Shark Boy – Navy SEAL Wanna Be

My final year in the Navy, I was in charge of the MK6 Dolphin System (the dolphins trained to hunt enemy frogmen). For training purposes, this meant several of my men had to gear up each night for six hours of diving or swimming, and let the dolphins practice locating them, which can be somewhat unnerving at first, as you’re alone in black water, waiting for a three hundred pound dolphin to tag you. For my guys, this routine got old quick, so the command often threw us warm bodies, guys waiting to start SEAL training. These guys had nothing to do. Giving them to us was a big win-win for all. They got to do a lot of swimming in the dark, before entering hell, and my guys got a break from long nightly dives. One time the command sent me a fellow named Baxter, who reported in wearing mushy grey boots, a filthy un-starched uniform, holding his own custom wetsuit (complete with red racing stripes) and started giving me pointers on how to conduct our training. I told him to shut up, suit up, and get ready for a long night in the water. Ten minutes into his first night, the safety zodiac called over the radio, with Baxter screaming in the background, that a shark had grabbed him. The dolphin had not been deployed at this point, so we knew it wasn’t our dolphin, and since the guys in the zodiac said he had no wounds, I immediately ordered him back in the water, and to get on with training. Five minutes later, same shit. He freaked and yelled that another shark grabbed him – grabbed him. This time he refused to get back in the water. By now, everyone was really pissed off, because we had to stop training, suit up another guy, one of us, and ferry him to the Op area – then start all over again, adding an hour to our work night. Once back at the command, Baxter strolled into my office without knocking, threw his bootie on my desk, sloshing water all over my paperwork, and showed me how a shark put his – get this – LIPS – around his thigh and then let go. I told him that shark must’ve been kissing him. Kelly Ernce leaned inside the door and added – that shark must hate the taste of chicken shit. Next night, same thing. This time Baxter returned with a black eye. Go figure. (I’m crediting Steve Ruth with that one, although I never asked or cared, as it somewhat pleased me). At this point, Baxter’s name became – Shark Boy, amongst other more derogatory nicknames. After that, Baxter refused to get in the water period. He obviously was not cut out to be a frogman, and was of no use to us, so I called over and got his orders cancelled to BUDS (SEAL training), which he didn’t argue. Someone else deserved his chance to be a SEAL, but then he said he wanted orders to SBU (Special Boat Unit) school, the guys who drive the cool, high speed SEAL delivery boats. This didn’t involve diving or getting in the water, so I got him orders and off he went, hopefully never to be seen again. Fast forward six months to the day I was getting out of the Navy, packing my desk, about to drive for Dallas. Who walked in? Yep, Shark Boy! He whined about being bullied at SBU, said he was getting out of the Navy, and asked if I would write him a recommendation to be a local San Diego County Sheriff. Although I was literally out the door, I was still a Naval officer and bound to act like one. I said I couldn’t write him a rec, not a good one. Then he pleaded, just write anything. I explained that if I wrote anything at all, he would never get the job. That’s my last memory of the Navy, walking from our command shack, carrying my things in a cardboard box, with Shark Boy weeping in the background. On the drive home, I reflected deeply over the matter, wondering if I’d made the right call. I think I did. We already have too many cops just like Baxter, right? (Disclaimer – Not ALL cops are like Baxter)  

Who can spot Shark Boy? NO, not on the left:)  00000045

If you like these short stories, they’re all filed under the Category: Mental Health. And both of my Special Operations EOD novels can be found on Amazon directly at the domain address:

This entry was posted in Mental Health. Bookmark the permalink.