Former SEAL helps ferret out fake credentials
By Howard Altman | Tampa Tribune | Published: December 17, 2012
So you're in a bar and the guy on the next stool is bragging about being a Navy SEAL.
Maybe he's trying to cadge free drinks, or impress a potential paramour.
Or maybe it's someone running for office, trying to garner votes.
If your BS radar detector starts pinging, there's probably good reason, says Tucker Campion, a guy who should know.
Campion, now 56 and living in Tarpon Springs, was a Navy SEAL for 19 years, retiring in 2000 as commander of SEAL Team 3. For several years, he was part of an organization called VeriSEAL, which helps ferret out fakers by, among other methods, accessing a database of everyone who graduates from Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALs training, or BUD/S for short.
By and large, SEALs remain the "quiet professionals" and don't brag. So if you hear someone who does, they are likely fakes. A check of the database usually proves that.
No BUD/S, no SEAL, no deal, says Campion.
"We always say that for every real SEAL, there are 10 guys saying they are," says Campion. "Ever since bin Laden was taken down, the numbers shot through the roof."
I reached out to Campion after seeing his name in a purloined email about outing a pretender on one of my favorite Web sites, which gathers up all kinds of semi-spooky stuff from a wide array of sources.
The 7-year-old email, which has since been scrubbed, talked about the VeriSEAL team, naming a few names.
VeriSEAL was formed in 1992, according to VeriSEAL.org. Its mission is "to provide immediate confirmation" of SEAL and other Special Operations Forces credentials.
VeriSEAL uses a proprietary database called "SOFCHECK" — a compilation of VeriSEAL historical case files merged with the BUD/S database, which is a complete record of all graduates of BUD/S training from the 1940s to current graduating BUD/S classes compiled by the Naval Special Warfare Center.
Access to the database is strictly limited. But Campion says that shouldn't stop you if your BS Detector is redlining.
"Ask what BUD/S class they were in," says Campion. "If they do anything but immediately answer you, you should be immediately suspicious."
If someone tells you that his class was classified, because he was assigned to a special unit, you are dealing with a faker, says Campion.
"There is nothing classified about a BUD/S class," he says.
Some poseurs, says Campion, have had an inkling about BUD/S and were able to rattle off a real class number. But there are ways to see through that as well.
"A buddy of mine ran into a guy on a plane, who said he was a team guy," says Campion. "Of course, my friend knew what questions to ask."
The guy said he was in Class 120. Campion, who was in Class 114, says that would make the guy about 50. But he was only 39.
"My friend goes, 'when you were training, you must have been about six.' The guy didn't say a word the whole rest of the flight."
Other questions to ask, says Campion, are which SEAL team? The even number teams are based on the East Coast, odd numbers on the West. SEALs don't like to call Team 6 anything but the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU.
Ask more questions, he says.
"Who was your skipper? What platoon?"
If you are still curious, reach out to VeriSEAL.org.
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Campion's last stint with the SEALs was as commander of SEAL Team 3, from 1998 to 2000. Geographically assigned to the Middle East, they did foreign internal defense and joint training exercises with foreign special operations forces, among other missions. After retirement, Campion went to work for U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base as a contractor, helping to procure weapons systems.
In 2010, he started his own company, Poseidon Consulting TPM, "which connects industry with the warfighter, helping industry guide development of their products and market within the special operations community," he says.
Across the country, military contractors are among the most concerned about looming budget cuts, a half-trillion over the next decade already called for, another half-trillion or so pending as the result of an impasse over how to cut the deficit.
But companies connected to Socom are breathing a little easier, says Campion.
"Everyone is concerned about the 'fiscal cliff,'" says Campion. "I feel fortunate my focus is on Socom. They will see cuts, but not cuts like the big services have seen."
Adm. William McRaven, Socom commander, "has publicly stated that Socom will always have money," says Campion, "to invest to procure those things that make a significant difference for the SOF operator that will allow him to do his job better, keep him safer or to lessen his time in theater."
Though the bulk of conventional forces will be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014, special operations forces are likely to be there a lot longer. And in many other spots around the globe. Good news for companies like Campion's.
Operators "stay in a place as long as heat is being generated there," says Campion.