Former Navy SEAL Marcus Capone has a funny idea of fun.
“We didn’t sleep the first couple days when the show started, to make it as real as possible,” says the Long Beach native, speaking of himself and the five other military instructors training 30 civilians in the reality series “The Selection: Special Operations Experiment,” premiering Thursday at 10 p.m. on History. “In real life [training in the military], we have 45 instructors to split up different shifts — an A, B and C shift, since it’s 24 hours, five days. Here we have six instructors and we didn’t have shifts. We just went constantly,” recalls Capone, 39. “It was exciting. We had an amazing time. A lot of fun, a lot of laughs.”
Well, for the show’s three SEALs, two Green Berets and Army Ranger veterans, yeah. For the civilians, maybe not so much, what with tear-gas tests, interrogation simulation, psychological warfare and intense physical trials.
“There’s no elimination — we don’t drop anyone,” Capone says of the noncompetition. However, “Students quit. The way they leave the show is, they pull their patch off and say, ‘I quit,’ or ‘I drop’ and hand us their patch. And we give ‘em a quick speech and they’re back in the cush life,” he says with a chuckle.
Capone’s own life is kind of cush and comfy right now, as a security consultant in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Southlake, Texas. But that’s after 13 years in the military that culminated in the Navy’s SEAL Team Six — which actually hasn’t been the name of that elite counterterrorism unit since 1987, when it became the Naval Special Warfare Development Group or DEVGRU.
Whatever you call it, “I was a breacher,” says Capone, “which means you’re an expert in making entry into buildings, cars, anything else, basically by any means available. In a combat situation a lot of times it’s through demolition — explosives. There’s also lock picking, climbing over walls, going through windows.” He was deployed seven times and decorated five — which is about all he can say about his largely classified experience.
Capone, whose office-manager mom is Ukrainian and whose dad, a retired private-car driver, is Italian and Irish, was born at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset. An only child, he lived in Queens for three years before the family moved to Long Beach. Capone attended Holy Cross High School in Flushing, then Nassau Community College and eventually Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, where he played quarterback for the Salukis.
“Long Beach is outstanding,” he says. “I don’t think I realized how good I had it until I moved away. I grew up in a town house right across the street form the beach. I was a lifeguard, I went surfing. I didn’t ever think about the SEAL team prior to going to college, but it was kind of a natural fit.”
Yet as exciting as it might seem from movies and TV, being in SEAL Team Six ultimately was just a job, where “after a while you get a little burned out doing the same things over and over,” Capone says. He and his wife of 16 years have two teenage children, a boy and a girl, and earlier this decade he realized, “I wanted to be around more. When you’re training you’re gone close to 300 days a year.”
“The Selection,” happily, took just 3 1⁄2 weeks, primarily at a location in Santa Clarita, California, with aquatic operations at nearby Ventura Beach. Even so, for Capone, it was like another mission.
“I’m always trying to keep climbing,” he says, “to keep moving forward” — into the breach, as they say, as always.