Andy Stumpf is a retired Navy SEAL who is highly decorated, including Five Bronze Star Medals (four with Valor) and the Purple Heart. In Andy’s illustrious 17-year SEAL career, he became a member of the most elite counterterrorism unit in the military, SEAL Team Six, which is a small unit that is tasked with some of the nation’s most critical missions, and which is the subject of countless Hollywood movies. One of Andy’s team’s missions was rescuing Jessica Lynch during the Iraq war. On another mission, Andy was shot at close range with an AK-47 by an Iraqi insurgent.
Andy executed hundreds of combat operations throughout the world in support of the Global War on Terror. He became a commissioned officer, the first E-6 selection commissioned through the Limited Duty Officer Program in the history of Naval Special Warfare.
Andy is also one of the top skydivers and base jumpers in the world and held the world record jump for longest distance flown in a wingsuit, which was a jump from 36,000 feet and covered over 18 miles’ distance.
Andy has his own popular podcast called “Cleared Hot,” and has been featured across all major media including on CNBC, Inc.com, The New York Times, WIRED, multiple appearances on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, and on CBS’ TV reality show “Hunted” as a hunter for fugitives.
For more on Andy or to book him to speak: https://www.calentertainment.com/portfoliotype/andy-stumpf/.
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Andy Stumpf: Fear, Preparation, Teamwork, Leadership Defined By Navy SEAL Team Six Member
Joining us is Andy Stumpf, a retired Navy SEAL who is highly decorated including five Bronze Star Medals, four with Valor and the Purple Heart. In Andy’s illustrious seventeen-year SEAL career, he became a member of the most elite counterterrorism unit in the military, SEAL Team Six. It is a small unit that is tasked with some of the nation’s most critical missions and is the subject of many Hollywood films. One of Andy’s team’s missions was rescuing Jessica Lynch during the Iraq War. On another mission, Andy was shot at close range with an AK-47 by an Iraqi insurgent. He executed hundreds of combat operations throughout the world in support of the Global War on Terror.
He became a commissioned officer, the first E-6 selection commissioned through the Limited Duty Officer Program in the history of Naval Special Warfare. He is also one of the top skydivers and base jumpers in the world and has held the world record jump for the longest distance flown in a wingsuit, which was a jump from 36,000-feet and covered over 18 miles of distance. He has his own popular podcast, Cleared Hot and has been featured all across major media including CNBC, Inc. Magazine, The New York Times, Wired and many more. He has multiple appearances on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast and on CBS, his TV reality show, Hunted, as a hunter of fugitives. Please join me with the incomparable, Andy Stumpf.
Andy Stumpf, thank you for joining me on Virtually Speaking. How are you doing?
I am doing well. I’m sure I could find some complaints but so far, so good.
You went into the Armed Forces at age seventeen, right?
I didn’t go into the Armed Forces when I was seventeen. I signed paperwork with my parents’ consent. It’s called the Delayed Entry Program, which looking back on it, is a way essentially for recruiters to fill their billets monthly. I was still in high school, you need a GED or high school diploma, so I had to finish that. You need to be eighteen before you begin your enlistment. I know I have heard people when it comes to colleges. They will sign letters of intent. That’s largely the letter of intent for joining the military.
Did you know for years that you wanted to get into the military before that or was it just within a year or two? I don’t imagine 13-year-olds or 14-year-olds necessarily thinking about it. Did you want to be in the Navy? Did you know you wanted to be a SEAL? Where did that all come from?
It’s a common theme that people want to talk about or they will ask me about because, for me, it was early. It’s hard to put an exact pin on a calendar of when it was but I would say somewhere between 10 and 11 years old. I settled in on knowing that I wanted to be a SEAL and it’s not because it was a family legacy or lineage, even though on my father’s side of the house, they all did serve in the Navy. My dad worked peripherally with SEALs in Vietnam. He was a gunner on a patrol boat, so he was an insertion and extraction platform for them. I’m sure I first heard the term in a conversation with him about Vietnam when I was working for him.
On my mom’s side of the house, it was all Army. She was an Army brat with her four sisters. I came from a military family but in no way, shape or form, they ever expressed the desire for me to join the military. As soon as I had heard about what a SEAL was and I started developing an understanding, at least then of what I thought that career would be or what I thought the job would be, it sunk. Its hooks into me deeply to the point where I never took the SATs and I never applied to college. I’m not recommending that path for anybody else because it wasn’t until years later that I realized my plan B was going to be in extremist plan B if I needed one. I was going to be making it up on the fly.The success on target is directly related to the emphasis that you put into the planning phase. Click To Tweet
It worked out well for me but statistically, that’s not the way that it’s going to work out for most people. It’s what I wanted to do. It’s hard to describe why. Even with a better vocabulary now, it’s still hard to describe exactly why. It’s uncommon for people to hear that somebody knew what they wanted to do from that age but I was surrounded by people every day to express the same thing. It was one of the most common narratives inside of the community of people, young men who decided and had this gravitational pull towards the community. It was a unique environment to be working with and for people who all felt the same way.
You said your dad worked with the SEALs. Weren’t the SEALs a relatively newer branch or facet of the Navy? When did they come into existence? Wasn’t it only a decade or two before that or something?
The early ‘60s. The predecessors of the SEALs were the UDT or the Underwater Demolition Teams and they were back to World War II and World War I doing amphibious reconnaissance, looking for obstacles or barricades to beach landings. They were tasked with one survey on the beach to make room for landing craft. They would go in and they would destroy those obstacles. JFK, President Kennedy, commissioned SEAL Team 1 and 2 in the early ‘60s. By the time Vietnam came around, I would describe it as they were still transitioning from that UDT role to a more Unconventional Maritime Warfare force at that time. In Vietnam, there were UDT teams and SEAL teams. It wasn’t until post-Vietnam that the SEAL teams’ community consumed both of them and the UDT teams went away and the SEAL teams continued.
The SEALs were conceived to be an unconventional unit that could be used here and there and anywhere. Was there something specific they were created for?
Maritime, 70% of the Earth is covered in water, so it’s probably not a bad idea to have a small nimble element that can originate from the water, operate on land and then go back into the water. It’s still the definition and the purpose of the SEAL teams. Every special operation unit has what’s called METLs, which is Mission Essential Task List and it’s their legacy tasks, things that you have to be able to do. For the SEAL community, even though we operate mostly on land in the modern era, the vast majority of those METLs still involve the maritime environment.
You guys were asked to go into Pakistan and Iraq. There were a lot of places you have been where there’s almost no water.
Even a lot of the places where they are going, even if that country or continent touches the water, they are not starting operations from the water. They are starting from landlocked forward operating bases. Even though they are doing all of that, the training inside of the SEAL community is still maritime-focused at times. They still have to be responsible for all of those things that a commanding general might ask them. You don’t know. You might be overseas working out of a base.
This happened to me on my last tour in Afghanistan. They wanted us to go to a border recovery. There was an Army unit that was crossing the river, and one of the guys slipped in heavily ladened equipment that was non positively buoyant so he sank. They start looking for people in that environment who are water specialists. We were breaking out dive gear. We ended up not having to do that because the body was recovered but you never know, the point being, so you have to be current and competent in all those skills.
You were a member of the most elite SEAL team, if I may say so, which is SEAL Team Six, which is the one where at some point along the line, it was earmarked as the most elite of them all and used in the most special of circumstances. Is that always true? Is that something that you were aiming for when you entered the SEALs like, “I want to be a member of Team Six?”
I didn’t even know it existed when I joined. I didn’t find out until years later. I would not use the term the most elite or more elite. What I would say is it’s different. I don’t say that negatively or pejoratively. The conventional SEAL teams focus on a broad variety of tasks. Development Group or SEAL Team Six focuses on a narrower set of tasks. If you have fewer things that you are responsible for, you can hone the razor’s edge. They are not more elite. It allows them to specialize in fewer things and therefore has more competency than a lot of their peers. That’s how I would describe it.
When Jessica Lynch needs to be rescued or when we need to get Osama Bin Laden, SEAL Team Six is the team that is sent in.
It could be. In the Development Group, there are Special Operations Command, which is conventional special operations forces, that whole community and then there’s JSOC, the Joint Special Operations Command that has a variety of tier one units. One of them is Development Group, the other one is, I will leave out what they are called now but traditionally and historically, they were called Delta Force, so the Army is a component of JSOC. It’s likely that in that situation for both of those things, either of those units could have been called because those are the units that specialize in hostage rescue or high-value target assaults.
It might have been truly a matter of timing or a lot of times, more missions need to go down than people who are available to do them. It could have been one of those commands that were task-saturated in another geographic area, which provided more opportunity for another one of the commands inside of JSOC. I was deployed with the Army component of JSOC and they are phenomenal operators. At that level, the capability is nearly identical from the Army side of the house to the Navy side of the house.
How many people are on that team when you go in to get Jessica Lynch?
We were limited by the helicopters, so we have what is called a half and a gaff, a helicopter assault force and a ground assault force. We had 4 Little Birds and 3 UH-60 Black Hawks, so you are going to get four people per Little Bird. It was a short flight, so they might have been able to stuff in ten guys per Black Hawk but you need to take the roof and you need to assault the ground floor as well. We hit that with somewhere between 30 to 40 guys.
Did it go well? Was it easy to get in and get out, or was it more of a seriously dangerous situation?
We had intelligence that they were using the hospital as the staging base for fighters, which they were but they left the day before we showed up. There was no resistance on target. There was a little bit of shooting at the external perimeter that was pushed out further away from the hospital. She was not in the room that we had intelligence that she was in, but we found her 30 or 45 seconds later and she was out of that hospital within maybe ten minutes of us being off the ground. After, the helicopter took her to an airplane that was sitting in wait at a desert landing strip. I forget what they call it. It’s a surgical aircraft essentially. It has a full surgical suite. She got put onto that and then medevac out of the country, so it was relatively quick but anticlimactic for sure.
It’s still an amazing thing that you guys did getting her and getting her out safely. You had her on your show, Cleared Hot. She was one of your first guests.
I would have to go back and check the numbers but it was inside the first 30 or 40, so it was early on for sure.
It’s great that you guys were able to get back and talk about your sides of the story and check in with each other that way. I heard she’s a school teacher now.
She seems to be doing well. She got a daughter. She has never talked to anybody who was there that day, which is crazy to me. She had never met anybody who is a part of the rescue/assault so it’s cool to sit down and talk a bit from her perspective and talk about it from my perspective. It’s an interesting melding of the two worlds.
At that point, it was public that she had been captured and that we needed to rescue her and we were going to rescue her. This goes to one of the most important things that you talk about as a thought leader, which is teamwork but also communication, preparedness and getting ready for this extraction. You always do this. You always prepare. SEALs are amazing at looking at what they are about to do and looking at preparing for all the different scenarios. This must have been one where there was a whole lot of tension, focus and extra, “We’ve got to get this right because the whole world is watching.” Some of the stuff you do, nobody knows you are doing but this is something everybody was going to find out about. It must have been an interesting prep session before you went to do that.
No, it was like any other target. You talk to the guys. I’m friends with a lot of guys who went on the Bin Laden raid and they said the same thing. You are relatively certain that he was going to be there but you treat it like any other military operation. You don’t do anything special. There’s no template that you deviate from because you think it’s going to be “game day.” You have the most realistic training that you can have leading up to it. You have standard operating procedures and what we call TTPs, tactics, techniques and procedures that you fall back on. You don’t change them because it might be a higher value target or not.
Did you know who you were going in to get? Did you know that the whole world knew that she had been captured and that’s what you guys were about to embark on? Was it like, “We are going to do this, we don’t know exactly?”
We knew exactly who we were going for. We waited until we had proof of her life that she was alive in the hospital to launch. I don’t remember how much had been talked about when it came to her capture. A lot of that might have come out about the same time that we rescued her. Even if the world had been watching, to use your terminology, nothing would have changed from the planning process to the execution.
Tell us a little bit about this process because I know it’s one where you guys get it right and you have a lot of the wrong things that can happen planned for so you are ready for it. “When something goes wrong, we are not wasting any time and we know exactly what to do next.” Tell us a little bit about that process.
When you are talking about having things prepared for stuff that can go wrong, we call that contingency planning or another way, people will talk about a plan for the what-ifs. You plan an operation to go down. You are going to have generally a primary, secondary and tertiary plan for each phase of the operation from where you are going to go to the objective to then you are on the helicopters. All of these different phase lines that we cross. We have a primary, secondary and tertiary plan for both and then you spin off into the contingencies. We spend anecdotally 75% to 80% of the time planning on the contingencies that were what-ifs because it’s easier to plan through life-threatening decisions when your life isn’t being threatened.Hollywood is entertainment; don’t look to it for education. Click To Tweet
It’s easier to work your way through complex decisions when there’s no compression of time or threat to your life. You go on the field on a military operation. If you can get everything down to a branching diagram, that would be amazing because that relieves so much pressure from leadership, both at the junior level and the senior level. The vast majority of the time overseas is spent on planning. A vast minority of the time is spent on target but that success on target is directly related to the emphasis that you put into that planning phase.
I have heard you say that if you were to make an accurate movie about the SEALs.
It would be boring. People would hate it. Let’s call it your average two-hour Hollywood movie. It would be 1 hour and 50 minutes of people sitting in front of computers doing PowerPoint, rehearsals and then the briefing. Two minutes of flying on a helicopter, five minutes of being on target and then three minutes flying back. That would be the movie. People would absolutely hate it and it would bomb Hollywood.
You are not a big fan of the Hollywood movie depicting SEALs.
I view Hollywood as entertainment, therefore, I can be a fan. I’m not looking at it for education, which saves me a lot of stress and elevated heart rate. I watch to enjoy the movies. I know a lot of guys who watch it, all they want to do is pick out the inaccuracies. To be clear and fair, I also see them. If you watch a military movie with me, it’s not going to be an enjoyable experience for you but I can appreciate what it is that they are trying to do.
You are going to point everything out.
Some of it is utterly glaring.
I assume with many professions that people who are experts at what they do are looking at stuff and going, “That’s not real.”
I’m sure lawyers who watch Law & Order have a few things to say or doctors to watch ER, come on. It’s the same issue. They are there to sell soap on the advertisement breaks, so you’ve got to have the highest entertainment value and probably, therefore, the lowest authenticity value.
You left the Navy SEALs because of an injury, is that correct?
There was one major injury in 2005, and then I would say there were a bunch of other minor injuries that terminated in me being medically retired. Another way to look at that is, essentially, my body was not capable of continuing along the career path. I would have had to do 22 years to retire instead of twenty because I switched over to being an officer at my twelve-year mark, so they reset your retirement calculator by ten years. It wasn’t possible. I was medically retired, which saved me my pension and benefits.
When you get back into the topic of preparedness and how to prepare for a crisis, that can help you in a lot of facets in life in a lot of areas. When you came out of the military and you went into the private sector, you probably noticed that these tools were going to help you a lot. You said you were surprised that some of the most successful companies you have worked with and consulted with had similar ways of doing things as the SEALs.
I have found that highly successful organizations and teams are largely structured the same and they have the same template that they play from. They have an understanding of leadership, communication, and empowering their subordinates. They focus on those things. I would love to say that the leadership lessons that I learned in the SEAL community were unique to the SEAL community. The things that I learned go back to the Spartans. I’m sure the best leaders of that time were operating on the same principles that were taught to me by people who missed the Vietnam War but were taught those lessons by people from the Vietnam War. They were taught those lessons by people from World War II. It goes on and on.
People look at the military as if it’s a unique organization. The role of the military is unique but it’s a broad spectrum of society with every race, belief, gender and religion all smashed together with a goal or an uncommon end state. The leadership that you use inside of the military is not just military leadership. As somebody who works in this space with speakers, I’m sure you have had people come to you and say, “We want somebody who understands military leadership.” What that person is missing is that leadership is leadership.
You can have somebody from the military come to talk about leadership but if your organization is squared away, hopefully, what you are going to be hearing is somebody repeating the same narrative and model that you are already using inside of your organization. There’s no such thing as military leadership. There’s no such thing as Fortune 50, 100, 500 leadership. There are two types, and that is good or another way you could describe that as effective, bad, or another way to describe that would be ineffective. You can pull all of the business titles and job-specific roles away from that. It’s what it comes down to.
There is a big difference though, which is what’s alluring to people. There’s this element with your former job, which is this element of danger and fear and how do we deal with the intense fear of all the different things that you were asked to do. As opposed to us in a boardroom or us in a merger or us in a fight with another company or somebody who’s upset with our company did business. It’s on a grander scale. The lessons of how you dealt with fear and crisis are important for us all to learn from. We are in a pandemic. How do we overcome the fear of anything that’s going on in our lives? I would think that you have a lot to share.
The difference between the boardroom and the battlefield is generally time. The amount of time between when you make a decision and you suffer the consequences of that decision on the battlefield is short. In the boardroom, it can be long and that can lead people to believe that it’s not important but there are lives at risk in the boardroom as well. I will go back to the real estate boom and the bubble that came after that. Do a little bit of research on depression rates and suicide rates for people that lost everything, lost their homes, jobs and were financially destroyed. They drastically went up on both of those.
Did they happen overnight? They certainly didn’t. It happened in boardrooms across the United States where greed took over and logic left the room. People died because of it. The difference between a battlefield decision where you make a decision and something catastrophic happens and a timeline that might be 12, 16, 18, 24 months. When there’s less time compression, people seem to take things less seriously. I would always caution you against doing that.
How do you let fear influence you? How did you let it affect you?
I don’t. That’s the goal. Fear is a completely natural emotion. It should be respected. The fact that you have fear is a good sign. Generally, it is a warning. Your body is saying, “Perhaps we should pay a little bit more attention to what’s going on because the level of consequence to whatever it might be, there’s probably some gravity to what it is that you are doing, whether you are standing next to the ledge of a cliff or getting ready to make a huge financial decision.” That’s great. You should have fear but you should never allow fear to interrupt or interact with your decision-making cycle. Emotions are terrible leaders but they are great followers. You need to be logical and objective. If you allow emotions to take over in your decision-making process, I know of no upside whatsoever but almost unlimited downside. It’s not a matter of not being scared. It’s a matter of not allowing your fear to be the mechanism that is controlling what you are doing.
When you feel the panic and you feel the fear come on, how do you manage that? What’s your instinctual thought process there?
It would depend on the situation if it’s a physical threat to life versus the uncertainty of a decision. For me, when it comes to decisions, oftentimes, I will write things out. I will write out the variables that I can control and the variables that I cannot control. For most human beings in life, you can’t control that much. The one thing you have complete and utter control over the entire time is only yourself.
It’s how you react to it.
You can’t control what happens to you often but you always have control over how you receive and respond to what happens to you. For me, the key is recognizing, “I am experiencing those emotions and then doing everything I can to detach that emotion from my decision-making process.” Overseas, sometimes, that took a knee and take a breath and take that extra second to deescalate yourself emotionally and not allow those emotions to take control. One of the best ways to do that is you’ve got all of your crisis planning already done. You have standard procedures to fall back on.
You have weeks, months, years and decades of extremely difficult training that you can fall back on. You have your experience. You are surrounded by a highly functioning team. All of those things help you reduce that emotional burden because it absolutely is present. I have seen people on the battlefield completely emotionally consumed. They are dangerous because they are not in control. Emotions are great followers but they are terrible leaders. You have to be objective and logical. To do that, you have to be critical of yourself and be self-aware, which is oftentimes difficult to do as a leader.
At one point, you were shot. Was this later in your career or was it early on?
It was ten years in my career.You should have fear, but you should never allow fear to interrupt or interact with your decision-making cycle. Click To Tweet
Had you been in situations before that where you could have gotten caught or almost shot but you hadn’t been?
I don’t think you ever know when you are almost shot.
Maybe bullets are going by but they didn’t hit you?
You can never tell how close though, so that’s a tough one to judge but yeah, hundreds of times.
At some point, were you thinking to yourself, “I’m good or I’m lucky,” or not even thinking about it at all? All of a sudden, now you are faced with a situation where it did happen. It was close-range with an AK-47.
I was about 15 feet away. I’ve never got to a place in my career where I thought that I was good or that I thought that the improvement paradigm or continuum was over. If you ever arrive at that at any point in time in any career, you need to move on because it’s probably where you are the most dangerous to yourself for the people that are around you. I was always critically aware of the risk. We all were because we spent a vast majority of time doing a risk assessment and risk mitigation. You know what you are getting into. That’s the rules of the game that we played.
Were you completely caught off guard? Tell us a little bit about that moment.
Anticlimactic. Sometimes, you are looking in a direction, somebody’s head will come up, you don’t see them and they get the jump on you. That’s the simplest way that I can put it. I spent a lot of time trying to think back about whether or not I had done something wrong and the reality was most people have been to Vegas. If you go to Vegas, go to a crap table and watch for a bit. You will see people who go on these amazing strings of throwing number after number.
Give me a long enough timeline, those casinos are not built by giving money away. They are built by raking money back towards the dealer or the pit boss. You will see people on those runs in Vegas. Eventually, given that long enough timeline, they will roll a seven. To some degree, that job, statistically, there’s math involved around that as well. You will come out on top over and over again and then at some point in time, you may find yourself on the other side of that coin. When that happens, hopefully, you have at least a little bit of luck as to what type of injury is sustained or where you sustained it on your body.
That brings me to something that I think about sometimes, which is with people who are speakers, thought leaders and experts who are champions, the great ones, the GOATs who are at the top of their industry or the top of whatever they are doing. Even with those people, there is a ton of failure, loss, uncertainty, doubt and everything. Everybody needs to realize that even a SEAL Team Six member and a guy who was awarded a lot of medals, things can happen to all of us. Nobody is perfect. Even Tom Brady lost Super Bowls. He didn’t win every Super Bowl he was in. That’s important for people to remember. Even the people who look like the winners and look like the best of the best had to go through a lot to get there. I’m sure you have seen that a lot with your peers from the military but also in the corporate world.
People don’t want to believe me when I say that the SEAL career field is populated by extremely common people who deal with every single problem, whether it’s financial, personal, mental health, relationships, substance abuse, addiction and alcoholism. It’s common people who have an uncommon job. It truly is normal people who are tasked with doing something abnormal. With people, in general, come problems and those are unavoidable.
Do you think that a SEAL is better equipped to deal with those harsh circumstances or those tough things that happen in their lives, those losses or those blips on the radar?
Everybody has blind spots. No suit of armor is perfect. From a physical discomfort place, probably most guys who make it through training are going to be well at dealing with things that are physically based. Some of the most damaging things, there are wounds that you can’t see because they are between the ears. In some circumstances, the biggest danger is that the guys think that they are impervious to everything and it can lead them down a dangerous path.
What would you say would be the number one thing that you learned as a SEAL that people in business and professional should look at and maybe focus more on? Is it more of looking at your surroundings better and planning better for whatever you are about to do rather than not planning for it? What do you think would be the top two couple of things that you see people not doing as much as they should be that you were taught as a SEAL?
I will break it into operationally and then individually. From an organizational perspective, the reality of why the SEAL community can do amazing things, it’s all about the things that don’t show up in Hollywood movies. It’s about the training, the crawl, walk, run philosophy and making sure that at each phase of training that everybody, not just the senior people but the new people that are working seamlessly together. You layer complexity only after you have fundamental principles completely hammered in.
Most of what happens in combat are low speed and fundamental. There are not a lot of high-speed maneuvers that we were able to pull off. It’s the opposite of complex. It’s simple. Contingency planning and so much planning go into those operations. The best thing I could say for organizations is to make critical decisions before they become critical. Spend that time on your what-ifs and your contingency planning. From the individual perspective, that’s your ability to maintain control of your emotions at all times. Meaning, we talked about it from the perspective of fear. When you asked me how it works for me or how it interacts with what I do, my answer was it doesn’t. The more honest answer would be, I do the best I can to not allow it to. I’m not perfect. I have had my moments.
Maintaining control of your emotions, specifically and especially as a leader, is incredibly powerful because everybody’s watching you if you are in a leadership position. They are listening to you and observing your behavior. Most importantly, they are ready and willing to soak that up and repeat whatever it is they see from you. It can impact and affect everybody that is around you. It’s a learned skill. It’s a learned trait. It takes time. When it comes to leadership, a lot of people in business want to wait until they have a certain job title, an office, a parking space or an acronym on their business card to start thinking about themselves as a leader. That’s not necessarily a good idea.
We use the analogy of a driver’s license. I have children who are of driving age and I did not recommend to them, “Let’s put off any driving or studying until it’s the day of your test, then go see how it works out for you.” The answer is it’s not going to work out at all. In the business world, I see this all the time, people who are like, “I’m not a leader yet. I’m not in a leadership position.” They don’t think about themselves as a leader. They don’t practice that emotional control and decision-making. This was something that was expected in the SEAL teams from the junior man to the senior man.
In the absence of leadership, you are expected to step up and fill that leadership void. The business world would be better off if they practice that as well. Day one, start hammering into your people that at all times, you will think of yourself and conduct yourself as a leader. When you get that corner office or whatever metric that you are using for success, you are already prepared as opposed to trying to figure out what’s going on your first day.
I don’t want to forget to bring up the fact that you jumped out of airplanes and jumped off cliffs for many years. Is this something all SEAL people have to get good at or did you specifically want to do that and that was one of your fortes as well?
All SEALs get trained instead of going in freefall jumping. It’s an insertion platform. I pursued it at a deeper level than most do. It stuck with me the first time I jumped out of a plane freefall, not a static line. The static line feels like jumping off a twenty-story building on concrete. That was not awesome. The first time I jumped out of a plane in freefall and you are falling through the air, I was like, “This is awesome.” That stuck with me. Other guys want to go sport diving or they want to drive rally cars or whatever helps people.
The first time you jumped out of an airplane was when you were training and you have done many of those. Of course, you broke the world record for the longest distance flown by a person in a wingsuit, which was 17 miles.
It’s 18.25 miles and it was broken a few years ago by a Marine Corps helicopter pilot. Good on him. I have no desire to go back. I did it as a fundraiser.
I don’t know if he raised $1 million though.
I fell short of that goal too. Raising money is one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Raising money is a journey in and of itself, it’s unfortunate and fighting donor fatigue.
Have you done that again? Was that just that one time?
I have no desire to repeat that.
You were at 35,000-feet. There’s a lot of danger there.
There are a lot of risks there. I don’t know necessarily if there are a lot of danger. We took all the steps possible. We did a risk assessment and risk mitigation. I wouldn’t have done it if I thought it was overly dangerous. I have no problem accepting calculated risk but I refuse to gamble.
Thank you for being here and for coming on and having this conversation with me, Andy. I’m looking forward to it a lot. I love telling people about you. As a speaker, you are an easy one for me to tell people about because many great things about you are likable. These topics are important. Leadership, preparedness, how we talk to ourselves, how we deal with a crisis, how we prepare for anything, leadership and teamwork in general. These are all important. Thanks a lot for coming on.
Thanks for having me.
About Andy Stumpf
Andy Stumpf is a man on a mission. Born and raised in Northern California, Andy knew from an early age that he wanted to be Navy SEAL. In 1996, at just 17 years old, he enlisted in the Navy. Shortly after, he began perhaps the most grueling training program in the US military – Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training, known as BUD/s. 90% of the candidates quit during the intense six-month program, but not Andy. He graduated and began his SEAL career assigned to SEAL Team Five, in Coronado, California.
Andy quickly proved himself a highly capable operator and leader. In 2002, he joined the most elite counterterrorism unit in the military – SEAL Team 6. The small unit is tasked with the nation’s most critical missions, some of which have become the focus of Hollywood movies and best-selling books. An Iraqi insurgent shot Andy at close range with an AK-47 on one of these missions. Doctors told him it could be years, if ever, before he’d be ready for combat again. But Andy had a more ambitious timetable and was back in six months.
In 2006, he returned to the Naval Special Warfare Center as the Leading Petty Officer for 2nd Phase BUD/s training. While completing his two year instructor tour, in charge of 13 SEAL instructors and 600 students, Andy submitted his application for commissioning. In 2008, he became the first E6 selection commissioned through the Limited Duty Officer Program in the history of Naval Special Warfare. Upon commissioning, he joined SEAL Team 3, where he led his men during combat deployments to Afghanistan.
In his 17-year SEAL career, Andy completed 10 deployments and executed hundreds of combat operations throughout the world in support of the Global War on Terror. He was medically retired from service in 2013. His awards and decorations include five Bronze Star Medals (four with Valor), the Purple Heart, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Valor, three Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, two Combat Action Ribbons and the Presidential Unit Citation.
While no longer wearing the uniform, Andy continues to fight for his SEAL brothers and their families. In 2015, he set two world records after jumping from 37,000 feet and flying over 18 miles in a wingsuit, a nearly-fatal feat that was part of his effort to raise a million dollars for the Navy SEAL Foundation. Andy is also a sponsored BASE jumper who travels the world completing content projects for his sponsors.
His business experience includes managing Corporate Development and Licensing for a global fitness brand, focusing on strategic relationships and sponsorship opportunities with Fortune 500 companies. In addition to his management position, Andy became the company pilot, accumulating 3500 hours of flight time and earning his Airline Transportation Pilot’s license, as well as type certification ratings in the Gulfstream GIV, and Citation 525 series aircraft.
In 2016 Andy was selected to star in the hit television show Hunted, currently airing on CBS. He was also featured in the History Channel documentary “Navy SEALs: America’s Secret Warriors”, a dedicated segment in the Red Bull TV series Ultimate Rush – “Human Arrow”, and a global commercial campaign for Tempur Pedic. Andy is also a frequent guest on popular podcasts, such as UFC commentator Joe Rogan’s.