In 1994, identical twins Baron and Brayden were high school dropouts – local boys with no ambition in life.
That all changed when they decided to become Navy SEALS and embarked on one of the most challenging careers in the military. Together, they would go through many disappointments and struggles on the road to their dream.
“I live by the same principles and values that were hammered home in BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training) and in SEALS. . . It made me who I am today,” said Brayden.
Baron added, “After going through BUD/S, you feel like you can do anything. Everything else is an easy day. That’s how it changed me.”
Brayden’s interest in the military was sparked after talking to a childhood friend he saw on the beach shortly after high school. His friend was in the Marine Corps and was doing a similar job as the SEALS.
“We didn’t like school. We didn’t like many things. . . The fact that it (being a SEAL) was the toughest training that we can go through, that’s what attracted me the most,” said Brayden.
“The fact that they can operate from the sea, air, land – from every environment – that’s pretty much what sold me,” continued Baron.
For the SEAL requirements, they knew they could qualify physically because they were active in kickboxing, but they were high school dropouts. “Technically, we were behind academically,” said Brayden.
“You can’t just be dumb tough guys,” Baron added. Both got their GED, but were told that it’s not a diploma. When they learned they needed 15 college credits to get into the Navy, both registered at WCC.
Then they faced the disappointment of not qualifying academically to get into BUD/S because they failed the ASVAB test – a written aptitude test for the military. A Navy recruiter assured them that they could volunteer to be a SEAL so they enlisted in the Navy in 1996.
After two months of boot camp and four months at a naval apprentice school (A-school) to prepare for their scheduled fleet job of fixing ship engines, they re-took the ASVAB test. They passed and met the academic requirement for BUD/S. “That was a turning point. From that point on . . . we were attached to the Naval Special Warfare community,” says Brayden.
The reality of BUD/S hit when they checked into training and a class just got finished with “hell week” – one week of strenuous physical activity and no sleep.
“We remember it like it was yesterday,” recalls Brayden. He describes the look of the guys as old and battered with sores on their faces, and walking slowly with their heads hanging down, fatigued.
They were seeing everything firsthand now as they lived in a huge compound that looked like a prison with barbed wire. They were awakened at 3 or 4 in the morning by guys training on the beach and shouting in unison, “Up, 1, 2!’ It sounded like hundreds of voices in unison, counting off.
Brayden and Baron would have to deal with the physical and psychological demands required every day. The level of training was high risk, such as parachuting, jumping and roping from flying helicopters, live fire training, diving in extreme weather conditions, and training with real explosives.
“You feel like you’re going to die every day,” says Brayden. A catch phrase that he learned and repeated whenever discouraged was, “Pain is temporary, glory is forever.”
If you wanted to quit BUD/S, there was a bell at the compound that you rang three times. It indicated that someone DOR’s (Drop On Request). Helmets were lined up on the ground near the bell as a reminder that BUD/S claimed another victim. Baron says that the worst thing you can do is quit.
Becoming an official Navy SEAL consisted of boot camp, graduating from BUD/S, advanced qualification training and then facing a review Board of six to eight senior SEALs. A review of your character, performance and reputation was also considered to reach a consensus to select you. Then, you receive the bird – the BUD insignia – your SEAL trident.
As a SEAL, Baron nearly drowned during a diving operation. “All I remember is my swim buddy pulling me up to the surface,” says Baron. “It came to me immediately after my first fresh breath of air that my teammate saved my life.”
As former Navy SEALS, Baron and Brayden are firearms instructors for the U.S. Navy security forces today. They also mentor other potential BUD/S candidates.
The two local boys who had no ambition in life started and completed the hardest and toughest challenge of their lives.
“Really, all it takes is how much you want it and your will,” says Baron. “There’s probably nobody who thought we were going to do it,” says Brayden.
by Debbra Baetz, Ka ‘Ohana Writer