Of the 1.4 million people in the armed forces, only 2,800 of them are Navy SEALS (acronym for “sea, air, and land”). That’s 1/5th of one percent. They are one of the most elite fighting forces in the world. However, less than 20% of those who attempt to become a SEAL ever succeed. To even try you must pass a physical screening test which requires you to swim 500 yards in ten minutes or less, perform seventy-nine push-ups in two minutes or less, and eleven pull-ups. You have to be able to run 1.5 miles in at least 10:20 minutes, and that’s while wearing boots and trousers.
Some may think: well, that’s not too difficult. I could work up to that. However, the reality is that this level of physical fitness will not be enough. Because once you get into the initial training, you’re going to be doing far more than this every day.
Can you knock out 500 push-ups in a day, along with a four mile run, hours of paddling out in a six-man raft into a ten foot wave that tumbles you again and again into chilling waters, hefting your share of a 160 pound log over your head until you can barely lift your arms, and running an obstacle course with obstacles three-stories high. You’ll do a lot of this while covered with sand, your thighs and armpits chafing. On some days you’ll have to swim a few miles in a cold sea. And then you’ve got to get up and do it all again the next day. No wimpy hour-long workouts on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with rest days in between. Heck, on the third week, you’ll get only about four hours of sleep over four days.
Can you do it?
Maybe you can. But before you try, or assure yourself that you could have if you’d only had the chance, let me suggest you watch Discovery Channel’s Navy SEALS BUDS Class 234 to witness what it takes to become the best of the best. It’s a fascinating three-DVD set, just over five hours of programming, that follows class 234 through the initial six-month SEAL training called BUDS (basic underwater demolition/SEALS). You’ll see 114 men start the six-month course and only 17 finish it. In fact, less than thirty make it past the first three weeks, which include the most grueling and punishing training I’ve ever seen. Those initial weeks are designed specifically to weed out all but the most committed and able.
The Discovery Channel does a great job with this six-part series. And it’s not just for guys. It only took about three minutes for each of my daughters to get hooked as well. And why wouldn’t they? It’s as fascinating as any American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance. In fact, in many ways it’s far more interesting. Heck, it was so good I think I’m going to watch it again. You can get it on Amazon, rent if from Netflix, or check it out from the Logan library.
For more info on the SEALS, let me recommend you start with these two sites: http://www.seal.navy.mil/seal/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Navy_SEALs
My high school age daughters took the ACT last year and got good scores. But we wanted to make sure that they had excellent scores. High enough to put them in the upper levels of those applying to their desired universities. But how would we prepare them?
Back in the olden days when I was preparing to get my Masters of accounting degree, I knew I’d need some help to get a score on the GMAT that would be competitive. I looked at a number of study guides and ended up choosing the Princeton Review guide for the GMAT. I studied hard, got a great score, and became a believer. The guide made everything so easy. More importantly, everything the guide prepared me for was on the test. This is why, when I wanted to get a Masters of fine arts in creative writing, I used the Princeton Review for the GRE. Again, the study guide was easy to follow, and I got an equally good score on that test. Having had two great experiences, it’s no surprise I turned to Princeton Review again to help my two girls with their test. (BTW, some may see an attempt to get more than one graduate degree as smart, others as masochistic, and yet others as simple ivory tower bone-headery—I’ll let you decide which it might be in this case.)
The Princeton Review guide for the ACT is called Cracking the ACT. A new edition is published every year and includes general ACT test-taking tips, everything you need to know in the specific content areas, and practice tests. It also includes access to the Princeton Review’s online resources which include another practice test. It’s a big guide (this year’s edition was 619 pages), but the size is deceptive. There’s plenty of white space for taking notes, and the text is written so clearly, and everything broken down in such an easy manner to follow, that you’ll start only to suddenly realize you’ve just read thirty pages. Besides, you don’t have to study it all. You can focus on specific content areas, if that’s all you want to do.
This spring, both daughters worked through the book. We looked at their previous scores, identified areas for improvement, and set up a six-week schedule that required them to study about an hour per day, sometimes with help from Mom or Dad, but mostly on their own. One daughter studied hard, took the test in June, and improved her score by five points. The other daughter studied a little less diligently, took the same test, and improved her score by four points.
When 36 is the highest possible score, such jumps become significant. However, they’re not the result of special DNA. While I tend to think my girls are everything and a bag of chips (especially when they give me back scratches), the truth is the ACT doesn’t test some mumbo-jumbo innate intelligence. It tests skills. Skills anyone can learn. What my girls supplied was consistent effort. All they needed was expert guidance in how to apply the effort. And Cracking the ACT provides boatloads of that.
If you’re looking to improve your own score or help your children improve theirs, get this book. I have no doubt that anyone who supplies a bit of effort will be able see some nice results.
Imagine emerald pools, steep red canyons, and a gentle breeze. Imagine water so clear you can see the plants and rocks sixteen feet down on the bottom. Imagine trout swimming only feet away. Imagine swimming with those trout and then getting back into your raft to ride some rapids. Imagine picnicking a the water’s edge or atop a flat, shaded rock forty feet up that gives you a grand view of the river. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll see an osprey dive for a fish or watch a pair of river otters swim by. Imagine doing this with family or friends, all in a short twenty-four hour period.
This experience is only about three hours away from Laketown, Utah. Well, everything except the swimming with the trout bit. The fish don’t really swim with you. They mostly just flee, but you get the idea. To enjoy it, all you need to do is raft the seven mile stretch of the Green River from the Flaming Gorge dam down to the Little Hole campground.
My family and I just did this with some friends and had a grand time. Because the river is relatively slow and the rapids are relatively moderate and short, parents don’t have to worry every second that someone is going to fall in and drown in a man-eating surge. In fact, along many of the calm areas we actively helped the children into the sparkling cold water (grin), including one rafter who was only three years old. One of the most enjoyable moments was when we pulled the rafts up into the gentle backwash of a large rock in the middle of the river, climbed the rock, and took turns jumping into the current and letting it carry us downstream.
The sun was shining, the weather warm. It was a wonderful trip. A total memory-maker. We put in just before noon and hauled the raft out just before 6 PM. But we could have taken much longer to play along the way.
The experience was fairly cheap. It cost about $70 to rent an eight-man raft. Perfect for six people. But there are other smaller and larger raft sizes. You’ll need to arrange a way to get the raft to the river and back again. We simply tied our raft to the top of our minivan. You can pay the rental people to drive your car to the exit ramp at Little Hole after you put into the river, or bring two cars (or a bike) and drop one at the exit. Or you can pay for a shuttle service where they drive you to the River and pick you up.
You’ll want to bring a small cooler with drinks, snacks, and sunscreen. You’ll also want to have good footwear. The river bed is rocky, and when you pull into shore, you don’t want to be ouching it the whole way in. I don’t recommend flip flops. They’re no better than bare feet. Old sneakers are fine, but they don’t dry quickly. And they waterlog and get heavy, which makes them less than ideal for swimming. Your best bet is to get real water shoes that are made to be light and drain quickly and yet still have a decent sole–a sandal or mesh covered shoe that uses Velcro to strap up. You can be fancy and spend a lot, or do what I did and get yours at Wal-Mart for less than ten bucks.
You could make it a long trip and drive to and from the gorge and run the river all in one day, but why push it? Just find a place to stay overnight. There are some motels in the area, but we elected to camp. The spots at the Firefighters Memorial campground were $27 per night. The campground was beautiful and tidy with restrooms and running water. One of the most surprising things about this particular campground was that I didn’t see one mosquito while I was there.
I’m one of these types that attracts the villains. If there’s only one mosquito within a mile radius, it will smell me, pass up many other suitable victims (including my wife), and risk its life and limbs to sink its #@!* proboscis into my flesh. I think my blood must be some kind of mosquito crack. There’s probably some mosquito black market out there for it, run by some nasty mosquito cartel, which is led by a murderous, malaria-ridden mosquito boss making piles of evil mosquito money and spending it on opulent mosquito yachts and guns!
Anyway, not one bite. We watched the sun set and then fell to sleep with the stars overhead and the wind gently soughing through the boughs of the pine trees.
To make campsite reservations, go to www.utah.com to get a good map view of possible camping sites. Then go to www.recreation,gov to make the reservations online. Make sure your specific camping spot has everything you need. Our campground was very rocky and not all of the sites had tent pads. If you want to scope the lay of the land, the recreation.gov site will give you GPS coordinates of the campground. Enter those into Google maps then switch to satellite view and zoom in. You see exactly what you get. This way you can avoid accidently booking the site right next to the bathrooms or road or the one that features no trees.
Finally, when you’re done, you might want to top it all off by stopping at the The Flaming Gorge Lodge restaurant, just a few miles south of the dam, and enjoying a monster-sized cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream and one of their fabulous desserts. The blackberry cobbler and ice cream was delicious.