7 Ways to Stop Stolen Valor

“He wouldn’t tell these outrageous stories just right off the bat. He would drop little bits of things that are plausible. And he would tailor that plausibility story to each person, knowing what they knew.”

-A Victim of AJ Dicken

There are scumbags out there who will try to hustle decent folks out of their money by appealing to their sense of patriotism and empathy, by saying “Trust me. I was Special Forces/ I saw combat.”

Usually the hustle will come in the form of a business venture that gets promptly run into the ground by the scammer or comes in the form of classes and lectures to collect a tuition money.

  1. Verify their backstory!
    • Be upfront and ask for a DD-214 Long Form.
      • I would also recommend conducting a FOIA request as well.
      • It is not unheard of for a con artist to make a fake DD-214 record.
      • A DD-214 Long Form is a lot tougher to convincingly falsify.
    • Check obituary records to be sure they are not using the name of a Navy SEAL or any other Special Operations forces personnel who may be dead.
    • You can also politely ask for help on an military forum like SOCNET.
      • Be sure to read the forum rules and make an introduction of yourself prior to posting your inquiry right after registering.
  2. Understand Their Routines
    • Hearing someone say “I was a SEAL.” makes me immediately suspicious of them if I cannot immediately verify such a claim.
      • If someone you just met goes out of their way to mention that they were a Navy SEAL, then you should be fairly certain that they are lying to you!
    • Lying to their family
    •  “Lowballing” their Special Unit Background
      • A more modest variation on a stolen valor scam is for people who actually were in a “regular” military unit to claim a special unit background that is more tailored to their experiences in order to be more believable, but of course there will be plenty of tales of (imaginary) combat experience!
      • Another reason for a scammer to avoid claiming to be a Navy SEAL is because the SEAL community has a very tight knit culture and a clear and definitive source for verification that can be easily accessed while the communities of other Special Operations Forces do not yet have definitive databases that can be readily accessed by a civilian to determine a person’s bona fides.
      • Scammers who were regular Navy might claim Navy SEAL heroics but not SEAL Team Six (DEVGRU)
      • Scammers who were regular USMC might claim to have been Force Recon, Marine Raiders, or MARSOC
      • Scammers who were regular Army might claim to have been a Green Beret or Army Ranger but not Delta Force
      • Scammers who were regular Air Force are likely to claim to have been a Para-Rescue or “PJ”.
    • “Running with it”
      • An example of this would be Mike Lamb’s recent confession and abrupt exit from the firearms training community
      • By Mike Lamb’s own confession, he was once introduced as Marine Force Recon and then never corrected it over the years.
      • The dynamic works by one person with social proof accepting the valor thief and over time people in the social circle just make the assumption that the valor thief’s claimed background is true.
    • “The files are classified”
      • This is a common retort used by scammers to deflect any accusations and it is complete BS.
    • “I was a PMC.”
      • A relatively new hustle in the wake of the Iraq War and the war in Afghanistan is for scammers to claim all sorts of Private Military Company badassery and combat experience because it is perceived as easier to lie about than lying about having been in a special operations military unit.
        • PMCs like Blackwater USA (or whatever they go by now), Triple Canopy, and DynCorp have HR departments that will verify employment if you just call them and ask them.
        • There was a guy on Gabe Suarez’s WarriorTalk web forum who developed a bit of cache (got published in their newsletter no less!) from his tales of PMC badassery and war wounds that were 99% likely “exaggerated”.
          • He used his tales of war injuries to hustle some decent people for money and free gear.
        • I was somewhat surprised that the guy’s material didn’t get retracted but I presume that it would be bad for business for a firearms tactics forum to admit that they blindly endorsed and published the work of someone who was not who they claimed to be.
        • People lying about working with a well-known PMC firm will often claim they were “hired through a third party”.
          • It is a variant on the “My records are sealed/secret/classified” comeback.
          • The entire point of such a retort is to leave a lingering doubt of the doubt in the mark’s mind and reel the mark back in.
    • The “Quiet Professional” Act
      • This is a more subtle stolen valor act than others.
      • The chain of actions usually involves the scammer ingratiating himself with the target and gradually revealing his “background”.
    • “Everyone Sucks but Us!”
      • Calls other firearms and martial arts instructors “fakes”, etc.
      • Makes a hobby of bashing other gun owners or firearms trainers for things like lack of experience, etc.
        • Such statements are meant create an “us against the world narrative” between the mark and the scammer.
        • You’d be surprised at how well this can work on people you would expect to “know better than that”.
  3. Understand their “camouflage”
    • Like the men they pretend to have been, they will often use camouflage and “smoke screens” to avoid detection and protect themselves when caught.
    • “Acting the Part”
      • Much like their Hollywood counterparts, the most successful stolen valor cases are the people who can look and “act the part” very well
      • Mike Lamb is a good example of someone who on first look could pass as someone with a special forces background.
      • There was a fitness trainer in this area who effectively leveraged his association with retired police officers to subsequently scam other people.
        • He was able to deceive current and retired cops (including a few well known instructors) that he ingratiated himself with by being able to “act the part” to go with his falsely claimed Green Beret heroics.
        • When a buddy of mine confronted him with evidence that his Green Beret service claims were false, he tried to pull the “files are classified” ploy and then promptly cut off all communication with my buddy and with me.
        • His physical fitness level and moderate level of tactical knowledge were key to his deception. Fitness is one of the key parts to keep people from digging too deep. Also not pissing them off helps as well! 🙂
    • “It’s a conspiracy!”
      • I have noticed some stolen valor cases often e-mail forward or subscribe to Alex Jones or Infowars.com or other “Fake News” type material a lot of times.
        • I think this has something to with the fact that their modus operandi revolves around a distorted view of reality.
    • “The Man is keepin’ me down!”
      • Stolen Valor cases are not much different from other criminals in the fact that drama permeates every aspect of their lives and they often refuse to take responsibility for their own failings.
        • They will often use some sort of “the man is keepin’ me down!” narrative as a way to deflect blame for their own failings and continue the scam they are running if their mark gets suspicious.
  4. Follow their Digital Trail
    • http://www.inteltechniques.com is a great resource
    • Try to find out all of their Internet screen names.
      • Use their real name and run a search on a gun forum, they may have already run a few of their stories before.
        • Prior internet board posts can often give you a window into a con artist “polishing their act”
      • Find their Facebook account and social media accounts associated with their friends or family members.
        • The reason for that is to establish a timeline to determine if their claims are true or not as well as to verify any war injury claims.
  5. Put it all Together
    • As more “war stories” come out, the dates and locations often start to overlap and contradict each other.
    • Establishing a timeline is of the utmost importance. If a prospective business partner starts telling “war stories”, make note of:
      • What unit(s) he claims to have served in
      • How old he is.
      • When he claims to have joined the military
      • When he says he was deployed overseas
      • Where he says he was deployed to
      • When he says he left the military
      • What he says he did right after he left the military
  6. Go to Sources for Help
    • SOCNET  is an excellent source of information. Just be sure to follow the forum rules before you post.
    • For $20, Don Shipley will run a verification
      • Proceeds are donated to charity.
    • Unit Associations for elite military units across the United States.
      • Just type in the unit name and then type “association” into Google or any other search engine.
      • Give the association a call and ask.
      • Be sure to thank them for their help.
  7. Cut them out!
    • I would argue that confrontation, while cathartic, really serves no purpose since stolen valor cases are often sociopaths who have no sense of guilt or shame over what they are doing.
    • The first reaction they will have to being confronted is to act hurt and then make counter-accusations. It usually goes something like “Well..Who are you?!?”
    • The best approach when you find out that someone you know is falsely claiming service heroics is to unceremoniously cut off all contact without notice or explanation.Usually nothing productive will come from confronting them yourself. Feel free to pass along their info to organizations that make it their business to bust fakers.
  • How to spot a Phony SEAL. Info on the awards is a little dated, but all else is accurate. R, Frog (as outlined on the Naval Special Warfare Archives homepage) 1. He’s wearing camouflage clothing decorated with multiple patches, ribbons, and tridents. 2. When asked for his class number, says he didn’t have to go through training…went straight to SEALs from Marines, Air Force, etc. 3. When asked what Team he was in, says Team 6 (everybody wants to be in Team 6). 4. When asked for names, places, dates, etc., the wannabe says it’s top secret, still classified. 5. Claims to have been a POW, or his entire platoon was wiped out and he was captured. 6. Talks about his medals, maybe even the Medal of Honor (SEALs don’t talk about their medals). 7. He can’t remember the name of his swim buddy, commanding officer, or platoon officer. And just a few ways for you to tell: * Ask him what SEAL stands for (bet he doesn’t know). * He says his records were burned up in the 1973 fire at the Records Center (NO Navy records were burned up there.)

    * For Further Clarification: While there have been and continue to be SECRET MISSIONS, there are not now, nor have there ever been any SECRET SEALS. There have NEVER been any secret SEAL training classes. There are all kinds of false claims being made in this country— doctors, teachers, lawyers, cops, bankers, Green Berets, Marines, Rangers, and, yes, SEALs. When you meet someone in a social situation (party, bar, restaurant, etc.) who identifies himself as a SEAL without a reason for doing so, you can be nearly certain that he’s a phony. When that same person tells tales about being a SEAL sniper-assassin or a personal buddy of Dick Marcinko‘s, you can be even more positive that the stories are NOT true. And when, upon being questioned, he states that his military records are sealed on grounds of national security, you know he’s an impostor! Another sure sign is the wearing of scruffy camouflage uniforms that are covered with patches and ribbons. For example, the area around the Viet Nam Memorial in Washington, DC, is literally filled with phony military vets of all services who parade around in various bits and pieces of uniforms.

    REALITY CHECK MANPOWER – The REAL Numbers In the entire history of the Naval Special Warfare community there have only been slightly over 10,400 men who have served in “operator” billets; this number includes approximately 2,200 men who are currently serving on active duty. This total number of “operators” includes all of the men who ever served with the various units that were precursors to today’s SEAL Teams, going all the way back to the earliest days of WWII and the Naval Amphibious Scouts and Raiders (S&R), the Naval Combat Demolitions Units (NCDUs), the Underwater Demolition Units (UDUs), and the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs).

    BUD/S TRAINING – How Many, How Often, How Long First and foremost the only men who can serve as US Navy SEALs are members of the US Navy. With the exception of a scant few specially selected foreign military men, the only people who may attend SEAL training are US Navy sailors. Those foreign military men do NOT participate in any supplemental SEAL training, NEVER receive a designation as a US Navy SEAL, and are NOT authorized to wear the US Navy SEAL insignia. They return to their home nations and carry the lessons they learned in SEAL training to their comrades in arms. Despite false claims made by countless imposters to the contrary, members of other branches of the US Armed Forces are NOT eligible to attend SEAL training; this is a “Sailors Only” program. Navy Basic Training (Boot Camp) takes about 3 months. After boot camp, a man who is destined for SEAL training may be sent to rate training – formal schooling in one of numerous areas of technical specialization that lasts from 5 to 14 weeks – prior to his reporting to Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training at the Naval Special Warfare Center (NSWC) in Coronado, California. Many sailors who wish to attend SEAL training, and who have passed the rigid prerequisite screening test, still spend a year or more in the regular fleet before they are transferred to the NSWC for training. Only about 2 men out of every 100 who take initial physical screening tests for the SEAL training program are accepted. BUD/S training classes are very limited, with only two to four classes convening each calendar year. Each class normally convenes with 100 to 150 men. Training lasts for 28 weeks, and the attrition rate is usually between 65% and 80%. While successful completion of BUD/S training is an absolute prerequisite to becoming a US Navy SEAL, graduation from BUD/S does not automatically qualify a man as a SEAL. Following BUD/S training, graduates remain attached to the NSWC in Coronado while they complete a secondary training program currently known as SEAL Qualification Training (SQT).

    SEAL QUALIFICATION TRAINING (SQT) This 15-week training program includes Basic Airborne (Parachute) Training at the US Army’s Fort Benning, Georgia, as well as numerous other courses involving specialized skills and equipment. Like BUD/S, not all men who enter SQT will successfully complete the program. At the end of SQT training, each graduate receives his SEAL Trident breast insignia, and his personal military record is updated to show he is officially designated as a US Navy SEAL. Each graduate then receives an assignment to one of the various SEAL Teams within the US Navy. Many SEAL imposters claim to have attended “secret SEAL training” and offer this as a reason why there are no records of their claimed service. In reality, the BUD/S training program is completely unclassified. While there are other training steps (as described above) that must be completed on the path to becoming a fully qualified US Navy SEAL, BUD/S training is the first and most vital, and that training course is totally unclassified. Without having first completed BUD/S training, a man cannot go on to attend SQT or any additional courses, and absolutely cannot become a US Navy SEAL. There are no exceptions and no “special cases”, there are no “tests” that a man can take to bypass BUD/S training, there are no “short courses”, and no one is sent directly from the regular Navy fleet to the SEAL Teams. Every man who wishes to be a SEAL must successfully complete the entire BUD/S training program, and every man who wishes to be a SEAL must successfully complete the entire SQT program. Before any secret missions are undertaken every man who participates in “classified ops” has to have already successfully completed BUD/S training, and SQT, including Jump School, SERE School, Winter Movement training, Close Quarters Combat, and dozens of other physical and technical training courses. The Navy maintains records of ALL of the men who go through BUD/S and SQT, and ALL of the classes that these men attend, and the units to which they are ultimately assigned. Although specifics about combat operations are not normally a part of a man’s military record (unless as part of an award or commendation), regular military personnel records accurately track what schools a man has completed and what rank he has achieved. These records are readily available from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri and may be obtained under the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA). From the day he first reports for BUD/S training to the day a man is ready to deploy as a fully trained, fully integrated member of an operational SEAL platoon, requires a bare minimum of 18 months. Depending on the amount of time between various training classes and schools, it can very often take as long as two full calendar years to complete the process. Once a man has successfully graduated from SEAL training, he is contractually obligated to serve for a minimum of 3+ years of service as an active duty SEAL.

    SECRET “SEALED” RECORDS – A Movie Myth Anyone claiming that their records have been “sealed” because they contain information about their “classified missions” is making a completely false statement. As noted above, individual “missions” or combat assignments are NOT recorded in a man’s service record unless they form part of a commendation or award statement. There may be notations relating to “deployments” (these are often referred to as “tours”), but NEVER to any individual “missions”. Deployments take the form of a collective assignment for all members of a given SEAL platoon and generally last 4 to 6 months. These deployments amount to temporary assignments, either to a particular area of operations or aboard a naval vessel. Anyone claiming that records of their service as a SEAL have been destroyed “to protect them from repercussions” or that portions of their records pertaining to SEAL service have been deleted “to uphold National Security”, is making a completely false statement. Such claims are invariably used in the motion picture industry to heighten the “secret agent” aspects of a movie, but such claims bear little or no resemblance to the factual world of the real US Navy SEALs. The Navy doesn’t seal records to prevent revelation of their classified contents – that only happens in pulp fiction – or the movies! NO records of SEAL training have been purposely or accidentally destroyed by fire or other means. If your are told that records were burned up in the fire at the National Personnel Records Center, you should know that there was a fire at that facility, but the fire only burned a relatively small number of Army and Air Force records. You can read about this fire and the damages which resulted at:http://www.archives.gov/facilities/m…fire_1973.html

    THE DATABASE The SEAL database used by the AuthentiSEALs currently lists slightly more than 10,500 men, of whom (as noted above) about 2,200 are currently on active duty. That SEAL database is a product of the Naval Special Warfare Archives, and while it is not “classified”, it is most certainly considered to be “extremely sensitive” information and is not available for general distribution or public dissemination. While the SEAL database does have some information gaps relating to men who served in the very earliest days of WWII, it remains the best and most complete listing of all NSW men in existence. There is no other more complete resource, and it is certainly the best and most accurate method of verifying an authentic, genuine US Navy SEAL. This is the same database that SEALs use for authentication among themselves when they are not known to each other, and it is recognized by the UDT-SEAL Association, the UDT-SEAL Museum, and the US NAVY as the most complete and comprehensive listing of Naval Special Warfare members available. The SEAL database is thoroughly researched and based on original US Navy records and documentation dating from the present back to the early 1940’s. Principal in the compilation of the database are the graduation records for the Navy’s Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training program. As each new class graduates from BUD/S training and the subsequent SQT training course, their names are added to the database. The SEAL database was created by a private, non-governmental organization (the Naval Special Warfare Archives). It is held in private hands, and has never been subject to any manipulations by the Department of Defense. SEALs who have been removed from the Teams or who have had their SEAL status revoked are listed in the database along with those men whose service is exemplary. Records are never deleted or altered, and they are not subject to any control or censure by Naval authorities. The SEAL database contains the names of those who have successfully completed the BUD/S program and SQT; if a man’s name is not listed in the database, then he did NOT complete SEAL training… and he is not a US Navy SEAL. It is important to note and it cannot be overstated that it is possible for a man to successfully complete BUD/S training and still NOT be a US Navy SEAL. Although the vast majority of men who complete BUD/S training do, in fact, go on to successfully complete SQT and all of the additional training courses needed to achieve SEAL status, there are a very few men who do not complete all of those programs, and who never become SEALs.

    VIETNAM Although there were a very few individual SEALs acting as military advisors in Vietnam as early as 1962, the FIRST deployment of SEALs as combat forces did not take place until February 1966. The last full SEAL platoon deployed to the Republic of Vietnam in 1971, and returned to the United States about 6 months later. Thereafter, only seasoned, experienced SEAL combat veterans were sent to Vietnam, singly or in pairs, acting as military advisors. The LAST SEALs in Vietnam were returned to the US in November 1972. The Paris Peace Accords were signed in January 1973, stipulating a mutual cessation of hostilities, and an exchange of POWs. The last US combat troops (from all branches of US armed forces) left Vietnam and returned to the United States on 29 March 1973. Thereafter the only US military forces in Vietnam were the mere handful of US Marines officially assigned as the security force at the US Embassy in Saigon. The Vietnam War was at an end for all US combat forces. Only a small diplomatic embassy remained in Saigon. On 30 April 1975 the North Vietnamese forces invaded Saigon (in direct violation of their agreements as stipulated in the Paris Peace Accords). With the imminent threat of being overrun by NVA forces, the US Embassy was evacuated… officially ending the US diplomatic presence in Vietnam. There were a grand total of no more than about 250 SEALs sent to Vietnam, and only about 750 UDT “Frogmen” who served in the Republic of Vietnam or the coastal waters immediately offshore during the entire time span of the Vietnam War. The Platoon designations, dates of deployment, and duration of deployments are known factors. Anyone claiming to be a SEAL during the Vietnam conflict should be able to easily provide this information. While specifics about duty activities during such deployments may be considered “sensitive”, the facts regarding a deploying unit’s identification, deployment dates, and duration are NOT classified and can be quickly verified.

    IMPOSTOR’S CLAIMS As noted above, it is quite common for those making fraudulent SEAL claims – especially claims involving extraordinary combat heroics – to cite a “secret” training class or “secret mission” as an explanation for the lack of military documentation to back up their stories. Not being satisfied with SEAL claims alone, these imposters often make additional claims of other very specialized skills or assignments (sniper, courier, martial arts instructor, etc), or of participation in covert operations for the CIA or other “shadowy” government agencies. These totally bogus claims are made in order to emphasize the “ultra-secret” nature of the work they claim to have done, to underline their supposedly exceptional value as an “elite” service member, and to underscore their claims regarding the “extremely classified” and “inaccessible” nature of their military records. The overall intention, of course, is to convey to the listener the idea that the person making the statements is not only an “extraordinary and deadly warrior”, but also one of a very few rare persons the government has decided to trust with the most sensitive, highly classified information… all in an effort to make the storyteller appear “better” than those to whom he tells his tall tales.

    SEALS ARE NOT SPIES Readers are reminded that the acronym “SEAL” is a composite of three words – Sea, Air, and Land – the three environments within which the men of the SEAL Teams are trained to operate. Contrary to what many SEAL impostors would like you to believe, the acronym “SEAL” does NOT stand for “Secret” “Agent” “Lad”! SEALs are military men, generally operating as a cohesive unit – a TEAM – assigned to carry out legitimate (although often covert) military assignments. They are not running around individually, acting like spies, playing at being “James Bond in uniform”, or carrying out any of the outrageous crap depicted on TV and the movie screen. All too many of the bogus stories told by SEAL impostors are based upon themes played out in spy novels and movies – tales of daring lone operatives functioning as spies and/or assassins far behind enemy lines. The SEAL impostors are counting on the idea that civilians don’t know the real truth about SEAL duty, and they are desperately hoping that listeners will believe stories which sound like those depicted in thrilling and sensational movies.

    INDISCRIMINANT KILLINGS – Another Myth A huge number of the tales told by impostors include claims of having performed heinous acts such as killing innocent women or children. Invariably such claims are intended to convey a mixed message to the listener… the story teller describes himself as being “sickened by what he was required to do”, and often cites his personal disgust as the reason he was “thrown out of the Teams”… and the reason that all records of his service were erased. At the same time, by telling such stories, the SEAL impostor communicates to his listeners the idea that he is a violent, dangerous, and cold-blooded individual, that he (supposedly) WAS willing to kill innocent women and children when called upon to do so, and that because he is such a dangerous and efficient killer, he is a person to whom great deference and respect should be shown. -SEALs ARE sailors serving in the US Navy – not soldiers, not airmen, not coast guardsmen, and not marines… -SEALs ARE highly trained, highly intelligent, extremely physically fit warriors… -SEALs ARE quiet, extremely self-confident professionals, not generally given to bragging or threatening… -SEALs ARE military men, subject to the restrictions and stipulations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)… -SEALs ARE NOT CIA “James Bond” super spy type operatives single-handedly carrying out hair raising ultra-secret “missions” against enemy governments and forces… -SEALs ARE NOT indiscriminate killers, standing knee deep in grenade pins and spent cartridge casings, wielding bloody combat knives, assuming theatrical martial arts poses, and insisting that people call them by insipid nicknames, supposedly official “code names”, or ridiculously fabricated “call signs” such as “Creeping Death”, “Death Merchant”, “the Angry Gorilla”, “Avenger”, or “Lone Wolf”… -SEALs ARE NOT war criminals committing indiscriminate mayhem and heinous acts of mass murder at the ultra-secret behest of their government, or piling up “body counts” in the hundreds or even thousands.

    WEEKEND MISSIONS and SURGICALLY IMPLANTED MICROCHIPS Many SEAL imposters have convinced their listeners that they are actually secret operatives for the US government, participating in exciting, life-threatening covert actions around the world… but only on the weekends! Many claim that while they go about their normal work-a-day jobs they are also in weekly or even daily contact with government authorities, waiting for crucial assignments that will take them to far lands and high adventure. They often cite the names of government officials currently mentioned in the news media as a way of adding a sense of realism to their false claims. These tall tales generally include claims of “leave-on-Friday-return-on-Sunday” secret missions that make James Bond movies look like gentle nursery tales. Several SEAL imposters have even added fantastic claims of the government surgically implanting microchips and or long distance communications devices in their bodies, ostensibly so they are never out of touch and can always be located by their “government handlers”. Of course they also claim that the surgery was so skillfully accomplished that no scarring or evidence of the surgeries remains to betray their existence. There have been speculative documentary shows about the idea of implanting microchips bearing emergency medical information in people who have unusual medical conditions or who are under high health risks, but this is not routinely done with US Navy SEALs. Real Navy SEALs don’t have “GPS locator chips” surgically tucked away in the muscles of their body against the possibility that they become separated from their unit behind enemy lines. It happens in the movies, but not in real life. The truth is that only fully active duty members of the US Navy can be Navy SEALs. They go to work at a military base or location on a daily basis. They muster and train daily, follow a military schedule, wear military uniforms, stand rotating military watches, and suffer through regular uniform inspections… just like all the other members of all the other branches of the US military armed forces. The only “civilian SEALs” in existence are member of the US Naval Reserves. They attend regular reserve unit drill weekends once a month, and spend two weeks a year on Active Duty for Training (ACDUTRA). If a SEAL is serving in harm’s way, it’s because he is on active duty. If he is a reservist, then he must first be called to active duty BEFORE he is sent into harm’s way. He will have printed orders to report for duty, uniforms and equipment allotments, and very specific schedules to which he must adhere. If a member of a SEAL reserve unit is called to active duty, it won’t be for just a weekend, it will be for an extended period of time (6 months, 1 year, 2 years, etc), and it will be as a result of a MOBILIZATION order affecting most or all of the members of his reserve unit.

    “SADDAM IN THE GUN SIGHTS”… and WHAT MAKES A SEAL DIFFERENT One of the most frequently offered stories told by SEAL imposters is the claim of having had Saddam Hussein, or Osama bin Laden, or Mohammar Qaddafi (or some other high profile, newsworthy dictator) in their gun sights, but not being given “green light authorization to shoot”… as if SEALs in combat situations somehow need to “phone home” for permission to pull a trigger! More than half of what separates SEALs from other military men is what is between their ears. SEALs are highly intelligent, and their training emphasizes a reliance on their intelligence and initiative to do their jobs without having to call for decisions from higher authority. The situations under which SEALs operate often make such contact with higher authority virtually impossible. Unlike war movies where a constant dialog between the main characters (either through verbal discussions between buddies or constant radio calls to “HQ”) is necessary to keep the audience informed about what is going on, and to move the plot forward, real SEALs hardly ever speak when on an operation. Hand and arm signals used by the SEALs carry as much information as sign language for the deaf. The primary mission of the SEAL Teams is intelligence gathering; absolute stealth and silence is required under such circumstances. Most SEAL assignments are carried out without a single word ever being uttered… or a single shot being fired.

    AWARDS AND CITATIONS To date there have only been five (5) members of the Naval Special Warfare community who have been awarded the Congressional Medal Of Honor. Three of those men served during the Vietnam War. Those three men are Robert Kerrey (a former US Senator and Presidential candidate), Thomas Norris, and Michael Thornton. In fact, Mike Thornton’s Congressional Medal Of Honor was the last one awarded to any member of any branch of the US Armed Forces for combat action in Vietnam, and it is also the most recent Congressional Medal Of Honor awarded to any member of the US Navy. Two were awarded posthumously for actions in Iraq, Mike Monsoor and Afghanistan, Mike Murphy. There were no Congressional Medals Of Honor awarded to any member of any branch of the US Armed Forces for actions that occurred during operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm (1990-1991).

    There is no such thing as a secret award ceremony. All awards of the Congressional Medal Of Honor are a matter of public record. The citations for all Congressional Medal Of Honor awards may be viewed online at www.army.mil/cmh-pg/moh1.htm. Under Title 18, Section 704, of the United States Code, it is a federal offense to falsely claim to have received the CMOH. The penalties for violation of this statute include fines up to $10,000 and/or up to one year in prison. Second only to the Congressional Medal Of Honor is the Navy Cross. Only a handful of awards of the Navy Cross have been made since the end of the Vietnam War. No Navy Crosses were awarded for actions in operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm (1990-1991). Following the end of the Vietnam War, four Navy Crosses were awarded to members of the United States Marine Corps, and TWO (2) Navy Crosses was awarded to Navy SEALs. One of those Navy awards was made posthumously to Navy SEAL Engineman Chief Petty Officer Donald McFaul who was killed in combat in Panama in December of 1989. The other was awarded to Chief Petty Officer Stephen Charles Bass in 2003 for actions in Afghanistan.

    POW CLAIMS – Completely False Another popular claim made by SEAL imposters is that of being a former prisoner of war. Often such claims are accompanied by claims of being the “only survivor of my unit”. Of course this particular tactic is intended to elicit extreme sympathy for the person claiming to be a SEAL POW, and at the same time it is intended to eliminate any possibility of there being someone who can deny the claims. The names of all US military personnel who have ever been held as a Prisoner of War are a matter of record, and the POW Network (www.pownetwork.org) can quickly and accurately verify or deny ANY claims of POW status. The absolute truth is that there have NEVER been any UDT Frogmen or SEALs captured, detained, or held as prisoners of war… not in ANY war, not EVER!

    SEAL TEAM SIX and RED CELL The AuthentiSEALs received reports (almost daily) of imposters who claimed they were either current or past members of SEAL Team SIX and/or RED CELL. Some even claimed to have served with SEAL Team SIX in Vietnam, while others claimed to have served with that unit in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), or Operation Iraqi Freedom. In actuality, SEAL Team SIX unit was commissioned in August of 1980 (12 years and 6 months after the end of the Vietnam War) and it was decommissioned about 1989 [this date is purposely vague]. RED CELL was a small contingent of men within SEAL Team SIX who were specifically tasked with evaluating the security capabilities of various US military bases from the viewpoint of a potential Soviet threat. They, too, ceased to exist when SEAL Team SIX was decommissioned. The popularity and wide availability of author Richard Marcinko’s, ROGUE WARRIOR books has put a lot of information about those particular units into the hands of the general public. Marcinko was a real US Navy SEAL, and his books vividly portray an exciting and dangerous sequence of military actions. They have fueled a massive floodtide of phonies claiming to be personal acquaintances of Marcinko, or claiming operating experience with SEAL Team SIX or RED CELL. Many even go so far as to falsely claim notable incidents (or slight variations thereof) from Marcinko’s writings as their own personal experiences. No other SEAL Team has been so widely described to the civilian public… in fact members of the general public have little, if any, specific knowledge about any other SEAL Team except Team SIX. Most don’t even know how many SEAL Teams there actually are in existence. As a function of his intended audience, Marcinko’s form and style of writing are akin to a thrilling movie script, concentrating heavily on the exciting moments of training and/or deadly dangerous moments of SEAL operations, rather than on the more mundane and normal day-to-day life of a Navy SEAL. The tall tales of SEAL imposters generally follow this same heavy focus on action and danger, and ignore the mundane aspects of day-to-day life. Any descriptions they may offer related to “down time” between combat actions rarely bears any resemblance to the realities of SEAL duty.

    TATTOOS Many SEAL imposters offer tattoos as evidence that they are actually members of the US Navy’s SEAL Teams. They take advantage of the fact that most people would not begin to give serious consideration to obtaining such a tattoo without having legitimately earned the right to display or wear the symbol. Upon displaying their tattoos, SEAL imposters often claim to their listeners that “all of the men in my class got this same tattoo when we graduated from training”. Others have claimed that a particular tattoo was one that all the members of their individual SEAL platoon got after completing a particular deployment, operation, or “mission”. Time and again AuthentiSEAL investigators have answered inquiries that report a man offering or displaying his SEAL Trident tattoo as “proof” that he was a member of the Navy’s SEAL Teams. The response has been the same in every case; a tattoo is nothing more than an indelible picture set into the wearer’s skin. The government does not issue and does not espouse tattoos of any sort or kind. Anyone can purchase a tattoo. Anyone can obtain ANY tattoo image (including any military insignia) if they are willing to spend the money, and to endure the discomfort of having it pierced into their skin. It is perhaps appropriate to point out that the requirements of Operational Security (OPSEC) and Personal Security (PERSEC) are not well served if members of an elite military force like the SEALs are wearing the identifying emblem of their unit tattooed on their bodies. These are not the freewheeling days of wooden ships, canvas sails, and sailors wearing exotic tattoos from unheard-of ports in the primitive South Sea Islands. This is the 21st Century, and the modern Navy is a completely different entity. When Navy SEALs go into combat they do not carry identifying documents of any kind; they don’t carry wallets, I.D. cards, drivers’ licenses, photographs of wives or girlfriends, notes from friends, letters from home, paycheck stubs… nothing! With such strict observance being given to OPSEC and PERSEC by these quiet professionals, the idea of wearing a SEAL Trident tattoo is completely ridiculous. Yet still the claims of tattoos as proof of being a SEAL are offered by countless imposters. OPSEC and PERSEC are very real concerns, and tattoos – officially classed as “identifying marks and scars” – pose a real threat to both OPSEC and PERSEC. For that reason most real SEALs do not wear any tattoos, and particularly avoid having the SEAL Trident permanently engraved anywhere on their persons. There is no official ban on tattoos (Trident emblems of otherwise) in the SEAL Teams. To be sure, some former SEALs do obtain such a tattoo, small and discretely located, after leaving active military service, but this is far from 220;standard procedure”. It is never something which is offered by a real SEAL as proof of his Team membership.

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