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THE EPITOME OF THE NAVY SEAL BUD/S INSTRUCTOR: CLASS 234’S TERRY PATSTONE

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The other day, my Dad sent me and my cousin a link to a YouTube video of SEAL BUD/S Instructor, Terry Patstone.

My cousin recently completed Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training, and we all three (plus, my uncle) had been waxing nostalgic about our own various BUD/S experiences at a family get together to celebrate the cousin’s graduation. The YouTube video was a follow-on to that reminiscing session and featured a 14-minute compilation of clips from the year 2000 Discovery Channel series, “Navy SEALs: BUD/S Class 234,” about the eponymous BUD/S class running at that time.

The compiled clips all featured Navy SEAL — and at the time, BUD/S Instructor — Terry Patstone, and holy cow, did it bring me back twenty years to my own BUD/S experience. Instructor Patstone, also featured in the opening credits of the movie “Lone Survivor,” was one of my BUD/S instructors when I went through in late 1999-early 2000, just prior to class 234 forming up. I remember Patstone well, and the video brought back a flood of BUD/S memories.

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I have always told people when they ask me about BUD/S that television documentaries can never really capture the pain, discomfort, physical and mental struggle, and just plain “suck factor” of BUD/S. This compilation, and the series itself, probably comes closest to depicting it accurately, in that the viewer is able to experience the way BUD/S instructors tortured the students, even if it was dialed down when the cameras were rolling (and it was).

Patstone in the short video sums up the mental attitude of a successful BUD/S student pretty well when he tells one student, “Winning here is a conscious decision.” He stressed that they had to want to be there, to be a part of the team, and when they weren’t carrying their weight, he let them know: “You’re sad. You’re weak,” he bellows to one student. To another, an officer struggling through a run, he says dryly, “Sir, if you feel you need to fall down, fall down directly on your face.” He then rubs sand in the wound by blaring Latin music at the trainee as he brings up the rear on the class run. 

seal instructor

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Patstone is the epitome of the classic BUD/S instructor, from his bushy black mustache, to his dry wit, to his savage anger when the class is not performing up to the exacting standards of the instructor cadre. As the old saying goes, he is straight out of central casting. He clearly sees himself as a gatekeeper to the community, and ferociously guards access through his role as an instructor in the selection program. He tells one boat crew struggling to do log PT, and clearly feeling sorry for themselves (as we all did!), “I don’t like this little defeatist attitude you’ve developed. We see that attitude and it just makes us want to crush you.”

seal instructor

And crush them he does, though with the trademark sadistic humor SEAL instructors are famous for employing. During log PT, he tells the students with mock sympathy, “I realize this exercise will tire your shoulders,” before then proclaiming, without missing a beat, “So we will work on something else: squats.” He then leads them through a set of squats with the log on their shoulders.

In other words, Patstone is merciless, driven, focused on passing only those worthy of joining his community, and relentless in making sure all others fall to the wayside. Enjoy the clip and the small taste of BUD/S it provides.

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Frumentarius

Frumentarius is a former Navy SEAL, former CIA officer, and currently a battalion chief in a career fire department in the Midwest.