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    The Toughest Man Alive: An Interview with retired Navy SEAL David Goggins



    Story by Austin Rooney            

    Defense Media Activity     

    David Goggins’ military background reads like a case of bad “stolen valor” – the retired Navy SEAL chief is the only member of the armed forces to complete BUD/s (including going through Hell Week three times), U.S. Army Ranger School (where he graduated as Honor Man), and Air Force Tactical Air Controller training.
    If that wasn’t enough, Goggins has also completed more than 60 ultra-marathons – many of them involving running more than 100 miles – and holds the Guinness World Record for pull-ups, having completed 4,030 in 17 hours.
    Reading through his impressive resume, you would be correct in imagining him to be in excellent physical shape; at 43 years old, Goggins still regularly competes in ultra-marathons and runs anywhere from 8 to 30 miles every day. However, the man who showed up at a Navy recruiting station 18 years ago looking to be a Navy SEAL was a different story.
    Goggins began his military career at age 19 in the Air Force, with aspirations of becoming an elite Pararescuman. The training was difficult, Goggins said, and involved more swimming than he had expected.
    “I wasn’t real comfortable in the water – I hated it,” said Goggins.
    During training, military doctors told Goggins he had sickle cell anemia – a blood disease – and gave him the option to drop out of Pararescue school.
    “It kind of gave me a way out,” admitted Goggins. “I didn’t want to go back in the water, so I pretty much just quit.”
    After leaving training, Goggins instead successfully completed training to become a Tactical Air Controller, serving the rest of his contract with the Air Force in that career field. Still, Goggins said, the reminder of having dropped out of Prarescue school depressed him, and he gained more and more weight approaching his exit from active duty service.
    Upon returning to civilian life, Goggins got a job spraying for cockroaches, and gained more weight than he’d ever gained in his life – now weighing in at 297 pounds.
    That’s when he saw a documentary that would change his life.
    “I saw this show on the Discovery Channel, and it was just guys going through Hell Week. They were freezing, there was a lot of water, and it brough back memories of me going through Pararescue training,” said Goggins. “”
    “So at 297 pounds I decided to try to be a Navy SEAL.”
    Already older than a typical Navy SEAL candidate, and far from being within the weight standards to even join the Navy at all, Goggins began reaching out to recruiters.
    “When you tell a recruiter that you’re almost 300 pounds and you want to be a SEAL, it doesn’t go too well,” said Goggins. “I got hung up on a lot.”
    After weeks of determination, he finally found a recruiter who was willing to give him a chance – so long as Goggins could lose enough weight to ship out within 3 months.
    “I had to lose 106 pounds in less than three months – that’s really where it became challenging for me,” said Goggins. “I knew that if I stopped training or became stagnant, there were no calories being burned; so I just basically trained all day long.”
    In just under 3 months, Goggins lost 106 pounds, and was ready to ship out to BUD/s.
    Since Goggins had already completed basic training in the Air Force, he was sent straight to BUD/s after a short indoctrination period at Recruit Training Command. Goggins explained that while he had lost weight, he was not in ideal physical shape, and not prepared for what is universally considered some of the toughest military training on the planet.
    “When you go from 297lbs to 191lbs in that time period, and you’re running, you’re starting to break yourself,” said Goggins. “So I broke myself before I even got into Navy SEAL training.”
    Goggins made it to the Navy SEAL’s “Hell Week” – an arduous crucible of physical and metal challenges designed to separate candidates who weren’t ready to become SEALs – but failed due to stress fractures and contracting pneumonia. Since he didn’t voluntarily quit, he was instead rolled back to day one, week one of BUD/s and given the chance to start over.
    Not wanting to give up, Goggins pushed through training, fracturing his kneecap before reaching Hell Week. In an attempt to avoid being set back in training a third time, he pushed through Hell Week with his fractured kneecap and passed.
    Unfortunately, Goggins’ injury kept him from being able to keep up with his class, so two weeks after Hell Week he was once again rolled back to day one, week one of BUD/s.
    “I just had to find different ways to stay in the fight,” explained Goggins on why he didn’t give up. “And while staying in the fight, it got me tougher, and tougher, and tougher.”
    His third attempt at training was a success; Goggins made it through Hell Week with BUD/s Class 235, and graduated training to earn his Navy SEAL trident on August 10th, 2001.
    Less than a month later, the terror attacks of 9/11 occurred, and the SEAL teams were mobilized for combat. Throughout his years on the teams, Goggins made combat deployments to Iraq with SEAL Team Five, as well as serving as a training instructor for other SEALs.
    In 2005, during Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan, 12 Navy SEALs were killed and more injured in brutal fighting. Goggins, having been through three Hell Weeks, personally knew every SEAL involved in the mission, and had been through Hell Week with Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell, Lt. Michael Murphy, Petty Officer Danny Dietz, and had trained Petty Officer Matthew Axelson. Because of this, Goggins said he was devastated by the news.
    “I wanted to find a way that I could raise money for their families,” said Goggins.
    Goggins found out about the Special Operations Warrior Foundation – which pays for college tuitions of children whose parents were special operators killed in combat. Goggins realized the best way to raise money was to run races, and learned there was an upcoming race called the Badwater 135.
    Goggins, who at this point was 250 pounds and enjoyed weight lifting, said he had no idea what the race was. That year, he said he had run approximately 20 miles in the entire year, and had never attempted long-distance running.
    What Goggins didn’t realize is that the Badwater 135 is considered by many to be the most challenging race on the planet – a 135-mile continuous run across three mountain ranges in extreme heat. Also, competitors cannot simply sign up for the race – they have to qualify for it first by proving they can run 100 miles in 24 hours or less.
    “I was like – is that even possible?” said Goggins, once he heard about the qualification for the race.
    Fortunately, Goggins discovered there was a 100-mile race near his home in San Diego in three days – giving him no time to prepare. Despite that, and having never attempted distance running before, Goggins successfully ran 101 miles in 19 hours and 6 minutes.
    “By mile 70 I was destroyed – I was dizzy, lightheaded, peeing blood,” said Goggins. “But I was able to draw on my experiences from BUD/s – I was able to draw on being calm.”
    Goggins went on to complete the Badwater 135 as well, finishing the 135-mile race in 30 hours and 18 minutes, placing 5th overall. Since then, he has completed over 60 ultra-marathons, and, at 43-years-old, said he has no plans of quitting any time soon.
    “Back in the day, what motivated me was overcoming myself,” said Goggins. “Now I believe in being a leader. I’ve done it all – I’m good – now it’s about setting an example for others to follow. I can’t just talk it – I have to live it.”
    When asked what he missed about being an active duty Navy SEAL, Goggins had a surprising answer.
    “Nothing,” said Goggins. “I was that guy who left it all out there – everything I did in the military I gave 100%, no matter what I was doing. So at 21 years, I was good with it. I did it all, and lived every day like it was day one, week one of BUD/s.”
    Although he is retired from the military, the former SEAL said he had advice for current Sailors and military members serving on active duty in his place.
    “Go back to Boot Camp in your mind,” said Goggins. “Boot Camp sucks – SEAL training sucks – but you know what? That’s what makes you good.”
    “It’s like a muscle – if you stop going to the gym or stop running you get weak – the military teaches you these great values, but we don’t keep up the discipline on our own and we lose it. So wherever you go – keep that discipline up.”



    Date Taken: 11.11.2018
    Date Posted: 11.26.2018 08:20
    Story ID: 301115
    Location: US

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