165: Dick Couch is a former Navy Seal who led multiple missions overseas including a POW rescue in Vietnam and worked in the CIA talks about what it was like and the kind of tactical leadership we need today.

August 21, 2020

Dick Couch

How exactly did today’s guest Dick Couch, who grew up as a kid in Mississippi, become a Navy SEAL? “I can honestly say my mother, who kind of set the adventure in me. She took me to see a movie called, The Silent World, with Jacques Cousteau and I got the book and read it. We are talking about the early 50s. So I was 10 or 11 years old, and I thought, boy, this looks interesting. So, I saved my money and I bought a regulator and I got a fire extinguisher bottle and I made an aqua lung out of it and I started diving.”

On this episode of Finding Your Summit Podcast, we talk with Dick Couch, Former U.S. Navy SEAL, Author, Speaker, and Professor, and the connection of how his awareness of becoming a Navy Frogman entered his mind when he was younger? “I think I wanted to be a Navy diver. I wanted to do something underwater… We find also, back then, and even today, kids from the Midwest seem to flock to these special operations and the Navy SEALs as opposed to someone who grew in San Francisco or grew up in San Diego or Miami. The sea has an allure. It certainly did for me growing up in Indiana. I never saw the ocean until I went east to school.”

What You Will Learn:

In 1967 Dick Couch became a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. Did the civil unrest of that time affect his choice to become a Navy SEAL? “Not so much. I grew up in Indiana. I was an average student. But I was a very good high runner. So, I went to Butler University for two years on a track scholarship and then because I was from southern Indiana where not too many people were interested in service academies, a local congressman was looking for somebody to go and I said I would go, and my running helped. I was a good college runner. Vietnam was not on the horizon. It was the late 50s, early 60s.”

What was Dick Cuch’s transition like into Navy SEAL training? “I graduated in 1967. I didn’t get to Seal training until 1968. Back then, you couldn’t leave the academy and go straight into special operations. Even if you could have, my class standing was such that I probably would have had to go aboard ship and transfer. So, I spent a year and a half aboard the ship. I couldn’t have had better preparation, because being a division officer, aboard a Destroyer, in combat, was great training wheels before I went into the Seals and had to undertake those leadership responsibilities.”

What was Dick Couch physically doing as far as Nay missions? “Gunfire support. We were both in South Vietnam and in North Vietnam doing oncall fire missions, which means we were throwing 5-inch bullets into the beach at certain targets, either call fire from the marines onshore or army onshore, or off North Vietnam engaging targets off of North Vietnam. We got hit once and hurt some people.”

Why does Dick Couch refer to the Navy SEALs as a little man’s game? “It is a little different today, they’ve got guys who are bigger and stronger, smarter, faster, all of that type of thing. But in my time, you have to run the old course. If you got hurt and you were a big guy, there is no time to rehab. You’ve got to run through the pain or else drop out. And it seems as little guys, we just didn’t get hurt as much.”

What makes training and opertains different? “There is a difference between training and operations. Training gives you the tools and one thing about SEALs training then and Seals training now, it hardens you up. There is almost no physical hardship. I mean, you can stay up for days. You can be cold. You can be in the worst conditions possible, and you will find a way to get through that type of thing. But also, the training is transitory.”

Navy SEAL Point of View

After his experiences as a Navy SEAL, does Dick Couch feel that he walks into public places and view his surroundings differently than a typical civilian? “I don’t think so. That’s me. I don’t think that is the case at all, and I’ve been in and out of it for a while and I’ve done a lot of different things. But I don’t think I look at it any differently. I’ve spent more time with special operations components training and in my book work and things like that. I think I have higher than average situational awareness. But I don’t walk in and take the table in the corner with my back to the wall so I can see what goes on.”

The Markings of a Great Leader

During this episode of Finding Your Summit Podcast, Dick Couch also chats about the ingredients of a great leader. “I think that that leader has to have a tactical command of what he is doing and what his responsibilities are and be able to look at those he is leading and see who he can trust and in what roles he can trust them, and who he maybe can’t trust. There are some guys who are pretty good. But they need to be out there on the perimeter doing security and somebody else might say I need you to take those three guys and go over there and do that. I think understanding the mission, what your people are capable of, and putting them in the roles where you can supervise your subordinate leaders.” 

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