navy seal training meme

How To Check If Someone Was A Navy SEAL

Ever since the raid on UBL’s compound, there has been an epidemic of guys claiming they were Navy SEALs, when in fact they aren’t.

It’s gotten so bad that some estimates put it at 1,000 phony SEALs for every 1 real SEAL.

The math works out like this:

2,450 Active Duty SEALs X 1,000 / SEAL = 2,450,000 phony Navy SEALs

You’re chances of meeting a real life (living) Navy SEAL are about 1 in 3 million.

Not very good odds, is it?

So how exactly do you check to see if someone was a Navy SEAL?

Here are 6 steps / questions to help you get the right answer.

Note: The author of this post was never a Navy SEAL, and doesn’t claim to be.  We simply posted this article in the hopes of stymieing a surge of bogus Navy SEAL claims.

Everything below was thoroughly researched and checked for accuracy.

1.  Contact Don Shipley

If you’re looking to find out 100% if someone was a SEAL or not, Don Shipley is your guy.

A former SEAL himself, Shipley used to run a Youtube channel called “Phony Navy SEAL Of The Week”.

Each week he (and sometimes his wife Diane) call up phony Navy SEALs and confront them about their claims.

Unfortunately, Shipleys Youtube channel was terminated in February of 2019.

According to Youtube, it was terminated “due to multiple or severe violations of Youtube’s policy prohibiting content designed to harass, bully or threaten”.

This is what you see if you try and visit Don Shipleys former Youtube Channel.

However, in 2017 Shipley has actually moved off of youtube to his own site,

It’s a paid membership site that costs just $10 a month, and will give you access to all of his “Phony SEAL Of The Week” videos, among many others.

Membership to his site also includes free and unlimited SEAL verification.

Don Shipley is one of only a handful of SEALs that have access to the SEAL database, which is a listing of every Navy SEAL and UDT since their inception.

The database contains information on:

  • What class a guy was in
  • The exact date the class graduated
  • What SEAL Team the guy went to
  • And other info

If someone claims to be a SEAL, he can quickly verify with 100% accuracy whether or not the claims are true.

If you don’t want to fork over the $10 per month to sign up, but still want to find out if someone was a SEAL, Shipley also offers a one-time fee for SEAL verification.

It costs only $20, and he will also issue you a verification letter that states whether or not the person was ever a SEAL.

You can learn more on his official site here.

2.  “Have You Ever Shot A Draeger?”

One of Shipleys favorite lines when he’s questioning the clowns claiming to be SEALs is: “Have you ever shot a Draeger?”

Most phonies will have no idea what he’s talking about, and will assume he means a weapon.

Well, a Draeger is not a weapon. 

It’s a dive rig that ALL SEALs use as part of their dive training, as well as real-world operations.

draeger navy seals use in training
Lar V Draeger

A quick and easy way to trip up a potential fake navy SEAL is to ask him something like:

“What was it like shooting the Draeger?”

“Is a Draeger a semi-auto or fully-auto weapon?”

Or something to that effect.

If he claims anything other than it being a dive rig, you know he’s an impostor.

3.  Where On The BUD/S Compound Is The Bell?

In BUD/S, there is a bell.

It’s not just any old bell, either.

buds bell

It’s a bell that crushes dreams, echoes throughout the BUD/S compound, and endlessly haunts students.

When a student DOR’s, he’s instructed to ring the bell 3 times and place his helmet in the line of quitters.

If you’ve ever been to BUD/S, you know what the bell is.

However, not everyone knows where the bell is.

One way to trip up a potential SEAL impostor is to ask him where on the BUD/S compound is the bell.

bell in front of first phase office at BUDS

One technique I’ve seen Shipley use is to ask the phony if he could guide him to the bell from the front entrance of the BUD/S compound.


It’s pretty simple.  From the front doors of the Phil H. Bucklew center, you go through 2 sets of sliding glass doors to the BUD/S grinder.

Immediately walking in to the grinder, you make a right and will see the bell right in front of the first phase office.

where is the bell on the BUDS compound

If you were to question a potentially fake Navy SEAL, you could simply pose it as a curiosity-like question.

“Did you ever think about ringing the bell?  Where is the bell at the BUD/S training center anyway?”

Or something to that effect.

One other thing to note is that occasionally the instructors will bring the bell with the class throughout their training day.

4. What Is The Name Of The BUD/S Training Compound In Coronado?

This is somewhat related to the question above.

Most phony SEALs won’t even have an idea of what the name of the SEAL Training center is even called.

The Naval Special Warfare Center, also known as the Phil H. Bucklew center after the “father of US Naval Special Warfare”.

If the guy claiming to be a SEAL doesn’t know the name of the center, or even who Bucklew was, he’s likely NOT a SEAL.

5.  What Color Was Your Helmet In Phase 1, 2, 3?

All BUD/S students wear helmets throughout their training.

SEAL training is divided up into 3 phases:

  • 1st Phase: 8 weeks of physical pain and conditioning that has the infamous “Hell Week” in it.
  • 2nd Phase: Known as the dive phase, where students learn basic combat diving and swimming techniques.
  • 3rd Phase:  The land warfare phase, where BUD/S students spend 7 weeks learning basic weapons, demolitions, land navigation, and small-unit tactics.

Throughout each phase, students where helmets that have their last name and BUD/S class stenciled on them.

helmets at buds

The color of the helmet is different for each phase:

  • 1st phase: Green
  • 2nd phase: Blue
  • 3rd phase: Red

If the guy you’re talking to can’t answer a simple question like “what color was your 2nd phase helmet?”, then he likely wasn’t a SEAL.

Quick Tip: Another thing you can ask is the color of the T-Shirt.  Students just starting out in first phase wear white t-shirts.

Once they pass Hell Week, they are given brown T-Shirts.

6. FOIA Request

As Don Shipley has pointed out in the past, there is no such thing as “classified records”.

The missions SEALs do can (and often are) be classified, but the fact that someone was ever a Navy SEAL does not mean that there information isn’t publicly available.

One way to prove whether or not someone was a Navy SEAL is to do a FOIA request.

The Freedom Of Information Act, or FOIA request, and gives “the public the right to request access to the records from any federal agency”.

sample foia request letter

It’s essentially a written request in which you describe the information you need, in the format you want it in, in as much detail as possible.

They will be able to tell you what branch of the military the individual signed up for, the date he entered and left, and what exactly he did while serving.

You can learn how to make a FOIA request on the official website here.

7.  He claims he was based in SEAL Team 2 on the West Coast

This is another common one.  You’ll bump into a guy who claims he was a former SEAL at a bar, gathering of friends, etc.

He’ll start dropping the SEAL bomb, and if you ask him what Team he was assigned to, he may say something like “I was over at Team 2 in San Diego”.

Immediate red flag…

All of the odd numbered Teams (1, 3, 5, and 7) are based in Coronado, CA.

All of the even numbered Teams (2, 4, 8, and 10) are based in Little Creek, VA.

SEAL Team 6 (aka DEVGRU) is based in Dam Neck, VA.

Occasionally, you will get a fake that claims he was stationed on the USS Ronald Reagan or USS Enterprise.

Also B.S….

SEALs are not stationed on ships.

8.  He’s The Guy That Shot Bin Laden

If a guy claiming to be a SEAL says he was the one who shot Bin Laden, you can rest assured that you’re likely talking to a fake.

It’s been pretty well established by multiple accounts that former SEAL Rob O’Neill is the guy who shot UBL.

the man who shot bin laden
Rob O’Neill

Was he the one that actually fired the fatal shot?

Who knows…

But for the purposes of this article, if he’s claiming he shot UBL, you can be sure it’s B.S.

9. I Was Dishonorably Discharged For Striking An Officer

Haven’t you guys ever seen the movie “Under Siege”?

Remember the part where Casey Ryback (Steven Seagal) punches Commander Krill (Gary Busey) after he spits in his soup?

Here’s a quick refresher:

If a guy is claiming to be a SEAL and mentions something like this, he’s probably a fake.

As Shipley has pointed out in several of his videos, these guys conjure up stories from movies.

“I refused to kill women and children, so they booted me out of the SEALS”

That’s Hacksaw Ridge…

“I was sent behind enemy lines to terminate a rogue special forces soldier bent on vigilante justice”

That was Apocalypse Now…

If the story sounds a little too unbelievable, it likely is.

How To NOT Check If Someone Was A SEAL

1. “What BUD/S Class were you in?”

This is a common way people think they can trip up a fraudulent seal claim.

Sure, if he says he was in Class 2 Zero Bravo or Class 899 (which will graduate in about 200 years), then you know he’s likely a phony.

But what do you say if he comes back with a class that might potentially match up?

Say “Class 202” or “Class 165”???

Do you know when Class 165 graduated? Neither do i…

On top of that, there are no publicly available records of BUD/S classes by year, or rosters for that matter.

2.  “Who Was Your Swim Buddy?”

Related to the above.  Seriously, how would you know if a guy was someone’s swim buddy?

The same goes for a commanding officer, guys he might have served on a SEAL Team with, etc.

Unless you were a SEAL yourself, there’s no way you’re going to know whether or not the answer is B.S.

6 Other Fake Navy SEAL Claims You May Encounter

  1. No SEAL has ever been taken prisoner of war.  If a guy claiming to be a SEAL ever mentions that, you know he’s full of it. (Source)
  2. SEALs aren’t stationed on ships.  They get to and from areas of operations / conduct training operations from ships, but they are NOT stationed on them.
  3. His records are classified and noone can access them.  No such thing.
  4. He’s claiming he has a Medal Of Honor, Purple Heart, Navy Cross, and / or a Distinguished Service Cross.  You can easily find this information online, I’ve put links to search each in the references box below.
  5. They didn’t have to go through BUD/S to become a SEAL.  The SEALS came to them and recruited them.
  6. They were in the Army or Marines and went through training.  Not happening, you have to be in the Navy to go through SEAL training.
How To Check If Someone Was A Navy SEAL
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Navy Medal Of Honor, Navy Cross, and Silver Star recipients:

Rob V.
Rob V.
Rob V. is the founder of While he never actually served in the US Military, he has a passion for writing about military related topics. Born and raised in Woodbridge, NJ, he graduated from the New Jersey Institute Of Technology with an MBA in eCommerce. His hobbies include beach volleyball, target shooting, and lifting. Rob is also a commercially rated pilot with over 1,500 hours of flight time.

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