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.
I was trying to catch up with him to talk about his experience with the Navy’s Selection program, Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training which Rosehaley attended and passed just after high school at the age of 18. He was able to enlist for Naval Special Warfare right out of school as he’d been a member of the Sea Cadets in High School.
Rosehaley joined the Bryce Canyon Division of the Sea Cadet Corps based out of LA at the age of 14 where he learned basic seamanship, knots, flags, semaphore as well as basic firefighting. They had an adopted frigate, USS Wadsworth (FSG-9). During the summer months, the cadets got to go on float.
At the age of 15 he went on float to Hawaii, and Canada for a couple of weeks. “I got my Helmsman qualification before I got my drivers’ license,” he said. “Within the Sea Cadet Corps there was a mini-SEAL camp.” A series of tryouts ensued, which Rosehaley did three years in a row, he got to go to Coronado with 20 other Sea Cadets and got to experience a one-week BUD/S course to include a shortened (24-hr) version of Hell Week, not quite what he’d experience later but enough to open his eyes.
“By the time I joined the Navy, I had a good working knowledge of the Navy which was a good thing, as I was ahead of my peers a bit,” he said. And there was an ace in the hole.
“I had a really good mentor by the name of Gordon Meehan, who was an original UDT (Underwater Demolition Teams). He stood beside when I went to my recruiter,” Rosehaley said. “And he said, ‘so when he finishes boot camp, he’s going to his Corpsman A-school and during A-school, he’s going to get a chance to try out for BUD/S, and then he’s going straight into BUD/S Selection, right?’,” Rosehaley said with a laugh.
The tryout for BUD/S was administered by NSW2 sailors and consisted of a 500-meter swim, a mile and a half run, pull-ups, and two minutes of pushups and two minutes of situps. Passing that, got him into the pre-BUD/S pipeline.
Rosehaley wasn’t even the youngest sailor in his class, although just 18, another candidate was younger by just a few days but it was an eye-opening experience. Laughing now, Rosehaley says, “I had no clue what was going on then, and truth be told, I was too immature at 18-19 to get the whole picture.”
So, what was it like on Day 1? “You learn very quickly to ‘Embrace the Suck’ because the class was quickly whittled down. Very few people make it non-stop for the entire six months of BUD/S.”
The first phase of BUD/S he related was basically a hammer session as he called it. “That’s all it is, they’re not really working on teaching you anything yet other than learning to embrace the suck,” he said.
At the culmination of that first phase was Hell Week which is Week 4 for the candidates. That was pretty much a blur for him, where you are pushed to the maximum. This is where the rubber meets the road. Before the Navy invests a lot of time and training (and money), in a candidate, they have to know what he’s made of.
Hell Week consists of 5½ days of brutally intensive training where the candidates are cold, wet, and tired (they average less than four hours sleep). Here is where mental toughness and dedication take hold.
“We started Day 1, Week 1 with 160 students,” Rosehaley said. “We were already down to 46 at the start of Hell Week, and by the time we finished it were down to 26, the attrition rate is pretty significant.”
“And by this time, we weren’t taught anything that you couldn’t get from a P90X video,” he added. But the NSW instructors then knew they had 26 sailors that could handle the stress of being maxed out physically, under trying circumstances and still be able to think on their feet.
“I’m not trying to downplay what they do there, but it is what it is. It is a total fucking gut check. We’re going to break you down, and they see…by design how you respond to being broke down,” he said. How did you feel after Hell Week, I asked? “Shattered,” he said laughing.
In part 2 of our interview, we’ll get further along in the BUD/S program and Rosehaley will share some of his experiences post-Navy, including working as a contractor in Iraq, Haiti, going to Hollywood and keeping up with the young guys.