Chad Williams is an evangelist and former U.S. Navy SEAL who has written a book, “SEAL of God,” about the dramatic events that led to his decision to become a SEAL and subsequently to enlist as a soldier in the Army of God. In a recent interview, Chad shared his personal testimony about why he joined the SEAL program and eventually became an evangelist, sharing Christ on the beaches of California, in public high schools and in churches nationwide.
Chad will be speaking in West Palm Beach on Thursday, October 22, at the Kravis Center, Cohen Pavilion, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach, and in Boca Raton on Friday, October 23 at the Boca Raton Embassy Suites, 661 NW 53rd Street, Boca Raton. Both events are men’s breakfasts from 7 to 9 a.m.
The early years
Chad was enrolled in a Southern California Community College and was basically failing in most of his classes, being more interested in surfing, skateboarding and drinking with his friends. As he was committed to his life as a slacker and party animal, it suddenly struck him one day that his life was going nowhere fast, and he wanted a bigger challenge and something to bring him satisfaction and fulfillment. His first thought was to become an Alaskan crab fisherman, but then he decided that he would join the Navy SEAL program.
He went to talk to his father, who he assumed would try to talk him out of it, but his father put him in touch with Scott Helvenston, a Navy SEAL, who became his mentor. Scott actually tried to put Chad through the paces of simulated SEAL training, thinking that it would discourage him and demonstrate that he would not be up to the challenge. But rather than discouraging Chad, it made him all the more determined to join the program and become one of the relatively few to graduate.
But what steeled his resolve to join and complete the program was turning on an ABC news broadcast on March 31, 2004 and seeing his mentor Scott, now on a security detail in Iraq, who along with three other team members had been ambushed in Fallelujah, brutally murdered, their bodies dragged through the streets and then hung upside down from a bridge over the Euphrates River. Chad also spoke about the sacrifice of a fellow SEAL, Mike Monsour, who gave up his own life to save his comrades by jumping onto a hand grenade and absorbing the full force of it in Ramadi, Iraq, which would otherwise have killed them all.
Chad enlisted in the Navy and later in the SEAL training program, one of 173 enlistees to begin the rigorous training, which Chad says is 85 percent mental and 15 percent physical. Part of the training is what the SEALs call “Hell Week” where the trainees get a total of four hours of sleep in five and one-half days. The one gung-ho guy who was always the leader in every competition was one of the first to drop out, whereas one of the soldiers thought least likely to succeed was one of only thirteen to graduate from the program. The SEAL program is actually an acronym, standing for Sea (underwater assignments), Air (halo jumps), and Land (direct assaults).
He was in the Navy for over six years, served on SEAL Teams 1 and 7, and went to the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Iraq. But Chad found that the military and the Navy SEAL program, as well as the field assignments that he was given, did not bring the fulfillment that he was looking for when he signed up for the program. He was still as lost as ever and always posing as a macho man, fighting and trying to prove himself to fellow soldiers and civilians as a tough guy.
A turning point
He was invited to a church service with Greg Laurie as the speaker, and agreed to go with his girlfriend, only after he had made her promise not to raise her hand or go forward at the end of the service. Greg spoke about Naaman the Commander of the army of the King of Aram in the Old Testament, who had leprosy, a symbol of sin. Naaman had to remove all of his armor, a type of dependence on self, and humble himself to bathe in the Jordan River. All of his resolve melted away as Greg Laurie’s message began to make sense to him, and in a Road to Damascus conversion experience, on March 14, 2007, Chad went forward and accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
Chad left military service and the SEAL program, where he had always assumed that he would stay for life and retire as a SEAL, on May 18, 2010. He has since devoted his life to being an evangelist, sharing his story and the love of Christ everywhere he goes. Many years earlier he had been ticketed by a lifeguard for jumping off the Huntington Beach pier. Recently he was approached by the same lifeguard, who asked him if he remembered him. Chad said no, and the lifeguard reminded him of the incident, and he could see that Chad’s life had been radically changed. Through this apparently chance encounter, the lifeguard was able to get Chad into more than 25 local public high schools in Southern California, a door that Chad had been trying to open up for years.
Bob Woods has worked as an engineer at AECOM Technical Services and WGI, and is a published Christian author. He can be reached at [email protected].