Following the events of the previous chapter, Luttrell and the other recruits rush outside for further training. After thirty hours without sleep, Luttrell’s senses get hazy. Like many Hell Week recruits, he begins to experience mild hallucinations. But he continues to push himself hard, since the best performers during Hell Week are rewarded with rest.
Luttrell faces tremendous adversity during Hell Week, but he also has a clear, concrete reason to force himself to succeed hour by hour: if he does well that day, he gets to sleep for longer.
After a particularly challenging session of log PT, the best swimmer in the group rings the bell and quits Hell Week—a shocking development. Soon after, Luttrell collapses in the middle of a training exercise with what feels like appendicitis. He’s taken away by ambulance. But as soon as he regains consciousness, the instructors order him back to the beach to “get wet and sandy.” The recruits haven’t slept for three straight days. But nobody has quit in a few hours.
Echoing a scene in the previous chapter, Luttrell experiences a lot of physical pain, but refuses to give up. His desire to become a SEAL (and perhaps, to not be seen as a quitter or a failure) proves more powerful than his natural temptation to ring the bell and spare himself the agony.
By Thursday, the recruits sense that the end of Hell Week is near. Some of them are hallucinating, however. When the recruits are given an hour or two to sleep, some of them are in too much pain to sleep at all. On Friday, the recruits proceed with boat races, followed by breakfast. The instructor then walks into the room and announces that Hell Week is officially over. Some recruits are so relieved that they fall to their knees and weep. There are only thirty-recruits left.
Notice that the soldiers weep when they’re done with Hell Week: they’ve bottled up so much frustration and pain, and now they’re finally releasing their feelings in the first moment of relief that’s offered to them. In some ways, this foreshadows the scene toward the end of the memoir when Luttrell, having kept his fear, grief, and pain mostly under control, finally breaks down after being rescued.
The recruits, having passed Hell Week, spend the weekend eating, sleeping, and treating their injuries. They still have three weeks left in Phase One of BUD/S, but they know that the worst is behind them. Luttrell finishes Phase One and proceeds to Phase Two, where he learns about scuba tanks. He fails his pool competency test, since he’s unable to untie a knot in his airline, but passes on the second attempt.
After the stresses of Hell Week, Luttrell feels fairly confident with the remainder of Phase One: he continues to work hard, but he’s proven to himself that he has the strength and, just as importantly, the willpower to succeed as a true SEAL.
Luttrell and the other recruits then proceed to Phase Three of BUD/S, during which he trains under Instructor Eric Hall. In Phase Three, Luttrell learns about navigation on land, and passes courses in hiking and climbing. He also learns about assembling and disassembling guns. He trains hard, especially since he now has to carry a gun wherever he goes.
Phase Three of Luttrell’s BUD/S training will prove especially important to his later career in Afghanistan, where he has to navigate mountainous terrain.
In March, Luttrell and the recruits move out to San Clemente for a month of training. There he learns how to shoot accurately, and how to use a parachute to survive a jump out of an airplane. He next enrolls in the Fort Bragg medical program, where he studies to become a paramedic. At the end of the month, Luttrell and the twenty men remaining in his group pass BUD/S and become SEALs. Shortly after passing BUD/S, Luttrell learns of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He’s furious, and wants revenge on Osama bin Laden. On January 31, 2002, Luttrell officially graduates from BUD/S and becomes a SEAL.
Of the well over one hundred talented, highly ambitious recruits at the beginning of the process, less than two dozen make it to the end of BUD/S and become SEALs—a powerful reminder that the SEALs are truly the best of the best. The passage also emphasizes the importance of revenge and personal anger in Luttrell’s military career: he sees himself as a modern-day Count of Monte Cristo, punishing the evil people who’ve harmed his fellow Americans.
The next phase in Luttrell’s training is to enroll in Sniper School. There, he studies camouflage, stealth, and, of course, marksmanship. Three months later, he graduates Sniper School with high marks. He notes, “SEALs don’t look for personal credit, and thus I cannot say who the class voted their Honor Man.”
This passage is humorous, but also a good example of the mixture of modesty and arrogance that Luttrell associates with the SEALs. SEALs are taught to be modest, but they also know they’re the best in the military, and they find ways of showing it.
The SEALs, Luttrell admits, can be arrogant. But they pay for their arrogance with blood and sweat. Above all, they love America and are willing to fight for it. They’re supremely confident in their abilities and the power of the military. That’s what Luttrell believed when he graduated from BUD/S, and he still does.
Luttrell’s BUD/S training impresses upon him the importance of sacrifice. He’s proud of himself, but only because he knows how hard he’s worked to become a SEAL. The same goes for other SEALs: they’re proud and even arrogant, but with good reason.