Many people have asked me: What is BUD/s like? How hard is it? Is it really that hard? Let me try to answer some of those questions and then, more importantly, give you some perspective on how to deal with hard.
“Endless Jumping Jacks"
0400, Day 1
Dark, 52 Degrees, 6mph wind
First Exercise - 4 Count Jumping Jacks
Reps - 1000+
What is a 4 count Jumping Jack? Well, it is basically the Navy’s way of taking your two reps of an exercise and making it into one.
It’s military count/formation base exercise. The starting position is standing with arms at your side. Position 1 is the jack or X position. Position 2 is jumping back into the starting, Position 3 is the same as the 1st position, Position 4 is the standing position. Also on Position 4, you will call out the number of reps.
In BUD/s, and in grinder PT, the exercise leader will stand in front of everyone to begin the exercise. Everyone is following along with him visually as well as audibly. The Exercise leader is calling out a cadence to keep everyone on the same pace. So as he calls out “One, Two, Three!” You are in those positions as he is saying the numbers. Then, where he would have yelled “four!” For position 4, Instead, the entire class will yell back “One!” Counting the reps. It sounds more complicated in description than it actually is. Everyone really just falls into place. The best way to never lose count of your reps is to have over 100 people calling out the rep count after every exercise.
1300, Day 3
Sunny, 68 Degrees
Log PT (Physical Training) is an Evolution in BUD/s where a 6 man (sometimes 5) crew picks up a log and performs the exercise as instructed. Log PT usually lasts from 90 minutes to two hours. Your most basic exercise is 8 counts, a variation of picking the log up and setting it down. Other exercises include just holding the log over your head for extended periods of time, Doing Lunges while holding the log at chest height, coordinated throwing of the log over your head, lying on your back and doing situps with the log, lying on your back and holding the log out like a bench press, and many others.
Well on this particular day, LOG PT was going to be as simple as possible. The instructors plan for us in this evolution was to pick up the logs and start lunging. We didn’t lunge in place, we lunged all the way down demo pit road and back. Demo pit road is a soft sand path on the beach that is about 1.25 miles long. So we lunged, one step at a time while curling the log at our chest, for approximately 2.5 miles.
Overnight Land Navigation
“Brazilian Mud Pit”
2100, Day 141
Dark, 61 degrees, 4mph wind
This evolution, “Brazilian Mud Pit,” may sound like some expensive spa treatment. I can assure you it was not. Sometimes pain in BUD/s is planned, like the first two I evolutions I described. Other times, it is earned. On this particular occasion, students had been caught cheating on a particularly hard land navigation course. They (We) were using the roads instead of navigating through/over terrain. So this “pain” was not on the schedule, it was earned.
The class was down to about 45 students at this point. We had all been recalled back to base due to “cheating” and some injuries. We knew the instructors were extremely unhappy with us. They had us all line up with our squads, and stand in formation. Then, we waited while they attended to some injuries for about an hour. They know how the anxiety gets when students know a beat down is coming. It just builds and builds until the point where you want to vomit.
Once we began, they instructed us to de blouse and remove our t-shirts as well. Then grab a 5-gallon jug of water. They had us sit on the ground in a large/mob circle as tight as we could. We held the 5-gallon jugs over our head for about 10 minutes as they berated us and let us know how we earned this extra pain. Then they had us open the jug and turn it upside down over our heads as we sat there. Do you know how long it takes a 5-gallon jug to empty when it's just pouring out the little hole for the water cooler machines? A lot longer than you would think.
We were then told to roll around and turn all that water into a giant mud pit. Which we did. We churned up a pretty deep pit. Now that we were covered in mud and tiny little rocks we were told to put our t-shirt and blouse back on. And then grab our rucks for a ruck march.
This ruck march was just as painful as any other ruck march, with one added bonus. Every step you took your pack would move on your back. When the pack moved, it was scratching and scraping all the mud and tiny little rocks into your back. (The next day my back looked like someone went to town with 200 grit sandpaper.) After we marched for a while, we bear crawled with our rucks for a long time. Then we did push-ups, buddy carries and all sorts of other BUD/s “fun” with our rucks on. I remember being out for a few hours. It’s tough to judge the time at night. All we could see was the truck lights ahead of us and the truck lights behind us casting long shadows through the group with the instructors beside you giving orders through a bull horn.
I would guess we made it back to camp around 0200. This had been a particularly nasty beat down session. When we finally made it back to camp though it wasn’t over. They had us gather the rest of the remaining 5-gallon jugs and get back into a tight group in the mud pit. We poured out the rest of the water and made some more mud. We then got a final verbal assault, and we were told that we would sleep here tonight, in the mud pit. The instructors formed up all the empty 5-gallon jugs around the edge of the mud as a barrier. We knew they were serious. As soon as the instructors walked away and went back to their tent we did actually try to shut our eyes. It didn’t matter though, an instructor came out about every 20 minutes and woke us up with a bullhorn. This went on until sunrise.
Icing on the cake: we had to pull out our shaves kit the next morning and attempt to shave our muddy faces with the remaining water from our canteens or off the ground. I’ll never forget the look of shaving cream mixed with mud on all the men's faces.
Yes, those were some painful exercises. Let me give you a little perspective on that training to convey the message of a very “easy” lesson. I will truly never forget the time, early on in BUD/s when one of the instructors said this: “BUD/s is easy! Just show up, listen up and put out. If you think this is hard, just wait until you get to a SEAL team. In the unlikely event you make it through training, no one there will be telling you what to do.”
Was BUD/s easy? Not by any stretch of the imagination. But his point was valid. None of the evolutions I described were easy. They were actually some of the most awful ones I remember, but there was no struggle for what to do or when or how to do it. All of those things were given to us. We simply had to do the work. And that made it “easier.”
What's the point: I’m not telling you to restructure your life in a way where everything but doing the work is already figured out for you. What I am trying to give you is a thought on how to breakdown the challenges you face. Are you struggling to do the work or are you lost? What’s hard about what you’re facing?
Often times people would tell you they are lost when, metaphorically speaking, they are not lost, they’re just 30 miles from the nearest road.
Make plans, do the work.
“Show up, listen up, put out"