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There are two possible reasons Don Shipley may ring a bell. Either you enjoy watching him call out, bust and shame stolen valorphonies, or you are one of them.
Senior Chief Shipley’s Navy Career
Don Shipley, a retired U.S. Navy senior chief, served in uniform from 1978 to his retirement in 2003. Sr. Chief Shipley began his career in Fleet Navy. He would later meet his wife Diane, an active-duty sailor. The most unusual way Sr. Chief Shipley met his wife was while he was leading training aboard the ship. His wife and her friends were conversing in the back. Shipley was annoyed and told Diane and her friends to be kind. “shut the hell up or you can come teach this class your own damn self.”Diane approached Don to tell him about the training that had just ended. “are you going to ask me out or what?”That was the beginning a wild ride that would last 37 years.
Don and Diane Shipley were young Sailors. (Task & Purpose).
To learn more about the man behind the phony SEALs, I conducted a phone interview with Sr. Chef Shipley. One thing he shared with me about his marriage was that, once they were married, the Navy required that one of them leave the ship. Shipley didn’t know much about Navy SEALs beyond seeing them train at Coronado, CA. He decided that the work was more fun than life on a ship, so he did an a-move to get his orders to BUDS training.
Sr. Chief Shipley was able to successfully complete BUDS and was assigned to SEAL Team One in Coronado in 1985. For those who aren’t familiar, all odd-numbered SEAL teams are based out of Coronado and all even-numbered SEAL teams are based in Little Creek, VA, (with SEAL Team Six being located “across the street”These even-numbered Virginia team teams
After serving a few tours on the West Coast, Sr. Commander Shipley made a switch to the east coast and joined SEAL Team Two. According to Sr. Chief Shipley’s website, “When not in a SEAL Platoon or deployed overseas his time was spent running blocks of training for SEALs in air operations, land warfare, and demolitions.”It continues. “As a SEAL he preferred the challenge of Mountain and Arctic Warfare but began his career in the equally hostile desert environment, spending much of his time in the world’s hottest and coldest climates.”
According to his website Shipley was a member of eight SEAL Platoons and was the platoon chief for five. He was also awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medals for Heroism during a Search and Rescue Mission. As a SEAL, Shipley was involved in operations in Bosnia & Liberia and was the first nonCorpsman SEAL graduate of Paramedic School.
An award is presented to Sr. Chief Shipley. (Extreme SEAL Experience
A Family Affair
In addition to being a decorated Navy SEAL veteran himself, Sr. Chief Shipley’s family is also steeped in military service. As I mentioned earlier, Shipley’s wife is a Navy veteran, his brothers are a Marine and an Army veteran, and his son, DJ Shipley, is a former DEVGRU operator and a medically retired recipient of the Purple Heart for injuries he sustained in combat. Beyond that, Sr. Chief Shipley’s son-in-law is also a Navy SEAL. Suffice it to say, honorable service in dangerous climes and places runs in the Shipley family’s veins.
Don and Diane Shipley, both Cambridge residents, have made it their mission find and confront those who claim to be Navy SEALs. (Photo by Paul W. Gillespie/Capital Gazette).
With that info in mind, there is absolutely no doubt as to why Sr. Chief Shipley feels so strongly about those who (at best) pretend to have served in the military or (at worst) use their fake military service – often as alleged Navy SEALs – as a way of gaining attention, money, or preferential treatment.
Sr. Chief Shipley said that what motivates most – if not all – of the people who pretend to be Navy SEALs is one of three things: a desire to build trust with someone; a craving for respect from others; a desire to intimidate someone.
Extreme SEAL Experience
If you aren’t otherwise familiar with Sr. Chief Shipley, this is where the real fun begins. First, for years, Shipley and some of his old Navy buddies ran a program he called Extreme SEAL Experience (ESE) in which, for a fee, people could come to Shipley’s property and be put through a course that would give them a taste of what being a SEAL, or what SEAL training, was like. Shipley initially created the course to help Navy SpecOp recruits, but the training evolved to be accessible to everyone.
The reasons people attended the course varied as did the reasons they attended. Some of the participants were ex-military personnel who missed the thrill of pushing their bodies to the limits. Others were industry professionals looking for a challenge that would give them a fresh perspective and outlook. Others were potential Navy SEALs and wanted to learn as much as possible from the veterans who led the course before they attended BUDS training.
Sr. Chief Shipley was not aware that the ESE course would propel them into such a public spotlight. However, the course and the YouTube videos to follow would eventually do just that. Read Next: YouTube bans Navy SEALs for exposing stolen valor cases
Phony Navy SEALs of the Week
His most prominent achievements are those of Sr. Chief Shipley, which are now well-known in America. “Phony Navy Seal of the Week”Videos posted on YouTube and his website over the years. First off, if you’ve never seen one of Shipley’s videos take a quick break from this article and head to his Youtube channel to watch a few. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Shipley and Diane, a comedian duo rarely seen in the media, are often the ones at the controls of the videos. They are raw, hilarious, real, serious, and even emotional – and sometimes all in one video.
These videos show one side of the Shipleys and their phony SEAL Callouts. One part gives us a glimpse into their relationships. The other part shows them putting panties on men who misuse the title. “SEAL”For some undeserved personal gain.
With friends, Sr. Chief Shipley. (Extreme SEAL Experience
I think most people have been taught by urban folklore or the news media that men like Navy SEALs lack humor and are serious men. In fact, as I’ve found over the years, it’s almost the exact opposite. Their initial training is so difficult and their daily work so dangerous, many Navy SEALs (and other Marines, Army Rangers, and so on) are extremely hard-working. I’ve run across over the years have a sense of humor like no other.
I’ll personally relate to it in this way: As a police officer, I ran across or was dispatched to a variety of wacky, gross, or otherwise devastating situations. I was able to identify people who had died, overdosed or were dead. People I had to provide CPR to, including those who were in bizarre car crashes and those who just wanted to find out if certain objects would fit within certain crevices in their bodies.
Short story: If you can absorb all the information you receive as an officer and not have a sense of humor, you will either be depressed, a jerk or have a substance abuse problem (or possibly both). Let me be clear, I’m not saying that being a police officer and being an Army Ranger or Navy SEAL is the same thing. They aren’t. I’m referring to the fact that the dark and/or exaggerated senses of humor required in each job allows human beings see terrible stuff, protect their minds from extra wear and tear, and increase their longevity in that particular career space.
As an example, one way I deal with the fact that I’ve given CPR to people and failed is to say (when the topic arises) that “I’m zero for 10.”They ask, “What do you mean?” “zero for 10?” I then tell them, I’ve given CPR to 10 people and I’ve saved zero. That is a small exaggeration by me, but the outcome isn’t. I’ve never given CPR to someone and had them pop back to life. Maybe I got lazy at CPR or maybe they were too advanced to give it before I arrived. My mind has chosen dark humor to deal with it. It’s a protection mechanism for my brain. I can be happy or sad. “funny.”Every time, I choose to be funny.
Sr. Chief Shipley’s videos follow that same track I feel. It is overwhelming to see how many fake SEALs are roaming the globe, giving SEALs a bad name. His options are to either stay pissed off and grumpy or provide some humor. Now, don’t get me wrong, when Shipley is outing the phony SEALs there is very little humor involved. He is a comedian in all other parts of the video. If you still aren’t sure how he could achieve this, then once again I say to pause reading this article and head to his website or to YouTube and witness it for yourself.
If you are a labeller of stolen value, then do it right!
Shipley could have simply called the phony SEAL by calling him and confronted him via telephone. The video would be difficult to watch for most viewers since it would be nothing more than serious discussion. Shipley would be frustrated at being asked to deal constantly with these phonies without any real emotional release. His viewership would likely drop. When we spoke, Shipley said that he actually doesn’t really enjoy confronting these phonies and has to work himself up a bit and force himself to do it… the exception to that is when the phony is notably criminal in his deviousness.
Sr. Chief Shipley. (Extreme SEAL Experience
He also made the point that people shouldn’t enjoy confronting people they believe are pretending to be something they are not. One thing he said that bothers him is when people don’t “stay in their lane.”He gave an example, when a Connecticut pizzeria patron slapped an active-duty Sailor in their face last month because she believed he was fake. She blasted Sean Nolte Jr. the Sailor and cursed at him. “fake.”Then, she grabbed his Navy cover and threw him at it, screaming. “That’s not a uniform you fucking piece of shit!”Nolte was professional and polite throughout their interaction. But, because this lady was out of her lane she mislabeled someone for having stolen valor. She also assaulted him. Shipley believes it is wrong to misrepresent people.
Shipley insists on this fact. “getting it right.”He stated that he has never falsely called someone a fake SEAL or accused them of having stolen valor. This is because he does extensive research and puts a lot of effort into getting it right. Shipley advises viewers to double-check the information they have given to someone before they publish it. False claims about veterans can be just as dangerous as making false claims about them. If you do label a true veteran as a phony, you might be a few teeth short of a complete set. And deservedly so…
No Profession Is Safe – Applebees Waiters Are the Biggest Offenders
Shipley has exposed men of all walks of society for pretending that they are SEALs over the years. He’s outed “religious”People and pastors, successful professionals, ex-military personnel who are honorable but not a military veteran. “unique”Service stories, restaurant waiters (he said he was usually from Applebees), people who lead tactical training in the guise that they are serving customers “retired SEAL Team Six”Or a “former Navy SEAL.”
Sr. Chief Shipley exposed phony seals (like AJ Dickens), which had bilked investors out to $40 million before being caught. Shipley was also threatened by Jerry Branyon (a phonySEAL) who claimed to be connected with the Gambino crime clan in New York. Shipley has been threatened with physical assaults and legal repercussions dozens of time for simply doing the work he does. Shipley doesn’t do this work because he needs to, he does it because he feels passionate about maintaining public respect for the term Navy SEAL and to honor those who have served and fallen bearing that trident. Shipley said that many of the men he describes as phonies are either tax cheats, habitual sexual predators, or have a criminal history. These phonies are determined to change the course of their lives. To me, it’s a total mental disorder.
Shipley stated that the men who have never worn uniforms are among the most flagrant and dangerous phonies he works with. Shipley stated that many of these men are able to tell graphic stories about the murder of children and other horrific acts they were forced to perform as a SEAL. Additionally, these men aren’t content with the barstool war stories: they also frequently have to label themselves as recipients of a Purple Heart or a Congressional Medal of Honor. Shipley revealed one phony using Marcus Luttrell’s fame (of Lone Survivor fame), as a way to gain respect. He claimed that Luttrell was a terrible swimmer and that he had failed him in some aspects of his training. When outed by both Shipley and Marcus Luttrell on a live phone call, he held tight to his story and continued to contend that he wasn’t a fraud. He was.
Stolen Valor isn’t Enough – The Hero Syndrome
It isn’t enough for many of these phonies to pretend to be a Navy SEAL or even a veteran who has seen combat. These men need to be heroes to the people they meet. They frequent military surplus shops and acquire uniforms, medals, and ribbons they don’t even begin to rate. Many of these men have created backstories so convincing their friends and spouse that they are a decorated Navy SEAL war hero. And sadly, many of them would get away with it without Shipley’s involvement.
Retired Chief of Staff Don Shipley accessed the now-famous SEAL database. (Photo by Paul W. Gillespie/Capital Gazette
These phonies can be verified by Sr. Chef Shipley through the use secret databases. Perhaps “secret” isn’t the right word because at this point it is well-known, but “well-controlled” definitely describes it. Shipley is one of very few men to have access the Navy SEAL database. It lists all men who have ever entered or graduated from SEAL training. Shipley makes the most of this list. Shipley uses the database’s information to quiz phonies regarding their BUDS training. He asks questions such as “what was your BUDS class number,”Or “name three guys from your BUDS class,” etc.
These questions are easy to answer for anyone who has served in any branch or branch of the military. I can name my boot camp rackmate (Mitch), and my Marine Combat Training hooch mate (Eric) without hesitation. I can name my drill instructors, as well as the names of dozens of people with whom I served, my boot camp platoon number and my graduation date. Not to mention, I have photos showing me in the Marine Corps doing my job. It’s easy because it happened. It’s all a phony act. The crucial element of their story is how well they remember their lies.
Once Shipley confirms that the phony in question is definitely not a SEAL, he often sends in requests for that person’s actual military record, which can be a lengthy process. He said that when he receives their DD-214 (a veteran’s discharge papers) oftentimes it is revealed that the phony had negative service experiences (at best) or criminal actions (at worst) and are in a way trying to renew their reputation and garner respect by now claiming to be a Navy SEAL.
Some phonies are more successful with living their lies than others and have put together lists of names and places of service, while others haven’t thought past the first question of “tell me your BUDS class number and year your class graduated.” As I said, Shipley utilizes his access to the Navy SEAL database to perfection and thus, almost immediately most phonies’ stories start to crumble. After their backstory has crumbled, phonies have one of several reactions. Either they double down and make threats, tell Shipley that they will call a filling-in-the blank SEAL to verify their identity, or they say the phone is cut off. Or they try to justify their SEAL claim by saying they just “support”The SEALs dressed up as SEALs to celebrate Halloween, etc.
Be careful about what you do ‘Support’SEALs
Shipley was kind enough to answer my question about those who claim to be supporting Navy SEALs by wearing memorabilia or putting tridents on cars or motorcycles, or simply by supporting Navy SEALs. Shipley replied “Here’s the deal. These people who wear SEAL memorabilia will say ‘No’ the first 10 times they are asked if they are a SEAL, but they eventually will say ‘yes.’ They will just like the reaction they get when they say ‘yes’ and a phony is born.”
Shipley stated that authentic SEALs are reluctant to share details of their service in SEAL Teams because of the reactions they get. Someone who is happy to tell you all about their SEAL Team Six service may be a phony. It doesn’t mean they are, but it definitely makes it more plausible. “The truth is,”Shipley said: “there is no real support needed for Navy SEALs. It was so much fun that most of us would’ve done it without a paycheck.”
Sr. Chief Shipley exposed a phony Navy SEAL. This would be the WRONG thing to do. “support”The SEAL mission. (Buds131 YouTube Channel).

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Shipley’s Honorable Service Continues
Shipley and his wife, Susan, run Extreme SEAL Adventures today. According to its website: “Our mission is to provide support through hunting and fishing to Boys and Girls with cancer and other illnesses who will never be able to serve in the military, and to combat-injured military veterans who have served. Extreme SEAL Adventures is our way to give back after many years of success running Extreme SEAL Experience Training Courses and our video website.”
Shipley and his wife Diane have also teamed up with Walter Reed hospital to help wounded vets who are struggling to get the therapy they need to integrate back into society after a trauma injury. These men can get fresh air and open space by being taken out by Sr. Chef Shipley to his Cambridge, Maryland property. They can hunt game, talk with others who have suffered similar traumas, and enjoy home-cooked meals. Shipley then sends each man back with a cooler of freshly-killed meat when their trip is over.
While Sr. Chief Shipley can be tough on fraudsters and phony SEALs, he is just as compassionate and giving to those who have made great sacrifices for this country. He is kind, tender, and thoughtful to them. He is an example of what we expect veterans and servicemembers to be.
As long as Don Shipley continues to promote fake SEALs, there will be no shortage of phonies. The SEALs’ exposure following the bin Laden raid and Jessica Lynch rescue as well as the Captain Phillips rescue have only made the profession more lucrative to those who want the fame that SEALs have gained. For now, if you are pretending to be a SEAL but you’re really a phony, standby. The hammer is coming to you; on its head it reads: “Hey bro, Don Shipley here. Retired Navy SEAL.” Once you hear those words, it’s too late. You’re outed. Stand by.
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