“It’s interesting for people who come in thinking they’re going to be playing real life ‘Call of Duty’ and then they come and they train and they spend the vast majority of their adult life training and waiting.” –Andy Stumpf
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This week Commander Divine talks to old friend Andy Stumpf at the Unbeatable Mind Summit this year. They have a frank discussion about the military and provide us with insights on the state of the US after 9/11. They also talk about Andy’s other pursuits, not least his wingsuit experiences and flying 18 miles in a wingsuit to break the world record for distance.
- Why when 9/11 happened, much of the US military was still mentally stuck in Vietnam
- How Andy does amazing things humbly
- What “Cleared Hot” means and why Andy chose it for the name of his podcast
Don’t miss this frank discussion of the military and other things between two former SEALs.
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Transcript & Shownotes
Hey, welcome back folks. This is Mark Divine. Unbeatable Mind podcast coming at you from the Unbeatable Mind Summit. Carlsbad, California. Got my good friend Andy Stumpf here today.
Let me read you a little bio of Andy. I’m going to skip the usual pleasantries and plugs today. So Andy, a teammate of mine. Spent 17 years as a Navy SEAL. I want to figure out why you didn’t do 20, by the way.
Andy Stumpf: Medical Retirement.
Mark: Boom, there you go. Answered that one pretty quick.
Served on SEAL teams 5, 6 and 3. My old alma mater. 5 Bronze Stars. Purple Heart and a PUC, not a lot of people know what that is–Presidential Unit Citation. That’s pretty cool.
And also on the side he set the world record BASE jumping… or actually wingsuit flying. Jumped from 36,500 feet. And flew 18 miles in your Batman suit.
Mark: Holy shit. That sounds pretty cool. I wanna be you someday. ‘Cleared Hot Podcast,’ that’s new. Look forward to talking about that, and all the cool things you’re doing including now living in Montana…
Andy: That is the coolest of the cool things I’m doing is living in Montana.
Mark: It’s good to see you again, Andy. Thanks for being here. I’m going to toss my notes, cause we’re going to chit-chat.
Andy: We’re going to go like that? All right. Yes.
Mark: (laughing) Time to go live. Cleared hot. That’s probably why you named it “Cleared Hot.” I know there’s…
Andy: Pretty much. One of my favorite… for people who don’t know what it is it… I would say most people have unbelievable, unrealistic expectations of what it’s like to serve in the Military.
Mark: No doubt about that.
Andy: All based around things that they see on a screen ranging from the size of an iPhone to a movie theater. And all of those things–which I’ll probably bring up in the talk I have today–are wildly inaccurate. And they think that things are constantly blowing up and bullets are whizzing by your head. And that’s just not the case.
And to actually get an airplane to release ordinance… it’s actually a very choreographed… I would almost say “symphony” back-and-forth of communicating. And then you finally get to the point where you’re going to drop something that goes “boom,” and the last call out from the JTAC is “Cleared Hot.”
Mark: And you just hope you’re far enough away.
Andy: Yeah, but it’s… I really like what happens after you say “Cleared Hot,” so that’s why I called it that. Cause things get a little exciting.
Mark: Yeah, yeah. You didn’t happen to sustain your injury on a cleared hot incident did you?
Andy: No, I did not. We were in a urban setting at the time. And it’s not a good idea to drop large bombs in an urban setting.
Mark: Yeah. Lots of bad shit can happen.
Andy: Yup. For sure.
Mark: Well, let’s talk about–just so folks who don’t know you–which is probably one or two out there. How did you get into the SEAL teams? What was your early life like?
Andy: Common question.
Mark: (laughing) Not that you’re still not in your early life.
Andy: No, I’ll be dead probably earlier than you… just given my choice of hobbies. But… so people… I’m not very open with the fact that I used to be a SEAL. I try to trade on it quite lightly. Most people… 05% of the US population is currently serving right now in the military. I think the peak service in the United States was 6%, in the middle of the draft in the deuce. So most people haven’t encountered somebody who’s in the military and when they find out that you were in the military, then they find out again that you were in the SEAL teams the most common question I get is “How did you know?” Or, “Why did you choose that route?”
And I actually don’t have…
Mark: Or, “Do you know, x, y and z?”
Andy: “Do you know Bob?” Oh yeah, Bob’s a great guy. I just start saying “yes” because they think… everybody’s name is Bob, or Steve or Frank. And they’re 5’8″ to 5’10”, 205 pounds.
“Yup, I know him. Great dude.” And just move on. It’s easier that way.
But people will ask me why did I want to be a SEAL or why did I go that route? And I don’t have a great answer for it. I remember that I heard about the SEAL teams from my father who served in Viet Nam. He was in the first squadron of patrol boats. The Mark Is.
Mark: No kidding? So he was an early SWCC (swick)? Brown-water Navy.
Andy: I don’t even think they were calling it SWCC at that time. Brown-water for sure, but the stories he has…
Mark: Riverine unit or coastal patrol unit or something strange like that…
Andy: So the stories he has about the Mark Is and the first squadron of boats that went out with the Jacuzzi jet engines. As you know the Mark Vs are… whatever they’re on now. Crazy propulsion systems. Well they were working out the kinks. So he’s got some crazy stories about of course, working out the kinks in moments where you wouldn’t want to work out the kinks.
But he worked with and alongside of the first SEAL teams. Taking them to where it is they were going to go.
Mark: So he was in Vietnam.
Andy: He was in Vietnam. And I remember him bringing up the SEALs. And I don’t remember necessarily the context that he brought it up, but I remember when it was brought up it seemed very interesting and intriguing to me. And I don’t know if that’s because of the difficulty in making it through training. Or the exclusivity…
Mark: I remember the guys… when I read and talked to some of my… we had some Vietnam vets when I was at SEAL team 3 still. Some legacy guys. My platoon chief, Mike Martin was a Vietnam vet.
And all… not all, but the Navy guys in particular had great respect for the SEALs. The Army guys weren’t so sure. Cause the SEALs were pretty independent minded. Let’s put it that way.
Andy: WE were treading on their territory as well. You gotta remember up until the creation of the SEAL teams in ’62, the high-water line was as far as the UDT could go. So beyond that, it was the Marine Corps and the Army. That was their business.
So he brought it up to me and I remember it just kind of created this insatiable desire to find out more. So in the early ’90s and late-’80s that’s the library. A concept I struggle to impart on younger people now. That you can actually go and find books. And don’t find it on your phone. (laughing)
So the books I could find were the classic “Men With Green Faces” and then “Rogue Warrior.” Which I thought at the time was a non-fiction book. I didn’t realize until later that that actually is not the case…
Mark: You mean all the guys don’t bench-press 500 pounds?
Andy: Oh God. With their shirts off in the snow? I still remember that passage. And I was young and impressionable when I read that book. I’m like, “Well, I need to work on my beard and my bench-press. All right, here we go.”
And then it just… it never… for whatever reason somewhere in there it hooked me. And I don’t know if it was the exclusive nature of it. I don’t know if it was the fact that everybody loves to throw stats at you, and say, “Hey, here’s your odds. You’re never going to make it.”
Because that is definitely a way to motivate me.
Mark: Super-inspiring. I had a very similar feeling. That was what I was going for. Tell me I can’t do it, I wanna do it. You know. If one person has done it… even if one hasn’t done it. Let’s go.
Andy: Yeah. It’s a good way to get me to try to do stuff, is to go down that route and so my mom came from an Army brat… or she was an Army brat. Her mother and father were in the Army. Father on the logistical side of the house, mother on the nursing side of the house.
My dad was in the Navy, obviously. His dad was in the Navy. And I would say probably their biggest concern was that I would want to join the military. So at 17, I brought home a piece of paper, saying, “Hey, this is my enlistment form. I need you guys to sign. Because I’m a minor.”
And to their credit, they never stood in my way. And did everything they could to support me. Signed the piece of paper. I joined a year before I graduated high school. Which… I still laugh at this… all I did was fill the quota for the recruiter that month.
You still have to be 18 and sign on your own. So I did a great job for the recruiter that month. Waited until I turned 18. 3 days after high school. So I went through all this effort to have my parents sign the paperwork…
Mark: And it really was just to get you bought in and get them…
Andy: It was. So I graduated, turned 18, signed and 3 days later I was off…
Mark: So you can you ship off as a 17 year-old now?
Andy: I bet you can but you have to complete the education requirements. It’s going to be GED or high school diploma. Because you still have to have that… I just wasn’t in a place to have that stuff done.
Mark: Okay, so then you went and did BUD/S. What BUD/S class?
Mark: 212. Okay.
Andy: And then just on from there. I made it through… I didn’t realize the attrition rate, the number of people who actually quit. I didn’t realize the number of people who get hurt or get rolled back. I had no “Plan B.” Which at the time was great because I didn’t really have anything else to think about other than being there.
But then when I went back as an instructor, I really got to see… there’s 2 sides of that coin. There are the people who shouldn’t be there because they just don’t have… whatever. They don’t have the mental toughness, or the resiliency. Or they’re just not the right person to do it.
And then there are the people there who are great, but for whatever reason can’t meet the physical standard. Or they have an unfortunate incident, and they get injured and they can’t make it through.
So to make it through on your first time, there’s a lot of luck involved in that as well too. Just not getting a boat dropped on your neck. Or having wet fingers and falling off the slide for life and breaking your pelvis. I watched a student do that right in front of me as a second-phase instructor and, you know… great guy, but I can’t do anything for you.
Mark: Right. Exactly. Shit happens, hunh?
Andy: So just continued through. Fortunately made it through, went to team 5. Did 2 pre-9/11 platoons there. Right at the end of that 2nd platoon obviously 9/11 happened and the structure of the world that we live in… that’s really the operational aspect of the SEAL teams drastically changed. I went out to the East Coast, did my time there and then came back and finished off at team 3 after a BUD/S instructor tour in between.
Mark: Yeah, most people don’t have an appreciation for what a dramatic shift that was in the whole evolution of the SEALs. We were truly frogmen. We spent a lot of time in, on, under the water. And we still do… to be fair.
Andy: I would say we spend enough… or I should say, the people who are active duty spend enough time under-water to be current. And that’s about it.
Mark: Yeah, exactly. Which surprises a lot of people. Except for the STV guys and the…
Andy: Well, those guys, that’s their bread and butter. But right now the world isn’t challenging us with things that are very riverine or maritime based.
Mark: Right. I think we’ll get back there someday. You know, we had the fast attack vehicles at SEAL team 3. Remember? Those were the cat’s meow. Everyone wanted to drive those little things.
Andy: Oh, the DPVs…
Mark: Yeah. They were called FAVs. And then they changed the name to DPV.
Andy: Those things seemed like suicidal race cars to me.
Mark: (laughing) They’re basically a big dune buggy with guns on it. Which is super-cool.
Highly ineffective in that environment. They were okay for the first invasion or incursion. You know, to skim across the dunes.
But they quickly realized that that wasn’t going to work. And most people don’t realize that the SEALs we never used a Humvee. I never saw a Humvee unless I went up to Camp Pendleton. Until 9/11 kicked off. Went into Afghanistan and we’re like, “How the hell we going to get around?” You know? “We need to become a mobility force on land.”
Andy: I don’t think most people realize that at 9/11, or at the moment 9/11 occurred we were still relying on Vietnam based tactics.
Mark: Absolutely. And we patrolled everywhere when I was at team 3. We would helicopter in and do whatever. Land and then we’d hump like 20 clicks to the target. It was classy. We’d clear the target and blow up the radar tower.
None of that stuff is practical these days. We’re not blowing up radar towers cause we got high precision munitions to do that.
Andy: And look at the gear we were using. Everything was based off of… even in the late ’90s jungle boots and everything was based off of drainage out of the water. All of the camouflage patterns were based off of… wouldn’t say tiger stripe, but they were more of a jungle type terrain. All of that stuff was based around theat.
How many times did you practice urban warfare–urban combat–pre-9/11? Zero.
Mark: Not once.
Andy: No. You’d have a little structure… a 1room structure…
Mark: A little CQD. And we sucked at it. We did it so infrequently that it was just total chaos and confusion. And the NVDs, you know, I’d just put those on and I’d see green. Maybe a little shadow in the corner. I took them off…
Andy: It was a different world. And I try to be honest with people to dispel the misconceptions, but I would say post-9/11 for the first 1 to 2 years the SEAL teams were successful, but we struggled with getting up to speed with what exactly we were being challenged with.
Btu you also have to look at it from the perspective of after Vietnam. You know? There was a couple guys who did a little bit of stuff, and then the rest of the force generationally had done nothing but practice and not be challenged in the real world. So it was a paradigm shift for sure. In a lot of different ways and man it was rough.
Mark: So did you go to Afghanistan with team 5?
Andy: No. I did all but one of my combat deployments when I was on the East coast. I had already gone through selection and training and then the first trip I did over there was a short augment of the Karzai detail. The security detail.
Mark: Yeah. And so DEVGRU… can we say that…
Andy: Sure. Surprise me. I don’t know. You can say whatever you want. I’m gonna be very selective.
Mark: (laughing) So you went to DEVGRU out of team 5 after 2 tours. Which is pretty common. I remember a bunch of guys… over 3 selecting that was on my radar. I went to STV 1 instead. And that’s a whole different story. This is about you not me. So talk a little bit about “green team.” What’s the training like? Cause a lot of people have this misconception… I get the question all the time, like, “Hey, you know, there’s SEAL team 6 which are the super-… they’re like the really good SEALs.”
Andy: Which they’re not.
Mark: I’m like, “No, no, no. It’s not like that. They’re a specialized group just like STV is a specialized group. There’s specialized training that you have to go through. And, of course, if you’re not qualified for that training, you’re not going to make it.”
So that’s “Green Team.”
Andy: Green Team or what they call it now, “Selection in Training.” The difference between becoming a SEAL and then getting to be an operator at Development Group… when you go through BUD/S they are… it’s a selection process. They’re trying to weed people out. We’re looking for people who are… I’m talking today about resilience, right?
So they’re looking for people who are resilient. They’re looking for people who are physically capable of doing it. And you’re really being tested on your mental toughness, for BUD/S. When you go to…
Mark: Not your tactical proficiency…
Andy: No. You don’t know anything. And that’s… when I talk to people about BUD/S. Explain it to them. It’s “Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training” The emphasis is on the “B.” You don’t know anything at the end of BUD/S. If you do know anything it’s just barely enough that you’re a danger to yourself and everybody else around you.
But it’s a selection. When you go to…
Mark: With the exception, by the way, of the large number of former Marines and even Army Special Forces. It’s interesting, I’ve seen a growing number of former mil vets and combat vets going through BUD/S. They do know something, but they have to unwind the conditioning of the “how” they were taught.
Andy: Right. You’re better to go there as a blank slate.
Mark: I think so too.
Andy: So the jump between… not the jump, the difference between BUD/S selection and Development Group selection is when you go through selection at Development Group you’re being tested at your capacity to operate as a SEAL. So it’s no longer, “Hey, we’re gonna run you. And put a log on your head. And try to get people to quit.”
Mark: They know they can do that.
Andy: They know they can do that. So then it’s much more refined. They test your tactical proficiency and your knowledge. “Okay, you can shoot? Great. Can you shoot in this environment?” And the vast majority of their job is based around doing direct action. So you spend the vast majority of your time training for that. And that, to me, is the difference between the conventional SEAL teams and the JSOC units in general.
The JSOC units have the time, the funding, the assets and the ability to focus specifically on a narrower mission set. So they are much more capable at that mission set.
Whereas the SEAL teams, they have that 3-ring binder of their medals. All those things that they’re supposed to be able to do. And you have to train to proficiency at all of those things. And when you become the jack of all trades, you’re going to be lucky to be 70% competent at any one of those things…
Mark: So at DEVGRU you’re a jack of all trades and a master of one. And that one is…
Andy: You don’t even have to really be a jack of all trades. You can really…you spend your time…
Mark: But everyone’s still gotta know how to jump and dive and all of that stuff, you know?
Andy: For sure. But all of that is based around getting you to the X. So you become very good at those things, but then all the training dives right back in. Whereas, I found a conventional team, when they do jump training, they just jump and then they go home for the day. It’s not jump into the kill-house and then do fill-in-the-blank. Which is the step that those commands with more budgets… not more budgets. With an increased budget and increased assets, they have the ability to do those things.
Mark: That’s a very good point. So when you’re at a conventional SEAL team, you’re kind of a self-supporting unit. I mean, you do have a lot of support from the outside, but generally you rely on your own supply, your own guys… And there’s SEAL team guys who are in those collateral duties. At least back when I was… I know it’s changed a little bit now.
But at DEVGRU you had this massive support structure. And you could go to DEVGRU as a Marine. I mean, I’ve met tons of people said, “Yeah, I worked at DEVGRU.” I’m like, “Were you a team guy?” They’re like, “Nah. I was an Air Force guy.”
Andy: Yeah. So I think the stats… I might be off 1 or 2… But at a conventional SEAL team you’re going to get about a 4 to 1 support ratio. Meaning people who are in ancillary departments that are there to support… They’re all war-fighters in my mind.
Mark: Supply. Parachute loft. That kind of thing.
Andy: All of the N-codes. And when you get to the JSOC level, it’s all the J-codes. They’re there to support the direct war-fighter, even though they have a critical role in allowing that person to do their job.
So maybe a 4 to 1. Maybe it maxes out at a 5 to 1.
At a JSOC command that’s probably going to bump to a 15 to a 20 to 1.
Mark: Good Lord.
Pre- and Post-9/11
Mark: So how many people assigned to a JSOC command? And when we’re talking about that primarily we’re talking about DEV or CAG right?
Andy: Yeah. To be honest with you, I don’t even know anymore. Since I was there and left I was told that the sizes have increased dramatically. An assault squadron… I mean… 50 to 60 operators is a complete wild-ass guess on my part. And then–like I said–15 to 20x that support.
Mark: Just for a squadron?
Andy: Well, I mean, if you aggregate it all in. So the number of squadrons…
Mark: The support’s covering all the squadrons though, right?
Andy: Some of the support is directly attached.
Mark: No kidding? And do the squadrons have a specialization? I know that one of them does. Black. And then there’s the boat–Brown.
Andy: To a degree, yes. They’re the assault squadrons. And again, this is me talking a little bit out of school because I’m a little bit detached from this. In my opinion the assault squadrons probably all have a very similar capability. Then they will start creating other squadrons that have a different–non-direct–action-specific role. And they will focus on those things. So there can be difference but in the ones that have the same job description…
Mark: Yeah. Assume direct action ones are all similar…
Andy: Yeah. I’d say they’re all similar…
Mark: But they have different character traits or attitudes kind of like… Does SEAL team 5 have a different attitude than SEAL team 3?
Andy: Not really. And I found, personally, that those independent attitudes existed much more pre-9/11 than post-.
It was a much more “This is my rice bowl. I’m not going to tell you anything.” Like, look at when I started…
Mark; It’s almost like the saying, “Hey, were you an East coast SEAL or West coast SEAL?” That was a Vietnam era thing and it lingered until the late ’80s, I think.
Andy: When I got in and went to team 5 they issued us woodland camis. And the only people who were getting desert ones were team 3. And you couldn’t get a team 3 dude to give you a pair of desert camis, cause “We need them. Deal with the desert.” Blah-blah-blah.
That crap definitely existed, right? Because in the absence of an enemy, of course, you have to fight your friends. So that’s what we did. We in-fought. And I get asked a lot too, “is there a rift between SF in SEALs–Rangers and SEALs.” No. But pre-9/11, for sure. Because we were all untested, so we were all basing it off of what happened in the past. This legacy skill sets and operations.
And yeah, that didn’t work well when we actually got thrown into the sandbox and we found that we all talked a different language, and we all wore a different uniform. We all brought different gear.
Because everybody had their own color. The Marines were red, and the Army was green. And we were blue. And the red and green were like, “What the hell is blue doing here? We’re not in the water.”
I would say now in the modern day it’s very grey across all of the forces and inside of the SEAL teams. It’s just… I think you realize at some point in time there’s no time for that crap.
Mark: Yeah, I agree. I’m imagining that the bronze stars are classified missions.
Mark: Is there anything you can talk about there? Most notable, most interesting?
Andy: You know, I don’t put a whole lot of weight into military awards. I think that the military awards system is completely broken…
Mark: It’s a little corrupt, yeah…
Andy: Well, it’s based off… and unfortunately it’s tied to the advancement system now. And the threshold…
Mark: That’s what I meant by corrupt. I don’t think anyone’s paying for awards but I do think that they’re given out a little bit too… for the wrong reasons, to the wrong people…
Andy: Yeah. It’s tied unfortunately a lot of the times to rank instead of actions taken. Each service has a different threshold for what an award signifies or what you have to do… Put a “V” on a device in the Marine Corps is different than the “V” on the device in the Army and different than…
Mark: “V” means valor, right?
Andy: “V” means valor or the award was given for an action taken in combat. Again, there’s a different definition depending on what service that you’re in. The criteria to achieve thresholds for awards has shifted over time. I think it was a little bit looser early on, and it’s a little bit tighter now.
And, you know, as far as those awards… at the end of the day, you know, it’s probably a 15 cent piece of metal and a 5 cent piece of ribbon. I really don’t care about them.
And most of them were for…
Mark: So you didn’t get off an op and be like, “Yeah, I think that was a bronze star op with a “V”.”
Andy: No. I would hope that if I ever said that somebody that I was working with would punch me directly in the mouth. It just never… I don’t care. You could have all the military awards in the world and still be a piece of shit. So to me, they’re very meaningless. It signifies something that happened in the past. Something that was… could be considered important depending on what circle you’re in…
Mark: And you were just doing your job. And shit happened.
Were you in when we nailed Bin Laden? Or were you…?
Andy: I was in the military. Because that was actually in May of 2011. But I got out in 2013. I had left the command by that time. I got a notice of about 2 hours heads-up before it was released nationally that that had happened.
Mark: And did you know O’Neill and Bissonnette and those guys on the op?
Andy: Mm-hmm. I know Bissonnette a little bit better than O’Neill. I think I’ve met O’Neill a few times passingly. But again, I’d already left at that time.
Mark: Can we “out” Bissonnette here? Does anyone not know that Mark Owen is Matt Bissonnette?
Andy: I think he’s already… last I heard he’s gotta pay back a substantial sum of money to the government, I think. The dots have been connected on that.
So, I mean, passingly know those guys. But no operational experience with them whatsoever. So I can say “yes” I would recognize them if I was in a room, but beyond that…
Mark: What do you think of the controversy that they… mostly Bissonnette stirred up with the publication of the book and SEAL team’s knee jerk reaction… the entire military’s knee jerk reaction to that?
Andy: What bugs me about the Bissonnette thing is how many other people were impacted because of what he chose to do…
Mark: And we’re talking about the publication of “No Easy Day.”
Andy: “No Easy Day,” which he was out at the time. And, again, believe he’s been told he’s going to be paying back millions of dollars for the publication of that book.
But at the time, and for a couple of years, they weren’t able to do anything about what had happened. But what it did inside of the military is it swung spotlight on anybody that was doing… you know, how many guys did you know who had part-time jobs?
Andy: A ton. Especially on shore duty. And a lot of people who had involvement in stuff outside of their pure military job got in a lot of trouble…
Mark: That caught a couple of my SEALFIT coaches. Guys who were working down at the command or whatever…
Andy: And that happened though because… it’s not because they couldn’t get a hold of Biss, but the scrutiny of what he did exposed… and I say “exposed” in air-quotes because let’s be honest–most of the chain of command knew what those people were doing. But the higher Navy–like you said–the knee jerk. the metronome or the needle swung from so far left to right, or right to left, that anybody doing anything outside of having a special request chit in basically got crushed.
And I know quite a few guys who had their careers basically ended because of that. They were force-retired. I’m talking E-8s and E-9s that were told, “Hey, you can finish out your enlistment, but we’re done with you after that.”
Mark: And this is because they were doing something on the outside that all of a sudden was perceived as a conflict…
Andy: They were doing something on the outside, and they also had a connection with Bissonnette himself on project.
Mark: Was that the video game?
Andy: Yes. And I actually was approached to be a part of that videogame. I couldn’t do it because of a scheduling conflict. But if I had…
Mark: But there was nothing in your mind that said, “Hey, that’s wrong?”
Andy: Well, it was pitched to me as something… as one thing. And what the people who captured the footage ended up doing with it was not what the pitch was. So a lot of these people if not all of them got rolled in thinking that they were going to do one thing and then the final product was something else.
Mark: So they were taking live footage of operational…
Andy: Absolutely not. It was all captured on GoPros. All that stuff was a green filter on a GoPro. In an empty building.
But it doesn’t really matter at that point, because that’s what it looks like and that’s what it was portrayed as. And it was SEAL team 6 this, SEAL team 6 that… And those guys got absolutely crushed. And Biss was the project manager for that. So their association with that… it caused a lot of problems…
Mark: Did that video game ever get produced?
Andy: I think so. I think it was either one of the “Call of Duty” or I can’t keep track of the “Call of Duty” or…
Mark: I wondered why that imagery looks so damn real. (laughing) Cause it was.
Andy: No, it’s easy to fake. Literally, you can go and put night vision filter or a green filter on a GoPro and you could make stuff…
Mark: Walk through this hotel…
Andy: Exactly. You could make it look 100% real, especially to people who have no idea what they’re looking at.
So to get back to my thoughts on the books and the publishing and stuff… The experiences that they wrote about… whether they chose to embellish–whether they chose to lie or chose to tell the truth. That’s their choice. They earned their right to do what they want to with their experiences. I personally would not go down that route, but who am I to say that they can’t or they shouldn’t. It’s just not the choice I would make.
Mark: I kind of agree with that in a sense that… let’s use “Men With Green Faces.” I’m sure Gene Wentz people were gnashing their teeth… “Oh, Gene, you’re giving up our tactics.” But it inspired both you and I to get into the frickin’ Navy and become SEALs and have a great career. And “no Easy Day” will inspire another generation of SEALs probably…
Mark: So my point there… my point is that warriors have been writing about their exploits for years. And it’s both cathartic and it’s educational. And there is a process to do it accurately. And that’s what Bissonnette bypassed. He bypassed the process to do it accurately. And then secondarily, he was taking credit when it was really a massive team effort.
And that was the problem that I think I had. Was like, “Wait a minute, dude. You should have donated all your proceeds to the NSW foundation or something like that. It wasn’t your glory.”
Andy: I think he made an attempt to but the foundation said “no.” That’s kind of like one of those issues where nobody wanted to touch the hot stick. Maybe people will be inspired to join, but the problem I have with it is is that when you start embellishing… I mean, go to any bookstore right now and just go find the military history section. There’s 5 shelves of SEAL books. I would say 99.9% of those are full of complete bullshit.
Mark: You think so? See, I wasn’t even opining on that. I actually haven’t read the book. I don’t read those books. Probably for that reason. (laughing) I think the last one I read was Marcinko’s Red Team or something…A
Andy: Yeah. Let’s say you write the most accurate historical book that is inspirational and aspirational. If it goes into that section, how is somebody who knows nothing supposed to know the difference between that and the books that are on each side of it? That are completely… they’re not fabricated but they take other people’s stories. They try to trade… I mean, most of the people… I can’t say most of the people… I know quite a few people who are writing books because they want to pad their bank account, not because they want to inspire people.
So they’re taking credit for things they were either not there for… that the community made possible, but they had no impact on themselves. And they slap a trident on it, and it’s… there’s no way for a consumer to tell whether or not you’re getting good information or bad.
So if you get inspired by something that is inaccurate, you better standby to have your hopes and dreams and aspirations crushed when you get to the SEAL teams and it’s not like that.
Mark: Right. Interesting.
Millennials and Gen i
Mark: So what are the SEAL teams like today?
Andy: Couldn’t tell you.
Mark: (laughing) I knew it. Isn’t that funny?
I see a lot of the young guys come through SEALFIT as you know, and we train a lot of these guys and then they go off and do their thing. I’ll see them like 4 years later, and they’re pretty squared away, so I know the training is rock solid…
Andy: I would say everything is like we were in, but it’s better. And I would say it’s probably shifting more back towards a pre-9/11 mentality. Just because currently the 2 mature theaters of war in Iraq and Afghanistan… Iraq has mostly wound down, even though we never had a point in time where there were no boots on the ground.
Afghanistan is, from my understanding, mostly Army and Marine corps right now. So it’s kind of back to that time period where you’re training a lot. You forward deploy. And you’re standing by ready to answer the call that may come out. But it may not come out.
Mark: Yeah, that was my life on active duty. Hurry up and wait…
Andy: That was everybody pre-9/11. I mean, I’ve encountered that a lot post-9/11 as well, but it’s interesting for people who come in thinking they’re going to be playing real-life Call of Duty, and then they come and they train and they spend the vast majority of their adult life training and waiting. If you think you’re coming in to just be kicking in doors every night, you are…
Mark: The other thing that’s different is–and a lot of listeners are dealing with bringing Millennials and Gen i’s into their workforce.
Andy: I’ve never heard of “Gen i.” What’s that?
Mark: Gen i is like my son.
Andy: The new Millennial? How old’s your son?
Mark: He’s just turned 18.
Andy: Okay, so mine’s 14. Is he a Gen i?
Mark: Yeah. I mean I don’t… I’m pretty sure… it’s not like a meme yet, but a lot of people are calling them “Gen i.” And this is the generation that doesn’t remember not having an iPhone.
Andy: Okay. That makes sense. My son falls into that for sure.
Mark: Cause the iPhone was created 2007? ’07 is when Steve Jobs popped that out.
Andy: So 10 year anniversary.
Mark: Yeah, and so it’s about 10 years. Millennials are comfortable with technology, they’re… so we’ll lump those 2 together. but what I’ve heard and a lot of the instructors are just banging their head against the wall because these guys come in with just a ton of entitlement mentality and expectations to be coddled or that they get to do things. They don’t have to earn it, necessarily.
Andy: That is the privilege that they don’t even understand or have the capacity to appreciate of living in the country that we live in. Because they have too much free time on their hands, and the reality is that we wake up every single day with more opportunity than the vast percentage of people on the face of the earth.
Mark: It is unbelievable isn’t it? Like, this country… you and I do a lot of traveling. I know you’ve been all over the world a hundred times.
Wow. I mean, this country has unreal freedom, access, abundance…
Andy: and almost nobody actually uses it.
Mark: Nobody uses it and they sit around where their next handout is. And they bitch about everything.
Andy: Well, i think people confuse freedom with entitlement. They think that they should have things given to them because “we’re free, and I’m unique and special because I’ve been told so my entire life. So why aren’t you giving these things to me?”
And like I said, when you grow up in an environment where you don’t actually have to go out and grind for it, how could you possibly appreciate that?
I mean, it doesn’t really surprise me to be honest–as much as it hurts me to say that. I mean, in my opinion the biggest threat to this country is political correctness and safe spaces. Nerfing where… making sure that people don’t face adversity. Making sure that people think that they’re special in this crazy intellectual bubble that is going to be destroyed if you ever go outside into the air-quote “real-world.” Or into the business world where you’re working with international organization that raised their people to exploit that environment instead of thinking that’s where you should grow up.
Mark: Yesterday, I had 2 guys… 2 men were giving speeches. And after each speech give the old team guy a handshake and bear hug. And then I had Ashley Horner, who’s an attractive fitness specialist, and after her speech it was like a cold handshake. We both smiled and i said, “You know what. I’m sorry i can’t hug you right now. I’ve love to.’
Andy: Not the environment for that. But that’s a rabbit hole to go down even further. But yeah. I mean, i almost think that the US is getting ready to fall flat on its face, and I’m coming to the conclusion that we need to, to rediscover and re-appreciate who we are and where we came from. And the things that it takes if you really want to be a world leader and you wanna be a beacon of freedom in the things that you can do?
Mark: You gotta be more graceful.
Andy: You gotta be more graceful but you also gotta grind for it.
Mark: Right. Absolutely. Yeah. Fall down 7 times, get up 8. We’ve been here before. So i firmly believe that we can get through this.
We spent a lot of time talking about something you said you didn’t really like to talk about and that was your military SEAL career. What’s up now? I mean, you are doing a ton of cool philanthropic work. You’re an adventurous guy. Last time we podcast we talked about your wingsuit jumping. Are you still wingsuit jumping? I notice you donated a “jump for Stumpf.” Thank you very much from the Courage Foundation.
Andy: Jumped yesterday. Got the suit on 3 times. I have no idea what I’m doing right now. I have no idea where I’m going. I’m just taking opportunities as they present themself.
Doing a good amount of public speaking. I’m doing a good amount of jumping. So I would say I split my time 50% of the year is I’m still doing the sponsorship, professional skydiver and BASE-jumper stuff.
Mark: So do you have a sponsor for that?
Andy: I have a variety, yeah. There’s categories. You’ll get a footwear and apparel. You’ll get a beverage if you want to go down that route. And it just… you can kind of…
Mark: So, like, yesterday… were you going out and doing practice jumps? Or…?
Andy: Just to be current in the suit.
Mark: Okay. And when you do that, do you like get a little image of you getting ready with your sponsor logo on your helmet, something like that?
Andy: Sometimes. With a GoPro it actually makes it really easy. You can turn the thing on and let it roll.
Mark: And then it just streams to your Facebook page and…
Andy: I’ll just post it on social media or I’ll send it to the sponsor…
Mark: And you handle all this stuff yourself? You don’t have a team?
Andy: No. I’m a team of one. I’m like a little ant over here. I don’t need a team. If I had a team… again… punch me in the face, please.
You know, about 50% of the year, the jumping stuff which takes me all over the world. Like, I’ve already got 3 weeks lined up for next year to make probably a documentary on wingsuit BASE-jumping with a couple ex-military guys to tell, I guess, a little bit of the story of what some of the things the guys do next–looking for that next challenge, that next pursuit.
Mark: So let me just clarify for my own mind. Wingsuit BASE-jump, you’re jumping out of a stationary object.
Andy: A BASE-jump is just static object. A building, an antennae, a span, or earth is what “BASE” stands for.
Mark: So that’s different than jumping out at 36,000… cause there’s no objects that’s 36,500 feet high, I don’t think.
Andy: Nope, I think Everest tops it out at what the high 20s?
Mark: So that would be an airplane. Your 18 mile jump was out of an airplane that was moving through the sky.
Andy: it’s the only way you’re going to achieve that altitude.
Mark: do you prefer one over the other?
Andy: They’re the same but very different. After about 4 seconds of stepping off of an object the suit-fly is about the same. That first 4 seconds, though, is where most people are going to end up meeting their maker.
I like the aspect of BASE-jumping… I love the jump aspect, but I love everything that goes into it leading up to that. I love hiking through the Swiss or the French Alps with good friends…
Mark: And all the preparation. I remember you saying, the prep… Jumping is 99% preparation, and 1% jump, right?
Andy: The stuff that doesn’t make it onto the YouTube video to me are some of the most enriching aspects of it. Hanging out with your friends. Training. Figuring out the plan. Going hiking.
You know, most of the videos… they start about 15 seconds before the jump. Everybody’s got all their stuff on, and then you jump and it ends right after you hit the ground. And then again that’s just the reloading cycle of everything that took place before.
So I would say I prefer BASE-jumping but skydiving is more accessible in the US. So I leverage that to stay current and competent in the wingsuit.
Mark: Is there any renowned BASE-jumping place in the United States. Most of the videos i see are in the Pyrenees or Tanzania or something…
Andy: The only place where it’s legal in the US, 365 days a year is off the Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls, Idaho. And the city there chose to make it legal and it’s a relatively safe object. And I think what makes it the safest is you don’t have to worry about the legalities. So you can go out there and talk about it. You can take your time. You’re not rushing
Other than that, the New River Gorge every year I think in October. And they, for one day, will allow people to jump off the New River Gorge.
And other than that, in the US, I think that if you’re on BLM land… I’m not sure the legalities of BLM land. I think you’re all right as long as you don’t do any trespassing or cause any damage to the land itself.
Other than that, it’s not legal… Which is why you see most of the footage from Europe, where it is legal and they’re like, “Yes, please. Come on.’
Mark: One of the more recent videos I saw although it was a year ago. And you know the location… you’ve probably jumped there many times. Somewhere in the Alps, but I don’t know if it was French or Austrian. And all these guys were lined up… it was a big deal.
Andy: Oh, like 30 dudes who jumped off? Yeah, I think that was Brevent…
Mark: (laughing) okay, so let me finish the story, because my thinking is, “this is pretty cool. They’re all in different suits and they’re going to jump the same.” And they’re doing one after another. Pfoom-pfoom-pfoom-pfoom. And the last guy was filming it, right? So he jumps. And before him you’ve seen the guy in the blue suit jump off. And so now this guy in the black suit is flying down, he’s got his GoPro and he’s cruising through these crevices and everything and all of a sudden… shoom… he flies over the guy with the blue suit.
Mark: I’m like, “Wait.” I had to back it up. I’m like, “Holy Shit. That guy didn’t make it.”
Andy: It happens.
Mark: How many?
Andy: hard to say. Summertime months the fatality rate is going to go through the roof. Just because the accessibility of the terrain is there. The snow level has melted off so people can get up there. So many more people are participating in the summer time. I don’t have a good grasp of how many people wingsuit BASE-jump. It’s not the safest activity in the world.
Mark: (laughing) Imagine that. I heard some crazy stat, like 12 to 15 guys a month were getting killed.
Andy: I would say maybe a year. I would say maybe a year…
Mark: That’s a relief…
Andy: That’s a relief unless there’s only 18 guys doing it. Really depends on the number pool and the size that you have coming at you.
I would say… I don’t even want to throw a stat out there. I don’t know. I will say this… of the fatalities that I’m aware of almost none if none of them were equipment related.
Mark: Got it. Yeah.
Andy: It was all human error.
Mark: I think for listeners a lot of people are thinking, “Hey, that looks really cool. I wanna go try that.” And the answer is…
Andy: It is really cool, but don’t try it.
Mark: Don’t try that, right? How many jumps do you have?
Andy: Just over 7,000.
Mark: (laughing) So when you get to 5,000…
Andy: Still don’t try it. Just don’t do it.
I enjoy doing it, but my rule is I’ll never teach anybody else how to do it. I’m very comfortable assessing and mitigating risk, but I don’t want to have to take on the responsibility of introducing somebody else to that. And worrying about their longevity in the sport.
I’m very comfortable with myself. I just don’t want that added weight on my shoulders.
Mark: Yeah, I get that.
You just moved to Montana.
Andy: I did.
Mark: Beautiful state.
Andy: Some people say it is. To include myself.
Mark: Yeah. There’s lots of opportunity to go out in the wilderness. What do you love to do when you’re out there on your own? What do you do in your downtime?
Andy: Well, pretty sure I’m going to spending the rest of my life bow-hunting. I just took that up recently and you wanna talk about a challenging endeavor… where it’s not about how many things you can do right, it’s about how few you can do wrong.
Mark: You mean, to actually like bag a…
Andy: Fill in the blank. I actually did. I got an elk this year, but I had to go to Utah to do it. The district we were hunting in in Montana, the weather was not cooperating. There was smoke everywhere. It just was too early. The time I had dedicated for it was too early in the season.
but for me, I think I like it because again it’s something really challenging and it’s something that I suck at. And i just want to devote the time… and I also find it to be very cathartic and almost just to wake up in the morning, have a cup of coffee, and go out and just shoot your bow.
Mark: It’s very Zen-like I’d imagine.
Andy: It’s very… it’s structured, it’s repetition-based. You need to do the same thing every time to get consistent results.
And it also has a lot of aspects in the old job. Moving back through terrain. Can you be quiet? Can you manage and monitor the wind? Dead-space?
All that stuff. Terrain study. Too me it’s cool. It covers a lot of the things that I’ve done in my life and adds another unique aspect to it.
Mark: Yeah, right. And you always go out alone?
Andy: No, actually. I would say hunting is an individual, team-sport. You know, you wanna have more people out there. Especially if you bag an elk. My God. You need to have a speed-dial Rolodex…
Mark: Furthermore, if you twist your ankle or do something stupid…
Andy: For sure. It’s always better to have… I enjoy experiencing things with others. But like the elk that i was able to… I shot an elk with my bow in Utah. And it looked pretty big from the distance that I shot it.
Then when i walked up to it, I realized it’s not fitting in my backpack.
Mark: (laughing) You’re not throwing that thing over your shoulder.
Andy: Oh man. How many people can we call right now? I mean, that’s getting the animal on the ground…
Mark: Do you take that thing apart? Or do you bring it back whole?
Andy: Oh, you take it apart. I mean, that thing was probably 900 pounds. You’re not bring that thing back whole. It’s hunting game is over… put all your hunting stuff here. Start getting out all the stuff you need to prepare the meat, to hike the meat out. Start getting a hold of people. Where you going to take it…?
That’s just the beginning of another journey. The easy part actually might be getting it on the ground.
Mark: Right. No kidding. Interesting.
All right, and so when it comes to your philanthropic work are you dedicating to a particular charity or what’s your…?
Andy: I got linked up with the Navy SEAL foundation couple years ago. And so everything that I do just kind of points in that direction.
Mark: That’s a great organization.
Andy: Yeah, one of my sponsors… you were asking about sponsors… is 5/11 tactical. They do footwear and apparel. And the cool thing about working with other brands that I like about the sponsorship “game” for lack of a better word, is that it gives you a bigger microphone.
So they partnered up and they did a run of jeans. They wanted to get into the jean category. And they gave a percentage of the sales to the SEAL foundation. So on Memorial Day they cut a check for 20 grand. It’s a check I wouldn’t have been able to cut without that involvement of a larger brand, and that’s honestly if I was financially independent I would still jump without any logos.
But since I am not in that position i try to pair with brands that want to do cool stuff like that. That’s kind of my litmus test for anybody that I’ll work with.
I turn down far more sponsorship opportunities than I’ve ever taken.
Mark: Yeah, right.
Well cool. All right. ‘Nuff said, hunh?
Andy: You tell me. It’s your podcast.
Mark: (laughing) We’ve been going for a while and we should probably wrap up and people can find you on Facebook…
Andy: Sure. All the social media stuff. It’s just some version of my name.
Mark: just “Andy Stumpf?”
Andy: I’m a firm believer that I’ve never had a unique idea in my entire life.
Mark: You don’t need a brand. You are a brand.
Andy: Well, I took the advice of a friend of mine who said, ‘Hey, make a website.”
So I bought andystumpf.com cause it answers questions that people ask me all the time, so… if you want to find out who I am then just go right there.
Mark: And that’s S-T-U-M-P-F.
Andy: As in “Frank.” It’s not “phonebook” people. It’s not “ph.”
Mark: (laughing) Got it.
Andy thanks so much and appreciate you being here. Thanks for speaking today. Looking forward to that. And good luck with everything.
All right folks, that’s it. That’s a wrap. Mark Divine, unbeatable Mind podcast. Thanks for listening. Super-appreciate it. And we’ll see you next month. And next time. And next month.