There are Navy SEALs, and there are Team Guys. Both go through the same training, work at the same team, and wear the same uniform. The difference exists well beneath the selection process, the name on the side of the building, and the cloth and metal that designate a military occupation. The distinction between the two is defined by motivation. One is there for himself, one is there for the Team. To an insider, it is obvious. To an outsider, I would imagine that it is impossible to tell the difference.
Becoming a Navy SEAL is not difficult. Enlist or commission, complete the required training, earn your trident, and your designator in the military system will be changed. You will forever have earned the right to call yourself a SEAL. For some, the journey metaphorically ends there. The title is all they wanted, the title was the singular goal. They may say the right things, but their actions tell the true story. To many, it seems like an amazing accomplishment. It is meaningful in some ways, and meaningless in others. It is a job title.
Whether you enjoy the publicity that the modern-day SEAL community receives, or it makes you sick to your stomach, it is not going anywhere. The publicity, the movies, and the books are a problem. They combine to create unrealistic expectations, which in turn create impending failures. They are a distraction, at best. They are selective in the stories they tell, much like people are selective in how they “portray” their lives on social media. The mediums are incomplete, and they lack the ability to unpack a complicated occupation.
The spotlight is dangerous because it constantly tugs at your ego, your desire to be recognized for doing something that many think is impossible. It appears warm under the spotlight, and it is seductive. I have felt it myself, and I suspect to one degree or another, everyone does. If you are not careful, a job title will become all that you have, and all that you will ever be.
The publicity attracts people who are there for the wrong reasons. It attracts people who are seeking attention, not an outlet to serve others. It attracts people who want to be known as a SEAL, because they see that “title” as their reward for service, instead of realizing that their service is the reward itself, and a privilege. They see their service as a tool for their future, something that will open doors that they likely have no business stepping through, instead of as a tool for others, designed to create space for this country and its citizens to be what they choose to be.
The life of a SEAL is hard, both physically and mentally. We work hard, and yes, we play hard. We live our lives at the outermost boundary, where many would be extremely uncomfortable. For some, it becomes the only place where you feel comfortable. It can be difficult to manage and contain when you lose that outlet, even more so when you leave and lose the camaraderie and support of those you serve with. The community is not full of choir boys, and it should never be. Mistakes will be made, and some of them will be catastrophic, and horrific. The wrong people occasionally make it through. The mistakes, and those individuals do not reflect the community as a whole. They stand as a reminder that no process is perfect, and that regardless of the size of the lawn, there will always be weeds.
These characteristics, traits, and struggles are present in every organization, inside of the military and out. They are not unique to the SEAL Teams, an organization that most consider to sit at the apex, and that is why I use them as an example. Every organization will have those that are there for the right reason, and those that exist for self-serving purposes. Some may be in leadership positions, and some may be at the bottom rung, attempting to climb at breakneck speed. You have no control over those people, you can only control yourself, and you have a choice to make.
Do you want to be a SEAL, or do you want to be a Team Guy?
A team guy does not care about job title. A team guy does not care about gear, weapons, uniforms, or any of the other countless “shiny objects” that can distract you. A team guy does not obsess over what kind of car they drive, what it says on their business card, cubicle, or office wall. A team guy cares about the mission, and the people to their left and right. They know the spotlight exists, but they are not willing to step on the heads of those around them to climb in to it. They would rather arrive together, and share in the reward, than arrive alone, and covet it for themselves. It is easy to be a SEAL, it is hard to be a Team Guy.
An organization of SEALs may sound impressive, but it’s the organization full of Team Guys that is unstoppable.
Don’t chase a title, chase a purpose.
47 thoughts on “Navy SEALs Vs. Team Guys”
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Very good it’s a real good reminder that we cant have nothing without a solid Foundation (Teams who all have the same Vision)
A Seal is a “team” member. With out that he is nothing, one who can not be counted on nor trusted.
Perfect. Just perfect.
Well said, Andy. ‘SEAL’ is an acronym for the means of insertion, and the environs in which we operate (d, for us Former Action Guys). I was never a ‘SEAL.’ I was a frogman in the Teams.
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That’s a great way of looking at it!
Frogman in the teams, not a Sea-Air-Land insertion acronym.
Makes sense to this old former frog. (Class 105).
How can you say that? When you yourself have published books on the back of your career!
For ‘Anonymous’ 170514:0618. It should be obvious (but evidently for the slow-witted it is not) that there is a world of difference between choosing a career in order to write books and aggrandize yourself later, and writing books after your career is over that are based upon your life experiences. The former is a sad commentary on one’s character, or lack thereof, while the latter is a commonly accepted literary practice that dates back to the earliest written word.
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The same goes for civilian LE tac teams…thanks, Andy.
Keep up the great writing man. That was great!
I sadddens me as a former Sailor whom tried three times at BUDs, it wasn’t in my cards. The honorable men whom have layed down their lives for their country and TEAM, I feel are extremely disrespected by such acts by fellow “SEALs whom pose as TEAM guys” is a gut punch to the families names being exploited due to ones deep desires for fame and fortune.
Much respect to our countries “TEAM guys”
Michael Murphy was in my first BUDs class, (butter bar at the time) as well Michael Anthony Monsoor in my BUDS second class (MA3 at the time) a friend and co-worker in Sigonella when we were training to return to BUDs for our second try. (Stud, never worried about a thing)
Both men were courageous, and held strong to their core values.
For the “MOVIE” stars, remember this
“I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions” ???? ring a bell????
Grow up. Be the man you used to want to be.
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As always, powerful Andy Stumpf !
This one brought back some very good memories. I remember all those guys who used to orbit my teacher wanting to be just like him and thinking the way to do it was to get that same piece of metal and job title he had. They thought they were his inner circle…until he plucked me from relative obscurity, or as obscure as you can get as one of less than 100 females in a student body of over 900, to teach. They never understood why he picked me and it took years before I began to either since we all knew I would never be allowed to even try for that. Some of it I understood on an almost instinctive level and the difference between Navy SEALs and Team Guys was part of that. I’ve often wondered if any of those guys ever made it. I would be surprised if any did. Even as an outsider, the difference has always been obvious to me, but then I have an excellent template for comparison.
I know how hard it is to function under the spotlight. Everyone on my campus knew who I was and what my teacher’s opinion was. Some of my other teachers also decided I was special, mostly because he had. Still others disliked me because he liked me. I had to block it all out, to ignore it, to turn it into just background noise, and to not let it go to my head because I knew that if I ever did, I would no longer be special to him and his opinion was far more important to me than all the others combined. Even now I can feel that pull. I know what I have accomplished in the past and it is hard to stand by and watch as a few people who also know actively try to erase it because it doesn’t fit with what they want others to believe about me. But I know and more importantly, there are others who know and still remember and appreciate it. An unexpected, two-line “easter egg” that less than 50 people in the world will ever fully understand, tucked in the middle of an episode of a scripted TV show, is more reward than I could ever hope or ask for.
But that’s the past. What’s really important is what I do today, and tomorrow and the day after that. Just because I don’t have the opportunities I used to have, doesn’t mean I don’t have any. If I look hard enough, I find them.
Excellent article brother. #LLTB
Thanks Andy. Well spoken, once again.
Best article on this group of guys I’ve read in a while. Well stated.
I want to be a Team guy.
This too I believe, applies to the US fire service and myself, to a degree. I love “team” and the concept. Its benefits and strengths. Anonymity. The low position, which isn’t low if it benefits the team. Like an offensive tackle or guard. Thanks for the insight warriors. The words of wisdom and countless examples I could imagine. Godspeed to you all. I will be a better “Team” guy.
Nice! This Team Guy Wife agrees completely!
Ridiculous. The truth is “team guy” is a turn of phrase already in use amongst the teams-especially 6. It’s used to separate themselves from those who support them.
Sounds to me like it’s more marketing. Even if it isn’t, stop with the SEAL nonsense, in all cases. The only way to heal that image is for everyone to shut up about it for a solid decade.
I’m not talking about how guys may or may not refer to themselves, I was talking about the difference in motivations. I’m not marketing anything, merely making an observation based on my personal experience.
Stunningly harsh punditry that misses the entire point of the article, but not overly surprising given the ‘source’ [Dumb].
Having been around the IC and the Teams for 40+ years, I thought the article was ‘spot on’. At some level, it is probably a self-evaluation to reinforce Andy’s personal understanding and commitment to his craft and his life choices. But much more importantly it serves as both Leadership guidance to those in the Community still trying choose their path, and a Warning Order of sorts to those who tend to place position above purpose.
You reference Six, but once again evidently fail to understand the truth or significance of your statement. All SEALs that get assigned to a team or supporting element, by virtue of their training and demonstrated performance, are equipped to run and gun alongside anyone. Besides experience, however, one of the core differences between those that make it into the Tier 1 Communities – whether Blue or Green – and the rest of the SOF Community is WHY and HOW they operate, not what they can do or how well they can do it. The latter two points are pretty much equal across all candidates or they wouldn’t be in selection to begin with. Otherwise stellar operators that don’t understand why they didn’t make it into Six (or Delta, or one of the SMUs) might take this to heart as a heads up to reexamine their core motives.
Hand salute to Andy for taking a moment to shed some light on this important distinction. I found it to be a valuable reminder for me and something we should all keep close in our daily walk. Hooyah Andy!!
Thank you. I wasn’t sure if I should comment. I’m the quintessential spinster, who writes Christian romance. How could I possibly compare myself to this? I hate to admit how often I worry about sales and name recognition. You reminded me of the pact I made with God: If my books helped even one person, I would be content. I’ve already succeeded, but I too often allow discontent into my life. I could see my struggle to want to be a “Navy SEAL” and forget that God called me to be a “Team Guy.” Thanks for the vivid reminder. God bless.
Awesome! Man, this is so relevant! SO GOOD Andy. These blogs would make amazing chapters for your book…
“If you are not careful, a job title will become all that you have, and all that you will ever be.” Words to live by.
I have a buddy, we’re both LEOs, when I met him he told me the difference between a seal and a frogman, because he was introduced as Navy Seal so and so, and as we talked he told me im not a seal, i served in Seal Team x but i was blessed to become a frogman when i went to indoc. That showed me the difference.
The notereity of being a team guy is the by-product of being a SEAL. Certainly titles are just that…strip all that away and you have nothing more than flesh and bones, but now do you still have what it takes to lead?
The problem with the SEAL teams or any organization such as a SEAL Team, is that it has a mayopic view of itself. The SEAL Teams exist in an exclusive environment, a vacuum, where just because it stands on that apex, does it believe the world should know who and what it is.
I was faced with this same situation, where I thought everyone knows what a SEAL is. But to my surprise, at the time, not all people know what a SEAL is. Most people are too busy to care. They have their own lives to care about and quite often I’ve heard my fellow peers call them sheep.
While I think this is well written and highlights the problem with people, as individuals, no organization is immune from societal norms that can penetrate even the most traditional and elite fighting units of the world…the variable we cannot control is people and their views and motivations.
A senior enlisted team guy once told me, “the teams is a self-licking ice cream cone.” I tend to agree with him.
Center of the 10-Ring, Andy! Great job, Brother. Forever, in Service…
I am a team guy.
Signed, friend of Pu’u
Legit. Thank you for sharing.
True words. Passing any school or assessment and earning a badge, Tab, or what it may be, is the easy part. The “difficult” part is trying to get better everyday, living up to the expectations of those who have come before, those to your left and right, and disproving the naysayers. Everyday is an evaluation and you choose whether you receive low or high marks.
Very happy you did another podcast with Brendan and Bryan. Great podcast guest
Andy, I’m printing this out and SEALs and Team Guys will read it
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Thank you for the above. Your words can really apply to so many situations. My 13 year old son is in California right now playing in his first junior Olympics for water polo. He is part of the 16U team and is the youngest player. He’s awesome. He was getting discouraged because he hasn’t been scoring many goals. I texted him the paragraph about the attributes of being a “team guy” that you shared above to help him see that his part in his water polo team is more than just scoring the goals. His “mission” is to bring his team a win. To assist the guys around him by getting them the ball or providing defense. He realized after he read your words that everyone plays a role on the team and when they work together they will “arrive together, and share in the reward, than arrive alone, and covet it for themselves.” The game he just finished playing they beat Stanford 11-7 and we are just a small club from New Jersey!! Thank you!
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Still not sure which category you fit into Andy. Your fight time was very limited, but your contributions in Training positions did help those younger Teammates.
I stand in judgement of the community I served with, so it is up to them as to which category I fall into. I have never claimed anything other than an average career, with more experience than some, and much much less than others. I don’t consider “fight time” to be the metric that determines whether or not someone is a SEAL or a Team guy. If it were, what would we say about the decades between Vietnam and 9/11? What would we say about those that served during that time period, who never had the opportunity to experience “fight time?” Perhaps we served together, perhaps we didn’t. Perhaps you think poorly of me, perhaps you don’t. Your opinion, and your judgement of my career is yours to express. It is interesting that you chose to post anonymously, when it is simple to attach your name to your thoughts. You aren’t going to hurt my feelings by letting me know who you are. I put my name on everything that I write, and everything that I say for a reason.
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That was a beautiful message that transcends the specific military group you were referencing which makes it so powerful! All should aspire to become a Team guy through their purpose in any endeavor. Thank you for sharing your insight and perspective and most of all for your service. I never served, yet appreciate those who do very much and so I also loved the part where you encouraged Team Guys to aspire and appreciate being “As a tool for others, designed to create space for this country and its citizens to be what they chose to be. “ I am a respectful beneficiary of that part right there thankfully by generosity of spirit given freely to me by all servicemen and women. Thank you very much. Much love and respect.
Andy thank you for all you do and for what you did. I have kind of a long story that I won’t take up your time telling, but I greatly appreciate your thoughts and views. Let me just say I am always question myself if I am truly tough enough to call myself my father Son, and due to part of my story which involve me not being able to enlist due to severe nerve damage in my left arm I have been left wondering if I had what it takes to join the ranks of you special operators. And listening to your podcast and reading your writings I realize that you don’t have to be a CL/SF guy to prove your metal, as I tend to take the word of somebody who’s done that been there and has a realistic view that you do. I know I love my family and friends and I’m quite confident they know add a drop of a hat I’m there for them. Through what you have said in your Podcasts in writings I think maybe I could’ve made it, but who knows at this point my life it doesn’t matter I will keep pushing to stay strong and the storms of life and be there for my family and friends.
Thank you again ( I think more so for what your doing post military career)
Yep. I know someone who’s a “seal”, not a team guy: Jimmy Graham. Ran for office, on the platform of a “seal”. Owns Able Shepherd, a fly-by-night wannabe security agency, as a “seal”.
He’s all about the title, not about the substance.
Having trained along side him; he can’t shoot, he can’t fight, he can’t plan or strategize…makes one wonder, was he a seal at all?
Great article😀. Keep writing…it’s a gift you have. By the way, I think you are far from an idiot. A name change in the blog may be due😀.
The publicity is good in it’s own way. In my opinion, there are a lot of guys looking for a tribe and acceptance, they are looking for a home. Personally, my biggest fear would be letting the man to my left and right down. I used to say “I’d rather die young with a Trident than live old without one” but this piece has changed that “optic” . I’d rather die young as a “TG” than to live old without my bros granting me that title. LLTB