Former SEAL became drug trafficker until God got his attention


By Michael Ashcraft –

Originally, Shawn Ryan had wanted to bust drug lords in Colombia, but after his stint as a sniper, shooting terrorists in Iraq, the former Navy SEAL was so adrenaline-addicted that he set up a drug trafficking ring in South America.

“I had built quite the network down there,” Shawn told the Megan Kelly show. “I got tipped off that federal police were surveilling me, so I abruptly left the country.”

Shawn’s podcast is dedicated to fellow men in arms who traversed childhood traumas and military PTSD.

His father was a smalltown pharmacist. Shawn did not excel at school or sports, but he was good at being rebellious, drinking and getting into trouble. Upon graduation from high school in Chillicothe, Missouri, he reviewed his options and decided on special forces in the military.

But the Army recruiter and the Marines recruiter laughed him out of the office. You think you have what it takes? They told him he needed to begin in the infantry, and prove what he could do.

The Navy recruiter, however, popped in and asked Shawn if he’d heard of the SEALS.

He hadn’t.

But when he reviewed the material, he signed up for the Navy.

He found himself surrounded by some prospects who had been Olympians and championship boxers, all vying to survive BUD/S training – with its notorious sleepless Hell week. One after another of the men he admired got worn down, rang the bell, and quit.

He wondered how he would survive if men better than himself were falling like flies.

The desire to avoid failing in his parents’ eyes saw him through. Eventually, Shawn became one of America’s elitist warriors.

Deployed twice, once to Afghanistan and once to Iraq in 2006, Shawn remembers most how his team helped the Army to neutralize Explosively Formed Penetrators. The enemy used this projectile, detonated by Humvee engines, that would rip through the armor, vaporize everything alive inside the vehicle’s cabin and suck our soldiers out the hole on the other side.

The EFPs were a terrifying equalizer deployed by Iraqi terrorists. “They were chewing a lot of our guys up,” Shawn says. “The conventional soldiers were getting crushed by the EFPs. They had no knowledge to combat this targeting package.”

In rode Shawn and the SEALS. First, they analyzed the areas where EFPs were set up. Then they ran assets in the community and set up surveillance and snipers to kill the terrorists when they laid the booby traps.

“We started killing bad guys,” Shawn says. “We started turning things around.”

After four months in Iraq, Shawn retired from the SEALS. He became a Blackwater contractor and then a CIA contractor.

To cope with all the mayhem he had seen and done he numbed his brain with alcohol and drugs: a constant stream of valium, Xanax, Lorazepam, Ambien, hydrocodone, oxycontin, tramadol – “whatever you can wash down to shut the brain down,” he says.

Shawn had joined to SEALS to combat drug cartels in South America. The 9/11 Twin Tower attacks shifted America’s priorities for a time. But when he left the SEALS and stopped CIA contracting, Shawn was drawn to the jungles of Colombia.

He couldn’t get adventure out of his system.

But this time he wasn’t combating the bad guys.

He became one of them.

“I had always wanted to go to Team Four because I wanted to do the counter drug ops,” he says. “But because of the adrenaline addiction, I was doing a lot of stuff that I shouldn’t have been doing like cocaine. Once I left the Agency (CIA), I started building a network.

“I would start at the street level and then go to the clubs and met people,” he admits. “I got a lot of satisfaction out of the adrenaline of seeing how much I could embed myself into these different cultures.”

To play with the narcs is like playing with plutonium*, but his life was all about being fearless in dangerous situations.

Shawn overdosed a couple of times himself in South America. His buddies from special operations found out what he was doing and were left shaking their heads. His parents didn’t find out.

On a Mother’s Day, he called and talked to his mom. He was “junked out.”

“It hit me like a ton of bricks. I needed to pull myself out of that situation,” he says. “I didn’t want my parents to get a notice weeks later that their son OD’d on cocaine in a penthouse in Colombia.”

Not long afterward, his network of associates tipped him off: the Colombia federal police were surveilling him. Shawn threw out everything and cleaned his tracks. He ran some surveillance detection routes, went to an internet cafe, and booked several flights. He boarded one of them and fled the country.

He made his way home to Missouri and told his parents everything. Naturally, they were exceedingly worried.

After weeks of trying to pick up the pieces of his life, Shawn agreed to go to therapy. The therapist helped Shawn tremendously. She saved his life, he says. He has recommended her to his fellow operator buddies struggling with PTSD and addiction. Many of them have likewise been saved.

He moved to Boca Raton, FL, where he met Katie Jean at a gun range. She popped out of her father’s truck and they crossed eyes. Then they shot guns and ate tater tots – and the rest is history. The couple now lives in Tennessee and has two children. Shawn’s been three years sober.

Still, Shawn hadn’t come to Christ. That happened on vacation in Sedona, Arizona. Three bizarre “coincidences” convinced Shawn there was a God: a man who looked like his best friend, another man who read his mind, and the daughter of a dead Navy SEAL who called him out of the blue with a supernaturally given message.

At the time, Shawn was despairing. His incipient podcast was exposing the evils of the military industrial complex of the United States, but nobody seemed to care – and he pondered shutting it down.

But then Taylor called out of the blue. He had never met Taylor. She must’ve gotten his contact from her dad’s phone.

“You’re doing exactly what you should be doing,” she relayed the supernatural message.

“Holy sh-t! There’s no denying this one,” Shawn exclaimed.

After making his way out of drugs, after quitting crime, after combatting terrorists, Shawn began to seek God. He continues to help buddies suffering PTSD on his podcast, which also gets the truth out about the operations that were done in Iraq and elsewhere.

Once a non-entity in his life, faith in Jesus Christ now is central, Shawn says.

“It’s the only thing that makes any damn sense to me now,” he says.

To learn more about a personal relationship with Jesus, click here.

Other articles about Navy SEALs: Remi AdelekeDavid Goggins, Eddie Penney, Jason RedmanChad Williams and Army Rangers: Dave EubankJeff Streucker and Tim Moynihan.

About these writer: Michael Ashcraft reported from Los Angeles where he pastors a church in the San Fernando Valley. 

* Megan Kelly’s comparison.



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