These truths to be self-evident, that all men are created over the years as a member of Congress, I get to have a lot of really interesting people and experts on what they're talking about. This is the podcast for insights into the issues. China, bioterrorism, Medicare for all in depth discussions, breaking it down into simple terms. We we hope we hold these truths. We hold these truths with Dan Crenshaw. All right.
Welcome back, everybody. This is a bit of a special episode, not the usual policy wonks that we generally talk about. But I got an old friend of mine, Mike Hayes, and me and Mike know each other because he was on my first mentors in the SEAL teams. Mike was a lieutenant commander going to the Harvard Kennedy School while I was doing my undergrad at Tufts and, you know, wanting to be a SEAL. And I was in Rozzi at the time.
And so Mike was kind enough to do workouts with his mentor, us, and eventually write me a recommendation to go into to the SEAL teams. And so really cool to have you on, Mike. And we'll just rehash some old times, talk about SEAL teams, talk about everything you've done since then and we'll go from there. So where where you're in, you're in New Hampshire now and Heckmann like I guess where do we start? Let's start with how do we first met?
That's how I recollect it briefly. I mean, how do you how do you recall that? And, you know, I remember one thing you saying was it was so important to you and and also important that that guys like me carry on this tradition of just helping people walk in the same path that that you walked in.
Right. Yeah, absolutely, first, Dan, thanks for having me here. Such a pleasure. No one's prouder of you and more impressed with your continued and unsurprising success. Awesome to be with you, brother. Yeah, look, the the thing that I remember most is is all about service. A lot of those conversations. And it's living a life of helping others, which I think it's safe to say. Both you and I have have done sometimes successfully during our lives.
The Kennedy School. Yeah, I remember about 2000. I was there three to five and two years of fully funded grad school, no real obligations other than to attempt to get smarter. And, you know, I went to the ROTC professors and said, hey, I do the work a footbridge every Friday at six a.m. Let anybody who wants to come just show up.
Well, you know, in that first wave of folks between Harvard and MIT Bluebook, Tufts, you were probably 40 or so guys that showed up. And there very quickly, once the weather got bad and things were a little less comfortable, that group winnowed down to 10 or so pretty quick. And gosh, I could go on forever. But you were in that first group of people. And, you know, in the very beginning, I was I was crushing everybody in the workouts.
It was so fun. It was it fed your ego. And and the truth is, after about maybe, I don't know, a month or month and a half, once everybody figured out what we were really doing, everybody beat me at things. And you were certainly first and foremost among that group. And we had a nice little session once a week for quite, quite some time. And it was a lot more than a workout. It was also just about talking about life and what it means to ultimately be a contributor and a citizen and a positive impact on on communities in the nation.
And ultimately the SEAL teams. I mean, I could go on and on. I have a lot of great memories of you down.
Well, thank you. I think I did miss one workout, but it was like the day after my 21st birthday. So, you know, is what it is excuses sometimes when we work hard and play hard.
So I guess, like, you know, I think I have probably my audience is probably heard me talk about plenty, you know, how I ended up in the teams. I mean, one thing I tell people all the time is you're not going to make it through training unless you've always wanted it, unless you just never gave yourself a choice. Because, like, when it gets really, really hard and it's really easy to say, you know, I mean, I don't I don't know if I really want this.
I mean, I could die. I could lose. And I you know, I could I could get shot. Like, there's there's I mean, you know, those coffee and donuts, they sound really nice. The instructors keep talking about them. And time and time again, you talk to other teen guys and they're like, yeah, I mean, I just always wanted to be a seal since I was a kid. And there was just like there's never even a choice there.
So, I mean, for you, like, when did you even when did that happen for you? A little bit later than you, I think, because I came in in 1993, the way I got exposed to the SEAL community was as a freshman at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass.
There was a Navy SEAL named John Connors who was killed in Panama, and there was a memorial service in the church at Holy Cross there. And I got exposed to what the SEAL community is and what it's about at an at an early age. And then also, you know, my grandfather was at Pearl Harbor December, December 7th, 41, and lived a life of service himself. So between growing up, listening to my grandfather, my dad, and then seeing it firsthand, I just really wanted to try the hardest thing I like like you just said that I never aspired to, like, go be in combat or to get shot at or rocketed or any of these things.
I aspired to just go try the hardest thing. And and when you're 21, just kind of like you just said, work hard, play hard and see what you can do and and just lean into the hardest challenges. So, you know, guys like you knew what you were getting into because 9/11 had already happened. So I would say that in many ways you were making a much braver decision at that age than I was.
Yeah, yeah. OK, I didn't really think about that, to be honest. Yeah. The post 9/11, you know, because before 9/11, people ask, like, did it change something for you? Did you you know, is that what caused you to want to go in the military? And I was like, no, because I already have the dream. I had already read Dick Marcinkus books prior to that and that like hooked me into the into the, to everything seal wise.
And and you've got a book coming out which we're going to we're going to talk about called Never Enough. But man, that's like the first SEAL books or the Dick Marcinko series and they're pretty cool. They were sort of a mix of fiction and nonfiction to this day. I don't think anybody really knows. But the guy has a tendency to exaggerate.
But like so there are a couple of things associated with it. It's like, one, the SEAL mentality is you want to go to war and it's really hard for, like, regular people to understand that. But second, it's like you also want to do the hardest thing. You want to be part of the most elite and most adventurous group that goes to war. And the SEAL culture and ethos is really about cultivating that that reality. And I think that's what draws guys to it.
I agree. I believe that one year when you're one of 19 graduates from a class of 120, I don't know what your classes numbers were, but I'm sure it's something similar, you know?
Yeah. I mean, you just you just say to yourself, if not me than whom, you know? And so it's a combination of a sense of obligation. And then when you look at all of the different people who are doing things overseas, you you just want to get you want to get into the mix in a way that you can demonstrate leadership and achieve outcomes in ways that you didn't really that I didn't really think about as a kid. And so, you know, I think the the opportunity to to really serve in combat is something that you I don't want to say aspire to.
But you just the test of who am I is something that that people wonder. But like like both of us, I'm sure it's like once you lived through real things and you're actually shot at and actually rocketed, et cetera, you really have the words, the words of wisdom back to people. The younger the younger versions of ourselves is something like, hey, be careful what you ask for. Right. And so it's kind of like you need a combination of of youthful energy with slightly older wisdom.
And then collectively, that's when you're in that really in the sweet spot.
But, you know, so even though you're, you know, as a young officer, you are serving pre 9/11 and it's important to distinguish between young officer and more senior officer because I mean, you commanded SEAL Team 10. And just so people listening understand, I mean, you know, you kind of you kind of lose your operational status, meaning like you're not the guy bursting through a door once you're past the 04 level. Hell, even out the 04 level.
So so, you know, but you've got some interesting stories in the the mid to late 90s. Right. So so tell us about that. I do it's it was really the era of well, let me let me actually even start earlier you than when I was on a very peaceful, fun loving deployment to South America. I ended up in a situation where where a car that I was in got carjacked. We were actually training the the Peruvian Navy SEALs.
And, you know, Sendero Luminoso is a Shining Path, is a terrorist group down there. And we just myself and one guy got pulled over and and held at gunpoint and threatened with execution. And I was in a spot where I could have jumped out of the car and definitely saved myself. But I knew that they would have killed my somebody and the guy that I was with. And I just very vividly, whatever that was age 23, remember, thinking I could never jump out and save myself at the expense of somebody else.
And so you really get to learn who you are. Same thing like Bosnia, Kosovo, the late 90s. Absolutely.
Like the you you take risk and you think about risk, you try to mitigate risk. But there's unquestionably things that that we did that were risky. And then I would also challenge a little bit of what you're saying, because, you know, yes, as a senior officer, you don't have to go out on the missions man alive. Like I, I probably in Iraq. I probably rolled out with the guys every third night or so, maybe every fourth night, something like that, because I think that leaders have to take the same risk because they're as their teammates and really and also just understand what are people going through you.
And so with that that exposure, you actually end up as a better leader.
And as a commanding officer of SEAL Team two, I was you know, I went out, I don't know, maybe it was 10 missions over a handful of months instead of like the one hundred and fifty that the guys went on. But still, you can get at age 41. I got pretty surprised on a few operations. But when you're like, what the hell am I doing at age 41 doing this? And I have a lot of respect for Tom Brady as he's 43, you know.
So anyway, so, you know.
Yeah, well, that's true. But but to be like that's rare, though I rarely do the CEOs go out and it's but you can I mean, to your point, you definitely can. And it's awesome that you did. I never commanded a SEAL team. Of course I was. You know, the whole I thing had to leave the Navy some about some about some kind of medical disqualification. But, you know, I would have the opportunities there.
You'd certainly want to. I think I was actually on a deployment where our C.O. did did go out a couple of times and the turret and but.
Well, will you have some interesting stories, though, in Bosnia, Kosovo?
I thought. Right. I mean, tell us about what that was like. Well, everybody always hears about 9/11 post 9/11. I think I feel like America is pretty well informed about these these particular wars. Well, maybe not as informed as they should be, but generally. But, you know, America's involvement in foreign affairs started long before that. So, I mean, what was what what the heck of it? Just give us a 30 second overview of what the what the what the what the conflict is even about what America's involvement was and what you guys are doing.
You absolutely recall the Dayton Peace Accords were the framework agreement to try to create separation between two ethnicities. You know, both both both, you know, Albanian, but on the Albanian Muslim side, in the the Bosnian side. And so what was important was gaining information about what was happening on the ground. So, you know, without getting into anything classified, everything I'm saying is unclassified. But our missions were to try to figure out what was happening on the ground.
So we went out in very small groups, you know, four and six people at a time. We'd stay out in the field for three to five days. And this is the late 90s, right at the edge of like real near real time imagery, night vision. And so there was one particular night where we observed we observed a foreign nations forces actually arming the the the Bosnians. And we got pictures of it. And all of a sudden we were like, oh, my gosh, what in the world?
What's going on here? And and we said some of those pictures back. And and long story short, we ended up having a handful of of of armed insurgents go try to try hunting us down. And we were never found because we were hit and well, we were seals doing the SEAL thing as best we could.
But no, but as far as I remember, 19 men actively hunted, six of us, you know, several times at age 27 or so in charge of six folks, finger on the trigger. And just saying if this guy looks, you know, points his weapon at me, I'm going to have to shoot him. But, you know, in those situations, if you shoot somebody, you've actually created a much worse situation. And so we successfully avoided shots fired and we stayed hidden and got out of there.
But that was that was the kind of error it was. It was very much what we call reconnaissance and surveillance, which, of course, you know.
Well, yeah, yeah, yeah. I was just going to say it's a classic special reconnaissance mission, which we trained in that particular scenario quite a bit still. But it plays out very rarely in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I guess it could, but just for a whole number of reasons, it doesn't in the same way. And those international incidents that would be created by by what you just said, it just it's just totally different right now.
Every war is different. Every every conflict is different.
And what I liked about the teams, it was, you know, maybe I shouldn't blow up everybody's spot. But the truth is, like very few of us ever actually read a field manual like this is the doctrine of tactics that you use to engage in a situation. It's just it's just not how we operate. I mean, we we practice a lot of different scenarios and we encourage outside the box thinking and just logical processing. Right.
And, you know, quickly weighing the costs and benefits of an action and thinking logically through it and and not believing necessarily that there's a specific tactic or solution to every problem.
And I'll tell you, that's served me pretty well in life, I think, later on. I agree, I think the thing that's above that really is the tactic of agility, right?
It's how do you you know, no plan survives first contact with the enemy, but in the teams, we're already planning for that plan to not survive. Right. And so our plan is to how do we plan in the moment and how do we look at the outcomes we need to achieve in that very last second with little bit of time and risk across the different paths we can? And how do we create cultures where the 21 year old new guy can raise his hand and say, hey, boss, I think that's a terrible plan and here's why I think we should do this, this and this instead of that, that and that.
And you celebrate those things, you know, and so it's a much different non or much less hierarchical organization for the good of the organization. And like you said, I think the the organization learns from doing and thinking and critiquing and like everything. And what I talk about a bit in the book is, is about reflection. It is about being really objective about who we are, what we do, and and then reflecting on it. And then like in those debriefs, which you know very well.
Oh, it's it's not like it's not. What did you learn? It's how do you learn. I like to say like we teach people how to think, not what to think, you know, because you're never going to be in two same situations.
And so if we can draw out the deeper why and the the kind of the principles, the framework around why you did something that's replicable in a future situation. And so and I know you've experienced that a lot, too.
Yeah, yeah. I mean, especially with I mean, I'm in political debates all the time, so, you know, being able to and and people are like, well, there's probably not a lot of parallels between that in the military. And actually there is just because in the way that we have to think through problems in an extremely objective way. And your argument better be right because because it's life or death, you know, because you might argue over the right way to do tactics or the right way to do something.
So you really have to think through it. And too often, I think in political debate, nobody's really thinking through it.
They're just stating a position. And it's easy to say the position, especially the people who already agree with you, but it's harder to persuade people of that position if you don't truly understand it yourself. And I think and I think a kind of a dynamic thinking that that the SEAL teams encourages in hindsight. I mean, I know it at the time. And I you know, it's only taken me a while to even realize that that's what happened. But it certainly helped me in that regard.
And I was in business, too. So, I mean. Well, you write about in your book is, you know, taking those lessons, applying them to business, applying them to leadership, applying them to just personal growth. And one thing you said, which maybe maybe I could ask you to expand upon, but you can expand upon whatever you want, was the sort of flattened hierarchy that that happens in the military, happens in the SEAL teams, does not happen in the military.
And it's an interesting balancing act. And I was always sort of give advice to future leaders on this. And I'd say, look, you can't be too hierarchical. It doesn't work in the teams, but you also can't be their best buddies. And they have to still know who's the boss. Now, that's a really hard thing to do if you don't have the right, I think, personality for it. But if you can make that balance work, it it works really, really well.
And I try to, you know, run my team like that, too, like they have to feel open to come to you. But once you say no, they have to understand that that's the answer. It's difficult to have that balance, but it's essential. Yeah, well, Dan, let me actually do the Washington, D.C. thing back on you, which is not answer the question you just asked, I think you've probably gotten really good at that.
Maybe I'll come back to the hierarchical thing.
But, hey, look like it's like in Fortitude when you talk about, like, low ego and calm. As I say, calm breeds calm, excitement breeds excitement.
You use different words, but the concepts are all the same. How do you have something happen and remain hyper rational, like meaning ultra rational and just slow things down.
And that's where, like our past really served us well. Right? Because when you're getting shot at, you're thinking you're in supercomputer mode in like split seconds of fractions of a second. And I think probably what you've been served well by is when you get asked these really hard questions in these political debates, you're able you I've observed you do this well through your whole life, but just slow things down. What's the question? What's the premise? Is the premise right?
Yeah. If the premise is a big we attack the premise of the question. Right. Because so many people just make the mistake of answering the question when the premise is false. Yep. And so it's really that logic 101. And so I don't know, I'll pause, but I love to talk about the hierarchical and the balance. But I think really the real answer to your question is yeah.
And like so I'll give one more analogy and then but but I want you to address the hierarchical part, because it's it's an interesting thing that people don't realize about specifically the special operations community. But what you got me thinking of is is like, OK, let me I just I just I found an analogy in politics to a firefight, so and oftentimes they're little too similar. Unfortunately, I joke around like. Yep, every job I've ever had. People are trying to kill me, literally not not good.
So but if you're in a firefight.
Right. So, you know, you're on patrol in Afghanistan is quite a few times and you start taking fire from somewhere. And an emotional response, you know, an aggressive emotional response would be like, just charge those MFA's right. Just go for it. Right. And more rational response would be to stop, look around, look at your surroundings. Whereas the cover where you're maneuver elements, OK, base of fire maneuver, fire boom, you win, kill the enemy.
Sounds a lot more boring, but boring is good. Frankly, in a situation like that, it gets me thinking about how my political life is because like a lot of my activists want me to go charge, you know, like, hey, you're getting fired. You just charge in front of you just go just like go at them. And I'm like, now, like, you've got to.
And then it makes the max look, you're not a fighter, you know, like really, really. Guys like, no, I want to win. I want to define fighting and winning or fighting means well, fighting should have an objective and it usually should be to win. And yeah, it's a good way of thinking about it. Yeah. But please go on with, you know, talking just group dynamics, social dynamics in the teams.
Well, I think it's like you said, once you've defined the outcome you want to take, then it's really thinking what we do is like I like to talk about dynamic subordination, you know, as we think about the the goal at hand, who is the person who is best placed to play what role?
And we do that so well, irrespective of hierarchy, because it's I like the analogy of of to the think, for example, a jumpmaster. We're getting ready to jump out of a plane at 20 thousand feet. I'm overall in charge. But there's a person who there's a SEAL who is in charge of deciding when we get out of that aircraft. That's not my specialty. I'm not I didn't grow up doing that.
That's that's that person who is is is overall in charge of when we get out. Yeah. You know, and so and just like in a firefight, there are some people who will have better vantage points than others. And so do you want to make decisions based on on someone's rank or on who has the best point of view and the best information? So I think that that flatten or that flat organization really came out of necessity. Right. Because that flat organization respects the fact that everybody is capable, everybody's intelligent.
It makes some basic assumptions around everybody's ability to think and communicate. And that's why that foundational training to me was so important, because now we know we can count on for each other for like you said, even if we never work together, I know what I can count on for if you're a graduate of SEAL training like I, we share that immediately, even if I never knew you. So that's just a real interesting dynamic that we can just pick up and run with.
Yeah, well, that brings up a point is the kind of shared experience aspect of it which which means a shared trust. And that's something. So because. So you left. When did you retire. Twenty thirteen point thirty, and then you went to the business, the business world, and so you don't have that shared experience when you're in a company like not everybody went through the same training together. So I think, you know, as I kind of think I'm literally like just sort of thinking through this as we talk, you know, the reason that you can walk that fine line between fraternization and hierarchy in the SEAL teams, whereas you can't really do it in the rest of the military.
And it's also difficult to do in a corporate hierarchy or corporate setting is because of that lack of shared experience. We like as officers enlisted everybody, we have to go the exact same gauntlet of hell that is seal training. Right. And like sometimes you break a leg or whatever. And I actually remember I think we had a conversation when I broke my leg my first hell week, and so I got double the benefit of training.
I got to go through a first phase like twice, kind of like one and one and three quarters of the time, which makes me a better seal than than than everybody else.
So and it's lot like that. But that shared experience is really interesting. And I wonder, you know, again, with your experience in the business world, you know, a lot of people listening, you know, that's that might be their world.
How do you make that shared experience happen so that you can have that interesting group dynamics that were that we're talking about that that are difficult to replicate? Yeah, it's a great topic. I think the answer is in defining the shared outcome that you want to achieve, you know, so like right now I'm in a role as the chief digital.
You can't just make everybody go like run into the sand and the ocean for like a week.
Like kids do that the corporate setting, you know, I try it every day, but everybody revolt's and says, no, no. I think it's it's really a matter of saying, OK, we want top line growth, we want to run profitably, we want to return capital or, you know, return to shareholders. We want to have positive impact in the world. We want to think about, you know, the the the non-financial returns that we can can create in the world.
I mean, I'm in a role with VMware, which is one of the largest cloud, multi cloud software as a service infrastructure organization. And, you know, we're going through a transformation. But the thing is, an organization is always transforming. Right. And so I like to think of transformation, as always, ongoing and and to some degree, never complete, because what's really important is, are those fundamentals, like you just described earlier in the SEAL teams.
But it's a matter of of extracting the commonalities of like what? What do we want? We want simplicity in an organization. We want clarity of roles and responsibility. We want to align responsibility with accountability.
We want to get the maximum effort out of everybody in the in the minimum amount of time. We want to have a hell of a lot of fun doing it along the way. You know, it's and so a lot of the things well, our there's a lot more in common with the private sector than there is than one would believe. Yeah.
Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, shared outcome. I guess that's that's how I have to do it to running a team on Capitol Hill. I can't make everybody, you know, have some kind of shared suffering.
The shared suffering is dealing with me. That's how everybody that's how everybody like that. That's how they all bond with each other. Just kidding. Ethics. We all it's everything's fine. All right. I know you guys are listening to here. Yeah. Yeah, it's it's fun. We have a really fun time. And, you know, I've tried to, like, adapt again, adapt that sort of leadership style to to here. And also also everybody just really wants to do a great job.
You know, you don't get paid a lot to work in government, but people are really passionate about it. And so it's not just a shared outcome. It's like a cause, you know, and that's that's another hard thing about transitioning from the military to a corporate setting is like it's a job now. And it doesn't feel like the cause that you had before. It doesn't feel like the mission. And so how do you replicate that? Yeah, Dad, I'm so glad you just raised this, because there actually is a mission, and the truth is a lot of people in the private sector don't necessarily see it at the very highest level.
Let me explain a quick framework going back to Econ 101, which which you know. Well, GDP is just the total economic output of a nation or the globe. Right. And so it's just labor times productivity. So what would labor there's really its fertility rates in immigration policy. Right. But the big driver is the productivity factor. And so like like a company like VMware really enables that productivity for a million other places. And so there is a shared mission, because while you and I were seale's, you know, the nation is really just making a decision to spend money on Seale's.
You know, if we can drive GDP from our private sector seats in ways that can can give more options to policymakers like yourself. Now, with more GDP, you get to make the decision to either buy schools or health care or education or police or, you know, whatever it is. And so I think that at the highest level, the private sector is giving incredible optionality to to the policymakers that we have. And I can imagine with with much more economic strength, people like you can make those those decisions that are really, really needed for the nation and that you're entrusted with.
That's a good way of putting it. And yeah, you have to make people feel like their little piece of the puzzle actually matters. And you can make a good economic argument for it like like you just did, which is like, OK, you're basically a force multiplier and your particular company because you're making people more productive and therefore more valuable, which contributes to the overall success of the country.
And our company could be like just I don't know, the widget they make is just good. And people like it and like that's that, that's all it is. I mean, purpose is everything in this life, you know. And so is that is that sort of the same? Let's go back to the book here. So again, there's never enough is what it's called. So that that implies that it's a it's about a lot more than just, you know, how some of these leadership qualities apply to the civilian world.
What are some other themes in the book that you want to talk about?
Yeah, like like you just said, it really is about meaning in it. You know, it's the more the more we can handle it and and produce and inspire and do, the more the more we can help others. Right. And so the the concepts around I remember applying for the White House fellowship, one of my two hundred say two hundred word essays was something around why you want to be a White House fellow. I very vividly remember writing.
I don't just want to positively impact the world. I want to positively impact others to positively impact the world. And then you have that non-linear effect on the world. And so to me, I really think that's that is what life is about, is how do you empower others? And and so the foundationally the more excellent that we are, the more we the more of a platform we have to help others. I mean, look what you're able to do now versus what you were able to do ten years ago.
You can much more positively impact so many more people.
And I have half the eyes. So it's like, you know, just I don't know yet. I'm just more efficient. I, I don't know. I was thinking of defunding the White House Fellows program, you know, since I have now the power of the purse up here. And, you know, I, I guess so. I got a recommendation from you. I was I was.
So, you know, most people who listen to this kind of know my story, but. Yeah, so I mean, I the literally the day I was retired, medically retired from the military, I was in classes at the Harvard Kennedy School. Ironically, that's where you are when when we first met. And so I was there literally exactly ten years later. And and then White House Fellowship was one of the things I looked at. And but I didn't get in.
And before we started recording, you had a text that that that we exchanged, like at that at that moment, from that those those sorts of BS at the White House Fellowship Program.
Yeah, I will bring the fight to to DC if you try to defund the program.
Bring in all seriousness. Yeah. This is let me scroll back here. This was awesome. And so yeah, I did like for the audience, I did Dan's letter of recommendation to get into SEAL training to get into Harvard Kennedy School. And and I think when I was cleaning up my hard drive, I think I flipped those to you over Christmas. But but then here's a text back from from that time period, because I because I did not just for the clarity, I did not get into the White House fellowship, which is also why I'm here.
So, yeah, that's the I don't I don't know if I was clear on that. OK, so Dan, remember, this is twenty eighteen May.
Twenty second twenty eighteen. Dan, remember what I said to you when you were rock bottom and pissed about the White House fellowship? I told you a parallel story about me screening positive for development group and then my commanding officer not letting me come home from deployment and go to training. As it later turned out, everything worked out fine for me. And I said things would work out fine for you, too, and you'd be great in the long run.
Like me, earlier in life, you just couldn't see it in the moment. You are now living exactly what I told you would happen. I'm not at all surprised. I'm deeply happy for you. Love to be able to say I told you so, remember. So then your response was awesome. Yes, sir. You were right. I will reluctantly admit the reluctantly is the key word there, Dan, because you don't do the right thing without other people being right.
It's painful for me.
No, let me keep reading.
We we have seen many obstacles. This was here. This is a quote from you I love. We have seen many obstacles in our life that are not obstacles at all in hindsight.
They're just events that push us toward the right path. Everything happens for a reason. And if you would have been picked for the fellowship, dude, you would not be sitting in the chair you're in. You wouldn't be having as much of a positive impact on the world, I'm certain of it. And so it's just really awesome this year.
Yeah. Now. And I appreciate that. I appreciate those recommendation letters, by the way. Helpful. Well written. And so you said that was May twenty eighteen. So that's actually that would be right after I won the primary for for this seat for my for my first election. Yeah. So, you know, and then you know, I guess the assumption would be that I was going to win the win the general election as well, which was a good assumption.
We nailed it and here we are.
And and and now and now everything's wonderful because politics is great. So that's a it's a whole new kind of battle for and I get asked all the time, like, well, what's harder, like war or this kind of war? And I'm like the this kind of war. I miss the other kind of war quite a bit. Even even if you get nearly mortally wounded every once in a while, you know, it is what it is. What was what's your.
It's one of the weirdest, craziest stories. I mean, you've told a couple, but like you've got other ones, like like you had the help, like amputate a leg or something one time. Like what's give the audience some some crazy stories.
Oh, well, gosh, I mean, that deployment.
Well, let me just back up in that 2012, we were both overseas at the same time. Yeah. You know, Dan, one of the things you were a commanding SEAL Team 10 at the time to to to help.
And so, you know, the for the audience, most of the SEALs were in southeastern Afghanistan with me.
There was a platoon in the south, in a platoon in the west. And there was I actually didn't know that that you were in country. Dan, I flew down to Kandahar to say hi to the SEALs that were down in the south. And so kind of had like dotted line authority, not like solid line authority over that group and but checking in on them from time to time. And the most the coolest thing was getting off that little plane.
And you were standing there right on the tarmac and you're like, hey, I heard you were coming in. I just just wanted to say hi. And it honestly like to have seen your path from, like 20 year old to, like, laying up in training with a busted leg and and, you know, just the whole history. It was really, really powerful to see you standing there as a seal lt overseas and in Afghanistan.
The you know, the the I had an event in my my task force that happened where, you know, remember, we had to have boots on the ground, BDA, battle damage assessment.
In other words, there was a very smart policy in some regards to say to it's not a good idea to billions in war. Right.
It's it's good to kill the enemy, bad to kill civilians. And so that was what the policy was intended to do. But the general in charge, General Allen, made a very blanket policy that said after you drop a bomb, you will have to go physically, see the area and and get eyes on and confirm that you didn't kill any civilians.
It was intended as a chilling effect to not kill civilians. And that's a good that's a good thing to to to drive toward.
However, comma, when you're closer to the fight, you need to have the ability to do exception management and say, hey, this doesn't apply. So long story short, I'm rambling on too long, but this is a very, very, very parallel story for where you got injured, which is exactly how I got injured.
It is. And so what happened in my in one evening was there were we ended up dropping bombs and killing something like 10 or 12 Taliban that evening. And we got told to go back in and go get boots on the ground, visual battle damage assessment. And I said, no, we're not doing it. There's definitely no civilians out at 3:00 in the morning. We know this area really well. There's a single road. It's always got IEDs on it.
It's not risk that's worth assuming. And so I drew a really hard line and said, no, I'm not going to follow that. In the the the general called and said, look, I've got a policy, you've got to do this. And I said, no, sir, I'm not doing it. It's not a smart thing to do. And those are those moments in your career where you really you know, he could fire me for that and say, go home and you just have to take a stand.
I took a stand and said, no, we're not doing it. Well, he said the the the Afghan army via the Afghan chain of command in to go check that out. Three vehicles go in the first to hit IEDs and and it was either four or five Afghans got killed. And so several of them badly wounded. And I felt terrible about that part of it. But man alive, I was sure glad they were not Americans that got hurt or killed.
And so, like, I made that hard decision. And damn, the thing that sticks with me and really hurts me even to this day a lot, is that I know if you were in my organization, I would not have sent you back in to go get to get, you know, that boots on the ground, BDA. And and it really pains me. It's it's it's it's just I always feel terrible about that.
Yeah. It was a it's a weird situation. I always talked about this before, maybe even on this podcast. But, you know, ours wasn't quite that cut and dry. I'll say that. And I also always I also always caveat it with with like I didn't have to go on that mission at all. I was like, there's a firefight. Let's go. You know, we volunteer because my specific role I was not the platoon commander at that time.
I did do an many missions, actually. I was a ground force commander, but only because I was the only other person qualified and we were so busy that I would you know, I would just take over missions occasionally. But on that particular mission, I was not I was what's called a cross-functional team commander and so a different roles.
And I could just kind of be a shooter on a lot of these a lot of these ops, wonderful deployment. And so so I was caveat that it's like we don't a lot of times as guys on the ground, we don't really care what the mission is. If there's like if there's a hot situation, we want to go. And, you know, so it was a mix of like boots on the ground battle damage assessment requirements between that and like maintaining presence.
Either way, it's not a great strategic reason to go there. That's that is definitely accurate. But I also don't use that as an excuse. As I've always said, it would be really easy for me to sort of blame Obama for, you know, this like top down PR move, which is basically what it was.
And I'll never forget when General Mattis took over and they dropped what was called the mother of all bombs, the MOAB, on on some big mountain and just killed a bunch of Afghan Taliban and like these cave networks. And he was getting a lot of pressure to go get that bandit battle damage assessment on the ground. And he just very plainly said, as the secretary of defense, like, no, I'm just not doing that. So that was like a fundamental change in policy.
And it's the right change in policy. It's and I don't I don't like the premise of that policy in the beginning, because it's it makes it sound like we're always just willy nilly targeting. Civilians are not caring if we accidentally hit a civilian.
That's just never been true ever. And I've never seen that. And, you know, it's like it's so it's just a lot of problems with that policy right up to write it right off the bat. But yeah. And I was like we went down there in the Marines, they kind of called it a R.F., but it wasn't really accurate because the Marines didn't really you know, we didn't need they didn't be saved, which is what a quick reaction force would usually be needing to do.
But they were out of ammo. They were out of batteries. And, you know, there was a fight to be had.
So, you know, the strategic questions aside, that was what happened. And a new area, IEDs everywhere. I mean, that's how they get you. That's how they get you, because they're not going to beat you in a firefight. Yeah, you hit on two really important things there, I think the most important is is really not having regrets because we choose to live our lives certain ways and we take ownership and accountability for the actions that we we undertake.
And we go we we know what risk we're taking on and then we just go do it. And that's what I that's what I love about you.
And a lot of people who who have been injured have the same kind of outlook of like I chose that path. No regrets in. And then the other thing I will say, though, Dan, is this is where are are I'll call it like age or seniority difference in Afghanistan is a little bit different because for me, I really carried the weight of, like, are we making the right strategic decision? Whereas like, I wasn't in like the let's just go through, let's just go, go, go.
I was much more always thinking is the mission we're going on worth the risk that we are about to assume? If yes. Go crush it and win if no don't do it. Yeah.
Yeah. And that, that it it's a huge, an enormously different calculation for sure. Did you did you lose anybody on that deployment. I know we were we were very fortunate, the six task forces before us lost Americans, the five with us lost Americans in the six after us all lost Americans. And to include, you know, one of my really good friends, Joe Price, you what I went through seal training with took over as the commander of the team behind me.
He lost four four four of his his team in the first month and then took his own life in the bed that I had slept in for the previous 10 months, you know, and really good, good friend of mine. And, you know, it's so no, to answer your question, I did.
And we had what I remember that I lost like some very good friends. I believe in that task force that you're talking about. My old roommate from Buddz, Kevin Everett. And then I think two months after I was hit, you know, lost a couple of really good friends in a helicopter crash or was shot down like two months to the day after I'd been hurt. And, you know, there's a good chance I would have been on that helicopter if I had still been still been there.
Do you want to talk about that? The you know, that's a veteran suicide is. But it's you know, it's it's a scourge on our nation right now. But but would you hear about a lot more rarely is the kind of suicide that that you just referred to with Commander Price. We don't have to talk about it if you don't want to. But I mean, your your insight on that, like, you know, just giving people some insight into the what what somebody in a command position is dealing with and how that how that happened.
Why it happened. Yeah, I'm not sure I have the exact answers, Dan, but I'll be glad to talk about it.
The the the one thing I'll say is that I've been a number two at a SEAL team and I've been a number one. And when I was the second in charge, I thought I knew what it would be like to be overall in charge.
I didn't realize what I didn't know at that time. Once I took over, I really felt a different weight on my shoulders. And and it's inexplicable unless you've been there. And, you know, in that deployment, I was I was carrying the weight of of two thousand people in my task force and and, you know, not in unhealthy ways, but in very responsible ways. And you know what what transpired for for, you know, Commander Joe Price is is really to me also in many ways, the Taliban.
You know, it's not direct fire. But I do I do really believe that our problem of suicide is in so many, so many instances related to either blasts from training to go overseas and serve the nation, you know, or or, you know, whether you're you're a bridge or you're practicing shooting rockets and you're around literally like concussive training events over and over in the same day or when you're overseas and when you really do start losing people. That's a challenge.
But but the but ultimately, suicide is to me an equal loss, as if somebody was shot by the enemy. I just really deeply believe that I've been very disappointed by some people who look at it as as anything other than an enemy action. I think we should hold up. Obviously, it's a challenging issue, but I believe that we should always hold up everybody's service as as nearly equal, as equal and and and just and just really give the same kind of praise for the service that those people did undergo.
I know that Joe Price was just a tremendous human being, tremendous friend. We were roommates for my first three years in the SEAL teams. There is no doubt in my mind that that was a brain issue that was not Joe Price didn't kill himself. A sick brain killed Joe Price.
Really? Yeah. And that's what people don't realize. You know, like, it's it's. So you think you don't think it was, you know, the weight of the responsibility and even losing guys think like the Joe price you knew dealt with that just fine. But there's there's other issues that people don't realize, like whether it's concussive, successive concussive TBI's, you know, which which happened in more ways than just an explosion or an IED. You know, they happen in training.
It's it's there's just a number of things that can lead to it. And it's it's sad. You don't see it. You don't see it until it's too late. Yeah, it really is, it's really hard and one of the things that I've done with my my book, Dan, with Never Enough, is that I'm donating all of my profits to a five one S. three, a charity that I started that pays off mortgages for Gold Star Families.
I'm currently paying off. We're at right literally today in the process of buying our fifth house for the family of somebody who was killed in the middle of the Afghanistan war. Wonderful lady who lost her business during the pandemic for children and didn't own their own home. And so I feel really good for me. The book is more than a book. There's a lot of great things and lessons. I'm, of course, biased, but I hope I'm pretty confident saying it's a solid piece of work.
But for me, it's way more than a book. It's a mission. It's a mission to raise awareness and actually to literally raise money in order to go do great things for people who have paid the ultimate sacrifice and left their families behind.
That's awesome. I mean, I've never met stronger people than Gold Star families like I have met a lot. And I never see that sense of victimhood. I never see anything but strength and optimism, which, as you would imagine, at least sometimes that I would see, you know, some kind of weakness or self-destruction. And I just don't it's really one of the more most impressive things I've seen. I always talk about, like, you know, seals are tough, but they're but their wives are much tougher.
And because it's actually much harder, frankly, to do what they do. And I know it seems weird at first, but it's true because basically what we do is we go camping with our friends and we shoot things like that's that's basically what our job is. And we love doing it. But what a spouse has to do is not know what their loved one, maybe the father of their children is up to that day or night, not know when they're going to get that call and then they do get a call.
Well, you know what? They're lucky if they get a call. I mean, the only consolation my my wife will then fiance had was that it was a call and not somebody at the door because you know what happened when it's somebody at the door. But if you got the call, then it's, you know, it's bad, but it's not quite the person at the door. I mean, but what a crazy what a crazy situation that even is like this.
Well, it's not as bad as having somebody at the door. I mean, to even to even go down that path. And that's that's the strength of these families. And it's really impressive. And it's not talked about enough. We always talk about veterans and veterans and veterans and what else can we do for the veterans? What else can we give veterans? And I don't mean to say that with confidence, but but frankly, I think it's it's it's not talked about enough what we should be doing for four Gold Star families.
So I think that's awesome. I think, you know, I can bring your story to a real life situation, you know, my first 30 days in Afghanistan as the commander we were rocketed actually was the first 32 days in a row is our third day was our first day when we did not get rocketed on the basis that we were living on. And, you know, you start taking for granted, like, oh, these things kind of blow up around us.
And hopefully it's not near me when it blows up. That's just that just becomes normal. And it's really strange when that is normal. And, you know, there was one evening I was actually, you know, escaping with my wife and daughter and and all of a sudden this big explosion went off. It sounded like it was maybe 30 to 40 or 50 yards away.
And I and I do reflexively said, oh, that one was close. And they were like, what was that? And I just Kalista, without thinking, said, oh, we're just getting rocketed again. And, you know, I was like, those were some of the worst words I ever could have said, because like like you just reminded me is that, you know, they don't know what's happening day in, day out, moment in and moment out.
While I do, it's much worse to not know than to know. I'd also love to share it in advance of this. I found another file during cleaning up a hard drive and moving everything to my cloud over over the holidays. And I found actually some notes that I took like day in and day out, just how crazy some of Afghanistan was.
But, you know, after your injury, I actually came across this and I said I was going to read I called Dan Crenshaw's dad and talked to Dan very moving, said how proud I was of him and how much I saw in him from the very beginning and how meaningful seeing him in Kandahar, Kandahar as a lieutenant was. I talked with Dan's dad about strength, overcoming adversity and recovery. It was an incredibly emotional conversation. Great man, great people.
Those are my notes from 2012.
Yeah, that's awesome. You know, I don't. And my dad certainly appreciated it. And, you know, it was a it's emotional for them.
They don't get it. I always make fun of my dad for being a big baby about all this.
But but but but I have to be patient. But I have to be patient that to be patient about it.
But that's all of it. I and I appreciate it. I'll tell you another story from that time period. And it's a bit depressing because we lost this particular guy, Brent Merrihew, one of my classmates and Buddz and phenomenal seal. We lost him in a training accident maybe a year or so after, maybe around twenty thirteen. But what Brett did was when I was injured, so so I walked away from the blast. Actually, I remember the whole thing.
I was blind, but I didn't know why I was blind. I didn't, I didn't. I basically engaged in self-deception and and like I just said that I had dirt in my eyes. And that's just what I believed. And I continue to believe that I would see again, even after I woke up and I was told that I was blind because they said that because they told me they're like, well, there's a chance, OK, but between that moment between like walking onto the medevac helicopter and waking up in Germany, you know, there was a time period and I was in a basically medically induced coma.
And Brett, Brett sneaks in to what I believe is Kandahar Hospital because I moved it to a couple different locations. I know that my eye was removed in Kandahar Hospital and I think I moved somewhere else he might have seen. He might have gone there. But I don't know. I just I can't remember. I have to ask some people. But he basically he basically found like a like a like a like a lab coat, OK?
And then I told people he was a doctor, just acted really confident and then like, snuck into my by my bedside where I'm like unconscious.
Then he proceeds to lift up my bed sheets to examine me and then gets my wife on the phone so you can imagine. So people will understand where this is going. He gets my wife on the phone and is like, it's fine Vitara.
Like he's good. He's good down there.
You know, it's it's all intact.
It is. Is that because I was wearing Kevlar underwear? So, you know, that was because I was I was torn up, you know, everywhere. My permanent damage was in my eyes. But like, you know, temporary damage was everywhere. Basically, like I got shot with a bunch of birdshot is kind of what I looked like throughout my whole body. But that was the kind of guy he was. And what an amazing dude. Like he's just got got her on the phone.
It better feel better because that that's that's the team's for you.
Yeah. That's that's quite that's quite a story. And it's not surprising. I had never heard that. And some you know, something else I hadn't heard then, which I love reading Fortitude. OK, actually audio book but the. You like the sound of my voice when you yeah, no, I thought it was super cool, but the you know, what I underappreciated was how this is silly, but from Fortitude, how still you had to lay upside down during your recovery.
I was oversight's sucked, began to recover. So like there was a four month or I don't even know whatever it was, six month hiatus where, you know, once you were back home and you were in better care. No offense, man, but I had better things to worry about than your recovery because I knew I couldn't affected at that point, you know? And so, you know, anyways, I'd love to hear your you know what you you, of course, talk about in your book, but I'd love to hear you're like, no kidding.
No, no B.S. like, dude, how hard was it to lie on your stomach?
So still for so long, it's hard. But like, you know, the the thing that gets you through that is like you have hope of seeing again, because so by this moment, like the chances of me seeing something again were much more or much better.
So that this is the second surgery. The first surgery was was basically fixing the cataracts. So a trauma induced cataract, meaning like the lens was destroyed in my eye from the blast. And it was a miracle that they got in there without attaching my retina and, you know, kind of take the bandage off and I can see shapes and colors like super blurry, but I can see shapes and colors, which is to be expected because I have no lens.
OK, so it's actually what my my vision looks like now when I wake up in the morning, I'm in right now, I'm wearing a contact so I can kind of see, but I have to wear glasses to see up close and a very complicated vision. But then, you know, because my retina was very damaged, didn't detach, but still very damaged, it was actually it was degenerating. And there's a reason it degenerates. It's because there's like a membrane on the back of your retina and it creates tension.
And, you know, just evolutionarily speaking, we don't really know why it's there. So what doctors do is they just remove it and it kind of it's kind of stops the macular degeneration, macular degeneration, meaning the degeneration of your retina. And when they pull that membrane off to make sure your retina remains, you know, pressed up against the back of your eye after the trauma associated with surgery, you got to put a gas bubble in your eye.
So I went blind for six more weeks because I have this giant gas bubble in my eye, which is like crazy. But also people tattoo their eyes. That's also crazy, you know. So be surprised what kind of needles and crap you can stick in somebody's eye and it's fine. Don't tattoo your eye, just not you. Mike, I know you're not going to do that, but service.
Yeah, just more of a public. I'm more of a BSA just like don't tattoo your I, I got asked about because my my fake I, I'm not even wearing a fake.
I know it's just empty but the but when people see it I would get asked like is that a tattoo. And you're on. I'm like what the hell are you talking about. They're like, like somebody I remember this situation happened like look I'm not crazy.
And they showed me a YouTube video of somebody getting their eye tattooed. And I was like, do I look like the kind of guy who just happens like, do I have black fingernails and tattoos on my face? Like, you know, I'm not that guy really.
Anyway, I I'm getting distracted. So to recover from that surgery. Yeah. You got to be face down. And look, I'll be honest, like I was I was still in tons of pain meds. I barely remember the whole thing. I listen to audio books all day long. I had an obsession with white chocolate mokas and I would just drink those and like, you know, take my Vicodin and and listen to audiobooks and like, sit in this chair and it's just but you get through it because it's like, look, there's an end date to it when things things are hard, when you don't know the end date.
Right. When there's no light at the end of the tunnel like you want to talk about, like a real conversation about suicide, I think that's what it is when people feel like they have no way out, when there's no light at the end of the tunnel, that's when that's when it's hard. And sometimes you have to create that light at the end of the tunnel for yourself, which is hard. That takes a degree of mental fortitude. And if you know and in many ways I had to do that also because it's like, OK, even if I can see a little bit again, it's like, what can I do anything from that?
You know, like and if I can't, then how am I going to live my purpose and live a life that I'm even proud of and even want to live. I mean, see, and then you have to sort of create that reality for yourself. And that's hard like there is there's no easy answer to how to do that except to just decide to do it. And you decide to do it by by by saying, like, I'm just I'm just capable of it.
Like I'm a victor, not a victim. And which is, you know, another theme I write about quite a bit. But yeah, you know what the right answer is like white chocolate mokas some some drugs and an audio books. That's how you get through that kind of crap.
But it's it's amazing. And Dan, you know, the other thing in your book that I really I actually didn't even really know about you and I'm embarrassed to say because but I underappreciated the positive effect your mom had on you. Your mother was just a terrific woman, Igby. You know, really taught you how to be a victor in so many different ways, right? I, I would love to hear as I just wrote my book, I wrestled with how open do I be in a book?
How did you think that through as you clearly were so positively impacted by your mother and at the same time dealt with. What do I actually how do I how much do I open up?
Yeah, I mean, I guess you just have to write, although I mean, I suppose I could have opened up more. But, you know, that was in any case, you know. Yeah, she she was certainly like the epitome of of a hero as a hero in the truest of senses. Meaning like somebody, you know, somebody who who you can you can build an archetype out of and truly look up to and say, if I live according to the values and actions of this person, you will be better off in life.
And, you know, my mom embodied that. I mean, she she died of cancer when I was 10. But before that, it just it just, you know, gone through the five years of treatment. And, you know, I just don't remember I always remember positivity and optimism and just and just never complaining about it to your kids. It's very easy to even just to show weakness and to complain about something. You know, we're kind of divas in the SEAL teams to complain a lot, but we complain a lot about the little stuff, but not so much about the big stuff.
And, you know, when it's really hard, you know, it's time to sack up and actually get through it. And, you know, I learned that from a thirty five year old woman and my mother, you know, and yeah, I mean, it was just it was it was hard writing about that. I don't know. I frankly just talked about it so much by the time I wrote about it that it wasn't that hard. So it wasn't the first time I'd ever had to open up about it.
But, you know, if you're going to connect with people, you have to.
You have to. Well, you know, I see a trait that you describe in your mom, in you when we were when I was leading the workouts, when you were in college, right. In in let me let me describe what that was. The one of the things, as I'm looking through very seriously, like 10 or 15 people to say who should go be a SEAL.
I'm not looking at how many push ups somebody can do in a row. I'm looking at you just kind of alluded to, which is not knowing when something's going to end. So what I'm looking at is, is a situation where you don't know what you're going to have to do next.
The whole group of 15 SEAL aspiring college students don't know what's coming around the corner. What I'm looking at is every time you finish your two mile timed run and you think you're you're on Easy Street, and then I turn around and say, hey, let's just go do that again. You got to beat your previous time. Like like seeing people's reactions in those moments is actually a thing I could care less what somebody's time is. I'm looking at their spirit.
I'm looking at their soul and their character and how do they act when things are really, really difficult. And what I always saw in you was not that quarter or half a step of like, oh, I wish woe is me, I wish this wasn't me because, you know, everybody will go run that second race. But what in that little instance where where your brain is wrapping your head around the fact that you have to do it again, it usually comes through in your body language.
And yours was always, always, always drive determination. Let's go crush it mentality. And that's anyways. And I'm sure you got that from your mom.
Yeah, I guess. I guess I did. It's good to know that now in hindsight, you know, like that's what you were looking for. But it's also true, this is good advice for maybe young young guys who are thinking of going through through buds. It's exactly what they do all the time and buds there. It's it's it feels endless, which is why people quit. I mean, how weak is the epitome of that? It really feels I mean, yeah, technically, you know, it's going to end you know, it starts on Sunday.
It ends like Friday, early afternoon. So technically, you know, there's an end date, but that's a really far away and date when, like, you're already at your max. I mean, like, you're just you hit your your your your your body fails you immediately when that thing starts just because I mean, you can only do so many push ups and in the course of a few minutes, it's just it's just how it works. It's not just push ups.
It's boats. It's, you know, running with the boats on your head for what I think some have estimated to be almost two hundred miles throughout that week, which is just absurd. It's just it's just completely absurd. But yeah, yeah.
You can only do it when you're in your early 20s and yeah, it's just like never freakin ends. It's like that is the beatdowns. And yeah, that's what gets you to quit. What else. We've been going on for about a week so. OK, so how do you want to end any last, any last things we should know about, about the book or whatever. You wanna talk about. Any last words. Well, I would just say that ultimately it's all about service and impacting others, right?
The I I like a lot of people. Thank you. And people like you and I for our service. And the thing I like to do is turn around and say, well, you know, thank you for yours. Everybody ultimately has different gifts, different abilities, different interests. And and I think what makes this nation great is, is that is that everybody is called to serve. And so what I'd love to in kind of the closing thoughts, I'd love to try to get people thinking about while they might not be CEOs or they might not go, you know, represent their state in Congress, what are the ways that you can that listeners can positively impact their own families, their communities, their state, their country, and make this nation as great as it possibly can be?
I mean, that's ultimately what it's about, is contributing and giving back. And that's really what never enough is about. It's a it's a so certainly some stories to entertain, but the stories are very hand selected in order to illuminate larger points around how how we all can be better.
Yeah, so that's that's it now about citizenship. But it but I guess to summarize it, Mike, thanks for being our man. It's great to great to reconnect and great to rehash and see. You've kept all our text messages just dangerous for a politician. But I think I think they're probably.
You're totally airtight. Don't worry. All right.
Hey, thanks for being on, Mike. And it was great to see you again, brother. Brother Dan, good to see you too, man, so proud of you and keep pushing. It's so, so nice to be here with you. Awesome. All right.