My Time in the United States Navy

Hi. Cade here.

On October 13th, the United States Navy observes its birthday every year. 

The United States Navy (USN) is the United States Armed Forces' naval warfare service branch and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is currently the largest, most powerful navy in the world, with the highest combined battle fleet tonnage. The service has over 340,000 personnel on active duty and more than 71,000 in the Navy Reserve. 

With only two ships and a crew of 80 men, the Continental Navy was born on October 13, 1775. The decision of the Continental Congress set the Continental Navy on course to carry arms to the British army, not to defend against it. However, these two ships and crew represent the birth of the United States Navy.

Throughout the Revolutionary War, their importance grew. Today, the United States maintains 40 naval bases across the country, including the world's largest, Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Virginia.

Below the sea, submarines became a part of the Navy during World War II. While experiments began in the late 1800s and during the Civil War, they did not become a large part of the Navy inventory until World War II. At that point, subs became necessary for surveillance and rescue, even though they were also armed.

With the advent of the airplane, the Naval ships became vital stations for the Airforce as well. As a result, the Navy modified ships into floating landing strips. Today, joint Naval and Airbases such as Pearl Harbor-Hickam provide the country with sea and air defense fleets.

The birth of the SEAL Teams

The history of the SEAL Teams actually begins in WW2 with the formation of Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDU's) and later the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT's) with their primary mission to clear obstacles and give detailed intelligence on lanes for amphibious assaults. But in January 1962, two SEAL Teams were formally established. Their mission: conduct unconventional warfare, counter-guerrilla warfare, and clandestine operations. 

I had no idea how something that occurred many years before my birth would change the course of my life.  In 1988 I was enrolled in the ROTC unit at the University of San Diego with the full intention to become a Naval Aviator.  Yep, I saw Top Gun (the first one) and wanted to become a fighter pilot.  Well a couple years later I was involved in an "incident" on spring break that blinded me in my right eye.  

I was incredibly fortunate that my eyesight returned to 90% within a few weeks. However, that was 10% shy of being able to become a Naval Aviator. My "plan" was shot, but after a few months of soul searching and fate I came across a book called Men in Green Faces that was written by a Vietnam era Navy SEAL who also happened to live in San Diego.  I approached him and after multiple meetings full of questions I was "bit by the bug." 

I wanted to be a Navy SEAL.  

I spent the next two years searching out every current and former SEAL I could find and "interrogating" them to learn as much as I could.  The fact that the Naval Special Warfare Center which is where BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL Training) is conducted was only 15 minutes from campus was invaluable.  I would sneak onto base on the weekends and run the O-Course (obstacle course), swim in the ocean just offshore from the training compound, and run the same beaches the trainees did.  I was absolutely obsessed with becoming a Navy SEAL and in May of 1992 I was commissioned as an Ensign in the United States Navy. 

The Adventure Begins…

I was physically/mentally prepared and very motivated, but I had no idea what I was in store for.  When they say SEAL Training is the toughest military training in the World – I can assure you that is absolutely true. 

As the senior Officer I was named the Class Leader of BUD/S Class 196. I was top of my class in the swims and O-course, and among the top in the timed runs. However, as the days went on I developed a severe stress fracture in my right leg that became a complete fracture the first day of Hell Week (week 6).  I was medically rolled which means put on hold until I healed. 

After several months I started Day 1 with Class 199.  A few weeks later, during extremely heavy surf I was run over by a "safety" boat that got caught inside the surf zone. The result was a fractured skull.  The water was so cold I was able to make it to shore before going unconscious on the beach.  I woke up in an ambulance heading to the ER. 

Shortly after I arrived I was told I had an epidural hematoma (bleeding brain). As luck would have it I survived and healed quick enough to start DAY ONE with Class 200 in which I made it through Hell Week with another stress fracture in my left leg this time. Ultimately, I joined Class 202 and 19 months after checking in to the Naval Special Warfare Center graduated BUD/S.


I reported to SEAL Team 2 as an Assistant Platoon Commander.  I was then incredibly fortunate to be chosen to attend Sniper School.  And I had an amazing deployment to the European theater operating exclusively in Bosnia.  Next, I reported to SEAL Team 1 as a Platoon Commander with yet another active deployment in the Asian theater.  My final assignment was as the Senior SEAL Instructor at BUD/S where it all began.

After nine years of active duty in the United States Navy I made the decision to pursue other adventures.  SEAL Teams is a young man's game. It was also the best job in the world. During my time in service I felt absolutely blessed to be a part of this incredible group of truly elite individuals.  

Thank you, United States Navy, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!


Cade Courtley


  • Pete Martinez - October 17, 2022

    Thank you for your service and sharing a part of your life,🙏🏻👍

  • Dave Arlund - October 15, 2022

    I wanted to join the Special Forces after I joined to Army but changed my mind. I was newly married and didn’t want to leave a widow so early. Sure enough my first assignment was Vietnam, never expected it. But I met several “sneaky petes” as we use to call them in Vietnam, I had great respect for them. They often were a source for things you couldn’t get anywhere else, on or off the base and would give you the shirt off their backs if you needed it. Hooyah!

  • Chris Stockner - October 13, 2022

    Outstanding efforts and motivation. You are truly an American hero. Thanks for all you do.
    Robert C. Stockner CWO3 USN RET

  • Todd - October 13, 2022

    Wow! What a story! Thank you for your service and your never say quit attitude! God bless you!

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