FORTitude FW Where Stories Never Die

Roxo Media House

Chris Cassidy - Navy Seal/Astronaut Part 1

Chris Cassidy

Navy Seal/Astronaut

Think you are cool? Chris Cassidy, a retired US Navy Seal and decorated NASA astronaut wins the coolest life story award. Cassidy details his involvement with the US Navy SEALS followed by his three trips to space. From his time in the Space Shuttle, the Soyuz, and on the ISS, Cassidy spent over a year in space recording ten space walks, Cassidy was the subject of a Disney documentary of his mission. He now leads the construction and launch of the new Medal of Honor Museum in Arlington Texas. Check out this fascinating and remarkable life. Go Space!

Please enjoy the best Fort Worth has to offer.

Audio Only

Episode Transcription: 

roxo media house
0:15
welcome back to fortitude everybody your host jw wilson with my co-host brinton payne the summer doldrums are upon us
0:22
uh brenson question for you well meanwhile before i ask you the question uh welcome back to cap tex bank studios
0:29
thank you captex for providing all this wonderful stuff i ate lunch with mike the other day
0:34
he’s our sponsor mike thomas with cap text banks oh it’s great mike’s a great storyteller as you well know thank you
0:40
mike and captex but brent my question for you is we’ve had many really interesting people come on this show
0:45
people like opal lee chief knox a double amputee cop danny coulson
0:50
ceos fbi guys yogi mayors entrepreneurs today might be the top of the top of the
0:57
pyramid for us um the guys sitting to your left uh one chris cassidy chris cassidy thank
1:03
you for coming welcome welcome to fortitude oh my god my pleasure glad to be here thanks for being here let’s see if we get a little pause though that’s
1:10
the train that’s the train we’ll fix that in the post yeah uh chris cassidy is a retired u.s navy seal he’s he was
1:17
retired chief nasa astronaut and iron man and is currently the president ceo of the medal of honor museum in
1:23
arlington texas did i forget anything nope that’s quite quite a bit um let’s
1:28
start at the beginning because the story is needs to be told and it’s a phenomenal story i’ve i met you several
1:34
months ago and luckily you’re nice enough to join us and you’re involved in a lot of really cool stuff so let’s get into it with your
1:40
permission let’s do it yeah thanks for being here salem mass where you’re born you’re born uh correct your childhood before all the
1:47
really interesting pertinent stuff happens but what’s what’s your childhood like yeah so i was born in in salem um
1:53
at uh i was about three years old i guess when when we moved to maine so i really consider
1:59
myself a mainer grew up uh a little bit in a town uh called bath maine a little
2:04
further north of portland and then bath iron works bath iron works exactly my my father had a restaurant uh right
2:11
there by bath iron works and i remember it was pretty cool as a as a kid to have your family have a restaurant you you
2:19
could get anything you want you get as many free sodas as you as you wanted your parents were always at work so you
2:24
were there with them after school uh it was fun and then um and then we moved uh sub to very southern corner
2:31
main town little town called york just over the brits from ports of new hampshire i was in fifth grade
2:37
and so that was really the form of my formative years there fifth grade through high school graduation
2:42
first job first you know car all that stuff right right there in york normal childhood chris totally
2:48
normal childhood uh my i have a younger brother he’s three years younger exactly the same birthday
2:55
um in in january 4th so we we have this standing pack that we don’t give each other presents and it’s it’s been a good
3:01
good good uh good bargain to have throughout the years but anyways yeah we just always grew up
3:08
liking sports yeah that was the main focus of when i was a youth i mean i always had a ball of some kind in my
3:15
hand or our car or we went on family vacations we made sure we had something to throw
3:20
around quarterback i was a quarterback yep and um played baseball and basketball
3:26
i really liked basketball in fact um i knew i didn’t have the talent to make
3:32
it to the nba but i i wanted i shifted that enthusiasm for the game
3:39
to being a basketball referee that’s what i really wanted to do when i grew up was was to be a college and then
3:45
potentially professional nba ref um we’re glad that didn’t work out for you yeah yeah yeah celtics and
3:52
patriots oh all the way yeah i had posters of uh bird parish mchale ange and dj on my wall yeah in that era uh
4:00
when it was this huge lakers celtics rivalry and the pistons and the bad boys all that stuff that was my the prime of
4:07
my youth yeah i was a sports fan and the patriots back then they were horrible steve grogan was a quarterback tony
4:14
easton and some of these names but um uh so i’ve been a patriots fan all through the years when they were bad and
4:19
all the way through um these times um but yeah totally totally normal
4:25
childhood yeah so how anybody in the family military no no my my dad was drafted in in the
4:33
marines in vietnam he did maybe two years um but that was that was it so
4:40
um i i tell the story of how i got interested in the military yeah
4:46
when i was in high school looking for ways looking for colleges and then also how to pay for college because we didn’t
4:52
have a ton of money you know it was it was a factor to to you know the the financing part of school
4:59
and i remember we would always watch the army navy football game yeah
5:04
and seeing sharp-looking men and women march onto the field in the little um 30 second
5:11
snippets of army and navy life that they have during the game um i just thought that was super cool
5:17
even when i was young and then fast forward to when i was a in junior and senior in high school i mean you guys
5:23
may may remember but before the internet days you go to the guidance counselor’s office and you thumb through a giant
5:29
book yeah looking at schools yeah and i got to the page with like
5:35
super glossy photos of the the severn river which is annapolis and the buildings and the people and i
5:40
thought ah that’s the football game i always watch that’s that’s super cool down at the bottom it says it’s free to
5:46
go here you just have to be in the navy i’m like okay that’s right up my alley yeah i didn’t know what bee in the navy
5:51
meant as a junior in high school or a senior but i didn’t care i was like okay that’s
5:57
fine that sounds cool that’d be interesting and it takes care of the funding aspect of it
6:02
and um so i started the path to to get to apply and this is a key part of my story that or my development really as a
6:10
person is the path that got me to annapolis um
6:15
so it’s it’s a two-phased application you have to apply to the school and to your congressional district
6:24
and i read about the congressional district but nobody was guiding me and in my naive brain i didn’t quite piece
6:30
together the school part so i just applied to the congressman’s office and and got uh
6:36
asked to come to an interview i went to the state capitol in maine in augusta and did the interview and the lady said
6:42
a good job you know we’ll take it from here and i remember asking her like so you don’t need
6:49
anything else from me and she said no no we we got it you did great we’ll forward your name on to the academy
6:55
so i didn’t do it the whole other part unbeknownst to me that was a problem and so that was the fall of my senior
7:02
year fast forward to the spring of my senior year in high school and everybody’s getting
7:08
the thick envelope or the thin envelope yeah rejection and i was getting it from other places but not there
7:13
and finally i couldn’t take it and i i i called the admissions office and and uh sorry for the long story
7:20
this is a good one uh i call the admissions office and ex explain my situation and the lady goes
7:26
oh okay what’s where are you from and i tell her she’s oh okay i hear rummaging through files what’s your name i tell
7:31
her more files can you spell your name more files what’s your social security number more files i’m sorry we have
7:39
nothing on you you’re not even in our system this is in like april of my
7:44
senior year in high school and i think oh my god this is not what i wanted you’re about to be a referee maybe i’m
7:50
about to be a referee and but as a all things happen luck whatever
7:56
your view is divine intervention i don’t know but um my friend’s dad had planned a
8:01
business trip from maine to washington dc it’s like an eight-hour drive and my buddy and i were gonna go with his dad
8:07
the next week which was our spring vacation and so i did that as part of the plan and then
8:13
the only change was one afternoon i drove from dc over to annapolis like 30 minutes away and went to the admissions
8:19
office and walked in and the same lady i recognized her voice and she said oh you’re the young man from maine yeah you
8:26
got to go uh see captain melillo he’s down the hall third door on the right you can’t miss him he’s if he’s has new england as
8:33
his territory he’ll take care of you so he marched down the hall turned the corner third door on the right and
8:38
there is this like stereotypical marine corps poster child
8:44
perfect uniform shoes you see your your reflection in rigid as a board posture
8:50
haircut the whole nine yard square jaw and uh i’m like oh boy and i remember
8:56
thinking well this is my chance i got to tell my story so i told him my story and i could tell
9:01
he’s looking at me like every other kid got their things in on time what the hell is wrong with you you
9:08
know yeah and uh um but i so i told him the total time in
9:13
his office five or six minutes and he very patiently listened and goes okay i understand i’ll get back to you
9:20
the whole ride back to maine i thought well at least i tried you know i can live with myself that i tried but yeah
9:26
certainly the naval account is not in the cards for me well just a couple days later i get paid to the main office in
9:32
school for a phone call i go down there the secretary hands me the phone and she says somebody i don’t know who it is somebody from the navy
9:39
so i pick up the phone and he says hey cassidy it’s captain milillo i got good news i can get you into the naval academy prep school
9:46
but you i need an answer like right now on the phone is that what you wanted and i didn’t know what the prep school was
9:52
where it was what it meant what time and commitment it was but i knew that that was the door that’s open one time and it
9:58
was shutting okay so yes sir thank you very much i’m in turns out the prep school is a year
10:03
in newport rhode island if you do uh if you meet the standards you get automatic admission to the naval academy and the
10:09
reason that story is so fundamental to me because that gentleman cap melillo
10:15
didn’t know me never saw me again but he gave me the chance if if he
10:21
didn’t see something or believe in me in just that moment in time and give me an opportunity we you guys
10:27
and we wouldn’t be talking right now today i you know i’d be a washed up you know division three basketball ref
10:34
um and but because of him and i like this story because any one of us
10:39
can be captain malo any day you know or you can be set somebody up that you didn’t even
10:45
know you were going to have that interaction on that let me ask you something you think if you had done that whole thing over a zoom call it would
10:52
have been the same no the the face to face did it was standing there right in front of him he knows this kid drove for
10:59
he didn’t know my buddy’s dad and i had a plan already yeah he in his mind like this kid drove eight hours
11:05
to be here and he’s in front of me he means it he’s serious i could tell he’s not a complete idiot partial anyways but
11:12
not complete uh maybe maybe there’s something there to close the loop my wife has heard me say
11:19
this story like tens and tens of times over yeah over my career and uh and i never met him
11:26
and um in 2020 right before my last launch we were having a launch party for
11:33
my friends and family in boston and um and we had planned it for several months
11:39
and i didn’t know this but she looked him up and found him and there’s a whole story of how she tracked him down and he
11:44
didn’t believe it was real she had to involve another friend of mine in the military was in the pentagon
11:50
and who had to convince him it was a real thing and so she invited him he and his wife
11:55
came and we’re in this room with 250 of my closest friends and i knew everybody except one face
12:01
in my mind i’m like who that’s that guy throughout the evening i’m trying to get to him but my wife and my other buddy kept cutting me off and
12:08
because at the towards the end of the evening i stood up and said words and and thanked
12:13
everybody for being there and uh and as i was telling that story the one i just told you that said
12:19
because of this gentleman cap malillo none of us would be gathered here today for a pre-launch party and that’s when
12:25
my wife interrupted and said hey excuse me uh mike milila will you please stand up
12:30
and so i was the first time 30 years later i got to see him shake his hand thank you so cool and he said you know
12:35
honestly i didn’t remember it it i was just another just another day in my life and and i had a couple one or two of
12:42
those things a year in my hip pocket i could use so amazing story and so fundamental for
12:47
me because now particularly after i’m not i’ve flown in space i can be kept in
12:52
mellow for others and so it’s really nice yeah that’s great that is a wonderful awesome story thank you for sharing that
12:58
so obviously you get in the naval academy you’re doing you’re you’re going through that academy stuff and you go do
13:04
your your service right three years yeah after the after the fact it was five five years
13:09
where all did you see in that time where did you visit across the world well five turned into 28 you know i stayed i just
13:15
retired from the from the navy recently but those initial five years that’s all i thought i was going to do
13:21
um the first year after graduation um i was in seal training called buds out in
13:27
san diego yeah coronado california that’s a underwater demolition yeah basic underwater demolition school seal
13:35
um how hard was that oh it’s not so bad no it really sucks
13:41
like i mean it was it the the to this point like with all of your where you are with everything was it the hardest
13:48
it was in terms so there’s a huge physical component right like but that’s obvious when you look at it you got to
13:53
do all these push-ups you got to run all the time you got to lift logs on top of your head and paddle boats and do all these things that push you to your
14:00
physical limits and that’s the job of the instructors but what you don’t know
14:05
at least for me and most of us when you enter in you just think of purely physical and you’re constantly thinking
14:11
okay i got to do all these you know calisthenics and things but the purpose of all of that is to
14:17
push you to your mental limit and um the takeaway from seal training
14:23
is your there is a limit to every single one of us physical and mental
14:29
and but that’s when you help each other and that’s when good teammates reach out
14:36
because when you break is a different time than when i break and you break and together we can support each other
14:42
mutually and get through it but if we all try to go through individually we’re all going to fail at just maybe
14:47
different times but eventually we’ll fail and so that’s the the key the crux of it and you don’t know that when
14:52
you’re starting out as a brand new guy you’re just like ah more pull-ups
14:58
but i remember very distinctly sitting on the beach hell week is a week long sunday to friday
15:04
wednesday wednesday into the evening the sun’s setting and i’m freezing we’re sitting on the beach eating a cold mre
15:10
with sand in it and all nasty and i’m just looking at the sunset and going oh man this is just lousy i wasn’t
15:16
really thinking about quitting but i was just feeling really sorry for myself yeah this is what am i doing
15:22
um and my buddy right next to me nudged me and said hey you know i don’t even know what he said maybe can i have your
15:29
cheese or something yeah but it’s pulled me back out yeah from where i was drifting to and and he did that for me i
15:36
think i probably did it for somebody else along the way so it’s really about getting through it together which is applicable to life right sure we all
15:43
have hard times yeah yeah with all that you’ve been through not getting too far ahead was that part of
15:48
your life is that considered one of the most physically enduring um training regimens ever is it comparable to space
15:55
going through navy seal stuff oh it’s complete apples to oranges like there’s tiny bit of physical aspect to
16:02
space flight particularly when you’re coming back and we can talk about that later um but the
16:09
by far that was the most physically intense period yeah sometime in the midst of this i think
16:16
prior but you you went to mit for for a little stint and got your masters yeah so i was driving underwater vehicles
16:23
called seal delivery vehicles sdvs for the you have no problem with claustrophobia it’s very apparent no i i
16:29
don’t mind no i mean because aren’t those things super tight spaces yeah they’re tight you close you you’re it’s
16:36
not like a dry submarine picture it’s a flooded submersible so you’re wearing scuba gear you sit down in it you close
16:42
the door and you so you’re in surrounded by water driving through the water column
16:48
and i did that for four years and loved every bit of it and um and and i knew that
16:53
i would like to go to grad school at some point in my life and um uh
16:58
i hadn’t really got the astronaut bug at this point in time i was just kind of exploring graduate school engineering
17:05
and then it dawned on me like oh i have all this underwater vehicle time maybe there’s schools that that
17:11
have underwater vehicle programs and sure enough mit had a great one and um i remember thinking i i really need to
17:19
leverage this experience in my application because i don’t think you know i was a good student but not like what you think of an mit yeah student
17:26
were you going to go to woods hole and go and study kind of underwater life so mit has a partnership with woods hole
17:34
oceanic graphic institute and my i wasn’t there there’s an mit woods hole joint program i wasn’t in that but my
17:41
advisor had professorships in both places so i did all of my research down at falmouth
17:46
yeah yeah can you explain to the to the layperson which is still us uh underwater vehicle like what’s the
17:52
what’s the goal and the precision and then the the goals and those things are you trying to deliver people to certain
17:59
places in the world that are not wanted to do things is that the purpose of these vehicles there are multiple
18:04
missions uh particularly in the seals you’re talking about yes yeah um multiple missions one of them is as you
18:10
described so so it’s about 20 feet long you can google it sdv sealed delivery vehicle there’s a compartment in the
18:16
front for the driver pilot navigator and a compartment in the back where folks can sit um are they sitting or they like laying
18:23
back you’re kind of all smushed in there yeah um you know you’re right in top you’re in
18:29
the lap of the guy in front of you and as you’re sitting there but it’s not like the nemo ride at disney world it is
18:34
not like the nemo ride at disney world and the water is not a balmy 90 degrees you know you’re
18:40
perfectly clear on a starry night yeah you’re going into harbors which are murky and
18:46
dark it’s dark of night so usually you can’t see anything um but one mission set is to deliver to
18:52
people from the back and it’s a great way to get folks in like if you go by helicopter generally the bad guys can
18:59
hear the helicopter and or see see them on radar if you parachute in
19:04
uh that’s pretty stealthy way to do it but then you what do you do with the parachutes and you know there’s there’s
19:09
pros and cons to every way to get somewhere yeah this is just another way but really really stealthy uh you can
19:15
get right up to the beach or under a pier and and people can get out they’re either go on land themselves or or then
19:22
swim underwater to go do something else um other creating those missions can be as
19:28
creative as creative as you want you know sensors put monitor monitor enemy
19:34
harbors you know there’s lots of different things that we can do did you guys ever drop out of the hell like when you’re in coronado you can see those
19:39
helicopters are moving all the time but sometimes are you guys dropping out of them oh yeah into into the water and in
19:46
that way yeah in fact right behind us there’s a picture of a submarine and we that’s one way to get out to the
19:51
submarine is is out by helicopter and fast rope down onto the deck of the submarine and then and then submerged
19:57
together you mentioned bud’s basic underwater demolition seals um can you explain that to us and how that uh
20:04
translated into your seal your steel career yeah so that’s that’s the entry point into to
20:10
being a seal is to successfully make it through buds okay and um it’s generally
20:15
like a six month probably a little longer than six month training program broken up into three phases
20:21
of a couple months each the first phase is all about do you have the mental and physical stamina to to
20:28
make it through and hell week is the latter part of that first first phase
20:34
and then um you guys you have anybody ring the bell when you were in hell week oh god yeah how many
20:40
so if you look our class started with 120 people and of that 120 people 17 of us
20:48
graduated if you look at the graduation photo there’s about 30 35
20:54
people in it and that’s because it’s common if you’re performing well and you have a good attitude and you get
21:00
hurt um they will allow you one time to heal up and then reinsert in a class
21:09
that’s coming on behind you so we had you know about a double of
21:15
those 17 originals so about 30 35 uh graduate because 17 people um joined us
21:21
as the class progressing and it’s really really common because it’s tough to make it through that level of physical demand
21:26
like an nfl season right it there’s so it’s injuries are so common yeah um
21:32
so it’s just kind of nature of the business i was lucky i didn’t get hurt didn’t twist an ankle just made it made it through uh on the
21:38
first are you still close with these 17 individuals i mean do you remain in a relationship because of that uh i’ll
21:45
always be close to to those those guys but even uh and then another batch that when you
21:51
go into what’s a sealed platoon and you start going doing combat operations i’m really tight with with all those those
21:57
folks yeah there’s a there’s certainly a bond though with your bud’s classmates it’s a bond that never breaks all right
22:03
so then you you so you take that training and then is it like immediate deployment like then you’re going over and and
22:10
doing the deal where you’re checking the boats on the northern persian gulf or you’re doing the that’s the movies and
22:15
the reality is you’re a new guy and you show up at your first unit and you wait to be assigned to a deployable unit and
22:22
then there’s about another well there’s a couple blocks of training after buds you have another six-month
22:28
block of training where you go from a rough rock to a polished
22:33
stone in terms of your operator savvy and then you join a unit and and go over
22:40
go overseas your career and then seals lasted ten years correct eleven yeah eleven years you have two deployments to
22:47
afghanistan and two to the mediterranean sea could we talk a little bit about some of the missions whatever you’re i
22:52
know you can’t probably tell us everything we’d like to know but is there are there things you could share with us that you were involved with that
22:58
were yeah well that so i i got out of buds in 1994
23:05
and um so it wasn’t it wasn’t for what seven more years until september 11th
23:11
happened so in that seven years i was oh deploying with the seal delivery vehicles that we just talked about to
23:17
the mediterranean area doing there was some conflict you know some tension in the in
23:23
in that particular part of the country the world but but not a war um so we were largely training with
23:30
other other special forces units from other countries and and helping posture
23:35
it where we need it on a few occasions and and then um i i went to graduate
23:41
school from 98 to 2000 and after graduate school i i
23:47
went to seal team three now the interesting part of that is seal team three at that time
23:52
the area of responsibility in the world was assigned to that team was the middle east
23:58
and our platoon was had a planned six-month deployment
24:03
around thanksgiving time of 2001. so the way it works uh in the
24:08
navy particularly the seal teams you’re together with the unit for two years the last six months of that two years is an
24:15
overseas deployment when you’re where you’re the sharpened knife ready to be used and the year and a half
24:22
leading up to that is individual training and unit training and training with other units and then you go and
24:28
it’s this big rotational thing after and then you come home from the deployment the leadership changes new guys come in
24:34
and you start that process all over again so our scheduled six-month deployment was thanksgiving well all of
24:39
a sudden september 11th happens and accelerated our deployment and um
24:45
and so within not a week because it took a little l i remember showering at home on because it
24:52
was i was in san diego the airplane sit in new york city at 9 00 a.m ish
24:57
so it was 6 a.m i was getting ready to go to work and uh went to work thinking well we’re packing
25:02
our gear and we’ll either leave today or sometime soon and we didn’t leave that day because it took a while for all the
25:08
logistics to sort itself out but very soon after landed in kuwait a little bit of time in
25:14
kuwait then a little bit of time in oman and then into afghanistan in the very very very early stages of the war you
25:21
were doing things like and this is something i never even heard of but non-compliant shipboardings i assume
25:26
that’s a ship that’s not that’s not wanting your your presence to be there you’re boarding these ships uh in the
25:32
midst of operations right um so the ships coming out of the uh
25:39
out of iraq which was in bar embargoed goods they weren’t allowed to be moving
25:45
them and the then they knew it and they would put barricades on the ship and and uh if as long as they’re in
25:52
inland waters we can’t bore them and be piracy but as soon as they go to international water waters they can be
25:57
boarded so there there’s this cat and mouse game of these ships kind of trying to stay out
26:03
of inland waters but shallow water makes them go to uh some deeper areas which was
26:11
um international waters and that’s when we would board them knowing that they were
26:16
um trying to smuggle smuggled goods and then we’d control the ship and then hand it over to
26:22
uh the experts that could then search and con any uh i mean like
26:27
tense times there i gotta imagine you’re getting on a ship you you have no idea what the layout what they’ve done with
26:33
this thing yeah you’re armed probably oh yeah and drawn right like and then
26:39
you could have an army of guys sitting behind one room you know in the door yeah that’s exactly right you generally don’t
26:45
know um we have the ability with different sensors to get infrared images
26:52
of them both from the air and the ground so you kind of have an idea if there’s people man in the guardrails
26:57
but generally they knew enough that they were going to get overpowered if they tried so they would weld themselves in
27:04
they would physically weld the doors shut they would put barbed wire all around the edge of the ship they would
27:09
put tripwires on the ladders going up and down um so that booby trapped and so it was
27:15
this really really intense time we’d come up on on side uh with a small
27:20
boat and a large hook on this big giant painter’s pole extended probably 30 or 40 feet up and then hook goes a ladder
27:27
and then we all scamper up uh assemble on the edge and then pull as fast as you can get to the bridge of the
27:33
ship to control the ship and and that’s generally when uh and oftentimes we’d have to take a
27:40
a metal cutting saw or a torch to torch through the metal and get in there it was it was pretty intense
27:46
and then you never knew what you’re going to find inside sometimes it was just um
27:51
uh other countries poor workers from other countries that are just on the ship to
27:56
get a paycheck and they’re like oh okay whatever needed and every now and then you get the stubborn real kind of jerky
28:01
person that’s like a few americans and yeah and ratchets up the intensity a little bit so my my
28:09
fearful side is imagining all this happening in daylight but i got to think no no of it none of us in daylight it’s
28:14
all night all night yeah so you don’t have a darkness problem either right no i don’t have a darkness problem you kind
28:20
of shed the darkness problem as soon as you get in special forces yeah so yeah so another one of your notable um
28:27
uh operations was the zoar cave complex where you won a metal a bronze star with valor
28:33
can we talk about that for a second yeah that was an interesting one because um if you remember here in this place
28:39
called tora bora it was it’s a right mountainous region right on the afghan-pakistan border and we as a
28:45
country knew that that’s when bin laden was and we’re tracking him with radio frequency
28:51
tracking and knew generally where he was up until the bad guys figured out that as soon as they pushed the radio button
28:57
that’s what is giving their position away then they got a little more disciplined and and we’re not using the
29:02
radio and that’s how we so we lost him but how close did you get chris well they gave you an idea and this was just
29:08
our unit and happened to other units too um in that cape area it’s our keeley
29:13
caves mountainous region cave caves stretch for probably a mile and a half all
29:20
intertwining into the mountains some connect some don’t some were big enough for 18 wheelers to go through um how
29:27
small were some some were just just one person passenger kind of thing
29:32
all pitch dark uh but they were using it to store ammunition they had a chow area they had
29:39
a hospital area a communications area so it was it was a harboring location for
29:44
for taliban and al qaeda and um and on that mission
29:50
early the first night we came around the corners cold cold cold like december night
29:56
we came around the corner and heard bushes scurrying and
30:01
almost stepped right onto a sleeping bag that’s still warm to the touch and a bot a pot of tea
30:08
that is almost still boiling and this is freezing cold night so that person just got up and left and we
30:15
missed them by seconds that i’m convinced that person was not bin laden but it was probably a you know
30:21
the lookout person for the larger group that was it was just up ahead so and that was just our unit and that
30:28
happened for several other units we were real as a country we’re really really really close but
30:34
you know if somebody tries to catch you in the woods that you grew up in yep oh yeah you’re not going to catch
30:40
them yeah that’s a great point yeah you want a bronze star with valor for that that operation that’s fantastic and then
30:46
you went on and did another one uh a few years later another one another bronze star uh for a combat leadership service
30:54
typical another typical operation type for that one as well yeah and the second time i was less of a
31:00
uh in the field leader and and i was so a seal platoon is about 18 guys
31:07
and the first time i was a seal platoon commander so it was myself and the our small group that was actually going out
31:13
there the second time i was one rank higher lieutenant commander and was in charge of two seal platoons so more
31:19
often i was back on the planning and operation center side of things occasionally i’d be in the field when
31:24
both units needed to be there and uh helped with the command and control but um
31:30
yeah and it was interesting too to see the difference in the theater from 2001 to 2003. in 2001 it was like
31:37
the wild wild west we would do a mission learn something that night pull it back into our own planning
31:42
process for tomorrow and kind of build this build the airplane as you fly it in 2003
31:49
i’m not saying it’s worse or better but it’s just the nature of more troops and larger scale
31:54
it was more infrastructure the chow hall was better the toilets were better but there was way more
32:01
involved with going out to do a mission it was a lot more coordination you gotta brief two or three people to to get a
32:07
lot more bureaucracy a lot more bureaucracy not quite as agile if you know somebody is at that gas
32:14
station right now you got to go right now yeah because tomorrow night at five o’clock they
32:20
might not be there yeah um so that was you know it’s just a necessary evil of the nature
32:26
of large scale well and the internet’s coming on board right like communication speeding up between
32:32
you know entities and things like that yeah before we we wrap this in that seal the whole seal time and it
32:39
could be in buds too scariest time like when you were when you were like and i don’t know if you’re
32:44
even allowed to admit it as seal you know you i don’t know can you guys say you were scared yeah yeah we’re all we’re all human so yeah but what was
32:51
that you know for you um one particular time we were and this
32:56
wasn’t even in combat we were practicing there’s two answers to this we in training
33:02
we were practicing ship boardings and uh one of my my mates was climbing up the
33:08
caving ladder up the side of the ship and you got to picture waves and swells on a small boat next to a giant gray
33:14
ship and so your small boat’s going up and down and up and down and so the the ladder
33:21
it runs halfway up the ladder and then the boat disappears and and and so that happened
33:26
and one of the guys was carrying um some tools a sledgehammer that had a
33:32
sledgehammer on one side and a pick on the other side right by his head and he with the but when the boat went
33:38
up the ladder went slack and then the boat dropped down it went tight and it flung him off like an arrow of a bow
33:45
and he went flying and landed right in the the small boat right at my feet and that pickaxe thing
33:54
was like right next to his head and he just he he was a little out of
33:59
breath and he got up and he just scampered right up the ladder and i remember a little bit being frozen because it
34:05
wasn’t fear of what i just did it was realizing wow
34:10
one of my really good buddies if he’d landed outside of the boat he would have probably drowned if the tool
34:16
had shifted a little bit it would spiked his head and that was a really kind of scary moment for me
34:22
and then the other one in combat in afghanistan uh that kind of brought this this
34:28
severity of it all we we were in close contact with the enemy but they were like one ridgeline away
34:35
and it’s difficult to judge distance when you’re when you’re looking across a valley
34:41
and um and we were we saw a cluster of them coming out of a
34:46
cave and we started like in daylight or you got the night vision it’s right as the sun’s coming up so it’s early early
34:52
early morning yeah and um and we took a couple shots at them but it was a little further than we could
34:59
effectively tell if we were hitting them and they could hide easy uh so we call in air strikes but
35:06
to tell um a j dam is the name of the bomb that that we use you got to tell it where to
35:11
hit and you can tell it the exact coordinates you want to hit or you can
35:16
tell it a bearing in range from where you are when we had a bearing in just the compass we didn’t know how far
35:23
it they were we were estimating the range and so we over estimated i’m sitting right next to the radio guy and
35:30
together we’re calculating this and he’s like how far do you think it is i don’t know let’s say 2 000 yards so we plugged
35:36
i had the gps of our location because we did we wanted to keep it separate and because the
35:42
cardinal sin of blue on blue is reporting sending your own position to the aircraft to bomb
35:49
and um so i’m look not letting him look at my gps and he did in the calculations
35:55
and he punches it in and jdm bombs take degrees and minutes decimal minutes so
36:03
when you’re talking small numbers like this only the last digit changes on either the latitude of the longitude so
36:09
it’s it’s really puckering and we so we dropped the bomb at 2000. we estimate
36:14
it’s way long we cut it in half to a thousand and um
36:19
and and then that one was long so we cut it cut it down to 700 yards from us and the
36:26
aircraft says we’re unable to drop that stanger close and they needed the ground commander’s initials and i remember
36:31
thinking wow this is really this is no kidding for the real deal i’m giving my initials to drop bombs that
36:39
are this close to us uh to kill those guys the enemy and it
36:45
worked it we were fine but the the blast was significant we were like
36:50
holy cow rang our bell but it rang their bell more well chris you
36:56
britton made a comment about wrapping up your you thus far this could be a whole our whole show when we made a decision
37:03
uh unfortunately for our listeners we’re going to cut this into two parts because the second half of this interview goes
37:10
into when you join nasa uh but first the first half of your life’s already oppressive enough for most lifetimes but
37:16
yeah uh you decide in 2004 uh did you or you were selected as a candidate by nasa
37:22
before we end this this first part how did you get how did you decide and how did you get the call that nasa
37:28
wanted to to deal with you uh so the
37:33
nasa selects astronauts about every four years i did not know that i met bill shepard who was the first navy seal to
37:39
become an astronaut and he kind of described the process to me how you do it where who the selection office people are
37:46
what’s the point of contacts and uh and so that’s what inspired me to try because i
37:51
realized because he had been to the naval academy he had been to mit for graduate school and i realized oh well
37:56
that’s i’m kind of lining up with that same path maybe there’s a maybe there’s a chance for me as well i applied in
38:03
2000 um but did not get an interview at nasa i hadn’t completed graduate school and i
38:09
hadn’t had afghanistan combat experience four years later in 2004 i was a better applicant more well-rounded and that’s
38:15
when it worked out and i got called excellent we will see you next episode next week
38:21
thank you chris cassidy thanks for serving thank you for making this all happen thank you