Fighting for Freedom with U.S. Navy SEAL Robert Ekoniak
From Lone Survivor to 13 Hours, over the past decade more and more movies are being made about the Navy SEALs. And while many people are able to view some of the combats that have been made public, there are very few people who make it through the rigorous training involved of being an actual Navy SEAL. Senior Chief Petty Officer Robert Ekoniak served twenty-five years in a highly-decorated career in the U.S. Navy SEALs and knows the training well. Risen sat down with him in 2018 and talked with him about the process of earning a spot with the U.S. Navy SEALs and a time he felt the Lord really show up on one of his missions.
Ekoniak opens up about the process to earning a spot with the U.S. Navy SEALs.
“ There’s a very intense screening process just to get to DUG/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/ SEAL). There are mental, physical, psychology tests and a full spectrum of medical. Now, compared to when I went through, these guys are professional military athletes. When you go to a boot camp today, we have that building in Great Lakes and you spend I think a month or three months there. We have Olympic athletes, weightlifting coach, psychologist, nutritionist, and they go through a whole process of training these guys up before they even show up at BUD/S. There are there phases in DUD/S. The first phase is just physical. You’re working out all the time…Outside of that you’re learning different skill sets. Then about week six, there is ‘Hell Week’ and that usually weeds out a lot of people. Classes vary in size, but you can’t mass produce special operations. The numbers pretty much are about 85 to 90 percent attrition rate of the class. I had 120 people in my class and nineteen graduated. If you make it through the first phase, you move into the second phase where you learn scuba diving and dive physics. You’re continually growing, doing the workouts, but the times are much faster and grueling…The thing that makes it a little harder is that the instructors watch your breathing and when all your is out, that’s when thy hit you. And so, you go through this and multiple phases, then you move on to the closed air system, and then you’re out in the ocean, you’re out diving, you’re learning compass boards, you’re starting to learn math, all these different elements. Then you go to the third phase – land warfare, weapons and explosives training. We don’t traditionally lose as many people [ in that phase], however, we have an island that’s about twenty miles east of San Clemente and we do a lot of our night dives, night swims, beach insertions, and training to start really learning the beginnings of being SEALDs and being very cold.”
You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. 3 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. 2 Timothy 2:1-5
Ekoniak reflects on a time where he felt the Lord really show up on one of his missions.
“I was in Iraq and I believe in God and I know that there’s presence, but I wouldn’t say I was saved yet. We had a mission that night pretty deep into this rackety village that was almost circular, and to get into the nucleus of that village, it was almost like three miles deep and it was all enemy territory. We were going into the center to go grab a guy. It was almost going to be like a one-way mission. And you’re like, ‘Oh man.’ But we got to go get this guy because of certain things I can’t talk about. All I did was make a simple prayer to God saying that I want to go home to my beautiful wife and my son. I just want to know them in the greatest way. And if You’re there let me know Your presence is with me. And then when I stepped off that Humvee I had like a white ring around me. It was the most bizarre thing and it didn’t make me super human, but I could almost see this white ring that was probably about twelve inches and the further out it went, it began to fade away. And I’m talking to this guy like, ‘Do I have lights on? I’m thinking like, ‘Hey is my flashlight on?’ “No, no, you’re good.’ ‘Night vision?’ ‘No, you’ve got nothing on.’ I’m like ‘Oh my God.’ And so, the first area that we went in, the breacher overloaded the charge because it was a heavy door and I mean, BOOM! It just knocked the snot out of me. It was like a punch in the face. But we started rolling in and I was comfortable; fear had nothing on me. For me it was just this differential that can’t really be articulated, but can definitely be felt. I can’t really say how comforting or strong it was. If I died, I died, but I had this utmost confidence. Throughout the rest of my career, I should probably be dead six times over, but I’ve had a voice inside me say, ‘Not this way. Go the other way. Something doesn’t seem right.’…”
Get trained. You may not be called to be a Navy SEAL or in the military, but God has a calling on each of our lives. Each of us has been given a unique set of gifts and talents so that we can serve God and what He has called us to do. If you don’t know what your calling is, take time this weekend to step away and pray. Ask God to show you what you have been called to do. Often times we are headed in the right direction, but might need to step down from commitments or activities to focus on our calling. It might also mean taking additional classes or training too.
Pray for our military. Take time this week and pray daily for our military. Pray that God would guide and direct their efforts. Pray that God would protect them from the schemes of the enemy. Pray for the military chaplains and those that are believers that God would give them boldness to proclaim the Gospel and that people would come to know Christ.
Serve our military and their families. Find a church or local organization that has a military outreach. From making meals to donating gift cards, there are many ways that you can serve a military family. It helps to partner with an on-going ministry or organization that knows the needs of the families that they work with versus doing a one-time effort.
To read our entire interview with Robert Ekoniak , click here.
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