They Lead

Andy Stumpf’s Journey Through The Hardest Naval Training In The Country

Mackenzie Meaney

Andy Stumpf made a lifelong commitment to the Navy and to Veterans the day he decided that being a Navy SEAL was the path for him.

Growing up, Stumpf spent most of his time playing around in the water. Either playing water polo or being a lifeguard, it seemed as though much of his early life in Northern California revolved around water, so it only felt fitting when he decided he would join the Navy when he got older.

The decision came when Stumpf was 11 years old and he later enlisted before he finished high school. Stumpf went through boot camp, and after that came one of the most difficult training sessions ever: the US Navy SEAL/BUDs (Basic Undersea Demolition) training program. It is one of the toughest programs in the entire military, with 90 percent of candidates being unsuccessful in completing the six-month program.

“All SEAL training is really about is pushing people to their lowest point, and watching the decisions they make,” Stumpf said to The Newport Buzz. “When you are at your lowest point, tired, hungry, cold…do you give in and take the easy way out?”

After graduating, Stumpf joined SEAL Team Five in California, before joining SEAL Team Six in 2002, the largest counter-terrorism organization in the United States. Through SEAL Team Six, Stumpf was part of many critical missions in Iraq. While on duty, Stumpf was shot in the leg by the enemy at close range with an AK-47. Doctors were unsure of the timeline of his healing and they didn’t know if Stumpf would even walk again, let alone return for duty.

“I mean, it was devastating,” Stumpf said about his injury to Coffee or Die Magazine. “The best description that I can think of is taking Jose Canseco, in the prime of his steroid, bat-swinging career and taking about a 9-inch nail and putting it in that bat, and letting him tee off on your hip. That’s about what it felt like. It hurt really badly in the moment, and then actually didn’t hurt that badly right afterward. But it caused some nerve damage down my left leg. And actually, by the time I got to the hospital, my major complaint was pain in my ankle. I thought as I was being medevaced out, ‘How did I hurt my ankle?’ ‘Did somebody step on it?’ ‘Did something roll over the top of it?’
Andy Stumpf’s Instagram

While recovering, Stumpf discovered Cross Fit as a form of rehab — it helped him recover, and get his body and mind ready to return to service. In 2006, Stumpf joined the BUDs training officers as a second petty officer. During that time, Stumpf submitted the work to become a commissioned officer and in 2008, became the first E-6 selection commissioned through the Limited Duty Officer Program in the entirety of Naval Special Warfare. Then, Stumpf joined SEAL Team Three for his tenth and final tour of Afghanistan, completing a 17-year military career, and medically retired, but not on his own terms.

“I was medically retired the last day of June 2013,” Stumpf said. “And it wasn’t really my choice. By then I switched over to be an officer, at the 12-year mark. And in 2010, I did a deployment as an officer and actually ended up relieving the officer in command that I was working for. I was five days from discharging from the Navy and I went to go get my discharge physical, because why not wait until the last moment? And the doctor wouldn’t sign it. And I was furious, because I had plans. I had shit that I was going to do. But in him not signing it, it initiated the PEB [Physical Evaluation Board] / MEB [Medical Evaluation Board] process. I had to get an extension for about a year, which actually was only one phone call, because then the officer detailer had become a guy that I used to work with, and he went in and did his magic on the computer. I got a one-year extension. And it was basically the military’s decision to medically retire me, not my decision to be medically retired, because I was just going to leave. I knew I couldn’t do the jobs that I wanted to do physically. So, I wasn’t going to sit there and put anybody else in harm’s way or jeopardy. Now I look back, and I’m so thankful that that doctor didn’t sign the paperwork because it maintained my benefits and my pension.”

Upon retiring, Stumpf has taken up many different sports and jobs — he has his own podcast called Cleared Hot, does motivational speaking, takes part in jiu-jitsu training, hunting, skydiving, and worked for CrossFit. Stumpf also has many awards from his time in the service, including Bronze Star Medals (Four with Valor), the Purple Heart, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, The Navy and Marine Corp Commendation Medal with Valor, Three Navy and Marine Corp Achievement Medals, Two Combat Action Ribbons, and the presidential Unit Citation.

The Navy helped Stumpf find his passion and achieve a dream he set out to finish when he was a kid. Now, Stumpf uses his knowledge and experiences to help others, while still doing every new mission he sets out to achieve in other areas of his life.

Photo credits: Andy Stumpf’s Instagram