Luttrell: We Succeed and Fail Together

‘As a team you’ll go down together and you’ll come up together.’

July 9, 2014

The story told by Marcus Luttrell, a former U.S. Navy SEAL who narrowly escaped certain death after being ambushed by a large Taliban force during a mission in Afghanistan in 2005, was nothing short of captivating.

The crowd attending the final general session of the America’s Credit Union Conference hung on every word the self-described “Texas-boy gunfighter” said.

There was the horrific sequence of dozens of enemy fighters ambushing Luttrell and three other squad-mates. The levity injected into the heavy material as he joked about the mistakes filmmakers made in recreating the story in “Lone Survivor.” And the recounting of the terrible moments when he realized his friends—his brothers—had been killed.

But the part of the story that may have resonated most with the credit union professionals in the room—people who themselves have made commitments to serve connected groups of members and communities—came at the beginning.

Luttrell shared how as a teenager he, his twin brother, and several childhood friends approached a local resident of their hometown to train them for the special operations forces.

A Vietnam veteran, the man was the first to teach Luttrell that teams, especially those in the U.S. Army Special Forces, succeed and fail together.

“To give you a little background on this joker—those of you from small towns can appreciate this—he was our town psychopath,” Luttrell said. “Literally, he was the guy you’d see in the supermarket screaming at the bread.

“But,” he continued, “he could get you right. He could get you ready to go into the Special Forces.”

The first exercise their trainer, Billy Shelton, put them through was to do 300 pushups together, in unison, at 4:30 a.m.

“We got to about 200 pushups and eventually some of us were going down while the rest of us were coming up,” Luttrell said. “And he says, 'Stop what you're doing. As a team you're going to go down together, and you're going to come up together. You're going to live together, you're going to die together. You guys are a team. And you're going to start over.’ ”

Although they may have failed, the message—one that Luttrell carried with him as a U.S. Navy SEAL—was delivered loud and clear: You go up together, and you go down together.