Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My Word is My Bond: the SEAL Creed

Guest Blogger: Tom Rancich

from Joe G: Here’s a question about SEALs. Hi, Commander – I have always wanted to know something about the SEAL community that is really none of my business (as noted weeks ago, I wasn’t even a Boy Scout), but I am a person who has been inspired beyond words by people such as you and your buddies. Years ago, I became friends with a man who was a POW in Vietnam for seven years. I did some volunteer work for him and I guess he took a liking to my wife and me. He was released in 1973 and eventually retired as an admiral, and is still alive and well, although elderly – he was in his 40s in prison. We remain friends in a long-distance sort of way, writing Christmas greetings – that sort of thing.

Do you guys all know this sort of person and his story, to the extent that you might even be able to guess who I’m talking about? I think of the SEALs as separate from the Navy, for obvious reasons, even though I know they are part of the Navy. You, Alden Mills, and people of your ilk have inspired millions of men around the world, in case you haven’t been told in the past 24 hours. This particular fellow basically changed my whole outlook on life. I hate name dropping, so I’ll withhold the name. The question is, do young SEALs still hold these people in high esteem, or do you think Vietnam was so long ago that they are mostly forgotten?

Answer: Yes we hold them in high esteem. Following is the SEAL Creed—please note the last lines “Brave men have fought and died building the proud tradition and feared reputation that I am bound to uphold. In the worst of conditions, the legacy of my teammates steadies my resolve and silently guides my every deed. I will not fail.”

The creed was designed as a constant reminder to SEALs that it is not about glory—it is not about being pretty—it is hard nasty work that makes you exactly no different than any other SEAL. When my class finished Hellweek---which feels pretty darn good, one of the instructors said—Congratulations—you have now done the same thing every other SEAL has already done. Get over yourselves.”

There are two reunions—one east one west---each year and the generations are well represented back to WWII---everyone gets along and everyone respects the specific sacrifices of the other—we are, after all, the same: brothers. (The man I know that fits that description is Admiral Stockdale—a fabulous man!)

The SEAL Creed:

“In times of war or uncertainty there is a special breed of warrior ready to answer our Nation’s call. A common man with uncommon desire to succeed. Forged by adversity, he stands alongside America’s finest special operations forces to serve his country, the American people, and protect their way of life. I am that man.

My Trident is a symbol of honor and heritage. Bestowed upon me by the heroes that have gone before, it embodies the trust of those I have sworn to protect. By wearing the Trident I accept the responsibility of my chosen profession and way of life. It is a privilege that I must earn every day.

My loyalty to Country and Team is beyond reproach. I humbly serve as a guardian to my fellow Americans always ready to defend those who are unable to defend themselves. I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions. I voluntarily accept the inherent hazards of my profession, placing the welfare and security of others before my own.

I serve with honor on and off the battlefield. The ability to control my emotions and my actions, regardless of circumstance, sets me apart from other men .Uncompromising integrity is my standard. My character and honor are steadfast. My word is my bond.

We expect to lead and be led. In the absence of orders I will take charge, lead my teammates and accomplish the mission. I lead by example in all situations.
I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.

We demand discipline. We expect innovation. The lives of my teammates and the success of our mission depend on me - my technical skill, tactical proficiency, and attention to detail. My training is never complete.

We train for war and fight to win. I stand ready to bring the full spectrum of combat power to bear in order to achieve my mission and the goals established by my country. The execution of my duties will be swift and violent when required yet guided by the very principles that I serve to defend.

Brave men have fought and died building the proud tradition and feared reputation that I am bound to uphold. In the worst of conditions, the legacy of my teammates steadies my resolve and silently guides my every deed. I will not fail.”
Lt. Commander Thomas Rancich, US Navy SEAL (Ret.) is the co-founder of VRHabilis, a disabled veteran-owned small business that seeks to employ the highly trained and motivated veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for work in construction and related fields. Rancich and co-founder Elliott Adler are pioneering the concept of using adaptive technology to bridge the gap between industrial and medical technology. Their company contributes proceeds to two worthy causes: a fund for the development of adaptive technology that will allow disabled veterans to pursue their desired career path and the EOD Wounded Warrior Fund.

Through his consulting firm, Off-Shore Consulting, Tom provides professional advice on leadership and team building, often as a motivational speaker, in addition to being an expert consultant to the entertainment industry.

Alden Mills and Charlie Mike blogger Tom Rancich served together in the Teams.


Joe G. said...

That's pretty scary. You almost hit the nail on the head, and I don't even know you! Hey, if you're a friend of Alden Mills' you're a friend of mine. Wait - I don't know him either! You guys are freaking superhuman. Okay, I exaggerate. You guys are pretty dang smart. Very dang smart. Here is an e-mail excerpt I sent to a bunch of buddies when I heard Stockdale had passed away. This seems like it was about a year ago. In fact, he died 7/5/05 - it is stunning how times flies.

My family calls me artsy. Here is the e-mail excerpt. The song I wrote sucks, by the way. Sorry, just the facts. Like my poetry, I guess.


Stockdale died yesterday, and sailors are not the only ones grieving. The Navy's chief of naval operations referred to him as "a giant among heroes." He should know. Stockdale was one of the Alcatraz Eleven.

Alcatraz was the name coined for the cell block in Hanoi whose rooms were 47 inches square with "a raised pallet area the length of a man's body," as described by Jeremiah Denton in his memoir. Stockdale and ten others--among them Mr. Denton--were leaders who had been singled out for special treatment by the North Vietnamese in Hanoi's prison system. It was one of many mistakes that the North would make with regard to American POWs shot down and ferried to Hanoi. By refusing to cooperate and frustrating the efforts of their interrogators, the Navy flyers and Air Force pilots won a moral battle which the song says, in effect, "won a war." As the ranking Naval officer in the Hoa Lo prison complex (dubbed The Hanoi Hilton in the gallows humor of the inmates), though he was not even allowed to speak, Stockdale led the American resistance.

With great effect. Silently. From 1965 until 1973. Eight years.

Stockdale was brilliant then and during his long career as a teacher, until a few years ago when Alzheimer's began to sap his extraordinary intellectual capacity.

The public may remember him for his unpolished political skills. "Who am I? Why am I here?" he asked rhetorically in his opening remarks during the 1992 vice presidential debate. What T.V. viewers failed to grasp was that Stockdale had become a Stoic philosopher in his capacity as a teaching fellow at the Hoover Institution. He lectured on Stoic philosophy. He was a professor at Stanford University and was respected by warrior and pacifist alike.

Stockdale had learned stoicism of necessity if ever a man learned any philosophy. "Morose" was the word he used to describe his state of mind before he made a calculated attempt to commit suicide alone in his cell in Hanoi. He was utterly hopeless, fainting in his own blood before being discovered and revived. His autobiography is not recommended reading for the faint of heart, but his Medal of Honor citation understates it well, reading that he "deliberately inflicted a near-mortal wound to his person" to permanently prevent his captors from extracting information from him.

(I ended by writing, "Pray for Sybil Stockdale...," his wife.)

Joe G. said...

Tom, the son of one the guys in "Alcatraz" got an e-mail from me about a year ago, when for the first time I saw the Navy SEAL creed. I wanted him to see it. He was as impressed as I was. A lot of this stuff has been hidden from the public for decades. Things like Operation Red Wing bring it to the fore, naturally.

God bless you.

Anonymous said...

"The creed was designed as a constant reminder to SEALs that it is not about glory—it is not about being pretty..."

No one has ever seen a Navy SEAL who wasn't hot looking. Nice try.

Lisa A said...

Great blog Tom, the SEAL Creed is awesome. It's awe ~ inspiring to know men willing live that creed. I'm THANKFUL to all those who have worn, and do wear the Trident !

J. R. Wilson Sr's Weblog said...

Laughing - I'm a SEAL - I'm NOT hot looking...nor would Stockdale think of himself that way...