Sun, Aug 08, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Taiwan takes pride in first navy SEAL

THE BEST OF THE BEST Yu Kuei-lin has become the first Taiwanese military officer to pass what many consider to be the world's toughest military training

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwanese marine Captain Yu Kuei-lin prepares for a training session while completing a training course with the US Navy SEALs.

PHOTO: MINISTRY OF NATIONAL DEFENSE

Taiwanese marine Captain Yu Kuei-lin (余奎麟) has been in the spotlight after becoming the first Taiwanese military officer with a US Navy SEAL (Sea, Air and Land) badge following completion of a rigorous and challenging course of training.

Yu, 28, graduated with honors and earned his bachelor's degree from the Republic of China Military Academy (陸軍官校) in 1998, and started his military career in the marines as a platoon leader.

"Yu has been working very hard ever since he joined us and he has always been outstanding," said Colonel Lo Chih-kang (羅志剛), Yu's commanding officer. He said that Yu was selected to participate in the US Navy SEAL's 30-week Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) course last September because of his outstanding service record.

Yu was the only foreigner among a total of 11 to matriculate from the course from 123 who signed up for the special BUD/S training. The BUD/S course is the basic training program for a potential SEAL. Yu is not the first Taiwanese military officer to have attended the BUD/S course, but he is the first officer to have completed the program in winter.

Yu's rank as a marine captain was also recognized at the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in San Diego, California, where Yu was trained.

"All 123 of us were volunteers. That means, nobody would force you to go through the training and you may quit at anytime. But nobody left during the process except those who were washed out," Yu said.

Prior to his going through the US Navy SEAL BUD/S course, Yu had completed all the training programs of the Taiwanese marines and is a recognized and qualified marine frogman.

The Taiwanese marine captain comes from a single-parent family in Hualien. According to him, his 82-year-old father Yu Ker-tsan (余克贊) has always been his inspiration to take on and overcome challenges.

"My father retired as an air force master sergeant. If I had anything good in me, I must have gotten it from him," Yu Kuei-lin said.

Regarding the BUD/S training, Yu Kuei-lin said that the "hell week" and close-circuit scuba diving in cold water impressed him the most.

The "hell week" is a 112-hour non-stop physical regimen which takes place during the first week of the program. Some 85 trainees failed to pass this first round. Usually, the SEAL's "hell week" starts with "break out" on a Sunday night, a simulated combat experience where absolute chaos reigns. After this, the boat crews begin a series of well-choreographed training events that pit boat crew against boat crew, trainees against trainees and the individual against himself. The true enemy becomes the cold. Trainees are kept wet, cold and exhausted every minute of each day -- the only respite coming in the warmth of the canteen where each trainee will consume a total of about 5,000 calories a day.

A defining moment

The cold makes the weak quit and the determined seek strength through teamwork and helping their fellow trainees. "Hell week" is a defining moment in the life of every SEAL because it makes them confident that they can endure and accomplish far more than they had thought possible.

Some of the training involves night portage over rocks, a paddle around Coronado Island after three nights without sleep; timed runs and swims; obstacle course running and a trip down the beach (running with boats on heads) for an afternoon of low crawling over mud flats, and crossing other obstacles.

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