The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday
by Richard D Schoenberg, photography (2006)
Naval Institute Press, $39.95, ISBN 978-159114-820-0


The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday is a Navy SEAL motto, I understand, referring to how, once you've signed up for the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S), said to be the world's toughest military training, you can kiss goodbye all those days of relaxation and peace and what not. Yes, this coffee table book is all about the training phases that make or break an aspiring Navy SEAL: Indoc, the First Phase, Hell Week, the Second Phase, the Third Phase, and then - graduation. For the Class of 246, graduation means deployment to Afghanistan in 2005, and about six months after this book was released, eleven of them died on duty.

It almost makes me feel like a disgusting cretin to admit that I find the photographs to be SEAL porn at its finest. But still, I am only a base human being.

Mmm-hmm, buff guys in tight short shorts bending over and such - check.

Buff guys in tight white shirt, all soaked from underwater training like a perpetual wet T-shirt contest for the good of the motherland - check.

Close-up on beautiful bare skin - check. Who knew goose bumps and pimples are so... attractive?

Most of the guys here are not photogenic in the conventional sense, and I suspect that some tinkering had been made to make these guys look more attractive than they are in real life, but it's not about the looks. There is something about guys pushing their bodies to the limits that are just too delightful for words. The look of pain on their faces, the way their bodies seem to come this close to exploding from the strain - the whole thing is like... I don't know, virility personified. I really like what I see. I'm so proud that I manage to restrain myself from wanting to lick the glossy pages at times, so there may be hope for me yet.

There is actually writing on the pages, too, and there is an interesting tale here. The photographer followed Class 246 as they went through the whole nine yards of training, and, from all accounts, the whole thing was brutal. Just to sum things up, in 120 hours of training, these guys had to run a total of 806 miles, swim 77 miles usually in ice cold water, perform 126 hours of excruciating physical training, and more while getting only four hours of sleep tops. That was just the tip of the iceberg. This coffee table book exposes the constant physical and psychological pressure the recruits were under 24/7 - in addition to being pushed to the limit, they were heckled by their instructors, punished for the slightest infractions (and sometimes, punished for being better than everyone else), and pitted against each other. There are reasons for such measures, but I can only wonder how the resulting graduate will adapt to ordinary life once he leaves the Navy SEALs. They really break you down, shatter your guard completely, and build you back up into some very efficient and frighteningly capable person suited for tasks that are far outside the realm of ordinary Joes and Janes.

Still, the detailed accounts of every aspect of the training are most illuminating, especially when accompanied by such, er, illustrative photos. I can sense their pain and determination just from looking at these young men, their sweat glistening down their bare chest as they lift their muscular arms and expose such lovely armpits... hmm, do I have an armpit fetish that I am just discovering? Oh, and they are clearly suffering. My heart goes out to them. Really.

The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday, therefore, is an intriguing coffee table book of many functions. Those looking for a sober and educational account of the BUD/S may find this one an interesting read. Those who enjoy looking at guys being tortured physically while wearing only tight T-shirts and shorts can borrow this book afterwards and drool in shame. This one is simultaneously a tribute to the guys who managed to overcome the incredible odds thrown at them, an idealized romanticism of the nobility of the man in military uniform, and the erotic celebration of such raw toe-curling displays of virility.

And the best part is, nobody can tell from the cover that this is a coffee table book that inspires naughty thoughts because, look ma, it's about Navy SEAL training and it's published by the Naval Institute Press, not exactly the purveyor of fine military erotica. So let's all sigh at the things the Class of 246 went through, salute those who died in Afghanistan, and, when no one is looking, open the book and marvel at how the photos here, despite not showing any pee-pee, are more erotic than anything David Vance or the like can come out with.

I really need to go to confession or something after this, don't I?

Rating: 83


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