SEAL Adventure Challenge
July 10- 11, 1999
By Dawn Taylor
We've all heard the stories and seen the documentaries: Navy SEAL trainees, faces grimacing in pain,
bodies & spirits pushed to the limit, being put through the rigors of the Navy's infamous Hell Week. The
images invoke amazement, curiosity and disbelief. For some, the images prompt them to wonder, "Do I
have what it takes? Do I have the physical and mental fortitude to accomplish a goal that is so daunting?"
Forty-one such men found answers to these questions by participating in the SEAL Adventure Challenge
in Virginia Beach, VA on July 10 -11.
Produced by Odyssey Adventure Racing, Inc., this event provided an opportunity for motivated men to
take part in a civilian version of Navy SEAL training, known as the toughest and most grueling in the
military. For 24 hours, these men, ages 16 to 55, left behind jobs, families and all other aspects of their
everyday lives to become completely immersed in the "hell" of Hell Week training. They left with a
better understanding of what they're made of and how far they can push themselves. They found out why
Navy SEALs are among the most respected warriors in the world.
Made up of civilians and active-duty military personnel, many of whom are considering becoming
SEALs, the group embarked on this unforgettable adventure by submitting themselves to the commands
of a group of highly trained military instructors. The men were briefed by Odyssey president and retired
SEAL Chief Warrant Officer, Don Mann, who encouraged the group to "take away from this training as
much as you possibly can; give every ounce of energy in your bodies; do not even think about quitting;
and prepare for a very physical and emotional 24 hours."
After watching a film about the history, mission and training of Navy SEALs, the men were addressed by
several other instructors and by a former SEAL Team SIX Commanding Officer, retired Captain Rick
Woolard, whose 25-year-old son John was one of the brave participants. Class leader and SEAL
Adventure Challenge veteran Ensign Mike Subelsky, age 22, was chosen to give a 10-minute push-up
demonstration. Instructor and former SEAL John Rea, also used Subelsky as an example to show how to
address and respond to the instructors. At this point, it became very clear that the men had just left the
pleasantries of civilian life and had entered a mind-bending world of physical challenge, in which
discipline, respect and teamwork would be crucial.
Led by Marine Force Recon Staff Sergeant Jason Mook, the group began the Challenge by completing a
series of water drills. With SSGT Mook and other SEAL instructors providing direction and discipline,
the men completed 2 hours of lap swimming, brick-carrying, machine gun retrieval, drown-proofing and
poolside calisthenics. They learned the art of becoming "organically connected to the water" by staying
afloat with their hands bound behind their backs, and how to use their trousers as life preservers. They
learned the importance of working hard and doing their best. They learned why SEALS are considered
the most capable of all maritime warriors.
After the pool drills, the men were addressed by Captain Bob Schoultz, Commander of Naval Special
Warfare Group TWO, who advised them to "take care of each other, stay tough, stay hard, and pay
attention to the instructors." This advice would pay off as the day wore on.
The group was then challenged with a 1-1/2 hour soft sand run led by SEALs LT John Kainer and CWO2
Dave Bauer. This exercise was interspersed with push-ups, flutter kicks, "sugar cookie" rolls, dive-
bombers and other gut-busting, character-building drills. At the end of the run, SEAL Luis Moreno
rewarded the men with an intensive log PT routine. This team exercise, often featured in SEAL training
videos and recruiting clips, included overhead presses, curl-ups, sit-ups and lunges using 8-foot sections
of telephone poles. Next came a graded series of activities including a rubber boat race, a ½ mile ocean
swim, and more agonizing pushups and sit-ups in the brutal 90+ degree heat. The now-weary men also
were graded in the KIMs (keep in mind) memorization skills game used by SEALs and Marines to
develop mental discipline during extreme physical stress.
The SEAL Adventure Challenge was designed with a 6-hour option, so at this point, the four competitors
who signed up for this alternative were congratulated and given their awards and finisher certificates.
The other competitors watched with mixed emotions as their comrades walked away, knowing there was
so much more in store for them.
The 34 remaining participants received the mission brief for their overnight operation from Don Mann
and war games developer Mike Nolan. In the mission scenario, they were requested by a friendly country
to do a night reconnaissance in a harbor under hostile control. However, to get to their boats, the
competitors first had to run 6 miles through the woods, doing Indian sprints and often carrying tree
stumps and logs. Instructor Mann, ever sensitive to the needs of his men in the oppressive heat, marched
them into dense, snake-infested swamp water for a quick cool-down. Next the men paddled rubber boats
for 2-1/2 hours to reach their destination - a lookout spot from which they monitored the activities of
enemy agents. After 3 hours of reconnaissance, the men repeated the 2-1/2 hour paddle through deserted
waterways back to the designated meeting place. Here, they were debriefed by instructors Nolan and
LCDR Steve Simet, a Navy SEAL with 6 years of experience as an instructor at the Basic Underwater
Demolition/SEAL School (BUD/S).
At daybreak, the SEAL Adventure Challenge was capped off with a 6-mile run through the woods, a
portion of which was completed by doing Indian runs with the heavy rubber boats. The exhaustion,
determination, and teamwork of the whole group was captured in the image of young J.D. Baudean being
carried on the back of fellow competitor Jerry Januszewski, age 40, as the group marched to the finish.
The men were finished at last - battered and bruised, mentally and physically exhausted, their bodies as
well as their spirits severely tested. It was the longest 24 hours most of them had ever spent. The
instructors gave the men finisher certificates and awards, congratulated them on their accomplishment and
encouraged them to consider this a "jumping off point" to even greater challenges.
These determined men had endured 24 hours in an event that, according to Don Mann, was the closest
thing to BUD/S (SEAL training) that a civilian can enter. The 1000-yard stare in their eyes could not
disguise their pride in having met such an extraordinary challenge.
For more information contact:
Dr. Stephen M. Erle
SEAL Training Adventures
165D Log Canoe Circle
Stevensville, MD. 21666