Sandbox:Billy J. Burke
Article by Chuck Hardin.
Billy J. Burke is a professional actor, radio show host, and martial arts instructor in California. He claims prior Special Forces service, including Delta Force, and he offers support for Frank Dux's claims of training Special Forces soldiers. These claims are false. Burke never served in the military in any capacity.
Burke came to Bullshido's attention in November 2006, when member Stunt-Thug posted a thread raising questions about Burke's claims of prior military service. At that time, Burke was an instructor at House of Champions Academy of Martial Arts in Van Nuys, California. His instructor biography claimed:
In 1979 Billy Burke entered the army and became a special forces soldier, a Green Beret. He trained with the legendary Michael Echanis in knife fighting and hand to hand combat. Billy eventually became the hand to hand combat instructor for many special forces teams including Being personally selected to work with Delta force by Col. Charlie Beckweth. Billy has took part in Special forces missions that can be mentioned, in El salvador, Panama, Grenada, Maylasia and the Persian Gulf.
This was a notable claim with several troubling features. It was unlikely that anyone who worked with Delta Force during that era would not know how to spell the name of its creator, Colonel Charles Beckwith. It contained the allusions to secret missions in exotic locales that are common to many false claims of service in the Special Forces. Also, hand-to-hand combat is not typically emphasized in Special Forces training.
It emerged that Burke had made other claims of service as well. In his publicity biography for the movie Prayer Warrior, Burke claimed to have been a member of Delta Force, not merely to have trained Delta Force members, and to have been "an A.O.T.(advanced operator training) instructor for the Navy SEALS".
Burke has also starred in a video for TRS Direct, the proud publishers of James Painter, Dan Webre, Ray Ellingsen, and other questionable individuals. In his video he is wearing dog tags and a "high-and-tight" haircut characteristic of US Army and Marine personnel. The video promises to teach the viewer "the most ADVANCED 'quick learn' fighting techniques he teaches top Spec Op soldiers".
Most distressingly, Burke gave an interview in which he bolstered Frank Dux's claims of training the Special Forces in covert operations, wearing fatigues and a black beret with the red flash of the US 7th Special Forces Group:
Also having been a Special Forces soldier for over 20 years, Frank Dux wrote one of the SpecWar manuals that introduces covert activities. We used to call it, in the Special Forces, the "Frank Dux Black Manual", because he teaches about death, knife fighting, and things that nobody at that point had written about. And Frank Dux wrote that SpecWar manual.
With Frank Dux...he's one of the best internationally known special operations instructors in the world. Be it law enforcement, Navy SEALs...I mean, he wrote the SpecWar manual for the Navy SEALs soldiers. Now, I taught special operations soldiers all around the world, and I independently on this side of the world was teaching Special Forces soldiers and the Navy SEALs, and it just so happens we were both teaching the same things, which proves that it's the real deal.
These escalating claims were of interest to Bullshido members, who decided to investigate Burke's military background. We contacted the POW Network, a frequent ally of Bullshido and experts in finding out the truth behind claims of military service.
What The Records Show
After all of these dramatic claims, it came as something of an anticlimax when the National Personnel Records Service responded to the POW Network's request for records. There were none.
Burke has never served in the military at all under the legal name "Billy J. Burke" or "William J. Burke". If he served under another name and then legally changed his name, Bullshido would like to see court records confirming this name change.
Other Problems with Burke's Story
Burke's claim to be a member of Delta Force was refuted by many ex-Delta members. Eric Haney, author of Inside Delta Force and a Delta member from 1978 until 1986, had never heard of Burke. Mel Wick, president of Quick Services and a member of Delta from 1977 until 1993, was even more emphatic:
Mr. Burke never was in Delta Force! I know for a fact Col. Beckwith never selected him to work with Delta... If he entered the army in 1979 by the time he got through all the training required to be in Special Force, let alone the additional requirements for Delta, Beckwith would have already left Delta. We had our own "unarmed combat" instructors and Billy was NOT one of them.
Furthermore, Burke's apparent ignorance of military insignia was apparent to expert observers. Eric Haney observed: "Anyone with an Army background would know that a 7th S.F. Group flash worn on a black beret isn't kosher."
Burke's claim of training SEALs was also incredible. According to Steve Robinson, ex-SEAL and author of No Guts, No Glory:
SEALs train their own, and while some high level command type might send out some feelers for an 'expert' in martial arts to provide information that can boost the training program in some way, they won't bring in the outsider to train the guys. Normally they'd send a few guys to the trainer, get them proficient in whatever 'moves' or 'techniques' they want to work with, then bring them back and the SEALs will train other SEALs.
Let me put it this way... BURKE is NOT listed in the SEAL Database, so he's definitely not a SEAL. I've never heard of "AOT" as he describes it, and the SEALs always train their own... rather than depend on outsiders/civilians who might be under contract but are not subject to rigid military command and control.
There is no such thing as "Advanced Operator Training". Following BUD/S there is a requirement for supplemental training before a man actually receives his SEAL credentials. Back in my day it was called "Cadre Training" (because it was taught by a cadre of SEAL Team ONE combat veterans). That course had two portions... SEAL Basic Indoctrination (SBI) and SEAL Advanced Training (SAT). That same course was later renamed SEAL Tactical Training (STT). Later the responsibility for that supplemental training was removed from the actual SEAL Teams and moved to the BUD/S compound, and men now have to complete it BEFORE going to a SEAL Team. That supplemental course has once more been renamed and is now called SEAL Qualification Training (SQT).
You can see the progression of names, and the similarity to BURKE's claimed "AOT" or "Advanced Operator Training", but again I have no recollection of the supplemental training ever being called by that name.
There is a chance that the name he is offering is some kind of supplemental training used at DEVGRU, but no matter what training the man has, outsiders don't get into DEVGRU and become instructors. DEVGRU has its own instructors and its own way of doing things, and they do NOT let outsiders get a good look at what's going on inside their training regimen... primarily because of Operational Security (OPSEC).
It is obvious, given these basic errors, that Burke is not only lying about service in the Special Forces, but has no real knowledge of the military.
Burke's Reaction to the Investigation
I sent several emails to Burke's publicly advertised address. I asked about his military background. At first he denied ever having served, then blamed Hollywood hype when I asked him about the Prayer Warrior biography. He stopped responding by email as I continued to present links to his other claims of military service on the Web, but he did pull me into a Google Talk chat session to say that "inquisitions are usually set ups or traps. i've dressed as a ninja in hollywood...but not a ninja."
When we continued to ask questions about his previous claims, he put copyright notices on his replies, apparently in an attempt to prevent Bullshido from publishing his replies. One of his statements was provocative, however, and we publish it here in the spirit of fair use:
I am amazed that I am the ONLY person that has a "Testimonial" for Frank Dux's Kumite promotion on the internet. WE ALL GOT PAID FOR IT. We read cue cards! Other people that did it for money, were martial artists like Peter "Sugarfoot" Cunningham, Benny "The Jet" Urquidez, Master Eric Lee, Grandmaster Douglas Wong, Grandmaster Bill Ryusaki, Don "The Dragon" Wilson and a couple of SEAL Team guys...celebrities like Olympic Gold Medalist Bruce Jenner...and a lot more did it for money.
We invite Billy J. Burke to clear up these issues. He is welcome to respond to our inquiries either by replying to the emails we have already sent him, or to go to the Bullshido.net forum and respond in the appropriate discussion thread.
Billy J. Burke has claimed at various times to have been a Green Beret and a member of Delta Force, and has validated Frank Dux's claims of covert activity. Burke's claims are false. He has never served in the military.
We thank Chuck and Mary Schantag of the POW Network for their valuable assistance with this investigation.