Among the 30 Special Forces troops named by the Pentagon Thursday as killed in Saturday's helicopter crash in Afghanistan was a Navy SEAL who trained on Long Island to qualify for the elite military unit.
Chief Petty Officer Brian Bill, 31, of Stamford, Conn., participated a decade ago in physical screenings on the grounds of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, said retired Navy Capt. Drew Bisset, a former Navy SEAL who tutored him.
The screenings were designed to improve a candidate's chances of surviving the rigorous SEAL training program, said Bisset, who has run the program for 17 years, and who last year moved his operations to a YMCA in Greenwich, Conn.
Bisset said Bill asked him to help prepare for the SEAL program in 2001, shortly after Bill graduated from Norwich University, a private military college in Northfield, Vt.
"He was an outstanding young man -- very motivated to become a SEAL," Bisset said. "This was something he wanted. This was his dream."
Air Force Reserve Capt. Jonathan Scofield, who played with Bill on youth hockey teams, said even as a child, Bill would proclaim his desire to join the select Navy group.
"Brian's answer was always that he wanted to be a SEAL from the time I first knew him," Scofield said. "He was just flawless in executing his plan."
Lt. Michael P. Murphy, of Patchogue, who also trained under Bisset at Kings Point, became a Navy SEAL in 2001, one year before Bill. Murphy perished during a 2005 Afghanistan battle that earned him the Medal of Honor posthumously.
Chief Petty Officer Nate Hardy, of Durham, N.H., and Josh Harris, of Lexington, N.C., also trained with Bisset. Hardy perished in Iraq in 2008; Harris died in Afghanistan that same year.
The screening test Bisset administered at Kings Point required participants to complete at least 42 push-ups, 50 sit-ups, six chin-ups, a 500-yard swim and a 1.5 mile run, all under strict time limits. Bisset said he expected candidates to far exceed those minimums to be taken seriously.
The dead aboard the helicopter from Saturday's crash included 17 Navy SEALs and five "enablers" from the Navy's Special Warfare command. Five soldiers and three airmen were also aboard the CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopter.
The craft was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade in a valley west of Kabul. It had been flying to the aid of ground troops who were engaged in a firefight.
"This is a tough time for me," Bisset said. "These guys are like my sons."