They are Republicans Ryan Zinke for Montana’s 2nd District, Derrick Van Orden for Wisconsin’s 3rd District, Eli Crane for Arizona’s 1st District, Morgan Luttrell for Texas’s 8th District, and Brady Duke for Florida’s 7th District.
“It’s exciting because what you have is you have two fire teams of warriors that don’t flinch in the fight for freedom,” said Ryan Zinke, who was the first SEAL to become a cabinet secretary and congressman in Montana’s at large district.
“These guys, you’re not going to be able to intimidate them. You’re not going to be able to harass them. They’ll do the right thing for America and they’ll put America first,” he said.
The five veterans spoke about what SEAL veterans can uniquely bring to Congress. Zinke said as a SEAL, you have a small team, dedicate long hours working hard towards one goal. “That’s in this case, to save America,” he said.
Van Orden, an author, actor, and businessman, said SEALs bring a clearly recognized and acknowledged heightened level of commitment to America.
“It is very difficult to be a SEAL. Even to get selected, to go to training, let alone get through training, and it takes a big toll on you physically…It takes a big toll on your family. You spend years and years and years away from home training and deploying,” he said. “So we have [an] ironclad proven track record in putting the best interest of the country before our own.”
Duke, a business owner, said he thinks SEALs are taught no matter what the circumstances are, they find a way to come out successful, and to do it with honor, respect, and dignity.
“We get put through so many challenges and the teams to overcome stress and to be able to work through stress,” he said. “In environments where they stack the odds against you in training so that you’re facing the worst possible problem, and training you to have to work through it in the midst of over what looks like overwhelming challenges or opposition.”
Luttrell, also a former Trump Administration official and business owner, said SEALs have a unique ability to problem-solve, but are also humble.
“We work well in large teams and small teams. We work well if we have to, as an individual, and we’re innovative creative thinkers,” he said. “Politics [is] a long game. It’s a marathon and ultra marathon, and SEALs have staying power. We prove that after we get through Hell Week, we prove that through the wars that we fought from the past two decades.”
He added, “But I think one of the most defining characteristics that a SEAL would bring to politics is humility and integrity. I would chalk it up to their experiences and the things that we’ve seen, done, smelled, and tasted. It’s ingrained in us that humility is always the best characteristic to have — it just levels the playing field and allows you to accomplish more instead of knee jerk reactions.”
Crane, CEO of Bottle Breacher, agreed that one of the top attributes Navy SEALs bring to the table is humility. He said during BUD/S training, candidates are assigned a swim buddy and they are not allowed to be six feet apart from each other the whole time. He said:
You are not allowed to go and even use the restroom by yourself. If they send you to hit the surf, go jump in the ocean, you have to go with somebody else… If you’re caught more than six feet away from your swim buddy, you’re going to get beat. That just means physical punishment or more likely they’ll have used to sit there and watch while they beat your boat crew, because you thought you were sufficient on your own.
What they’re trying to weed out is that Rambo mentality. They want you to understand that you’re nothing on the battlefield by yourself, and it will take a team. And that’s, that’s one of the most important things that I learned in the military, because I know that if I get the opportunity to go to Congress, because I’m sent by the people, I won’t be able to do squat by myself, just like I wouldn’t have been able to do anything on the battlefield.
Their goals are varied but similar in key aspects — to take on the political establishment, reign in out-of-control government spending and inflation, and preserve what makes the nation great.
One of Zinke’s top goals is to lessen political division in the country. He said in the military, he never asked a person whether they were Republican or Democrat.
“What has always been important to me is do you love our country? Do you understand and support the Constitution against all enemies both foreign and domestic, and do you want to make more perfect our union?” He added:
I do think the biggest threat facing the country is not Russia, China, or even Iran. It’s the division within this country. … this is where leadership comes in. People ask me, do you think the country’s fixable? And I say, absolutely it is, never bet against America. We might be in the fourth quarter, but liberty’s got a good arm.
Van Orden cited illegal immigration at the southern border as a major threat. “We essentially don’t have a southern border right now. Over 190,000 illegal immigrants entered the nation last month. That’s three times the size of the largest city in my district in a single month.”
He also wants to bring home Americans abandoned in Afghanistan, where he served two combat tours. “The sole function in the Department of Defense is to protect American citizens and the Biden administration abjectly failed on both of those,” he said.
He also cited the increasing costs of goods that are important to residents in his district, such as fertilizer, which has seen a 50%-plus increase in costs. “What we need to do is get the government out of the way, stop spending money. We don’t have remember that we’re all Americans and do things for the betterment of our country, not for these personal political agendas with divided administrations right now,” he said.
Luttrell, who is running in Texas, also cited the border and inflation as major problems, but also cybersecurity — which he worked on at the Department of Energy in the Trump Administration. “One of my largest, if not the biggest platforms is the cybersecurity threat,” he said. “We’re just so far behind as a nefarious actors across the globe that are just moving the needle forward and putting so much effort in behind cyber attacks,” he said.
“If we don’t capitalize on what we have now to make it better in the future, we’re not going to fight wars anymore like we did with planes, bombs and guns, it’s going to be a pushing a button and their ability to reach over and touch us is absolute.”
He also wants to bring back American medical and technology independence. “We’ve got the pandemic from China, but we go to China to get all of our ingredients and our materials to protect us over here. So we’re out over our skis. I’d like to get behind legislation and champion legislation that would bring those businesses back into the state so we can protect ourselves,” he said.
“We don’t make microchips here. The case in point — the auto industry. We can’t get a truck, can’t get a car. We’ll be riding horses before too long,” he said.
Crane said he would like to tackle election integrity. “I do believe that an emphasis on election integrity must be paramount in our efforts to conserve this democratic Republic that we were given,” he said.
“I do believe that a emphasis on election integrity must be paramount in our efforts to conserve this democratic Republic that we were given,” he said. “It blows my mind to see everything throughout the course of history that mankind has been willing to do for power, to include mass murder, genocide, subjugation, et cetera. But we as Americans see our government through such rosy lenses that we’re incapable of believing that, that same type of evil it’s possible here.”
Duke cited wasteful government spending and an assault on freedoms in the country. “I have five children, so I care deeply about how the future of the country, and I want them to be proud of the country they grow up into,” he said.
“It’s scary, the direction we’re headed. All that our country was founded on are being quite directly assaulted. So I’m getting in because I have a lot of fight left in me and I think I can bring a lot of reason to the table and be a voice for the people in a really fair and true way,” he said.
All five agreed that the spreading of Critical Race Theory in the military is a problem. Zinke said CRT and diversity training was a distraction that took troops away from critical training. “The defense of our country should reign supreme and be the top priority,” Zinke said. “There’s consequences of inadequate training — ask the United States Navy about a series of recent collisions.”
Crane said the military, like much of American culture, has become a social experiment. “That’s obvious when you hear some of our top generals, like General Milley talking about white rage,” he said. “Our military is headed in a direction that no longer promotes dominance, lethality, and operational preparedness as it did…It breaks my heart,” he said, adding:
The military is a very diverse organization. And when we go fight, we don’t fight for white people or black people or people, or this neighborhood or that neighborhood. We fight for Americans our way of life. I think many of us understand that what we have here is very unique and very precious. And if it’s not fought for, it won’t last. Like Reagan said, ‘Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.’
Luttrell said the military should be separated from politics and the ugliness that comes along with it.
“We’re in defense of the country as a whole, and that’s colorblind,” he said. “If you inject Critical Race Theory, political ugliness, and bureaucracies just for an agenda in any given administration, you’re wrong altogether.”
Van Orden said the military should have focused on getting Americans out of Afghanistan instead of CRT.
“The Department of Defense has lost its way, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Milley, should resign or be fired immediately. He had the gall to sit in front of a congressional committee and explain that he wants to know about white rage and that it’s very important,” he said.
“When he had that testimony, he should have been ensuring that the Department of Defense was planning the safe extraction of American citizens and our allies from Afghanistan, but he sat up there and tried to lecture elected members of Congress about something that has nothing to do with getting American citizens out of Afghanistan,” he said.
“I’ve never seen the morale of the Department of Defense this low in my lifetime. I think the last time was after we got out of Vietnam,” he added.
Duke said his friends in the military today talk about the different inclusivity training they have to do periodically. “Bringing these ideas absolutely is destructive. The military is not the place for social experiments,” he said.
All five men said the biggest misconception about Navy SEALs are that they are superhuman, Jason Bourne-like men — a stereotype fueled by stereotypes in the movies.
They said rather, SEALs undergo a lot of hard work, hardship, sacrifice and commitment, and that it is the inner strength of a SEAL that makes them who they are, not their physical strength or presence.
That said, all five men’s heights combined are an average of 6’3. They note that their height is actually unusual for a SEAL, who is typically much shorter. “It’s a really odd group,” Crane said. He said at 6’1″, “I’m not used to being one of the shorter guys in the group.”
Some of them joked they were even taller before their combat jumps compressed their spines. They also like teasing each other, especially as they do TV interviews together, but also do not hesitate to make fun of themselves. Van Orden, who is the shortest at 6′, “Standing next to Brady yesterday, he’s like 6’6″ — I looked like this little old Father Time next to him, you know?”
Zinke said one of the toughest SEAL he ever knew was a man named George Hudak, who was 5’2″ and 135 pounds. “It was the character of the person, not the height of his physical presence,” he said. ✪
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