Send Me

Interview: Isaiah Staley Navy SEAL Officer retired who was formerly both a USAF PJ & CRO

February 25, 2020 SOCOM Athlete
Send Me
Interview: Isaiah Staley Navy SEAL Officer retired who was formerly both a USAF PJ & CRO
Chapters
00:00:13
Isaiah's Background
00:02:34
Pararescue (PJ) Pipeline Training
00:12:35
Pararescue (PJ) Career
00:13:40
Pararescue Reserve & Guard Explained
00:18:58
Becoming a Combat Rescue Officer (CRO)
00:24:22
Crossing over to the Navy
00:26:39
BUD/S & Becoming a SEAL
00:30:15
INDOC vs. BUD/S Comparisons
00:36:25
Hell Week Secured
00:39:09
Advise & Training Tips
Send Me
Interview: Isaiah Staley Navy SEAL Officer retired who was formerly both a USAF PJ & CRO
Feb 25, 2020
SOCOM Athlete

What are the differencs between Navy SEALs & other Special Operations careers like Air Force Pararescue (PJ)? Which training is harder? PJ or SEAL? Retired Navy SEAL Officer Isaiah Staley was a PJ that commissioned and became a CRO (Combat Rescue Officer) before cross-training into the Navy to become a SEAL. He is interviewed by SOCOM Athlete founder Jason Sweet, a former PJ & 2-sport NCAA Athlete w/ an education in Biochemistry & Human Performance. The two discuss Isaiah's path into his career, enlisted vs. officer, challenges & training tips for BUD/S, in-depth details on pursuing Pararescue Reserve, and more.


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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

What are the differencs between Navy SEALs & other Special Operations careers like Air Force Pararescue (PJ)? Which training is harder? PJ or SEAL? Retired Navy SEAL Officer Isaiah Staley was a PJ that commissioned and became a CRO (Combat Rescue Officer) before cross-training into the Navy to become a SEAL. He is interviewed by SOCOM Athlete founder Jason Sweet, a former PJ & 2-sport NCAA Athlete w/ an education in Biochemistry & Human Performance. The two discuss Isaiah's path into his career, enlisted vs. officer, challenges & training tips for BUD/S, in-depth details on pursuing Pararescue Reserve, and more.


  • Become a Patreon Donor to support us & keep the podcast going: https://www.patreon.com/socomathlete


  • Featured Photo of Isaiah Staley: https://www.instagram.com/p/B3b4phcglLI/?igshid=87632hnlei2o


  • Follow us on instagram: https://www.instagram.com/socomathlete/


  • Subscribe to our New YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/socomathlete


  • Email us: socomathlete@gmail.com


  • Visit our website: www.socomathlete.com


  • Got what it takes for Special Operations? Seeking guidance on the next step? Email us, DM us, or message us from our website now!

Jason Sweet:   0:00
You're tuned in to the "Send Me" podcast by SOCOM Athlete. This is your host, Jason Sweet. Thanks for tuning in, and I'm here with a very special guest tonight and my close friend retired Navy SEAL Officer Isaiah Staley, who was a former Air Force PJ and Air Force Combat Rescue Officer. He's one of the few people in history to go through both BUD/S and Pararescue training and can really give you a glimpse of which one was more challenging for him. Which elements were more challenging and the cultural difference behind a career field like Pararescue and a career field like the Navy SEALs. He's been a loyal friend to me. He's one of those guys that have always kept in touch throughout the years when I was first getting SOCOM Athlete off the ground as a company. He was there to show up for Hell dDays as as an instructor driving across multiple states. He was there to help us create our Navy SEAL Elite Prep. Program and other Programs as a resource to look over them with his experience. He's been to a total of four of our Hell Day events as a special guest, and he turns it up and brings the fear to these candidates. So let me fill you in on this beast. He has nine deployments, six is a PJ to Kosovo, Iraq and four to Afghanistan. Two is a CRO (Combat Rescue Officer), both of those to Afghanistan and one deployment to Iraq as a Navy seal officer Lieutenant. Staley is in incredible shape and an elite athlete so much that he was chosen by USSOCOM, which is (US Special Operations Command) to compete in the Warrior Games. And lastly, he is the only Combat Rescue Officer (CRO) in history to cross over into the Navy and become a Navy SEAL officer. There has not been a Navy SEAL officer cross over into the Air Force to become a Combat Rescue Officer, so that makes Isaiah's career path very unique. And it also means that he is one of the only individuals, if not the only individual in the world that can give on bias, personal advice and personal information based on his experiences as both a Combat Rescue Officer/Pararescueman and a Navy SEAL. Isaiah, my man, Thanks for coming on with us tonight. How are you?

Isaiah Staley:   2:30
Good man. Great to be here. How you doing?  

Jason Sweet:   2:39
I'm doing great, Isaiah. Let's just get right into it. How'd you hear about Pararescue And what led you in to the Air Force in the first place.

Isaiah Staley:   2:40
Came in pretty much pretty quick right after high school? Uh, no great story there are other than right about graduation time, a postcard shows up in the mailbox. Got a jet on it. Little aim high thing going on. Why the Air Force? Why not? I figured I'd end up in college wasting my time. So go do something. We'll figure out what I wanted to do. So actually went in as a jet engine mechanic.

Jason Sweet:   3:04
So how old were you when you enlisted?

Isaiah Staley:   3:08
Went in at 18 years old.

Jason Sweet:   3:10
What were you planning on doing before that? Where did you kind of see yourself going in life before the Air Force present itself to you in that postcard

Isaiah Staley:   3:19
pretty lost soul. I mean, that's why I skipped out on college. Figured I'd end up there partying and wasting my time. So, least going in the Air Force would give me maybe direction. Give me something that you could carry through with you for the rest of your life and then pick up on college. Later, when I figured out what I wanted to do or study.

Jason Sweet:   3:37
So you found out about the Air Force and you took I guess what we call regular job. Is that correct?

Isaiah Staley:   3:42
Well, I went in as a Ah, jet engine mechanic. He was in basic training that they did some presentation for Pararescue. Now, what happened there is The T.I. had told us all. Don't even bother trying out. You're not gonna make it. So I took that as a direct challenge. Went there, ended up number one student at the tryout, got got my order, switched while I was in basic.

Jason Sweet:   4:03
So what was the tryout, Isaiah? Was this the typical PAST Test? 1.5 mile run on a track, 500 meter swim push ups, pull ups, sit ups for time in a couple of 25 yard under waters.

Isaiah Staley:   4:13
Everything minus the under waters. It's pretty vanilla. Basic run, swim, push or pull up, set up.

Jason Sweet:   4:18
So what was your background in physical training? Did you have any experience in the pool. Did you have any experiences? An athlete beforehand? 

Isaiah Staley:   4:25
I swam competitively till I was about eight years old, but grew up in Hawaii. Is you're always in out of the water. Not a competitive swimmer, but decent enough. Comfortable enough in the water. Ah. Played a lot of soccer and wrestling.

Jason Sweet:   4:38
So you went out there and you passed that PAST Test, and at that point did they change your contract to Pararescue right on the spot do you remember?  

Isaiah Staley:   4:48
Yeah, by the time I left Basic, they had changed it to pararescue 

Jason Sweet:   4:49
So you passed the PAST Test, They change it. You got done with basic training. What happened after that? Did you go straight into the Pararescue Indoctrination Course?

Isaiah Staley:   4:58
went straight there. Uh, there are some horror stories about guys waiting months to class up to start up I lucked out on was four days after graduating Basic that INDOC started for me.

Jason Sweet:   5:10
So you started INDOC and for those of our listeners that haven't heard of INDOC, obviously our students now go through a course called Assessment & Selection. Pararescue Indoctrination was a two and 1/2 month course, and it went through a crawl walk, jog, run phase. So they would start you off with that PAST test standards. 1.5 mile run push ups, pull ups, sit ups to a certain standard, you two by 25 yard under waters. Three minute interval, I believe. And then they would progress you on that throughout the course, right? So every Monday you would have an evaluation where they would increase the distance maybe two miles on week two. And then Week three, you would have to run three miles at a seven minute mile per pay standard. How did you feel that you stacked up whenever you started INDOC among your peers?

Isaiah Staley:   5:55
I started out top third of the class.

Jason Sweet:   5:58
We did finning. We did underwater, not tying. How did you feel? You handled the water side of the house as somebody who didn't necessarily have experience in doing underwater confidence exercises but had experiences a competitive swimmer. What was that like for you?

Isaiah Staley:   6:14
It was challenging. What it felt like for me is it is a progressive thing, but it seemed like they always kept a progression just barely out of reach. So you were hating life day in and day out, trying to keep up with the level of water confidence. They were thrown out yet, so every week it did get harder. Every week you got better. But it just always seemed to suck nonstop.

Jason Sweet:   6:35
Was there a particular instructor that gave you a little bit more of a hard time than others that you can remember? 

Isaiah Staley:   6:43
None of them were biased they all hated me equally. It's a good, good spread of hatred going on there. I felt it from all of them. But it wasn't just me. They I think they disliked every one of us equally.

Jason Sweet:   6:52
How many guys did you have in your class when you started? If you could remember,

Isaiah Staley:   6:55
it's roughly about 90 from what I remember.

Jason Sweet:   6:58
And when you graduated, how many of you were left? Five. So that's almost a 95% attrition rate. Five. You guys left. Do you remember any of their names? They graduated with you?  

Isaiah Staley:   7:09
Yeah, all 4 other ones.  

Isaiah Staley:   7:10
ALL 4 other ones right, so you graduated the Pararescue Indoctrination course. After that, I believe you went on to combat dive school and beyond. How was your experience in the pipeline?

Isaiah Staley:   7:22
Well, if you started dive school, we used to go down to Key West Florida to the Army Special Forces School. I think we represented well, having been very well prepped. Typically, the Air Force guys lead the class out there. Little younger group, typically. SF guys are a lot older, but I think we did great there. Everybody got through without issue

Jason Sweet:   7:41
and the other personnel in the army side of the house. Correct me if I'm wrong idea. But these guys are already graduated Green Berets. They're graduated Army Rangers. A lot of them have already done deployments and the Pararescue students to Combat Controller students. They are actually students, so they haven't gotten through their pipeline yet. Is that correct?

Isaiah Staley:   7:58
That's correct. For back then.

Jason Sweet:   7:59
So you guys felt like you stacked up pretty well against the Green Berets and the Rangers down there?

Isaiah Staley:   8:03
I think so. A great group of guys don't get me wrong, but yeah, we held our own.

Jason Sweet:   8:07
How'd you like your time down in Key West In general,

Isaiah Staley:   8:09
I didn't see much of the island. Yeah, and push ups and flutter kicks.

Jason Sweet:   8:13
So you graduated Combat Diver Course. You went to Army airborne school after that. And then did you go to Halo School after the Airborne Course? Or did you go on to do the medical side? The EMT-Basic?

Isaiah Staley:   8:23
Medical after that.

Jason Sweet:   8:25
So you did EMT-Basic. Was that with the university New Mexico EMS Academy? Or was there a different school in your time? When you went through?

Isaiah Staley:   8:33
When I went through, they actually sent us to Fort Bragg to the 18 Delta course. We did what was called the short course of my short. I mean 6 months. So all of us there got as far as The  E. M. T paramedic in just our combat medicine and then released back to the pipeline.

Jason Sweet:   9:14
Now, at the time, Isaiah, were they getting you guys E. M T paramedic National Registry qualified so that if things were to not work out or somebody were to get hurt or get discharged, whatever it is, would you be able to get a job as a civilian paramedic based on your qualifications after the Special Operations Combat Medical Course you went through a Fort Bragg?

Isaiah Staley:   9:14
Yeah, back then, if you you had to pass that EMT-paramedic cert. to get out of that course.

Jason Sweet:   9:15
How hard was the paramedic course for you? Because I know personally, I actually failed the EMT National Registry Paramedic test twice. It was only time I got setback in the pipeline and it set me back a good three months. I remember the test was accumulative, and it was also category-based. So there were categories such as operations or airway, breathing drugs, pharmaceuticals. And if you were to fail one section of that test, you failed the entire test. So how did you feel that you did in National registry were you a one and done?

Isaiah Staley:   9:50
thankfully, it was a one And done. I think the lowest score I had on something was a 74. And as I remember, you need a minimum of 70 72 to pass in every category. So in one category I squeaked by, but it worked out.

Jason Sweet:   10:02
So I see after graduate, the paramedic course. Would you feel about medicine? Do you think you developed a passion for it? Did you enjoy the medical side of the career

Isaiah Staley:   10:10
field after graduating? Definitely glad it was over But you do come out of there very competent and confident and ready. Just go out and do your job.

Jason Sweet:   10:21
So you finished the paramedic course after that? Did you go to survival School Team school HALO. So I remember the first time I jumped out. Um, we were at the Navy course and you have an instructor holding onto you on either side. See, exit the aircraft the instructors hold on to you. They make sure you get stable and then they let go of you and they give you a series of hand signals to tell you to do practice touches. They want you to turn left, turn right, and then eventually they point their finger out. And that's a signal for pool. So I thought I was actually getting practiced touches and you're supposed to pull it 5000 feet. So they're giving me this sign. I think it's practiced touches and out of nowhere, all of a sudden my parachute, just the poise. And so turns out one of the instructors came up and pulled my parachute for me because I burned right through 5000 feats. I never get into the ground and disease s A s instructors there. And they came up on the intercom. They said, OK, Roster number 22. You're gonna go ahead and jocl up again, get back on the aircraft and give it another shot. So I actually failed my first job because I didn't pull my parachute and I had to go back on the plane and Rehack jump one. So what was it like for you the first time you jumped out of a plane, did you? I kind of feel like you had a fear of heights. Did you feel like it was different? Was it an awesome experience for you? How did that feel the first time you got your knees in the breeze in HALO School?

Isaiah Staley:   11:43
before you jump out on the first time they put us through a week training in the wind tunnel. So you're pretty fairly decent. I guess that flying before you're taken up the altitude. Nothing too. Out of the normal on the first jump. Uh, I mean, really gravity is doing all the work. And as the instructor said, if something goes wrong, don't worry. You got the rest of your life to figure it out.

Jason Sweet:   12:05
Did you have a better time in free fall, would you say, or that you have more fun steering your parachute in?

Isaiah Staley:   12:11
I think it changed over time. Definitely used to be the canopy, but as you got more competent in the flying, definitely got a lot of fun with that.

Jason Sweet:   12:20
So after HALO School, you went through SERE school and then you went to the Pararescue Apprentice course, which is about a six month course. Did it take you about two years to get through that PJ pipeline

Isaiah Staley:   12:29
ya, Roughly two years.

Jason Sweet:   12:31
So after you graduate that PJ pipeline, where'd you get stationed after that Isaiah?

Isaiah Staley:   12:34
sent out Mildenhall, England.

Jason Sweet:   12:37
And is that a special tactics squadron?  

Isaiah Staley:   12:39
It is.  

Jason Sweet:   12:39
Can you tell us a little bit of the difference between the life of a special tactics squadron PJ and the life of a rescue squadron PJ?

Isaiah Staley:   12:48
I think a PJ is aPJ, you get the same qualified guy in the ACC world versus the AFSOC world. I didn't notice much difference. Having done both.

Jason Sweet:   12:58
You finish your career up in Mildenhall, where'd you end up going after that Isaiah?

Isaiah Staley:   13:03
Tucson, Arizona. 306 rescue squadron.

Jason Sweet:   13:06
So 306 Rescue squadron. And can you tell us a little bit about the 306 Rescue squadron and what it was all about and just kind of the change of pace. If there was any coming from Mildenhall to Tucson, Arizona,

Isaiah Staley:   13:18
Well it's a reserve team. I think when I first got there, there was five or six full time PJ's. The difference is much smaller team, and you kind of there supporting the part time guys coming in.

Jason Sweet:   13:34
So the reserve in the guard's side of Pararescue that encompasses over half the career field. When you look at how many units there actually are, Um, and for those that don't know para rescue is unique and the Guard or reserve side of the house because you have what's called active guard and reserve personnel at those units. So the guard or reserve pays those personnel to work full time. Obviously, you couldn't have a functioning PJ team if guys were only coming in a couple times a month to jump or a couple times according to shoot. You have to have guys that are coming in staying proficient all the time to keep those Guardsmen and those reservists up to speed. In addition to that, you would have mission qualifying training until you could even be deployable. You would obviously deploy is a newer PJ or a newer CRO, and you would come back and constantly be working on upgrade training. So what would you say, Isaiah? A typical day to day is as a PJ at a rescue squad. And what was your typical day at the 306?

Isaiah Staley:   14:32
I think as a PJ. You've got so many qualifications you got to keep on, keep up and, uh, keeps you busy with jumping and shooting and diving. It seems like there's always something,

Jason Sweet:   14:43
and one of the advantages of the guard and reserve side of the house is an active duty. Once you get through the pipeline, you create what's called a dream sheet and on that dream sheet, or maybe your top three top five units that you want to go to. But the active duty is going to station you where the Air Force's needs are, however, on the guard or reserve side of the house. You're going to choose the team that you want to try out for, and it's important that those of you out there that are interested in gard & reserve pararescue or garter reserve Special operations in general. You look at the 19th group of the 20th group side of the house on the Green Beret. You're going toe, actually, contact the recruiting personnel from the unit. You're gonna tell them that you're interested in trying out that you want more information than you actually try out for that unit versus the active duty side, you're going to get assigned to a unit. So you were actually able to choose a 306 and say I want to go to that unit. Is that correct? That's correct. Now, with a pair of rescue garden reserve side of the house, it's very unique because you can actually pick the unit that you want to try out force. He would contact that individual units recruiting personnel and say, I'm interested in trying out for this unit. When is your next tryout? And that recruiter in particular that is assigned to that unit is going to be the one that facilitates your paperwork, gets you the maps, make sure your current qualified and then obviously gets you into that tryout. Not typically these tryouts are going to be extremely challenging because these guard & reserve units want to make sure that you have what it takes before they purchase your slot into the pipeline. Now a lot of you will be asking. Well, is the Guard reserve pipeline the same for Green Beret for Pararescue for TACP, Yes, the pipeline is exactly the same. However, you have somewhat of a proving grounds to go through an interview process so that that unit can pick you up so the guard or reserve side of the house is highly selective on, and it is an advantage if you're trying to choose the unit that you want to go to. For example, if you want to be a special tactics squadron PJ, You want to be guaranteed to be STS side of the house, then you can try out for the 1 23rd Special Tactics Squadron with 1 25th Special Tactics Squadron with 306 Rescue Squadron out of Tucson, Arizona, 308 Rescue Squadron out of Cocoa Beach, Florida You have that decision so that if you have a family or whatever it is you know where you're gonna be stationed. So that is an advantage of garden reserve. Then, of course, another advantages. Options. So you get to the team, you finish your mission qualifying training, which allows you to be deployable. You do your first deployment, you come back. You're doing your upgrade training. Maybe it's been 4 to 4 and 1/2 years that you've been on active duty orders and then you're faced with a decision. Do I want to do this part time or do I want to do this full time? And at that point, you can apply for one of these active guard reserves slots Where your full time at your guard Reserve team. You can say I want to go active duty. You can be a part time reservists and go to school or work a contracting job or some other appropriate job that you're qualified for. Or you can say you know what? I want to do this full time. I didn't get an AGR slot. I'm gonna cross over to active duty so the options are there And then, of course, those of you that know about the 24 Special Tactics Squadron. If you don't know what that is. Google it. There's a lot of information about it out there. That is the Tier One Special Tactics squadron on the Air Force side of the house. And that is a tryout process in its own. The cream of the crop tip of the spear. PJ's combat controllers on now, special reconnaissance personnel and even TACP can apply for this and go through a highly selective selection process to become a Tier one operator. So you transferred to the 306 from your time with the STS unit at Mildenhall. Was there any type of difference, would you say, from STS unit to an RQS unit?

Isaiah Staley:   18:32
I didn't notice any difference in the guys Get the same Pjs a PJ. I think they're all just as Good on either side

Jason Sweet:   18:40
at the 306 Isaiah, Were you actually a reservist working part time or were you working full time at that reserve unit? They done

Isaiah Staley:   18:48
both started out full time. And then when I eventually made the decision to go combat rescue officer, I went part time. Just a finish up college little quicker.

Jason Sweet:   18:58
How long have you been a Pararescueman before you commissioned and went the combat rescue Officer route?

Isaiah Staley:   19:05
by the time I got my degree was right about 10 years enlisted.

Jason Sweet:   19:08
You got your degree in 2008 is that correct? Yes. So you've been a PJ first for about 10 years. What you get your degree in?

Isaiah Staley:   19:16
Just out of Embry Riddle. Just an aeronautical degree.

Jason Sweet:   19:20
And that's up in Prescott, Arizona, where

Isaiah Staley:   19:22
it is. But they had a satellite campus down in Arizona, so I'd go there when I was in town.

Jason Sweet:   19:28
Can you tell us a little bit about how you're gonna balance that lifestyle and still get your degree at the same time?

Isaiah Staley:   19:34
That is initially why I went to part time just because I could take off the workload and concentrate more on school. So I think the first year I did about 210 days with a full load of school Internet being too much, it's kind of like a walking zombie slide. Bump it down to about 100 days. I worked the next year just ah, I would say Take the load. You can take that. I'll allow you d'oh to reach whatever goal it is you're looking for.

Jason Sweet:   19:57
Were you using the post 9 11 G I bill to get your degree?

Isaiah Staley:   20:00
I was.  

Jason Sweet:   20:01
the post 9 11 g I bill will a lot you be h They'll pay for your tuition, obviously, and your books and give you that opportunity for four years of college. Is that correct?

Isaiah Staley:   20:10
Yes.

Jason Sweet:   20:11
So you Knocked the degree out. And at that point, did you go to officer Training School or OTC officer Training Course?

Isaiah Staley:   20:23
I went to the last class of what they called back then AMS And it used to be a reserve commissioning program that lasted six weeks, as opposed to the 12 week active duty one. 

Jason Sweet:   20:34
So it was an accelerated course you knocked it out in six weeks, and after that, you had to go to a course called Phase Two. Is that correct for CRO selection before you actually would go to the end? Of course,

Isaiah Staley:   20:44
your phase two came before getting commissioned because they wanted to make sure that you could have a billet to go into before they sent you to officer school.

Jason Sweet:   20:53
and Phase Two correct me if I'm wrong is extremely challenging, and it's supposed to be able to weed out officers that are theoretically supposed to get through INDOC by being able to get through face to Is that correct?

Isaiah Staley:   21:05
Yeah, you should hits. Ah, as I remember it, it's a week long, and what they did was take that week, run at night. We'd ninth week graduating standards of INDOC So if you got through that week, you should be able to go to INDOC and get through it.

Jason Sweet:   21:20
Now, what do you think it would be like is an enlisted guy If your officer quit it, Probably a pretty bad day, huh? Because, I mean, I see students. To this day, they tend to act as a team. So if one person starts quitting, especially if that's the most in shape person somebody's gonna look at that person say, Well, if they're if they're quitting, while I better quit, too, if they can make it well, you know, I'm not gonna be able to make it, either. If you have an officer going and quitting, that's probably gonna be a bad news. A bad day for the rest of your team as well. So would you say that typically, the combat rescue officer candidates were cream of the crop compared to the rest of the candidates.

Isaiah Staley:   21:58
When I went through INDOC, Obviously there were no CROs back then, and I have never seen any of them perform INDOC itself. But what? I saw that face, too. I was very impressed with the caliber of CRO They were getting through our graduating, and I have no doubt anyone that graduated phase two would get through INDOC. And I don't know of any officer that's quit after that. Do you know of anywhere Have you heard?

Jason Sweet:   22:23
I've never heard of an officer that's quit after getting through phase two i've heard of officers washing out, but by no means quitting. So the course is proven. It's putting through a solid product, and these guys are getting through. Can you remember what your biggest challenge was as a transition from enlisted? The officer side? 

Isaiah Staley:   22:44
Not really any physically and phase two, but I think having had all your friends enlisted, there is the challenge of ah, not being buddy buddy with them. When you get back, you're just in a completely different role. That's why they have all the rules about fraternization and it's just different. The guys you went out drinking a beer with you might be right in paperwork for when they're doing something stupid the next day. It's just Ah, I think the biggest challenge was separating yourself from enlisted guys that you had been hanging out with for years.

Jason Sweet:   23:16
And I say you did. 10 years is a P J. And then you cross over to become a crow. Obviously commission made it through face to what motivated that. And was there something that you were looking to get out of that? Were you looking to make change for the career-field where you're looking for a new challenge? What do you think Here? Your motive was to commission and become a CRO?

Isaiah Staley:   23:37
Definitely always up for the new challenge. It was fairly new career field. A lot of change going on there. It looked like something I I want to be a part of figured from that side. I'd be able to implement some of the changes I thought should have happened. Um, but coming in as a O-1 You're not gonna change anything you got. You got wickets to climb and things to go through before you have any kind of voice of change, I think.

Jason Sweet:   24:00
What did you feel? The largest difference of being a combat rescue officer was versus being a senior enlisted PJ?

Isaiah Staley:   24:09
I think the biggest differences your PJs basically doing you're down and in guys on the ground doing the tactical part of it. Where is a cruel You're up and out just the command and control.

Jason Sweet:   24:23
So as they did 10 years is an enlisted PJ. Then you commissioned became a combat rescue officer. And then you started feeling a drive for something different, and you ended up actually going to the Navy and being the oldest person as a seal officer candidate to ever graduate BUD/s Can you talk a little bit about what inspired you to cross over into the Navy after being ten year enlisted PJ in a four year CRO

Isaiah Staley:   24:48
Yeah, while I was a CRO I went to a Navy course called JOTC Junior officer training course. As far as being the oldest officer, I have not heard of an older one, though we haven't asked every single SEAL out there, so be careful with throwing that one out. But, um, while I was a CRO I went to JOTC what's the junior officer training course And when SEAL officers going through BUD/S, once they pass BUD/S, they go through this course. It's essentially another selection for them. If potential seal officer doesn't get through that course, their careers don is a SEAL So it's another wicket they have to get through. But while in that chorus was pretty impressed at how they use their junior officers, it's a big part of what convinced me to switch over.

Jason Sweet:   25:31
So, Isaiah, the P S T standards are pretty high for a SEAL officer. So would you say you were in probably some of the best shape of your life when you were 35- 36 years old?

Isaiah Staley:   25:41
For the PST I think, uh, anything you spend a lot of time on doing, you're going to get good at. So I specifically tailored all my training towards those events on that PST

Jason Sweet:   25:52
And for those of you that aren't aware of just how challenging these Navy SEAL officer standards are, to optimize the PST. You're looking at an 8:25 on the 500 yards swim combat side stroke. You're looking at 98 push ups, 91 sit ups, 21 pull ups and an 8:59 on the 1.5 mile run. How'd you feel you stacked up on those optimum standards? Isaiah, do you feel that our students should be focused on the PST to ensure readiness for BUD/S?

Isaiah Staley:   26:23
Going to BUD/S as an officer is highly competitive. And if you don't have those scores and a minimum than your chances of getting getting in our greatly reduced. So as an officer initially, you have to put a lot of time into crushing those scores and then transitioning how your training once you picked up. At least that's how I did it.

Jason Sweet:   26:45
Now I remember you saying you had some stud athlete in your class that set a record on the obstacle course. And then he quit on the first generation of surf torture. Can you talk a little bit about why? Maybe you see some of these incredible athletes coming through the course. But then they get out there to the open water. They get to the pool and then they they quit. What do you think is the reason behind that? Isaiah and And what are we looking for for a solid student going to BUD/S?

Isaiah Staley:   27:12
I don't know if they actually keep a record for the obstacle course, but he was just the individual the fastest guy ever seen. Do it. And the fastest I had heard of.

Jason Sweet:   27:22
Do you remember what his time was?

Isaiah Staley:   27:23
Years. About four and 1/2 minutes and I'd say around at least six and 1/2 to 7 is a very fast, respectable time. So this guy was smoking. It

Jason Sweet:   27:33
said you remember your first iteration of surf torture. So you're out there. You're on the Pacific Ocean. You're in the grinder, your chafed up, you're covered in sand. Do you remember the first time when your instructors told you link arms and hit the surf?

Isaiah Staley:   27:46
I do remember the first time and the first times actually, sort of, ah, Familiarization with it. So you're not in trouble the first time you're getting it, you're just getting getting used to the the calls to do it. And so, yeah, we all in tans and was kind of smoking and joking and laughing about it. And I remember pretty quickly all the laughter died. The chattering of teeth started and it got pretty miserable pretty quick.

Jason Sweet:   28:12
Now they don't let you guys get deep enough in the water toward you. Kind of get used to it like getting in a nice bath. They put you guys right there to where the waves are just gonna constantly crash over. You get wet, and then the water subsides. You get dry again real quick, and then the waves just keep hitting you right. So there's really no way around it. There's no way to get warm, is that correct? You just gotta just gonna tough it out.

Isaiah Staley:   28:33
That is correct. It's a complete mental game at that point.

Jason Sweet:   28:36
If you could give any recommendation to students that are training for BUD/S, what would you tell them? That would be best for them to do and focus on for preparation?

Isaiah Staley:   28:45
I think my recommendations would be the same for any selection. Course you're going through Be it BUD/S or INDOC or whatever is basically ah, do some research. The information is out there. Whether ah, you go into BUD/S or INDOC. Find out what Fin their use and get a hold of that Fin train with it. That's what you're getting tested on. If you're getting tested in the pool, do your practice in the pool. If you get untested in open water, find a lake, find a notion, find the distance and get to practice in the actual element you'll be tested in. Um, something I was told when I first came in is it's all mind over matter. And if you don't mind, then it don't matter. And what I mean by that is going into these selection courses. You should have already decided that come hell or high water of that career Field is what you are going to do no matter what they throw at you, how hard it gets, how tired you get call cold and miserable you get. It's ah, it shouldn't matter. It's all mental. At that point, most people that go through these things can physically get through it. It's just a mental game.

Jason Sweet:   29:55
So would you say that there was a certain point where it didn't matter what they threw at you You guys were just going to take it once you got down to that core nucleus of that team?

Isaiah Staley:   30:05
Yeah, I'd say the guys that get through any of these selections. They've already decided that before they got there.

Jason Sweet:   30:10
What was one of the most challenging elements of buds for you, Isaiah, Especially versus what you saw in the pair rescue side of the house. What was some of the differences and those unique challenges that you experience it BUD/S later on in your life, Going through the course?

Isaiah Staley:   30:24
I think the big factor in BUD/S was the age I went through INDOC at 18 and went through BUD/S. It started at 35. So obviously my recovery time took a lot longer and the way BUD/S set up too you really don't get to recover. Kind of just get tore down week after week, day after day.

Jason Sweet:   30:42
So you and I both went through the Pararescue course where you had these evaluations every Monday and these evaluations, you knew exactly what the distance was. So you knew it. We tend you. We're gonna have to be able to do a six mile run and 44 minutes or less that week One, you're gonna have to do a 1.5 mile run. It had given time based on what you've told me about BUD/S It was a little bit different, so you'd have a four mile beach run per se and maybe the front half with solid runners. When they finish, they get some rest, pays to be a winner. But then all the rest of the guys have finished behind them that are already behind the power curve. They would get a little extra torture and election beat down. Kind of the culture of bides is those top guys are going to continue to get more rest continue to be on top. And those dudes that with lower power curve are going to continue to get beat. Is that safe to say about BUD/S versus maybe the INDOC side of the house? You're weaker. Guys are gonna hold your team back and the whole team is gonna pay for them. What would you say? Maybe the cultural difference Was?

Isaiah Staley:   31:41
pretty accurate for BUD/S. It did seem like the top group which I was not a part of, did get to take a little break. And I do specifically remember in those guys relaxing while I got beat for being more towards the back.

Jason Sweet:   31:57
Now boats on heads is one the most challenging parts of the course. How did you feel? Did you feel like there were guys on your boat team your boat crew that were putting in more work than others? That we've had students that are 23 inches taller than the other guys on their boat crew? And they're getting blasted, Um, getting a lot more weight on their head versus others. Can you give a recommendation to our students if they happen to be on a boat crew and they're a little bit taller than others, Maybe how they can survive that evolution?

Isaiah Staley:   32:25
Well, they do a height line before you do any boats on heads, adoration. So they line it up best they can to get you with guys that your height. But once in a while it does happen. There's someone of a mismatch.

Jason Sweet:   32:38
What do you think was your hardest challenge? It BUD/S and Hell Week in particular eyes there.

Isaiah Staley:   32:45
It's a long week, I think, Uh, at the age factor against me. Just the recovery times

Jason Sweet:   32:50
Isaiah, do you think that there was anything else as far as being an older guy that held you back? I say that because we see students that come through our Hell weekends and our Hell days, and some of them are a little bit older. Some of them are a little bit younger, but typically we see with the order candidates is that they're a little bit more analytical. They think a little bit more before they do things which can sometimes be a good thing. But sometimes can be a bad thing, right? Whenever you need to just react, you just need to jump in to the evolution instead of thinking about it and thinking why it may make sense or why not make sense. Did you see any change in your resiliency? Or maybe you're gung ho mentality as you got older. Did you have to think about things a little bit more? Did you feel like that you were a little bit more mature and better prepared? Is an order student going through BUD/S?

Isaiah Staley:   33:39
I'll say at BUD/S as an officer there, You really can't be the grey man. You're in the spotlight all the time. Same within duck. But I think Grey Man as an enlisted guy, you could get away with a little longer in the beginning. While there's a lot of people and they can't quite concentrate on who's who. But as the numbers dwindle, if you're the grey man, you you will get caught and you will get it handed to you for not stepping up.

Jason Sweet:   34:03
And the Grey man would essentially be that person. That's not getting highlighted, but the instructors writes that person's kind of blending in getting the job done. Do you think? BUD/S? Um, would it be a good strategy for you to go all out 100% on every evolution? Or do you hold a little bit back and kind of look at it as a marathon full of Sprints? How did you handle that? Did you give 100% on every evolution? Or we're able to pace yourself throughout the course? What was your strategy, Isaiah, Especially through Hell Week in particular?

Isaiah Staley:   34:33
someone in the strategy with uh thinking BUD/S is a marathon, not a sprint. You definitely need to. Well, I should say I'll speak for myself and say I needed to pace myself. Definitely. Don't be in the back, but I definitely wasn't fast enough to be in the front, but there's no way I wanted to be in back getting getting extra attention.

Jason Sweet:   34:54
And for those of you that are some of the top athletes in your class understand that if you highlight yourself, is that person that's finishing first every time and you have a bad day or you burn yourself out trying to finish first every time and your instructors see you, is that performer this always finishing first? All of a sudden you have a day where you're not finishing first anymore. Those instructors are gonna know, and they're going to be calling you out saying were yet So is it more advantageous? Do you think Isaiah to try toe be that guy that's always finishing first? Or do you think it would be better to kind of hold back a little bit and maybe stay in that top third? What are your thoughts on that and and howto handle yourself in that whole endurance aspect of the course?

Isaiah Staley:   35:32
For me personally, it was the hold back, a little not true of other guys that can handle that pace for that for six months straight. Some guys could do it. They were phenomenal athletes there that they could do that more power to him. I personally could not, so had to throttle back a little bit.

Jason Sweet:   35:48
And how would you contrast the team aspect of BUD/S compared to the team aspect of Pararescue indoctrination? That being said in Pararescue indoctrination, I remember that if one person screwed up, the entire team would have to drop with that person so the weakest link would hold a team back. at BUD/S was at the same case? Or did they break you guys up into individual groups a little bit more?

Isaiah Staley:   36:10
There definitely were times where you paid as a team, but you'll see more of individuals paying or boat teams paying or squads paying, not the whole team with same time.

Jason Sweet:   36:26
So you guys just got done getting beat down for a week. You're covered in sand, you're sleep deprived. You only got a couple hours of sleep in seven days and you're all lined up. Seven days is gone. The instructors have y'all gathered up and they say, Hell week secured. What did that feel like to you to know that you had secured Hell Week as a 36 year old man and as one of the leaders and the officers?

Isaiah Staley:   36:48
it was definitely a relief. It was a big, big check mark done. Does that remember it? They had, Ah, a clean shirt and a whole pizza waiting for each of us.

Jason Sweet:   36:58
So you graduate BUD/S and you get to phase II How was the pool week and the pre dive and combat dive operations on the SEAL side of the house compared to the air Force side of the house?

Isaiah Staley:   37:12
I'd have to say after 10 weeks of INDOC the ah, the 10 week graduation standard it INDOC is harder than phase two at BUD/S. But the difference there is at INDOC, you progress over 10 weeks. It doesn't start out that hard, but in phase two, you're basically thrown into it without preparation. So not to say Phase two is easy because it's definitely not, but you have a little more prep going into the harder training on the INDOC side.

Jason Sweet:   37:46
So you graduated phase II of BUD/S and then you move on to SQT Did you have to go through static line school again and all the HALO school again?

Isaiah Staley:   37:55
Now they let me out of the jump schools,

Jason Sweet:   37:58
so you got to clep the jump schools and you moved on up. You did land warfare, Arctic survival. They three and some ice cold water for 10 minutes. How was that? But

Isaiah Staley:   38:10
the first minute of it sucks. And you kind of just to go numb

Jason Sweet:   38:15
like a nice bath pretty much, and they pull you out of the water. You're hypothermic. What happened after that?

Isaiah Staley:   38:21
At that point, it was, Ah, an exercise and testing out your cold weather gear. So setting up your one man tent light on your stove to get the heat going in there, and it's pretty good gear and system they got where you'll eventually dry out and heat up.

Jason Sweet:   38:35
You've been our special guest instructor and special guests be here for four different Hell Days. Now, can you talk a little bit about what you've seen out of the caliber of students at the's hell days and maybe some recommendations on Wouldn't you like to see moving forward with the strength of candidate and what they can work on to be more ready for a course like BUD/S or Pararescue assessment & selection course?

Isaiah Staley:   38:58
I think a lot of what I've seen is guys not fully understanding what it is they're getting into and had kind of how I said earlier about putting some research in the way you're going. Guys come to these things without no one what gear they'd be training with or what the requirements are, what they're graduating standards are. It's all basic info that they should be exceeding the graduating standard before they ever get their think. The last thing you should be worried about is can you physically make it? That should be no doubt in your mind that you're gonna go there and crush it.

Jason Sweet:   39:30
So it'll be safe to say that just because you can pass the past test that doesn't necessarily mean that you're ready for the Pararescue Pipeline or ready for BUD/S. Can you touch a little bit more on what these guys should be doing to train to make sure that they're ready for a course like hell week?

Isaiah Staley:   39:48
I think just doing well on a PAST Test will give you ah, false impression about what a selection course is actually about. I mean, the PAST test is nowhere near physically, hard as any selection will be, but I think if you can physically pass the PAST Test with good numbers, you can physically pass a selection. So again it comes down to Can you mentally deal with it all which you are being tested mentally throughout any of these selections, And again, it's going into it already knowing that no matter what happens, this is what you want. You dig deep, you find something to hold on to hold onto it for dear life, because you will be put in situations where you'll question your choice in being there and anything that motivated you will be out the window.

Jason Sweet:   40:38
Amen to that. And we are running out of time. Thank you for your wisdom, brother. Appreciate you being on with us tonight. Know that you're a true, humble, quiet professional in its way out of your norm. To talk about your career and to talk about yourself. So we do appreciate it very much. And for those of you that are trying to decipher a career field between being a seal being a pair of rescue mint, Or maybe you're trying to figure out whether in listing or commissioning is the best option for you. Hopefully, this podcast shed some light on various topics that some of y'all may be struggling with or challenge with it. This time we have more episodes dropping soon be on the lookout. Also be on the lookout for upcoming Hell Day dates for this late spring and early summer, we're gonna be announcing those on Instagram as well. Is dropping those on the website and posting those into our group training chats. Please take some time to write us a five star review. If you enjoy the podcast and until next time we are out.

Isaiah's Background
Pararescue (PJ) Pipeline Training
Pararescue (PJ) Career
Pararescue Reserve & Guard Explained
Becoming a Combat Rescue Officer (CRO)
Crossing over to the Navy
BUD/S & Becoming a SEAL
INDOC vs. BUD/S Comparisons
Hell Week Secured
Advise & Training Tips