Xander Orozco – Part 1
The ultimate soldier interview… Having served with the SEALs and now working as a security contractor, Xander Orozco, kindly took the time to sit down and share some insights with me, over a few casual beers.
To begin with could you tell us a little about your background, who you are and how you got involved in the military?
Ah, let’s see.. Santa Rosa. I spent about ten years, nine months and seven days in the military. Not that I was counting. Started out regular Navy.
What age were you when you started?
’97. So, twenty. Yeah, I was twenty when I started. Joined in 1997. Ended up first tour going to Sicily. I was a security policeman, I guess. So an MP.
That was on a Navy base?
Yeah. A naval base overseas. Europe. … And then ah, God, let’s see… got back, changed rates to corpsman and then went to Parris Island for a year and a half. Part of the Marine Corps, MCRD, Parris Island. So that’s their recruit depot.
For SEAL training?
For Marine Corps. It’s a Marine Corps boot camp there.
And then after that you went into SEAL’s?
Yeah. I went to class 243. And then ah, I got past it in one shot, without having to get rolled back for injuries.
Oh, you can keep trying out as many times as you want?
Ahhh, kind of. If you quit and they like you, you can come back. If you get injured and they like you, you can come back. Like I originally quit in class two-eighteen. And ah, I got permission to come back. And then I went to the fleet, did time there. They said that they weren’t shorthanded for corpsman, so I got sent to Parris Island for a year and a half and then they sent me back to BUD/S. But I mean, I had to fight for it the whole fucking time.
Why did you quit the first time? It was just too hard?
Nah, I was just young. Young and unready for it. I know now that mentally I just didn’t have… didn’t have the attitude back then. Had the work ethic, I just didn’t have the ah, I don’t know… missing something.
Do they help with training of the mind?
No. You really can’t. Like anything you do, you gotta find yourself. Naw’ what I mean? It’s like, how do you train someone for that? They’ve done the study. They have no idea what the precursors are.
So you just try to get through the kind of torture?
Nah, not torture. Everyone sees it as different ways. And everyone has their moments where you know, there’s something that’s gonna kick their ass.
Is there a kind of camaraderie between the guys when you’re doing it, or is it more of a case off saying ‘I hope you fail so that it makes me look better’?
No, no no. There’s camaraderie. I mean, there’s certain people that you need to make sure go away. And they go away.
There’s not a limited number of spots open?
No, no. I mean, if everyone was good enough to get through, and everyone was a good person. Good enough to get through, and they’re smart and they’re able to do it… then everyone would get through.
And you were telling me recently about dumping the boats out of the back of an airplane and diving out after them?
Yeah. That’s in the SEAL Teams. BUDS/ just… I hated every fucking minute of that school. (Laughing).
And then once you pass that training, you begin the team stuff?
Yeah. You go to advance training. And then educational, and medical training. And then you go to your team.
Are those optional, or do you choose what you want to do?
No, no. So like, I’m a corpsman. Which is a naval medic. I had to go. That’s part of my training pipeline to get to the team. To go through advanced training.
And do they train you in other things, like demolitions, sniper school, kind of everything?
Umm… schools are… you put in for schools, and then you may get it. They’ll be like… you get done with a deployment and you get back and they’ll be like, “Hey, ah, here’s a bunch of schools. Put in for all of them, or as many as you want”, and then they come back and be like, “Okay, you can’t do this one because of this, but you can do this one because of this and you can do that one ’cause of this…”. So you’ve got these two schools. Out of the five schools you put in for you get these two. Or you may get three. Depending if they are short schools or whatever. And you know, they may go, “Well, we’ve decided for your career right now because you are in the zone for this or this, that you probably need these three schools…”, which you probably don’t want to go to, but you need! (Laughing).
And do they then match everyone up so that they have a team full of different skills?
Generally when they run through the platoon they try to make it so that there’s a certain number of snipers, a certain number of breachers, comms guys. And there has to be two medics.
Did you enjoy any of those particular schools?
I liked demolition. Well, demolitions you learn at ordinary demolitions school. And then any demolitions you do after that is like… you do demolitions after that. You know how to do charges, you know how to do all that stuff. And then there are speciality demolition schools that you can go to. I didn’t go to those… those guys can build the charges way better than I can, but I can still build a charge. And I know how charges work. And I know how to shape and tamper stuff. But I’m not as good as say a dedicated engineer from the SF (Special Forces) community. Special forces, like green beret guys. Their engineer will kick my ass in demolitions. But I still know how to do demolitions if I need to.
What about stuff like parachuting and that kind of thing? That’s all part of the training?
Yeah, that’s part of it. Part of any SOF (Special Operations Forces) community.
With all your gear on, right?
Yeah, sometimes. Sometimes you ‘Hollywood it’. Usually jumping into the ocean, maybe you have your weapon on you.
Then just swim over to the boat?
Yeah, just put everything in the boat. If the boat’s ‘chute doesn’t open you’re not following it down. It’s your gear goodbye, but…
Can you parachute into the boat?
(Laughing). I wouldn’t want to! I mean, I guess you could.
It’s just too hard?
Yeah. Well, I guess technically, if you were really stupid, you could try to chase it and get to it. A lead guy, on a stick (static line parachute jump), if he really chased it. If he was really on its ass when he first got out… He could probably catch it. But…
Everyone else is a couple of hundred meters away?
If you’re a lead guy on a stick, and you’re really pulling into it, ’cause… you want to stay away from it because there’s a dead zone above a parachute, where you just completely lose all air pressure. So, if you get above another guys parachute you’ll actually drop. And dropping into someone elses parachute is bad! (Laughing). So you get caught in risers. Or there’s a technique where you gotta walk out of it. Cycle your way off the ‘chute. So you generally…. one of those G-20’s, which is the giant cargo ‘chute… Yeah, don’t even contemplate getting on top of that. (Laughing).
That’s the one that carries the boat?
Yeah. Those cargo ‘chutes will carry everything. They’re just general cargo ‘chutes. They’ll carry anything. I mean, you could drop a conex (a shipping container) out of a plane with that thing. I mean they’re fucking huge. But yeh, if you tried to chase a boat you’d just fuck yourself up. (Laughing). I guess it would be funny watching a guy get destroyed!
So once you’re ready, they just deploy you? When you joined had Afghanistan already started?
When I joined the teams, yeah. Afghanistan was on, Iraq was on. Yeah, everyone goes and works up and does their stuff. You’re on a points schedule, so you know when you’re going. Unless you’re injured and someone else gets to go.
How did you feel going into your first war scenario?
It was exciting.
Yeah? Any fear?
Ughh, more than fear I would say it was anxiousness. You never know how you’re gonna react. Are you gonna suck at it? Am I a coward? Am I a hero? You know, in your mind it can be like, “oh, I’m gonna do this…”, but…
Did you perform well yourself, do you think? Were you happy about the way things went?
Yeah, I was happy about points. I was happy the way things went, I guess. I don’t know. Hard to say.
You didn’t find yourself freezing or anything like that?
No, no. But then again, never really got pressed either. It’s kind of one of those things, you know?
The situation wasn’t especially hairy, you mean?
Well! It’s one of those things. The situation is always hairy. Because, you don’t know… I never got pushed. We never got in any internal gunfights in houses. Nothing insane happened. I guess that was because luck was on our side. That’s the best way to put it. We were worried, but we always had that little bit of luck that prevented us from getting completely fucked up.
It must be so intense to go from training to actual war?
Actually, I would almost say that war was more of a break.
Really? Why so?
Well, like I said, I was lucky. Lucky in as far as there was no really like close range gunfights opening up with a machine gun in a house to house clearing or anything. So, I was probably… there’s probably more dangerous things happening in war. I was probably in more palpably dangerous situations in training. You know? Like, where you’re like… you can definitely… how can I put it… there’s situations where you are more aware that you are in way more danger in training. But then, like I said, there’s teams out there that have been in non-stop combat for six months. I’m pretty sure they’ll come back with a completely different opinion, “war sucked! I was in constant danger. The training was actually relaxing!”. You know, we’ve taken a lot of casualties in training too. People have been shot. They get unlucky. Things happen.
What kind of stuff were you doing in Afghanistan?
I never was in Afghanistan (with US military), I was in Iraq.
Oh right. And over there it was clearing through villages, or monitoring roads or…
Yeah… ah, it’s… direct action missions. Kicking down doors. Training foreign troops.
Kind of counter terrorism stuff? Looking for people?
Yeah, it almost felt more like law enforcement stuff in a way. I mean you kick down doors, and then you’re doing evidence collection and get them prosecuted in the Iraqi “law system”.
Were you working with the Iraqis as well?
On my second tour, yeah. In fact, both tours yeah. Training and fighting with them. Second tour, I was leading them.
What’s it like to train and have to fight with them when they have lesser skills and experience?
Like I said, once again, we never really got in a gunfight with them, so I don’t know how they were at firing (laughing). I mean, they were good guys, I liked them, I have no complaints. But I think also… my second tour had a very intelligent unit. Almost every single one of us had university training, soldier training. Like they were training under Saddam’s regime and those were actual professional soldiers, so I had a lot of professionalism that maybe other units lacked. So as far as upkeep of uniforms, how they maintain their equipment, if they can shoot… so, I was the ground assault commander, lead trainer and logistics guy for them.
Did you get to experience civilian life there too, from an Iraqi point of view? Is there anything you think was noticeable about life there that people don’t realise here?
Oh, it’s completely different cultures. I’d have to say, Iraq for the most part is more secular. And more fully retarded. Yeah it’s just… (deep breath) yeah I experienced that fucking place.
Is it very much people living in the mountains and huts? That’s always the type of imagery we’re shown, at least in regard to Afghanistan.
I mean, they’ve got some modern cities… well, modern could be Kabul (Laughing). And then you’ve got Kandahar further south. But it’s kind of like… I don’t know. If I brought say a physics professor and he explained… let’s come up with something stupid simple. Let’s say that he explained that we had an astrological exploration and he came in and explained that the moon was very far away and that we landed someone on it in 1969. And they would turn to the most educated guy in their village, and he might just be a guy who reads. And he would go, “oh no, it’s too small to be landed on”. And they’re going, “he say’s it’s too small, you must be wrong”. Just idiots! I mean, there’s a few good ones. There’s always exceptions to the rule. But it’s just like… just the breadth of ignorance in that place.
Here’s a funny one from Africa, you’ll love this. Some Green Berets, they were down in Congo. This was stars ‘n stripes. They were training Congolese forces, or special forces, I can’t remember which. They had to bring in sexual health counselors, because they couldn’t get them to understand that rape was not something you should be doing. That’s the kind of stuff you gotta deal with sometimes when you’re training foreign troops. I haven’t had something that extreme, but just the absolute hilarity, I’m trying to imagine that. The conversation. You know like,
“Alright, we’ve taken the objective, now we’re securing it. What do we do?…. “Yes, Sergeant?”
“Round up the women and rape them?”
“No. We’re going to make sure we get a resupply and dig in positions.”
“Oh, okay. Then we rape them?”
“No… Yes, Lieutenant?”
“When are we doing the rape then?”
You know, can you imagine? Just, “Arrgghhh”. I don’t know if it’s cultural or if it’s just been part of their warfare for so long. But yeah, you get stuff like that. Like,
“Eh yeah, you know, you don’t have to beat a prisoner…”
“How else do you get information from them?”
“Talking to them!”
“No seriously, how else do you get the information from them?”
“You talk to them”.
“Nah, nah really, stop fucking with me”.
And how about life in general in the military, what are the good and bad points? Is the bad side the kind of regimental stuff?
Some of the regimentation I understand. Some people take a fucking giant. SOF is not as bad but you still get those naval idiots who think they want to be marines. Any SOF unit, it’s like, “how did you make it this far up?”. I think a lot of the problems dealing with the military is the lack of social skills among the higher ups. Just kind of… yelling is your first thing? Yelling at some poor schmuck kid. This is just general military. You get some schmuck who has his hands in his pockets and that’s the first thing you do? Start yelling? Or, you know, jumping on people, instead of treating them like adults. Like six year old kids. And I’m like…
Does it get better the longer you’re there?
I guess you get higher up so you get to do the yelling eventually I guess. (Laughing). That’s one thing I liked about the Navy though, and granted I have a small piece of the pie from the Navy… Obviously there is a major piece I was not involved in. But when I was in the regular Navy… the two commands I was in… if you did your job and you were very dependable, you know, and you kinda just kept yourself within military standards… I mean, you can push it, but as long as you are within it, you did your job, you are dependable, you don’t have to be asked to do something twice, you know, you got things done, this and that and this, they generally let you slack more on the reg. So… and then of course, if you are an idiot, like fucking up all the time, they tighten up the regs on you. The two commands I was a part of were very much like took into account how the individual was acting. If you kept your nose to the grindstone and very much did your job they were like, “Ok, his hair is a little long, but so what. He does his job. He does this and that and this”. But, those might have just been my individual commands…
So then you moved from Navy to private security?
Ah, yeah. I do independent security contractor work now.
Is that a common thing for people to do? Leave the Navy after a few years…
Ahhh, it’s more common these days I guess, but I mean, you’ve got to remember man, independent security contract work, it runs the gamut. It can be anything from like… guarding a gate… You know, “I’m guarding a gate in an internal compound”, to training foreign military. I mean it’s like, I could be wearing a suit and talking to people every day about security concerns, giving a brief. It’s like…
Can you generally choose your own choice of contracts?
It depends on your qualifications. Because of my background, I have a very wide range of stuff I can do. People always have this image in their minds that it’s a bunch of guys shooting guns wearing sunglasses. Whereas it could be just you sitting in a tie, talking to someone, like in a corporation that hired you, going “Well, here’s the problem you’re having. The reason that’s happening is because of this and that and this. You actually need to install this and do this and that”. So, like I said… or it could be just some guy trained to run a piece of tech. You know, like they trained you on the black box widget. Now someone wants that widget, and you happen to be the guy that trained on that widget. Someone will go, they want someone for a month contract on that widget and someone will go and call you. You’ll be training them on the widget. (Laughing). I mean, it’s this huge industry. But it runs this huge gamut that’s kinda the misconception of the industry. And in some cases it could be stateside. It could be guarding a guy, technically guarding a celebrity. It could be a personal hire. Or it could be a contractor.
From your own point of view, do you try to choose ones out in the field? It seems like you like the action… that the reason you first got into this area was because you were bored of university… do you choose the more exciting type of contracts?
I basically choose my based on pay. Pay and what you’re doing. So, if I’m getting paid this (holds out hand at even level) much and I’m doing this (holds out hand at even level)… and it evens out in my opinion, then I’ll go for it. If it’s like I need to do this (holds hand high) and it pays this (holds hand low), then it’s like mehhhhh. And then same with this… I get stateside and I don’t get offered say as much money as Afghanistan… you know, I’d probably have to get offered a little bit more money to go to Europe, but not quite as much as to go to Iraq or Afghanistan. As far as I’m concerned I have a certain pay scale for each one. I have a certain thing I will do for a certain thing. And it’s just internal monitoring. “Do I feel it’s worth the price I’m being offered?”. If it is, then I go. If not, then it’s no hard feelings on either side. I’m not sweating it.
And as a private contractor do you have much more leniency in terms of how to look and behave and all that kind of thing?
Depends on the job. Like I said, if you’re wearing a suit and tie you gotta at least look presentable. If you’ve got a beard, have a well trimmed beard. And then like some of them, I’ve been in ones where you’re living in a shithole without plumbing, so who the fuck cares (laughing). You know, you’ve got a big beard and long hair, whatever dude, you know? I’ve barely got time to get my clothes clean, you know? I’m washing my clothes in a basin, so… Generally I found that a lot of it is common sense. Comport yourself as a general adult then generally people will be fine. But yeah, way more lenient than the military. If you want to have a beer, do this and and that, go ahead. If you want to stay clean shaven, do this and that, go ahead and wear it. You know, what kind of kit do you want. If your job involves kit, then what kind of kit do you want to wear? Generally you can wear whatever kind of kit you need to. There’s usually a minimum requirement of gear that you have to carry. However you carry it is up to you. And a lot of it is self-policing. You can get a good rep, you can get a bad rep.
And in regards to the political side of things, do you ever think about the purpose and meaning of war. Like going to Iraq, whether you agreer with it or don’t agree with it?
I don’t care really.
It’s kinda not worth thinking about?
Pretty much. Well it’s not your decision to make (laughing).
You just kind of subscribe to whatever the Government says?
Well yeah, you’re already there. You’re going to combat. And anyways, we all want to go to combat. I figure it’s someone else’s job to make sure it’s right or wrong. It’s not mine. At least when you’re in it, it’s not your decision to make.
And a question we touched on a few days ago was about the developments of wars and how it’s changing. Nowadays it seems to be JSOC missions and a ton of drone stuff. Do you think wars are moving that kind of way, to be more technologically based than human based?
I’d say it’s more counterinsurgency warfare. I’m pretty sure traditional warfare it’s still gonna happen a lot. The technology supplements the infantry. It’s getting better. But at the end of the day you are still going to need infantrymen to occupy a position. You’re still going to need some guy to go down, to get deep into enemy territory and watch them. And to intercept supply lines, and power. You still need someone there, on the ground with a comm, to sit there and point out, “yeah, that’s where the tanks are”. You know, so… there’s a… yeah there is kinda that huge disconnect people think that technology is going to replace the person eventually but…
Right. The whole idea of just bombs and drones…
Right. But, it’s not gonna work, because you can interdict with their power but you can’t really stop. At the end of the day you need somebody to actually physically occupy that position. That’s conventional warfare. Conventional warfare always will be positional warfare. So you need someone to occupy that position. Unless you want to drop bombs on them twenty-four hours a day, and that gets expensive real fast. And it might not even be working, so… Like I said, with the technology of the Javelin Missile (computerized antitank weapon) and all that stuff, it gives infantrymen the firepower but at the end of the day, I guess what I was saying the other day… if you are lucky the technology for an infantryman helps you with your application of firepower. If you have the technology and you can apply that technology to the firepower of a position and it complements… it gives you as a unit more power per man, then yeah it’s good technology. As far as counter-terrorism, I guess it could be more of tech done in that. But then on the other hand you’re still like, there’s still human factors involved in those launches.
I guess it’s a little similar with how Osama Bin Laden was killed, that Obama had the option of dropping a 2000 pound bomb on the house, or send in the SEALS or Delta or whoever, right?
Ah, I don’t know. I never read the options on it. But probably, I don’t doubt it. There was probably the hellfire option, dropping a two-thousand pound bomb, JDAMs… Yeah, at the end of the day you want that proof. You know, it’s like in the movies. If the bad guy gets buried under the building, nobody’s going to come back for the sequel (laughing). Same thing with that. You want the proof at the end of the day.
I was going to ask you about the weapons you’re familiar with too, and if there are any you particularly enjoyed learning to use? Did you like the demolitions stuff, or did you get to fire any of the Javelin type stuff?
No, strangely enough I’ve never fired a Javelin. I guess I like firing the recoilless rifles. I like firing ’em, I hate being the A-gunner for ’em. Being an A-gunner sucks (laughing).
Is that the one on top of the truck?
No, no. Recoilless rifles are more portable. So like, you don’t just run around with them, but you go to the firing range. It’s fun being the guy shooting it, ’cause you’re so concentrated on the shot. But if you’re the A-gunner, the guy loading the weapon, making sure the backspace is clear, it hurts like a son-of-a… you can actually feel it… the concussion, you can feel it in your kidneys. You’re just like, “BAM’ and “ughhhhh, fucckkkk”. (Laughing). “Ahhh, clear!… “DUUUUBBBBHHH”…. “arrrggghhhh”… “I hate life”.
And when you were working in Iraq were you working with other foreign troops too?
I wasn’t. Some people did. I mean there were foreign troops there. I never had an opportunity. I had an opportunity with the marines every once in a while. I also worked a couple of times with army units. But never really in areas where the foreign troops were.
And in regard to your medical training, some of that sounds very cool. That you are proficient to a very high level and can do quite extreme things in the field?
Yeah. It’s excellent training. I think it’s some of the best medical training for the time invested. Like I said, I had a strong medical background from the Navy. I can’t image, some of my buddies were studying four hours a night, I don’t know how they didn’t burn out by the end of the course.
Because they are coming in without any original medical training?
Some don’t. A lot of the corpsman come in with medical backgrounds, but you can be doing something that you weren’t doing very much of. I got lucky with a great background, with MCRD. So, medical background helped me immensely. So I know the anatomy, disease processes, all that kind of stuff. I had a huge advantage in terms of, physiology, disease processes, how things worked… so, a huge advantage over other people. Like, yeah, you have people who…I can’t imagine… “Okay, this is how an eye works, intimately”… “What? What’s an eye? I don’t get eyes”.
And the training covers everything? Full body anatomy?
Yeah. Everything from nervous systems, lymphatic systems… it’s pretty crazy, but it’s funny. On one side it’s like, “Wow, a guy came in with no medical background and passed this course”, it’s like, hats off to him. Yeah, it’s impressive when you see a guy do that.
That’s kind of related to what I was going to ask about medals and the way they are awarded too. For example, say you have a situation where a plan is dictated that you don’t agree with strategically, do you think that kind of pushes people to get past the mistake as they see it, and try even harder to make sure you get out safe? One, that it tests you more, and two that when you are in that zone that you have to do something outside of yourself to receive medal status.
I guess you just do your job, it’s more of that thing. It’s one of those things, like I was saying… in the planning stages, especially in the SOF community there’s some room for debate a lot of times. You know, the planning. But once you’re actually in the field you’re just… how are you going to argue? You know, the only time you really argue is when like,
“Wowwww”, (laughing), “Did you see the machine gun on that building?”.
You know, that might be a time where it’s like, “Hey man, in case you didn’t notice, there’s a lot of firepower, there’s a machine gun right there!”. But yeah, basically if you’re not fighting fighting I don’t think there’s a lot of room for debate. You know, you gotta make the calls made. They’re making the best call they can make in that moment, so… You know, you can’t argue ’cause it’s one of those things. If everyone stopped and argued like,
“Oh, attack that hill”
“No, no, no. Let’s stop and talk about this plan”
You know? Nothin’ would get done (laughing). You know, I know infantry! (laughing).
Do you think that people are very proud of their medals or it is more like, well I was just doing my job?
I’d say there’s about three sides of that. There’s the guys who are proud. And I’m not going to knock anyone on this, I’m just saying it’s more dealt to the personality types. Not saying one’s worse or better than the other. There’s the type that are probably proud. Most of them are probably quietly proud, proud of their medals, you know. And then you have the type who, yeah, probably just doesn’t care. You know, like I said, these are different personality types. And then you have a few, like you’ll see career medals, which are medals handed out for someone’s career. Unfortunately that does happen. And it may be a legit thing, you know? Like, someone legitimately got something and it enhances their career, great, you know. They probably deserved it. Awesome. And then those ones once in a while… just some ridiculous ones sometimes. The army’s really good at that.
Is that because of politics?
Yeah, politics, careerism. Like I said, that does happen. So, whatta ya do? You just kinda go, “meh” (laughing). Shrug your shoulders and carry on with your life. And you’ll see it all along the line. Yeah, I don’t know, I guess it’s kind of a touchy one. Just read something like the The Duffle Blog. They make fun of it all the time.
And when you have guys who have different medals for this and that, do you feel like their are different levels within the teams? Do you prefer to have certain guys on your team as opposed to other less accomplished guys?
Yeah, you know, there’s always yeah, certain guys who are going to be all-stars. Certain guys are going to always be your solid utility players. And certain guys who you are going to be like, “Whyyyy?”.
What do you think makes the great guys? Or, what is it that other SEAL’s like about them?
Competence. If you’re competent and you work hard at your job. It means a lot. I don’t think there’s any one distinguishing factor that really makes a good SEAL. I don’t think they even know the psychological profile… I mean, there’s probably a basic psyc profile, but, you know… The profession runs from everything, like guys who come from broken families to guys who were millionaires. So, there’s no one deciding factor in that profession, which tells ya whether someone is going to be good at what they do or not.
You’ve got to prove yourself?
Well, prove yourself over time. It’s a reputation. Reputations have to be built. Now, you can destroy a reputation overnight. But yeah, reputations have to be built one brick at a time. You can’t just come in one day and they’ll be like, “Oh, that guy’s great!”. You really have to… you gotta earn it. It’s one of those strange things. You never know who’s gonna be a good one. Some guy could have all the right things in order but they’re just terrible at it. And it’s not a knock to them as a human being. As a human being they may be a wonderful person, but they just suck as a SEAL.
And in regards to general media, is there general consensus among the military about guys who become more high profile? Guys from let’s say, I know he is British but, Andy McNabb, or guys like Chris Kyle, the sniper guy. Both got a lot of media attention. Unfortunately Kyle was killed but they both became quite well known in the media.
I would say good on ’em. They converted their career quite nicely. You’ve gotta remember too, even with the “glut” of SEALs coming out it’s still a small percentage of the actual SEALs.
I was wondering if it was more like that you shouldn’t celebrate your work too much and that kind of thing?
Yeah, it probably comes down to personality. Like I said, it’s one of those things man…. it probably just comes down to personality. Some are more bombastic, or charming, or able to do that kind of stuff. Others are… As far as guys like me, I’m just like, “hey, whatever, you made money off it, good on ya”. As long as you’re not giving out the small stuff. You’re not giving away what guy’s tell you, you know, I don’t pretty much care.
Has there been any time when you personally took a big risk, or felt like you were in a situation where you had to do something when you were concerned about the risk? How do you manage that kind of thing?
Ah well, you’re whole job is pretty much risk! It’s basically as much mitigation of risk as possible and then deal with it. I mean, I hate being in a helicopter over the ocean. But, sometimes you’ve got to be in a helicopter over the ocean! You’ll just be looked down at the ocean the whole time going, “Moth-er-fucker. I really don’t want to have to swim out of this thing”. (Laughing). So you know, stuff like that. But that’s the risk you have to take. Sometimes you gotta get someplace. Like I was joking around the other night, every time I jump out of an airplane over the ocean you look down and you’re like, “Okay, are there any sharks down there?”. You know, because you’re expecting the shark to be looking up, like a baseball player (motions a baseball player re-positioning to catch a ball from the air into his mitt). You know, you’re maneuvering your ‘chute away from him… and he’s like, “I got it, I got it”. You know, it’s not gonna happen, but that’s what always went through my mind. “Alright, I don’t see anything below me, phew!”. (Laughing). It’s funny the certain little things that do bug ya. That bugs me. Other things don’t that but other people. I don’t mind punching through a twelve-foot surf with a pair of fins on, but… so yeah, it’s funny.
And you were telling me about how sometimes you may need to smash down a door. But they (the enemy) might have two or three enforced doors out front, but around the back it’s just a little wooden door.
Yeah, you get some of those. Sometimes you get a massive front door and a wooden door in the back, and you’re like, “Really?” (laughing).
Is that a kind of case where you realize it later, then always check it the next times?
Yeah basically. You start going, “Huh!”. Then you start checking that stuff. There is that one. You start learning that after a while. “Oh hey, the back door might be really easy for some stupid strange reason”. Really impressive front door, really bad back door. That’s not all the time, but every once in a while you just get that like… (makes a dumb face impersonation). It makes no sense from a home security standpoint (laughing).
They’re just relying on you not thinking about it.
Yeah, they’re relying on habit. Habit is we go in the front door, but we don’t really have to!
And in regard to veterans, lifelong military guys, do you think there’s enough being done to take care of them when they leave the military, or even PTSD guys, and all that side of military?
Right. I’d say there’s a good amount. The retirement’s not bad. I mean, I’m under VA care right now, with injuries. Other than my private physician, I would have to say that the care from them has been pretty top notch so far. But, you’ve gotta remember, the system’s flooded with fakers. You know, stolen valor people. And only now are they actually starting to get to the actual numbers involved. I think when they did the survey, the last census or something, I think it’s like there are three-point-some-odd people claiming they were in Vietnam, but during the whole war only something like one-point-some-odd were actually in the whole country. You know what I’m saying? And they never used to call people out on it. Really people didn’t know the extent of it. Now there’s websites (stolen valor websites) like the one I turned you on to, the Youtube Don Shipley one, there’s Scottie’s stolen valor site, there’s a lot of blogs and sites now that go through calling people out. They do the FOI’s, the freedom of information acts, on the records. They actually check up on their claims. Some ridiculous claims. Some of them are easy to check up on. There’s a database of POW’s. So if someone claims they’re a prisoner of war you can check them up on a database. A lot of them (the claims) are medals of honor. There’s a medal of honor database that you can check them off. So, when someone makes those claims, and I hate to say it, I don’t trust ex’ers any more. You have to question each other hard ’cause so many people lie. The statistics state that there are about three hundred fake SEALs for every real one. There’s only about ten thousand active-duty retired SEALs anymore, still alive. Less than ten thousand. Actually sitting around, like me to active duty. Ten thousand, probably less. Your odds of being one of us is like…
Is it usually random dudes, or people trying to embellish their own records?
Usually random dudes. Though there are different categories. There’s the dude who was in the army, navy, air force, whatever, who maybe didn’t have a distinguished career but pretends he had a distinguished career. Otherwise it was honorable. Then you get the guy who dropped out in basic. A less than honorable discharge, or did some kind of crime. And the ones who really weird me out are the guys who lie when they have no reason to lie. I mean, technically the other guy doesn’t have any reason to lie either, but… You get guys who I guess want to feel braver, they missed out or something… but you get those guys who… like, they hauled a guy up for pretending… he was an ex-marine… this is one of the weirder stories… I think he was claiming medal of honor, he was claiming something crazy. They called him out on it and they were all expecting it’s going to be an idiot who didn’t do anything, right? Turns out he was a comms guy, might have actually been eligible for it (the medal of honor) because of a letter that got sent up by the core back then. The nineteenth core or whatever it was running the Vietnam paperwork. They actually authorized a letter for comms to get the combat action ribbon even though actually they shouldn’t, like they usually don’t. But then on top of that he had a legitimate silver star for jumping on top of a grenade. You know, he could have died. He went into the middle of his team during an ambush. He jumped on top of it to save everyone else. And you’re just like, “You’re a legitimate bad-ass motherfucker, why are you pretending the other stuff? There’s no reason to pretend the other stuff!”. So those are the ones that annoy me. I can’t get mad at those guys. You just kinda go, “Why?”. There’s another one who was a ranger, pretending he was POW. And he too had a legitimate silver star for being a bad-ass motherfucker, like, “Why man? Why?”. Those ones are the strangest. The other ones make kinda sense. You know, you get a guy who’s never done anything and just kind of whatever, you want to feel brave. Or that SEAL stuff, you’re probably trying to pick up on some girl in a bar, (puts on a purposely cheesy pick up voice) “Hey babe I’m a Navy SEAL, you should totally hook up with me”, (laughing). I don’t like those people! I will punch them in the face. But I get that too, you know?
And a final question, from your career so far in this area, has it given you any particular philosophy on life, or outlook or life lessons etc?
“Don’t hate me ’cause I’m awesome”, (laughing). I don’t know. I guess the only thing over the years I’ve pretty much learned, one of the lessons I’ve taken away is that I’m going to die at some point, just please God don’t let me die like an idiot. I don’t want to be that guy. “You almost pulled ‘a Xander'” (laughing). My name becomes a lexicon like that, ugh!
Great! Thanks a lot! Anything else you would like to add?
Eh… Don’t hate me ’cause I’m awesome. Hopefully I don’t die like an idiot. And hey Carin (Bondar), call me (laughing).
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