The biggest lessons I got from my week of training with Navy SEAL Jack Walston include: Be motivated, Work as a Team, Don’t be a victim. Here’s a little insight behind Jack’s own pearls of wisdom.
After one grueling morning PT session last week, I had a chance to speak with Instructor Jack Walston and really got a feel for this former Navy SEAL as a military man and family man.
Having grown up in a military family, Walston lived in Germany until he was 8-years-old. His father was career-military having started in the Army Air Corps during WWII as a bombadere in a B-25, then flew fast movers in Korea and continued to serve in Vietnam.
This background, in part, Walston attributes to his unwavering confidence that he was going to make it through his BUDs and SEAL training. But what about now, I asked, would you make it again if you had to go through it now?
“Yay, I could make it. But would I want to do it again? No. I am too old for that stuff at this point.”
The father of a 16-, 15-, 11- and 6-year-old twins, says he has been lucky to not have been seriously injured during his time of service or training, and that since then, he has been able to stay in peak physical condition.
Is that what it takes to make it — being in great shape and really athletic?
“We had pro athletes — track athletes, boxers, body builders, swimmers … in general, accomplished athletes, but they didn’t make it. So it doesn’t always have to do with athletic talent because in these cases they didn’t have a comfort level to deal with being wet and sandy all the time, or performing at peak levels and being fueled only by basic Navy chow — greasy and fried food.
A lot of these guys were use to performing on protein shakes and all-this and that. When they were allowed to, they all were putting blenders in their rooms — blending this, shaking that — but it didn’t make a difference — it is all mental.”
Who made it? Was there any pattern?
You have to be able to climatize, so if you had to live in this area (pointing to a shady gully in Central Park along the west side) after a day you should be used to it.
So it’s about being able to handle being outside, being dirty and handle duress — which is executing a task while being harrassed.
But, I guess it was a lot of cool and laid back people — some surfers, a farm kid from Wyomming, a couple city kids, one from Long Island.
And, what about the ones who didn’t make it, what were the telling signs?
Even a new instructor can pick them out — first, it’s those who come up from the water and have to clear their mouths from the water. Then, its those who have to wipe the face or eyes. And the third, real quick sign is seeing those who — for no apparent reason at all — have to take off their goggles or face mask, and adjust it. Those the instructor will immediately identify and start giving them a hard time until they drop.
So, it’s really for their own good, then?
Well, not really. It’s for the good of the team because those guys are never the ones who get killed, but they are always the ones who gets someone else killed.
What about those in your SEAL PT Course, can you tell who are the ones that aren’t going to make it?
You can tell who is not giving it everything … it is pretty easy to spot. But it is kinda true in real life, those are the same people who, at work, do a 35 percent job and walk around passing it off like it was done at 110 percent. This isn’t some kind of fun bootcamp … this is work and it is not easy. If it was just another fluffy, disguised bootcamp, we would have been out of business and packed up shop a long time ago.
One of the hardest things for people to get in these courses is teamwork — this is not an “I, I, Me, Me” kind of course. Now this class came together really nicely, and I don’t know what it is about New York, but it takes half the time to get the class working as a team than it does in Texas. It’s not a difference in demographics or intelligence, maybe it’s the pace that everyone has in New York, or that they’re used to being surrounded by people and crammed in, I don’t know. But it’s interesting.
You served for nearly nine years, so what does it means to troops, especially those wounded, to get something like a BBQ from Cooking with the Troops?
It means everything … any time you get a grasped hand, it means a lot. The support for troops now is getting a lot better than what it was before … because when those guys came back from Vietnam they had nothing.
So now, it is good to see the effort that people are making — so that the troops have the support that they need home or deployed. So whether it’s a BBQ or a simple thank you, it makes difference. And, all it takes is one person to make a difference.
Jack Walston spoke to the SEAL PT Class 25 at the start of the course about not being a victim, so I asked him for a couple suggestions on how people can make sure they can keep themselves safe.
How to not be a victim:
1. Be aware of your surroundings: It just takes a minute to step back and look around: Look for what’s moving, what’s not moving, who’s doing what.
2. Know your outs: If you see a threatening situation, know how you can get around or where you could get trapped, and then move accordingly. Example: A fence row that would pigeon hole you, versus an area that looks like it opens up to a busy street.
3. Carry a knife: Keep it on your hip, concealed, I would even let the guy grab me and let me him think he has me, but I really have the advantage, so with my (left) hand covering my face, (with the attacker from behind with arms around the shoulders and neck), I’m getting my knife out and with my right hand, am free to stab him in the thigh or the bladder — and then get away from there as fast as possible. But the bladder is a good place to aim because a bladder wound is extremely painful and they are not going to get up from that.
What’s the Take-Away?
Don’t have a victim mentality.
What struck me as interesting is that despite his training and experience, Jack takes nothing for granted, saying that “all it takes is one surprise hit and I am on the ground”.
So instead of strolling around like an untouchable hardcore Navy SEAL — certainly bragging rights he has earned — Jack walks the streets of New York as quiet tourist and goes about his hometown like the typical soccer-dad next door.
But on his left wrist is a subtle clue that he is always ready — a braided and slip-knot length of ripcord — “just in case, you never know when you might need it or for what” he explained, “and I made one for all the kids”.
Jack Walston is the founder and principal instructor of the Original Navy SEAL PT Course based out of Houston, Texas. He graduated as SEAL Class 180 and went onto SEAL Team 4, and also was part of the reactivated Force Recon SEAL Team in 1986, the first since 1975.