by LT Claus Ullstad
US Navy SEAL, ST2 Class 178
This is the number of US Navy SEAL’s who have died in combat since 9/11/2001. When you compare this figure to Vietnam, it’s heart-breaking when in Vietnam there were “only” 46 KIA (Killed in action). Having come from this remarkable high-speed-low-drag community, this body-count rocks all members of our group and gives us pause. We reflect on the hardships, the training, the blood sweat and tears we all shed in becoming a Navy SEAL. We think about the times we shared, both good and bad, and the camaraderie that we’ve lost.
One of the first killed in Afghanistan was one of my first platoon mates, Chief Petty Officer Matthew Bourgeois. Having heard of his death stopped me in my tracks. Of all my brothers, I never would have thought he would be killed. This was especially hard for all my brothers as we had just had another die in combat, Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts. We all had thoughts, what would have been, had any of us been there to watch his “six.” All “Team Guys” go through this when a “brother frog” dies. Even when it’s not in combat. Likely more so when it’s not in combat as we’re all trained so heavily and consider it a waste of a Naval Special Warfare Operator. Nevertheless, it’s just as humbling and painful of a loss as to have lost a very close family member.
With this said, I’m writing about another brother frog, LT Michael Murphy. Whom I never met, but would have considered it an absolute honor to have done so. What I wrote about Matt, could just as well be said about Murph, or any of the other frogs who have died. His actions during Operation Red Wings exemplified the very ethos that a SEAL lives by. And in doing so, is forever immortalized in Naval Special Warfare history.
Those in the CrossFit community may, or may not know about Murph or the sacrifices he and many others have made. All they may know is the Hero WOD that they’ve been prescribed to do, which is named after him (Murph called it “body armor”) encompassing a mile run, some pull-ups, push-ups, air squats with another mile run while wearing a weighted vest. Yeah, embrace the “suck.”
Now The Murph Challenge raises funds in favor of the LT. Michael P. Murphy Memorial Scholarship Foundation, aiming to provide critical support and college scholarships for the children of Fallen Men of Operation Red Wings among other initiatives.
Some may have seen the movie, Lone Survivor, where Marcus Lutrell is the sole survivor of the four-man team that LT Murphy led. But here is what may not be known. He gave his life on 28 June 2005 after he left his cover position and went to a clearing, exposing himself to a hail of gunfire to get a clear signal to contact headquarters requesting immediate support for his team. He dropped the satellite phone after being shot multiple times but picked the phone back up and finished the call. While being shot, he signed off saying- “Thank You.” He then continued fighting from his exposed position until he died from his wounds.
Those that think the WOD is too hard, too painful, need to remember it is being done in honor of not only Murph, but those that have given the ultimate sacrifice. And had they not, they’d be right here doing it with us, encouraging us, leading us, pushing us, to be the best we can be.
If you feel extra-giving after The Murph Challenge, consider contributing to the Navy Seal Foundation in their efforts assisting the Naval Special Warfare community and its families.
LT Claus Ullstad had the calling to serve our country since very early age. He has fought along his brothers for our freedom and rights. He is a father, a husband, and a Navy Seal. Claus is currently living in Bethesda, MD where he is completing his education to specialize in dental surgery.
United States Navy SEAL Ethos
In times of war or uncertainty there is a special breed of warrior ready to answer our Nation’s call. A common man with uncommon desire to succeed. Forged by adversity, he stands alongside America’s finest special operations forces to serve his country, the American people, and protect their way of life. I am that man.
My Trident is a symbol of honor and heritage. Bestowed upon me by the heroes that have gone before, it embodies the trust of those I have sworn to protect. By wearing the Trident I accept the responsibility of my chosen profession and way of life. It is a privilege that I must earn every day.
My loyalty to Country and Team is beyond reproach. I humbly serve as a guardian to my fellow Americans always ready to defend those who are unable to defend themselves. I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions. I voluntarily accept the inherent hazards of my profession, placing the welfare and security of others before my own.
I serve with honor on and off the battlefield. The ability to control my emotions and my actions, regardless of circumstance, sets me apart from other men. Uncompromising integrity is my standard. My character and honor are steadfast. My word is my bond.
We expect to lead and be led. In the absence of orders I will take charge, lead my teammates and accomplish the mission. I lead by example in all situations.
I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.
We demand discipline. We expect innovation. The lives of my teammates and the success of our mission depend on me – my technical skill, tactical proficiency, and attention to detail. My training is never complete.
We train for war and fight to win. I stand ready to bring the full spectrum of combat power to bear in order to achieve my mission and the goals established by my country. The execution of my duties will be swift and violent when required yet guided by the very principles that I serve to defend.
Brave men have fought and died building the proud tradition and feared reputation that I am bound to uphold. In the worst of conditions, the legacy of my teammates steadies my resolve and silently guides my every deed.
I will not fail.