Hell Week

“First of all, I do not want you to give in to the pressure of the moment. Whenever you’re hurting bad, just hang in there. Finish the day. Then, if you’re still feeling bad, think about it long and hard before you decide to quit. Second, take it one day at a time. One evolution at a time.

“Don’t let your thoughts run away with you, don’t start planning to bail out because you’re worried about the future and how much you can take. Don’t look ahead to the pain. Just get through the day, and there’s a wonderful career ahead of you.”

These were the words of the commanding officer given to the remaining trainees of Marcus Luttrell’s SEAL Class 226 prior to the commencement of the dreaded Hell Week, which followed the first four weeks of BUD/s training. Already 54 of the 98 who’d begun the first phase had quit or been dismissed (on account of lacking physical qualities and aptitudes necessary for doing “the work of a U.S. Navy SEAL.)

Again, I was blown away by how that advice is pretty much the same as given to us as Christian soldiers in God’s army… Live one day at a time, take no thought for tomorrow, for today has enough troubles of its own, capture every wrong thought to the obedience of Christ, don’t quit, no matter what…

Hell Week, “the most demanding six days of training in any fighting force in the world, ” started on a Sunday afternoon, with the candidates locked down in a large classroom, basically sitting around waiting. And then …

“…it was after 2030 and before 2100. Suddenly there was a loud shout, and someone literally kicked open the side door. Bam! And a guy carrying a machine gun, followed by two others, came charging in, firing from the hip. The lights went off, and then all three gunmen opened fire, spraying the room with bullets (blanks, I hoped).

There were piercing blasts from whistles, and the other door was kicked open and three more men came crashing into the room. The only thing we knew for sure right now was when the whistles blew, we hit the floor and took up a defensive position, prostrate, legs crossed, ears covered with the palms of the hands.

“Hit the deck! Heads down! Incoming!”

Then a new voice, loud and stentorian. It was pitch dark save for the nonstop flashes of the machine guns, but the voice sounded a lot like Instructor Mruk’s to me — “Welcome to hell, gentlemen.”

For the next couple of minutes there was nothing but gunfire, deafening gunfire. They were certainly blanks, otherwise half of us would have bene dead, but believe me, they sounded just like the real thing, SEAL instructors firing our M43s. The shouting was drowned by the whistles, and everything was drowned by the gunfire.

By now the air in the room was awful, hanging with the smell of cordite, lit only by the muzzle flashes. I kept my head well down on the floor as the gunmen moved among us, taking care not to let hot spent cartridges land on our skin.

I sensed a lull. And then a roar, plaining meant for everyone. “All of you, out!”

I struggled to my feet and joined the stampede to the door. We rushed out to the grinder, where it was absolute bedlam. More gunfire, endless yelling, and then again, the whistles, and once more we all hit the deck…

Then the instructors opened fire for real, this time with high-pressure hoses aimed straight at us, knocking us down if we tried to get up. The place was awash with water, and we couldn’t see a thing and we couldn’t hear anything above the small-arms and artillery fire.

Battlefield whistle drills were conducted in the midst of high-pressure water jets, total chaos, deafening explosions and shouting instructors…

Some of the guys were suffering from mass confusion. One of ’em ran for his life, straight over the beach and into the ocean… This was a simulated scene from the Normandy beaches and it did induce a degree of panic, because no one knew what was happening or what we were supposed to be doing besides hitting the deck.”

I set all this down because it really spoke to me. There are times when life just devolves into chaos, you don’t know whether you’re coming or going, what’s up or down, what is happening or what you’re supposed to be doing. Sometimes it seems all you can do is hit the deck and cover your ears. The thing that impressed me was that this wasn’t random but a deliberate, manufactured sequence and set of events and pressures, designed to induce panic.  And it was all for their benefit. For their practice and training. For their testing. And all you had to do really was hold your ground and wait until things cleared. Eventually direction would be given and then you could move.

I’ve been experiencing that situation more and more frequently of late. Where I don’t know what to do and just have to sit and wait for God to reveal the steps I should take next. I used to panic a bit because I had no direction, but gradually I’m learning to accept it as temporary and just wait. But Marcus’s description of the Hell Week activities brought into clarity for me the fact that not one chaotic situation that takes over my life is out of God’s control. In fact, it’s not only not out of His control, but He designed it in every detail just as much as those SEAL instructors designed theirs. Better, actually, since He’s God…

In our recent Bible class, Pastor said that God brings glory to Himself by rescuing us. He’ll let us get into a jam or even lead us into one, just to give us the opportunity to trust Him. And it’s in our backing off and giving the problem to Him that we glorify Him. Our problem, Pastor said, is that we keep trying to solve our problems ourselves with our own power. Rather than give it over to Him and wait… Rather than…

Be still, and know that I am God.

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1 Response to “Hell Week”


  1. 1 mylittlebub October 12, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    The parallels are pretty amazing,and reassuring too. There is a rewarding purpose to intense training.


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