Richland County deputies prepare for Navy SEAL-style training in California

Sheriff Leon Lott and 10 deputies endure 12-hour, overnight workout to prepare for Navy SEAL-style training in California

nophillips@thestate.comJune 17, 2012 

The pull-up bar had torn a hole in Yvonne Woods’ palm.

Her blood mixed with her sweat, making it impossible for a Band-Aid to stick to the hand of the 50-year-old crime scene investigator for the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.

Woods pulled surgical tape from her gym bag, and Reserve Deputy Chad Weeden, 34, wrapped the bandage around her hand. Beads of sweat dripped from his chin, making the task even more frustrating as they tried to sop up the moisture with rough, brown paper towels.

With the palm finally wrapped, Woods returned to the pull-up bar to finish 100 repetitions. Already, she had run a mile. There was another mile to run, but it would come after the pull-ups, 200 sit-ups and 300 squats.

And this was just the first hour of her workout. There were 11 more to go.

At 9 p.m. Friday, Sheriff Leon Lott and 10 of his most athletic, fit deputies gathered at the department’s gym at Richland Mall for a 12-hour workout. They are training for a July trip to California, where they will endure a 50-hour SEALFIT camp. There, they will be pushed to their physical and mental limits in training similar to what the nation’s elite military forces undergo.

“It’s going to be a spiritual, physical and mental challenge,” Woods said. “I run marathons, and that puts you through a lot of stuff mentally. I think this will put me through a lot of stuff spiritually. I’m going to find out who I am.”

SEALFIT is a fitness program founded by a former Navy SEAL who shapes his regimens based on physical and mental training he received in the military. The SEALFIT organization heard about the sheriff’s department’s fitness program through word of mouth and invited the department to attend its Kokoro Camp in Encinitas, Calif., in late July. SEALFIT waived the $1,495 enrollment fee for each of the deputies, and the sheriff’s department is paying their airfare through forfeited drug money, Lott said.

Lott, 58, is the oldest member of the team. The youngest is 25-year-old Deputy Adam Cornwell. There are three women. Some are former college athletes. Others, such as Woods, are fitness nuts. All want to see how far their bodies and minds can be pushed.

“I’m a little nervous about the 50 hours,” said Senior Investigator Amy Hartland, a 30-year-old former USC swimmer. “That’s a long time.”

The group has been working out for two hours each morning since February. They have spent a weekend at Myrtle Beach, where they ran through sand with huge logs on their shoulders and swam in ocean waves, which they will face in California.

On Friday night, Lott scheduled the first three hours of the 12-hour workout, which featured the running, pull-ups, push-ups and squats.

Deputy Ricky Johnson, 28, was the first to finish the grueling start.

“Good warm-up,” he said while heading for a jug of water.

After that, the team marched six miles along Two Notch Road while carrying 60-pound rucksacks.

Each team member also got a chance to lead 45-minutes of exercise with 15-minute breaks between each session. The workouts featured more running, kettle ball swings and team-building drills such as members carrying each other for nearly a half-mile.

The sheriff sees the whole experience as a chance to develop future leaders for the department. He hand-picked the participants.

“When we come back, these guys and girls will take what they learned and it will spread through the sheriff’s department,” he said. “These guys and girls who survive this can lead any group and survive any situation.”

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