Navy SEALS Buds Class 234, Crackting the ACT, & Running the Green River

 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: and


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 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 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.

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8 Responses to Navy SEALS Buds Class 234, Crackting the ACT, & Running the Green River

  1. Ben says:

    I couldn’t even dream of becoming a Navy SEAL. My cousin became one. He kind of scares me. 🙂

  2. John Brown says:

    Is he still active?

  3. Ben says:

    Yes, he’s still active, but I had the wrong branch of the military. He used to be Green Beret, but he’s now Delta Force. He’s been in and out of Iraq for a few months at a time for the past couple of years.

  4. John Brown says:

    SEALs, Green Berets–those guys all rock, in my book. Part of me would thrill to do it and part of me knows I couldn’t. So hats off to them.

  5. I agree that SEALS deserve a great deal of respect for what they can accomplish in time of war, but much of SEAL and Army Ranger training is not wartime applicable, as much as it’s a Tough Guy Competition to see who is “man enough” to hack the abuse, the sleep and dietary deprivation, the constant physical stress, etc. Having done my bit of all of the above through BCT, AIT, WOCS, and WOBC, I have somewhat mixed feelings about training programs which don’t train as much as they weed out.

    Former Army Ranger (and somewhat controversial critic of Army and U.S. military programs in general) John T. Reed, did a great take-apart on Ranger School here:

    I suspect much of what Reed says about Ranger School, is applicable to SEAL BUDS too.

    I especially agree with him that the best, most valuable “product” of any so-called “elite” program like SEAL BUDS or Ranger School, is the tight group cohesion and esprit de corp that is generated; usually allowing Rangers, SEALS, and others like them to perform better for longer in real combat than run-of-the-mill troops or especially us REMF types who hang around in the rear with the gear.

    I am quite sure if the Army — and the other branches — got smart about it, they could find ways to inject this kind of thing into more regular training. Problem is, part of being a Ranger or a SEAL is being able to claim your machismo as such. Unless a high number flunk out — Reed’s opinion is that Ranger School candidates are unnecessarily flunked to this day, and I’d bet it’s true of SEAL BUDS too — those who do graduate cannot beat their chests about being among “the few.”

    If that sounds critical, it is. Technically, as a Warrant Officer, I am among “the few” as well, but I don’t think I’m terribly special for it. I just opted to let myself get put through the abuse-wringer one more time. Something most enlisted personnel are smart enough to not do. And my version of WOCS is nowhere close to what it used to be. WOCS used to be absolute hell, one of the toughest “weed out” programs in the Army. Brutal. All my senior Warrants still talk about it to this day, and not in a nice way either.

  6. John Brown says:

    Interesting comments, Brad. The hazing probably doesn’t add as much as they think, and probably does feed into an elite macho mindset. However, I just read LONE SURVIVOR by Lutrell and it’s interesting that when he was freezing and injured in Afganistan, part of his thought process was realizing that he survived BUD/S, and so could survive this. He was cold and weary, but he’d survived worse. It seems that it taught him he could take far more abuse than he would think possible. So I imagine some of it has worth in actual combat, although there might be excesses.

    I can’t argue for or against any specific military training since I’m not familiar with the programs. But I’m sure, like all training programs, they can be improved. However, whatever the improvements that can be made, I’m grateful that these guys are willing to go through it. We need Rangers and SEALS and warrant officers.

    BTW, next con we attend together, I want to hear about warrant officers.

  7. You bet. Warrants are a weird bird in the military. The Air Force got rid of us entirely, though I often think the Air Force is the branch that needs us the most, given how high-tech the Air Force is.

    I’ve got Lutrell’s book too, though I haven’t read it yet.

    And I do hope my comments were not seen as critical of SEALS themselves, as much as it was critical of a sort of mindset that crept into U.S. military “elite” training of all sorts, during the post-WWII Cold War period, when there were few real wars (by WWII standards) going on and the sharp ends of our spears and arrows needed a way to try and test themselves.

    The one place where I agree “ball busting” is necessary, is Basic Combat Training. That’s the one area where I absolutely think we need to “weed out” personnel who don’t have the mental discipline to make it. But repeatedly putting Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines through “ball busting” of that sort… Eh, it kinda gets old and you realize it’s just fraternity “stamping” where the program gets to “brand” you en route to whatever it is you’re trying to earn, be it jump wings or a new rank or being a member of the so-called “elite” forces.