This November, on what is undoubtedly going to be a lovely fall day in always-sunny San Diego, California, the latest class of students in the Navy’s SEAL Qualification Training (SQT) program will graduate and become full-fledged Navy SEALs. They will have started their Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training over a year ago, and among countless other challenges and trials, they will have weathered Hell Week, Pool Competency, and San Clemente Island on the way to completing that milestone course.
Next, they will have started SQT, the advanced SEAL training that follows BUD/S. There, they will have survived static line and free fall jump school, Survival/Evasion/Resistance/Escape (SERE) training, and “combatives,” among many other blocs of advanced training. They will also have weathered all of it during a global pandemic, to boot. It is a feat, to be sure, and I know they are hugely relieved to be through with it all, and ecstatic to be receiving their SEAL Tridents (warfare pins), and their first assignments to a SEAL command.
Included in that soon-to-be-graduating SQT class is one Navy SEAL who is the fifth member of his family to have completed the training: The first cousin of this author. I do not know this for sure, but I believe we now hold the record for the most Navy SEALs (5) from one family.
My Dad’s second cousin, with whom he shares a last name and a great-grandfather, was the first of our family to go through BUD/S, and the first to successfully complete it. My Dad went through next and also made it. Then, one of my Dad’s two brothers went through and also made it. I was the fourth to attempt it, starting some 14 years after my uncle and almost 30 years after my Dad. I went through and made it, too. Finally, roughly 20 years after I made it through, my first cousin (the son of my Dad’s other brother) went through and made it. That is where we stand now, as of this writing.
Five have attempted it, and five have made it. All of us share the same last name, and all of us share a great-great-grandfather. All of us also share the great honor of earning and wearing a SEAL Trident. I am proud of all of them, and especially proud of my cousin, who carried a lot of weight on his shoulders in the form of 50 years of family tradition and expectations. Talk about pressure. He appears to have excelled, though, and we are all excited for him to start his own adventure in the SEAL Teams.
Though things have changed for both better and worse over the last 50 years in the SEAL community, one thing has stayed true: The road to get there is never easy, and once you make it into the community, the myriad challenges never really let up. I salute all of those past and present who have taken up that challenge, and all of those future SEALs who will do so. Especially, I salute the newest SEAL in the family. Hoo yah, cousin.