Head a little north from where the Naval Academy sits on the Chesapeake Bay in Annapolis, Maryland, and you'll come to a small community center just off Route 2.
It's there that you'll often find a group of fit young men waiting in the parking lot for the man some have driven an hour and a half to train with - former Navy SEAL Stew Smith.
Stew offers free workouts aimed at anyone who wants to join one of the military's elite units.
Some of the guys dream of being Navy SEALs, and say they'd love to one day go on missions like the one that took out Osama bin Laden.
"Those guys are the best," said a guy who goes by the nickname Mongo (some of the guys didn't want their real names used since they may one day take part in secret missions).
Mongo says he drives an hour and a half every day to take part in the workouts. When asked if he'd like to have been on the mission that killed bin Laden, he doesn't hesitate.
"Hell yeah," he said. "I would have loved to have pulled that trigger."
But others who came out want to go a different route. A guy named Buddy wants to be a combat medic.
"I'd like to save people rather than you know what," Buddy said. Buddy also drives over an hour to join the workouts.
Stew doesn't fit your typical image of a former military guy leading a workout. He rarely yells and acts more like an older brother to the guys than a drill sergeant.
"It's not my job to motivate them to serve their country," Smith said. "If you're not self-motivated, you're not going to make it in the next level."
Stew's workouts are of the old-fashioned exhaustion inducing variety.
There's lots of pushups, pull ups, dips, and sit ups. Guys do lunges and run with logs on their shoulders. They swim laps, followed by more pull ups and dips.
But Stew says his workouts are nothing compared to the real ones in Navy SEAL school. His last two hours -- their's last around 12!
"You have to learn how to block out the pain of being tired and wet and uncomfortable and cold," Stew says. He says his workouts help prepare the guys for that.
Stew served as a SEAL in the 1990s, a time of relative peace tucked in between the Cold War and the War on Terror.
"I wasn't a combat seal," Stew said. "These guys now, they will not see peace. It's a completely different world now."
That makes Stew's training all the more important. A line he said while overseeing the workout we attended may sum it up best: "Your fitness may be the difference between life and death."
Copyright 2011 America Now. All rights reserved.
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