LITTLE CREEK, VA – The Naval Special Warfare community held its 41st annual East Coast Underwater Demolition Team SEAL reunion July 16-18 at Joint Expeditionary Base, Little Creek, Va.
The event reunited active and retired Navy SEALs for a weekend focused on NSW history, heritage and family support.
“It keeps the team spirit going,” said retired Senior Chief Petty Officer Bill Furguson, a former machinist mate with River Division 533 and 572. “I consider these guys to be my brothers.”
The annual reunion started in 1969 and has since expanded into a weekend of events, contests and a SEAL capabilities exercise.
“The original ones were smaller,” said Bobby Cox, executive director of the UDT/SEAL Association and reunion chairman for the past five years. “They were done at the Chiefs’ Club picnic area and other spots on base. This reunion continues to evolve as membership grows.” And as membership grows, so do the volunteers.
“We had about 100 volunteers this year,” Cox said. “These guys are here year-in-year-out. We couldn’t do it without them.”
This year’s reunion began with a golf tournament and a skeet shooting competition, followed by a tennis tournament. Competitive sports are a mainstay at the reunions because they reinforce the mentality of working together toward a common goal and utilizing the teamwork of many generations of SEALs.
The crowning event of the weekend was the capabilities demonstration, which showcased UDT/SEAL tactics and equipment while providing a brief history of the origins of the NSW community.
Six thousand active duty and retired SEALs, along with their friends and families, gathered at “E” beach where the Leap Frogs, the official Navy parachute team, christened the event by landing with a wreath and an American flag as the national anthem played.
“It’s amazing to see what this community has become since I was around,” said William Dawson, 85-year-old Naval Combat Demolition Unit Two veteran and member of NCDU class one. “I’m very proud to be part of this outfit,” he said. “I sometimes wonder if I were still young, could I do what these guys do? I bet I could.”
The weekend celebration ended with events including several races, a swimming competition and an evening picnic.