Let me preface this article by saying several important things. I am committed to writing several articles in print and can’t usurp those stories, so I am toning down this content. Once summer rolls around and all of the print articles have appeared, I will write a more in-depth look at what happened while training with America’s finest retired Navy SEALs. That said, I just couldn’t wait that long to bring some information back to my many social media followers who knew I was there and who have been asking how it went.
I was invited by Panerai for this Special Operations Xperience as a journalist/observer, with the opportunity to participate in any of the exercises I felt I could do. Mind you, the others who bought into this trip by purchasing one of the 20 Panerai Special Operations Xperience watches ($57.700), were all hell-bent on participating in every training exercise. Many of them had begun training weeks before the event thanks to a host of exercises the SEALs Cadre team assigned out week after week.
Admittedly, some of the people on the trip were already die-hard athletic type CEOs and executives from around the world who run marathons, participate in triathlons, and more. Still, I don’t think anyone was 100 percent prepared for what we – or they – went through as they trained.
Some called the password for “training time out.” Some encountered other challenges that prevented them from completing an exercise or two. But all went above and beyond their own limits, putting certain mantras of the elite tactical Navy SEALs first and foremost as they trained with, and got to know, the cadre of retired SEALs that worked with each team to prepare us for a particular mission – saving and extracting hostages in the Everglades.
I have had the good fortune of joining Panerai on a previous Xperience – one with Jimmy Chin in the Grand Tetons where guests climbed mountains and tried their hands at wake boarding. That was enlightening and we all walked away with a new appreciation for explorers, mountain climbers and Jimmy Chin himself. But this was a different level in so many ways.
From the eventful bus trip into the Everglades, to the daily drives through swamps with alligators languishing on the sidelines to get to our destinations and the serious exercises and trainings we were learning, this trip gave me a new appreciation into how mind can control body, and how truly the Navy SEALs are a breed unto themselves.
A novice with guns, I shot pistols as well as MK rifles. (MK 17’s maybe? That’s my “novice” showing through.) I teamed with half a dozen men to play point man in a jungle path where I fast learned that reconnaissance is a lot more than looking around. Silently passing information from point man to last man required so many steps and perfect clarity of mind. We weren’t playing, we were trying hard to get it right.
We cleared rooms and entire buildings – searching for the “enemy.” Due to a recent surgery, I couldn’t participate in an exercise that left teams of two in the wilds to find their own way out, but some came out drenched from falling into mud pits, while others came out smiling at their accomplishments.
The experiences later continued at the beaches of the National Navy UDT SEAL Museum with a host of Navy SEAL exercises that we hear about but never get to see – let alone participate in. Mind you, we all know the SEALs were going easy on us. We weren’t enduring what a true candidate endures during official Training, but it was a lot despite that fact. It was enough to make this a trip of lifetime and one none of us will ever forget.
Three Key Takeaways
While there are many more stories to come, I want to impart the three key takeaways I gleaned from those four days in the Florida Everglades and in Fort Pierce at the Navy SEALs Museum that will stay with me forever.
The Navy SEALs. They say they are common men with an uncommon desire to succeed. They are humble, they are respectful and they get the missions done. No matter what. The stories the retired SEALs shared – the stories they were allowed to share – were riveting. The core ethics: bravery, loyalty, community service and commitment. They demonstrate this daily. I was incredibly impressed and proud to be an American thanks to them. Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that I feel even more insignificant in the world than ever before. Hooyah!
The people who buy the Panerai watch with Xperience. A few of the people on the Xperience had been on the Jimmy Chin experience, but I didn’t get to know them then like I did on this trip. Souls were bared and stories shared. These people buy the Xperience because that is what they genuinely want. Getting the watch that bears the Navy SEALs Trident is not enough. They wanted to earn that Trident. Kudos to them.
Officine Panerai. The brand’s commitment to customers and causes is remarkable. Panerai puts incredible effort into investigating high-tech materials, creating watches that can go the distance, and then collaborating with explorers, adventurers and causes that raise the brand to new levels. I’m not saying this because I went with them on this trip. I am saying that because all the history and product releases from this brand brought them to the Xperiences. The watches came first.