb. Us meet back outside, and also the target window closes v minutes come spare. Mission accomplished.

Of course, the night isn’t over. It’s past midnight, and also the temperature is falling fast. Perfect problems (to our instructors) for a emboldened in the pool. But this time, the objective isn’t come swim—it’s to sink. We must tie ourselves up at the wrists and also ankles, drop down to the bottom, and also figure out exactly how to come earlier up.

The rationale: Say your elbow or knee is shooting off—you still gotta know exactly how to get to the surface. SEALs call it “drown-proofing.”


This past Memorial Day, a 75-year-old retired naval named Robert Ford walked v a festival in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He had actually just attended a wreath-laying ceremony and also was attract his old uniform. Together he shopped for presents for his granddaughter, a police officer and also a soldier approached.

They inquiry Ford because that specifics around his service, implying they didn’t believe he was a veteran. “Stolen Valor! This man is a fake!” the soldier shouted, follow to the local paper. A tv crew appeared.

The accusers had actually been drawn to Ford’s belt, i m sorry they claimed looked too ornate for the uniform. However Ford really was a Marine. “I was humiliated,” the told the newspaper.

Shipley tells me he’s never made that kind of novice mistake. “Like, what’s your f—ing problem, man?” the says.

Yet the net is full of amateur stolen Valor videos. Instead of Shipley’s sleek film, these display camera-phone footage of harassment and threats. World are shoved and also slapped. It’s hard to call what’s walking on. Once Shipley short articles a video, he says, he never ever contacts the phony again. Rather don’t follow that very same code. “Some guys, there’s such a bloodlust,” that says. “They hide behind a screen and also harangue families, their mothers.”

You might expect a man like Shipley to act aggressive when confronting phonies, however he keeps it how amazing cool. There’s tiny swearing, only the occasional threat, and he has actually a rule to not compose in every caps. “What space doing is bad,” the says. “Don’t make united state look negative undoing them.”

Still, the instance can obtain out of his control. In September 2012, one of Shipley’s targets was Ike Densmore the California. Densmore asserted an illustrious military history, including three violet Hearts. Once he established an instructor as one “Master Sergeant Andrew Smith,” Shipley referred to as him out. The marine doesn’t have master sergeants.

More 보다 150,000 human being watched that episode. A California TV terminal picked increase the story. 2 months later, Densmore was discovered dead top top a remote beach through a self-inflicted shotgun wound. “I still feel funny around it,” Shipley says. “I feel strange. It’s certainly a setback when something prefer that happens, men taking matters right into their own hands . . . .” he trails off.

Lately, Shipley speak me, the work has actually become much more taxing. He and Diane tho laugh and also banter in the clips, make the efforts to uncover humor in your depressing pursuit. “But we’re both overweight, us drink as well much, our blood pressure’s up,” he sighs. Wading with lie after ~ lie take away its toll: “You gain so wrapped up in these guys, you have a difficult time avoiding to walk to bed at night.”


It’s after ~ 2 am as soon as we leaving the pool and board a bus we thought was going back to Shipley’s. One by one, the student drift right into a careful sleep, the very first rest we’ve had all day.

Until the brakes squeal to a stop and also someone yells, “Everybody out!”

Another swampy lake in front of us.

And ns was practically dry.

It’s here that us make our last stand that Hell Night. We swim the lake from finish to end, acceleration to land, do more exercises, run earlier into the water. Then anywhere again, an unlimited cycle of soggy exhaustion.

The “dicks in the mud” instructor from earlier fires a frigid hose at us as we perform push-ups on hard gravel. We perform squats against a fence, trying no to be the an initial ones to fall—they get more push-ups, an ext frigid hose.

“I could’ve been on a beach in Thailand right now,” Marc Hines groans as we press our backs versus the fence. “My boy wanted to come right here for vacation instead.” he nods to his 19-year-old kid, Jake, who’s on the various other side of me goading his dad into falling first.

Finally, us line increase in formation encountering the lake. I have the right to tell this is it—we’re virtually done. Then Shipley calls my name, tells me to step out and also face the group.

He order me to lead the last exercise: push-ups. The same method the day started.

We drop come the ground, and I begin to yell out the count. I have the right to barely host myself up. My elbow feel prefer crumbling fossils. Yet as i count, i hear my fellow students call earlier in unison. Their echo quiets the pain, energizes me, and also although I deserve to barely gulp a breath by the end, I lastly howl the end the last push-up.

That’s it. Hell Night is over. And also I didn’t also puke.

The watercrafts we took previously are waiting at the water’s edge, ready to sail together the sun begins to rise. First, Shipley walks the line one critical time, shakes ours hands, congratulates united state one by one. We might be phonies, however we’re the genuine kind.

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Staff writer Michael J. Gaynor deserve to be got to at [email protected]