With Lone Survivor hitting theaters on January 10, we spoke with Maximum Warrior 4 competitor Eagle about movie realism and what it takes to be a SEAL.
You knew some of the men portrayed in this film personally. Can you share any memories you have of them?
I knew several of the men portrayed in the film. Shane Patton was my next-door neighbor going through BUD/S. Great guy, loved music. He actually got me listening to Rise Against. He and I were the two youngest in my BUD/S class, so we had to clean the bell every day. A few of us, under 21ers, would always hang out in someone’s room and just shoot the shit, since none of us could go out to the bars like the older crowd. All we really did was sit around and make fun of each other, relentlessly and constantly.
What do you think of the movie’s depiction of deployment and combat?
I think they did a great job overall. I love that they made mock tents that seemed almost exactly what the living conditions were like, although we never had Wi-Fi, and there were some other minor misses. I think the combat scene was well done - you don’t see the usual problems when actors are trying to be operators, where they are shooting and not looking down their sights or not having to change mags. The movie stayed pretty true to the story, which is also very rare. Usually, Hollywood likes to spruce things up with their own twists, which devalues the story. I do like how they used actual footage of training in the beginning, which gave you a frame of reference to the training.
Did you find some of the scenes difficult to watch?
The fact that this movie is the most realistic depiction of combat that I have seen to date, combined with the fact that I knew some of the guys, made a lot of scenes very difficult to watch. It was too realistic for me - it made me think a lot about all my brothers; those that are no longer with us. But I do know that I could have come up to Shane the day before and told him that he was going to die on that helicopter and it would have not made a difference. He would have still gotten on that helo because we don’t leave our guys behind, and we don’t leave our guys alone when they are in trouble.
How does SEAL training prepare men for situations like the ones in Lone Survivor?
I think our training selects the best men and then trains those men to be independent, critical thinkers who can problem-solve. Our training is difficult, but that is out of necessity, because the job is difficult and a lot is on the line. When we make mistakes, our brothers die in front of us - that is a huge incentive not to fuck up. We continuously challenge each other every day in order to make sure that we’re mistake-free when we do our job. Throughout all our training, we “what if” everything from every angle and then have it happen during training missions. This creates warriors that can adapt, and you can see it in the movie. As the situation evolves, so does the plan, no one is told what to do. It looks like mass chaos, but everyone is independently problem-solving. When the mission started, they were just going to take some pictures and verify that their guy was on-site. Each guy is looking for the best cover and best place to set up so that they can do their job. The communicator makes sure he has communications; the security makes sure he can cover the team. All of a sudden, a firefight breaks out and each man is moving from cover to cover and laying down fire to cover each other. There is no one calling plays; whoever has the best vantage point can make a call to do something different.
Can you talk about what a typical combat deployment is like for a Navy SEAL?
A combat deployment is like the Super Bowl for us. We train very hard in the hopes that when our nation calls up on us, we are ready, and we want that opportunity more than anything. Professional football players want to be a part of that big game and get a Super Bowl ring. We train twice as hard so Americans can enjoy the freedoms we have. We want to stand proudly in front of the next generation and pass down the same freedom that was given to us by the previous generation. The combat deployment is depicted very well in this movie - you continuously see Shane wanting to get in the fight at every opportunity by continuously asking to go out on ops. You see the guys communicating with loved ones that they have not seen in months. Finally, you see guys challenging each other, which you saw in the race scene in the beginning.
What made you decide to become a Navy SEAL?
I sought to join the military from a very young age and wanted my service to mean something. I idolized the SEAL community and wanted to be a part of it. But most of all, I love this country and I wanted to be a part of upholding the freedoms we all cherish.
Was the experience anything like what you expected it would be?
Not at all. When I enlisted, I really didn’t have a solid understanding of what a SEAL was - I knew that they were Special Forces and could do amazing things, but I really didn’t understand what that meant. I thought that they were going to teach me how to be a badass, send me to save the world. I did not expect that being in that community would redefine my life; I did not expect to meet some of the greatest men I have ever met; I did not expect to have some of the greatest times or lowest points in my life during my time in the community.
What is it like to go through BUD/S? Does the movie portray it fairly accurately?
Going through BUD/S, it sucks. However, it is a great tool. It teaches you that all the limitations that you believe you had were just a figment of your imagination. BUD/s also allows us to have confidence not only in ourselves, but also in each other - you see another team guy and you find out he has done a few deployments, and based on just this information you know that he will not leave you when shit hits the fan. You know that when you’re on an op, that guy will not quit until that last breath leaves his body. I can’t speak for everyone, but for me personally, I don’t think the audience can truly understand what BUD/S is like from a one-minute film reel. I think the only way to comprehend BUD/S is to go through it - for example, if I told you that I was cold and wet, you would relate it to your personal experience. You would say, “Hey, I like surfing, it’s not that bad.” But I can tell you this - I have seen too many grown men show up to BUD/S while I was there saying, “I love being cold and wet, I only wear a T-shirt when it’s 2 degrees out, I got this.” Those were the same men who quit BUD/S and after the fact had a bunch of made-up excuses, so that the experience would not deflate their ego. Their helmets were left next to the bell as a reminder to the next class that it’s not what you thought it was going to be.
Lone Survivor is in theaters January 10.