SEAL Team 6 Can’t Shoot and Clean Data Don’t Lie

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Blasphemous!  With everything that has ever been written, every movie that’s been made and, of course, every action that these brave operators have accomplished, how could anyone even hint at the notion that this group can’t shoot?  These are fighting words for sure.  Shooting, of course, is the most mission essential skill necessary for success in the tactical arena.  At the end of the day, if you can’t put steel on target, well, it doesn’t bode well for future “and there we were” stories.

In the early 90’s, Dick Marcinko published his first book “Rogue Warrior,” which told the story about the early days of SEAL Team Six. Commander Marcinko was chosen to be the architect and first commander of the Navy’s elite counterterrorism unit.   The Navy invested a considerably large amount of money into the formation of this very necessary unit whose function was critical to our national security.  CDR Marcinko was given the “do not fail” edict by his superiors. That’s a pretty big stressor for anyone to lug around as they start something new.  He obviously took it to heart, accepted the necessity of the no failure option and built the unit.  In his book, CDR Marcinko details the training regimen he devised to make SEAL Team Six the absolute best at their craft.  They had a ton of dough, the best SEALs (handpicked from the rest of the SEAL Teams,) the most modern and lethal equipment, and seemingly endless opportunities to train and perfect their craft.  SEAL Team Six would be the best.

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It was after one of his early training exercises when CDR Marcinko remarked “we can’t shoot,” or words to that affect (his color commentary wasn’t family friendly).  He had added sheets of plywood to moving targets and after the dust settled, CDR Marcinko could clearly see that his SEAL’s accuracy and fundamental marksmanship wasn’t anywhere near where it should have been.  Obviously this deficiency was corrected in a hurry.  But what I always remember about this story is that no matter what we think, no matter what our instincts tell us, or how well things always used to be, the data don’t lie.

It’s the measure twice, cut once theory.  If you take a short cut, rush the ending, or assume everything is always good, well, imagine standing next to the target trying to explain what a great shot you were, when clearly you weren’t. 

Of course these men could shoot, and certainly still can shoot really well.  But before that target practice, there was no data to help shape the future, aid in decisions, or leverage for action.  The only apparent data was the ego driven notion that they were “that good.”  It sort of sounds like hope being used as a planning consideration.  There are always two data lenses to look through; one says, “this is bad, let’s call it a day.” The other says, “this is bad, but it gives us a place to start.”  The value of good, clean data is invaluable.

Clean is the operative word here.  It’s the gold standard. The data we see and use must be accurate and reliable. It must be, pardon the pun, bullet proof.  How can you be the best if you don’t know that you can’t shoot?  The moral of this story isn’t to antagonize my Navy brethren, but to rather remind leaders in the data world (or on the data field as my buddy Dailey Tipton calls it) that we cannot survive on our on hype and ego driven data (I hope, or I’m pretty sure, or it’s probably right).  Just ask someone with the clean data. They know what’s right.

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