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Retired SEAL inspires Rotarians
Retired SEAL Frank Cutler talks about the assassination of Osama bin Laden during a Rotary Club of North Forsyth meeting. - photo by Jennifer Sami


Since Osama bin Laden was eliminated by a crack unit of Navy SEALs, Frank Cutler has been pretty busy.

The retired SEAL, who works with the Navy Recruiting Command as a SEAL motivator, said “after what happened with Osama bin Laden, my phone started really lighting up. Everybody is wanting to be a SEAL now.”

But there’s more to it than signing on the dotted line, Cutler told members of the Rotary Club of North Forsyth during their Tuesday meeting.

“They don’t just want you to be physically tough, they want you to be educated too,” he said. “A lot of today’s generation ... think it looks real cool ... that’s what they see and what they want to do, but they don’t realize there’s a lot to pay to become one.

“We’re going to push you to the edge.”

In addition to regular Rotary members, a handful of guests attended Tuesday’s meeting to hear Cutler speak.

Among those visiting was Larry Townsend, retired Air Force, who said hearing from a fellow serviceman was “inspirational.”

“It was educational and you haven’t heard half of what he’s been through,” Townsend said. “There’s nothing like the SEALs. They are the elite.”

Cutler, who lives in the Atlanta area, first joined the Navy in 1976 and became a SEAL three years later.

He’s worked in the assigned weapons department, was on the underwater demolition team and a HALO (high altitude, low opening) jumper.

Though he’s been in and out of service over the past three decades, he’s been honorably discharged all six times he’s left, including in December when he departed for the last time.

“Thank God for people like you,” said club president David Leathers introducing Cutler. “You can’t even begin to fathom what this man has gone through in his career ... when you’ve lived a life like this guy’s lived, the rest is boring.”

Cutler was an intelligence officer when he retired, though for the past five years he’s helped mentor those entering the SEALs program.

Much of the mentoring involves fitness. About 72 percent of the current generation doesn’t qualify for any of the military’s branches, let alone to enter elite units like the SEALs, he said.

While overweight applicants continue to be a problem, Cutler noted he was on the opposite end of the spectrum when he entered Basic Underwater Demolition training at 6 foot 3 inches tall and weighing 143 pounds.

“I thought I was about the last one that’s going to make it through there, but I had my mind made up,” he said. “If you want something, go work for it.

“I’ve learned something else too. You’ve got to make mistakes to find out what you want. And anything you want that’s worth something, if you want it bad enough, it’s not for free.”

Rotarian Scott Mason said he was excited to hear from Cutler.

“It’s just great to have somebody who is what we’d consider to be an American hero here to tell us about what really goes on in the military,” he said.

“It just builds a stronger respect for the men we have in uniform and especially the elite teams. They do a lot more than people realize.”

Cutler said while the SEALs are an elite group, most “don’t go around advertising it.”

Americans will likely never find out which SEAL fired the fatal shot at bin Laden or which SEALs were sent into the compound.

He joked the SEALs are holding onto the movie rights for the mission.

“When we take out somebody like that, we don’t cheer or celebrate or anything like that,” he said. “It’s the SEAL community. It’s just part of our job description.

“When we heard about Osama bin Laden dying, people said to say thank your SEALs. Don’t thank us. Go out and thank the people that died for your country.”