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Madison Parker: combat and country

  • Written by  Hannah Murray
Madison Parker Madison Parker

MARIANNA, Fla.— Not everyday do you meet someone as well versed in survivalist skills as Madison Parker.

You might wonder how one acquires the skills Parker has. 

Parker, 66, is a former Navy SEAL, who served from 1970 through 1981. 

Parker was living in his hometown of Niceville when he enlisted in the Navy on June 28, 1970. His only goal: become a Navy SEAL. 

“I went to the Navy because I wanted to be a Navy SEAL,” he said. “That was my reason for joining the Navy. If the SEALs had been in the army, I would have gone into the army. If they had been air force, I would have joined the air force. But they weren’t, they were Navy. And so that was my main purpose.”

To his disappointment, however, after finishing boot camp, Parker says he was not given the orders to be a SEAL. 

“I had to go to the regular Navy for a year,” he said. “And man, did that break my heart.”

But Parker didn’t let that stop him. 

“I dealt with it,” he says. “I overcame it and worked on it and wrote letters, actually. I wrote letters to Congress saying this is the reason I was here, I had a guarantee, and I didn’t get my guarantee. I requested a chance to go to SEALs.”

After a year, Parker got his chance.

“They sent me to the SEALs training camp, what they call BUD/S,” he said. “It stands for Basic Underwater Demolition Seal training. At that point, it was two years of training. That was quite an experience.”

The training process resulted in many from Parker’s class being dropped. 

“We started with about 122 and by the end of the first week, we were already down to about 70,” he said. “And by the end of the first phase, we were down to 18. That first phase was a six-week period. And by the end of training, we graduated with 12. We were all pretty delighted.”

Parker said that out of the 12 graduates, all had at some point been called for an evaluation to potentially expel them from the program. 

“They were closely scrutinizing everyone all the time,” he said. “There was not one of the 12 guys who did not get that deep, close evaluation. We were all being evaluated all the time. Everybody in that class at some point almost flunked. Every one of us, even the class ‘Honor Man’, got so close to being dropped.”

You can imagine Parker’s relief when he did graduate and officially become a Navy SEAL. 

“It was quite an experience to finally graduate,” he said. “And what a day that was. Because you got through something that you knew a lot of people just couldn’t do.”

Parker says that his training wasn’t done there, however. 

“When you first get in the SEALs, you aren’t done with training,” he said. “You’re still the new guy. In our case, they were using the war to train us. We were being trained in combat in real-time. You couldn’t get better training than that. If you’re being trained to be in combat, what better way than to be trained during combat?”

Parker served as a SEAL until 1981. He said aside from the war, most of his experience was training. 

“It was basically training, training, training,” he said. “Constantly training. You never finished, you were always in a state of training.”

Although he had served his time as a Navy SEAL, however, Parker’s time serving in wars was not yet over.

Around 2004, Parker said he was approached by the Department of Defense, or DoD. According to Parker, his name was on a list of former Navy SEALs to be asked to go to Afghanistan to support operations there. 

“I jumped at the chance,” he said. “I wanted to go.”

Parker said the program was a very secret and experimental program. Blackwater, a private military company, contracted the DoD, who then contracted former Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, and Marine Recon. According to Parker, the DoD was experimenting with putting former Special Forces into combat situations to provide oversight to see how they provided combat support to the Afghanis and to the U.S. Army.

“It got very hairy,” he said. “We saw some very intense stuff. I saw more activity, bullets flying in the air, in Afghanistan than I did in Vietnam.”

According to Parker, the operations in Vietnam were more defensive, while the operations in Afghanistan proved to be more offensive.

Parker said that they would accompany the troops in the field.

“We were with them as they’d approach villages and start kicking down doors and stuff,” he said. “If they went into a building, we would set up a perimeter around that building. If someone came out, they were ours. Most of it was to help facilitate the development of the Afghan Special Operations group, which was very small in those days. It was about us, as Special Forces Teams, to help them develop their Special Ops programs. We got into some pretty wicked, pretty scary stuff.”

Parker said that during the program, there were some injuries. 

““A couple guys in the group I was with got hurt,” he said. “Mostly IED stuff, driving trucks back and forth. They were a couple occasions where I was glad they didn’t ask me to drive, honestly. Every time we got in the truck I hated it.”

Parker said that one of the difficulties of returning to civilian life was utilizing his skill-set.

“A Navy SEAL’s skill set doesn’t match very well for a peace-time, civilian society,” he said. “You’ve been trained in the skill of combat. And society has been trained in the skill of producing more money. And that’s fine, I’ve just never learned how to make those two things work out.”

Parker now operates his own business, called Bulletproof Primitive Supply & Training Co. 

“I teach survival, blacksmithing, old-school skills,” he says. “Everything I do is a kind of primitive set. These skills are lost to society. About 99% of people out there wouldn’t have a clue how to do the things that I do.”

According to Parker, this isn’t great for business, however.

“A lot of people are rather intimidated,” he says. “And they say, ‘Well I don’t see how that’s going to help me.’ So it’s kind of hard. But it’s okay. I ain’t ringing a bell. I’m not complaining. I’m glad I got the opportunity to struggle and I’m glad I’m still in the fight.”

Parker says he is glad to have had the opportunities he’s had. 

“I’m glad I was able and capable of proving some kind of service,” he said. “I’m thankful that I was able to do that.”

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