He is a contradiction; an enigma. The fearsome combatant and the silent warrior; the Texas-born cowboy and the Hollywood star. He speaks the truth, no matter how painful, and protects his sources, no matter the cost. He is a powerhouse and a ruthless fighter; he is a patriot to his marrow. Certain aspects exist within the same realm, making perfect sense, such as the dauntless protector’s relation to the loving father; others weigh heavily at opposite ends of a long spectrum, such as the unrelenting hunter and the compassionate animal lover. And yet when you consider it, you realize it’s simple. Former SEAL Craig Sawyer is undeniably a badass, but he is a special breed: a badass with heart.
“I believe that truth has only one face: that of violent contradiction.” Georges Bataille
When Craig Sawyer was in high school, he came across an article in Soldier of Fortune magazine about the USMC’s Force Recon operators. Force Recon played a key role in military intel and worked both deep reconnaissance and direction action (DA) operations; today, MARSOC – which was formed from Force Recon’s DA platoons – performs many of those responsibilities. A teenage Sawyer was duly impressed; he thought it sounded “awesome” and liked how the operators were described as not being in it for the glory. And so, when he graduated from high school, he joined the Marine Corps with visions of special operations in mind.
But as it turned out, when Sawyer became a Marine, Force Recon wasn’t operating as it had been in previous years, leaving him unable to pursue his dream. However, he’d started hearing about the Navy SEALs, and the more he heard about the Teams, the more his interest grew. He tried for a lateral transfer but it became clear that it wasn’t going to happen on the Marine Corps’ end of things, so, as he describes it, he “did it the hard way.” The hard way was certainly worth it, though, because he was soon tenaciously bulling his way through BUD/S. There are approximately 650 skeletal muscles in the human body, and throughout his training to become a SEAL, Sawyer overtrained each and every one of them until aches and burning became his constant companions. Pain, they say, is weakness leaving the body, but sometimes, pain is just Pain, filling your reality until there is nothing else. But he got through the pain, graduating with Class 149, and, at long last, he was an operator: he was a SEAL.
Sawyer first served with SEAL Team One through Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and, after some time as a SEAL Sniper Instructor, he served with DEVGRU, which was previously known as Seal Team 6. As with SEALs nationwide, his service is largely classified, but it isn’t much of a stretch to imagine the ferocity and courage of his years as one of the most elite operators in the world. It’s known he was part of an op taking some of the first prisoners of war and worked with Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), Counter-Mine, and Fast-Attack Vehicle (FAV) ops. Sawyer loved the Teams and speaks of the brotherhood with fierce loyalty. As a SEAL, he had to learn not one but every job so, if a teammate fell, he could fulfill their duties. It was a process he describes as not unlike “being force-fed with a fire hose,” and you can hear the smile in his voice when he says it. The Teams create a rare environment, and it was one where Craig Sawyer thrived. Even so, he left the Navy after 13 years of dedicated service.
On 9-11, there were only 33 Federal Air Marshals actively working, and then-former-SEAL Craig Sawyer was one of those 33. After he left the Navy, he’d wanted to remain in a field involving some sort of law enforcement – after all, both the Marines and SEALs enforce our laws in their way – and the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) seemed a good fit. But it wasn’t. Sawyer was – is – a man who believes in the sanctity of right and wrong, and FAMS crossed the line time and again. He had a choice to make: either become one of them in the worst possible way or speak up – and leave. In 2010, he told CBS News “As an agent, your job is basically to basically prevent planes from flying into buildings; protect the aircrafts. And the culture of this management was to demean and demoralize their agents rather than support them.” Sawyer is a speaker of truth, and so he spoke up, and after 5 years serving with FAMS, he left, sacrificing the substantial benefits he would have received had he stayed for just 2 more years and hit the 20-year mark of government service.
“We are not born for ourselves alone.” Marcus Cicero, On Duty
It seems rather unlikely he would ever say it himself, but Sawyer has a long history of selflessness. There are so many aspects of Sawyer’s career choices that involve enormous risk and danger; it is simply mind-blowing. He takes selflessness to an entirely new level. When he left FAMS, he entered a line of work involving a certain level of personal risk and danger: he went into security. Protecting high-level dignitaries involves a willingness to sacrifice yourself for them, whether you agree with their politics and choices or not. Among his many responsibilities, he was contracted in combat zones, handling tactics and supervising teams protecting U.S. dignitaries such as Donald Rumsfeld, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and U.S. senators and ambassadors – and though he had no part in it, Benghazi showed the world at large how dangerous such security detail can be. Sawyer did not down-grade his risk level. If anything, he raised it.
Today, his career has taken off in a major – and public – way. During his service, Sawyer met a man who did stunt rigging, a man who told him he’d be a fantastic fit for a world where his skills with weapons, hand-to-hand combat, and being an overall badass would serve him more than a little well: Hollywood. Sawyer founded Tactical Insider for his Hollywood interests which include advising and consulting for the film industry and training some fairly big-name celebs in tactics – names this writer would love to divulge but cannot, not unless I’d like to incur the ire of a man who could scare the teeth off an alligator. He’s made a name for himself both as a skilled tactician and a consultant on such shows as the History Channel’s Top Shot and the Military Channel’s Deadliest Sniper. He has a deep well of knowledge; in addition to his time as a Marine, a SEAL, and a Federal Air Marshal, he also excels in martial arts, Special Combat Aggressive Reaction System (SCARS) training, and boxing. Impressed yet?
And now we come to the contradictions. Thus far it’s been made clear Craig Sawyer is a badass, but there’s more to him than his service and many physically and mentally demanding talents. Now his rarely-mentioned selflessness begins to show in interesting ways: he is not only the star power but the talent for Animal Planet’s Battleground: Rhino Wars. When he speaks about the atrocities done to rhinos in South Africa, his disgust is evident, and when he was contacted by a producer and asked to be team leader for the show, he jumped at it. He hand-picked his team, and knowing Sawyer’s past and contacts, one can only imagine how terror-inducing the men on his team must be for poachers. If the poachers had any sense, they would have fled the country the moment they heard Craig Sawyer’s hand-picked team was coming. But sense must not be one of their gifts, because in Rhino Wars, the operatives track poachers with admirable focus, helping local officials make arrests and doing their part to put a wrench in the South African rhino poaching game.
Sawyer works as a tactical trainer and instructor, getting clear enjoyment from his “SEALs After Dark” courses, which take place at various locations. Participants get to experience some seriously cool weaponry like infra red, OSS Suppressors, and S.W.O.R.D. International tactical rifles; targets move and glow in the dark. At one recent event, Sawyer’s heart showed yet again: one attendee brought along his father, an older man who performed quite well but had to leave a bit early, and Sawyer spoke of his pleasure interacting with the man. It wasn’t until later that he found out the man was 83 years old, and he became even more impressed. The fact that this was a highlight he chose to share speaks to his heart, and to his priorities, as well. He may be an operator, and he may have made it pretty big in Hollywood, but Craig Sawyer cares about those around him.
This could easily go on forever. Sawyer is a family man and speaks with genuine love of his wife and children. He is loyal to the brotherhood and would never divulge its secrets; he refuses to take part in any television or movie projects that involve giving out information best kept quiet, saying “you do not give the playbook to the enemy.” He was injured during his service to such an extent that he coughs whenever he laughs, but he would do it all again. He interacts with the public on his Facebook page to such an extent many must feel they have a personal connection with him, and in a way, they do. He has chosen to stay out of politics, although it’s clear he could play a role if he so wished, because, he says, “I won’t put my family through it.” He is a decorated hero, but he doesn’t want to list or speak of his awards and medals, because it wasn’t and isn’t about them; they’re nothing but “chest candy.” It is a wish I respect by not listing them here on my own. He takes care not to curse in the presence of a lady – yes, that would be me – and speaks with far more warmth than most offer during interviews. Of course, it takes an uncommon man to be a SEAL, and as a badass with heart, Craig Sawyer is absolutely an uncommon man. He is many things, but above all, he is an American hero; he is a patriot.
To Craig Sawyer, thank you, from all of us here at US Patriot Tactical, for your service, your sacrifices, and your selflessness.
Author’s Note: While speaking of his time filming Rhino Wars, Sawyer mentioned the speed with which Hollywood often moves and the massive amount of equipment they needed for a successful show. He said he was deeply grateful to US Patriot Tactical and its president, Paul Yoo, for supplying the equipment that made the show a success. He took the time to offer specific thanks and detailed the ways the company helped and how appreciative his team was, to an extent he certainly did not have to, but he did. Sawyer is truly a class act.
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