When J. Carson Black researched her thriller The Shop, she wanted her character Cyril Landry, a former Navy SEAL, to recount in flashback a day of his BUD/S training, the “drown-proofing” referred to by Eric Greitens, former Navy SEAL, author of The Heart and the Fist, and today’s guest on Stephen Colbert’s The Colbert Report. This stage of SEALs training has a certain cache and high level of public interest because of its difficulty and design to weed out trainees who cannot rise to the challenge.
And now, here you can experience through this scene in J. Carson Black’s The Shop, Cyril Landry’s reflection on his signatory day of Navy SEALs training:
* * *
Stepping outside into the diamond-hard sunshine, holding the RadioShack bag with the boxed microphones inside, Landry looked in the shop window next door. He gathered the store sold clothing for the new generation, casual stuff you could wear to class or on a skateboard. Navy hoodies were displayed in the window, a photo above showing an unshaven twenty-something rappelling down from a helicopter. The clothing line was called “SEALS.”
“If you only knew,” he said to the display. The kid in the ad would likely want no part of SEALs training he endured at the Naval Amphibious Base on Coronado.
* * *
That evolution of BUD/S training was to keep him from drowning by making it a working proposition. He, along with the other trainees, was thrown into the water bound hand and foot. Hands behind the back. Normally, he was pretty tough. He liked to train—no, make that, he loved to train—and he was strong. Stronger than the guys that quit. Stronger than the guys that stayed. He was bigger than most but he was able to keep up with the little guys, the compact guys who excelled in SEALs training. He was near the cut-off at the top of the age range, but he was as good any of them and smarter than most. Invincible. But when he plunged into the nine-foot deep pool, something inside him broke loose. It was mortifying; this rebellion at the idea of drowning, apparently hardwired into him. There was yelling, there was berating, there was the water closing over his head as he sank. There were other bodies in the water, wires of refracted light cutting their bodies into pieces. They looked like prisoners. They looked like less than human beings, and he knew he looked just like them.
Commotion at three o’clock. Guy flipping out. Had to be taken out of the pool. Thrashing like a fish on a hook. Landry felt like flipping out, too, felt like he really was drowning, even though he wasn’t. Straining to breathe. Chest burning. The first time his feet touched bottom he had forced himself to stay under, using what little breath he had, holding it for the required minute before shooting up to the surface like a cannon. He was expected to bob on the surface for five minutes. Any way he could, but ideally, he should conserve energy. There was some fuck with a watch. Yelling at him. That fuck was his BUD/S Indoc instructor, a real hard-ass named Keogh, a man he admired. No, make that a man he worshipped. But right now he was just the fuck who was stretching the time out, way past five minutes. Fifteen minutes, maybe. How could he get away with that? It was blatantly unfair, but that was something Landry’d learned first thing: the SEALs were not about fairness. They were about unfairness. He could feel himself slipping under the water. Blow it out. Grab a breath. Chin up. His body bucked, got torqued around. He looked like a prisoner and he felt like a prisoner. At this moment, he was less than a human being.
He was less than nothing and more than everything, because if he made it through he truly would be invincible.
This was how you were forged.
This was what made you a warrior.
His swim buddy was having trouble. He couldn’t let that happen. His bond with his swim buddy was greater than his bond with his wife. They did everything together. They never left each other’s side. They even went to the head together. He managed to get closer, managed to throw him some confidence. At least he thinks that’s what happened, because they both made it. Float, bob, swim, forward and back flips. Other stuff. Interminable.
They call it drown-proofing. It was the worst thing he had to do, the one thing where he thought he would break, where he thought he would give up the dream and admit defeat.
But he didn’t break that day. He didn’t quit like some of the others.
He didn’t have quit in him.
Didn’t have quit in him. True then, true now. Landry saw things through to the end.
* * *
To learn more about Cyril Landry, his exploits as a former Navy SEAL and his new quest to take down The Shop, read J. Carson Black’s The Shop on Amazon Kindle.