Thomas Rosehaley is a busy man these days. When he’s not flying across the globe working as a personal security professional, he’s back at home keeping on top of his medical training, which is his bailiwick. He had just arrived back in the states but was not getting much free time. “I’m diving tomorrow in Monterrey Bay and then have a Med class at Folsom Prison, I’ll call you on my way home from there,” he said.
In the first two parts of the interview, we talked about his background, growing up in LA and how he entered the Navy. Then we moved on to the beginning of his Navy training and on to Hell Week.
Once the candidates passed Pool Comp, they moved on to the LAR V rebreather, which is a different kind of diving altogether. “The amazing thing today is, how far technology has progressed when you can go to Long Beach today and buy a LAR V for about $8-10 grand,” Rosehaley said. Back then that was a classified piece of equipment.”
“Dive Phase was two months and is the bread and butter of the Naval Special Warfare guys,” he said. That is where they’re trained on dive searches, underwater recon, navigation, he recalled diving at Coronado and crossing over to 32nd St. and trying to identify ships and compartments from under the water. Planting fake explosives on drive shafts of ships. This training evolved from the first underwater demo teams from WWII.
After Dive Phase the candidates move to San Clemente Island where they’re trained on the finer aspects of demolitions. Shaped Charges, C-4, even the old haversack charges that the old frogmen used. They’re also trained on weapons, small unit tactics and patrolling.
His class 202, finished with 26 sailors some of whom were picked up from other classes due to a minor injury or issue. Most of those who failed did so because they couldn’t handle the mental aspect of the training.
“Look there’s no way you can adequately prepare yourself so that the course is a breeze, it is a total lifestyle change,” he said. Due to his Sea Cadet training with the briefest of glimpses on what he’d face in Coronado, he tried to prepare himself physically as best he could.
He ran the streets barefoot, trying to toughen his feet up. Rosehaley was an accomplished competitive swimmer and played the tough sport of Water Polo. “My water skills were definitely as good as I could be prepared for. I grew up surfing on the Los Angeles coast.”
Some candidates were just not comfortable in the water which for a sailor wanting to become a Navy SEAL is unconscionable. “The water is our bread and butter,” he said. “That is what we see as home. The water is our safe place and if you aren’t comfortable in the water, you need to try something else.”
Rosehaley said the guys who weren’t comfortable in the water before arriving didn’t last long. And told the story about “the Beehive” which reflects his point perfectly. At this point, there were still over 100 students in the course. Everyone is in the pool so it is crowded and ready to get more so.
“The instructors just start pushing everyone into the center of the pool,” he recalls. “Everyone is trying their best to stay calm but the students being pushed inward into ‘the Beehive’ begins to take its toll,” he said.
Students are shoulder to shoulder trying to stay afloat and it takes just one guy to panic and grab the guy next to him and try to use him for support and it sets off a chain reaction. In just a matter of seconds, it turns into what Rosehaley remembers as “a fight for your life.”
Rosehaley who was among the most comfortable in his class in the water remembers that the panic that ensued was contagious. Rosehaley just decided to hold his breath and stay calm. He recalls that he was being kicked in the face and being held down and as he says, “your body’s willingness to stay alive wins out.”
He remembered it akin to being trapped under moving ice, and it was a dog-eat-dog situation and the instructors kept at it until students began to quit. “Too many guys were in no way prepared for this and it is mostly mental.”
Rosehaley then surprising finished his Navy career abruptly in 1997 and moved on to further his medical career until the second Gulf war when he came back as a contractor working in Iraq. He had his share of hair-raising experiences there but none close to what he experienced in Haiti.
Sent in as security and medical support for a CBS film crew, aftershocks still racked the country. The guests at the hotel had to sleep on the pool patio because it wasn’t safe to remain inside. He and another medic began a triage, treating the numerous injured locals at the back of the hotel.
He’s still a security professional and has traveled the world with many high-profile clients. I used to chuckle when I’d see his picture of People, US etc, working with a certain female singer who has been plastered all over the magazines you find in the aisles of supermarkets and Wal-Mart.
We had the pleasure of working together for a security company Thomas Dale & Associates based out of Los Angeles, in the Middle East watching over a family of clients who traveled, frequently taking many of their friends. Later, we worked on a film crew down in Mexico, where there was never a dull moment. But that’s a story for another time.
He’s a devoted follower of the Gracie Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, (word to the wise, don’t wrestle with him) and after a recent trip to the Middle East, he had a stopover in Jerusalem, Israel. That night he found a gym and was wrestling Orthodox Jews that were half his age. “It was wild,” he said.
“Visually seeing the guys with their traditional long curls and dressed up in a gi was off the wall. I loved it,” he added. That fits him to a tee.