On its official Navy SEALs page, the US Navy’s warning reads: “You should consult your physician or other health-care professional before starting any exercise regime…to determine if it is right for your needs.” Is that ever an understatement! As one who has survived the brutal training to become a Navy SEAL, I’ll tell you now — it’s not your daddy’s exercise regime. It’s more like volunteering for torture.
Still undeterred? Good. Our country needs you. Here’s what Navy SEAL training looks like now — and in the future.
Training to Become a Navy SEAL: An Overview
In SEAL training, your “guidance counselor” doesn’t believe in political correctness when it comes to name-calling. He’ll call you by whatever gets under your skin. In the SEALs, it’s equal-opportunity insults 24/7.
That’s just the start. That is, if you even make it into the official SEAL training pipeline.
Your first six months are designed to get you to quit, which you can do by simply ringing a bell. You’ll start with the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) school, the highlight of which is “Hell Week.” It’s every bit as bad as it sounds — and then some.
The party isn't over after BUD/S. Then you’ll test your fear of heights at the Parachute Jump School (and you thought it was all about the water), followed by the SEAL Qualification Training (SQT). SQT which is 26 weeks and very intense. SQT is 20x parachute school. If you make it through all that, congratulations! You have just become part of the greatest fighting unit the world has ever known — the Navy SEALs.
Then, you’ll spend 18 months readying yourself for deployment to some of the worst hot spots in the world. Whether on the sea, air, or land — wherever our nation needs us, we come. We “achieve the impossible, through critical thinking, sheer willpower, and absolute dedication…”
SEAL training is the cauldron where those qualities are forged. There’s really only one thing you need to remember: Don’t ring the bell.
Intrigued? Here are the details of your journey to become a SEAL.
First, you enlist in the Navy. Next, you’ll go off to a recruit training center, where you’ll need to put up some serious numbers in your physical exam and physical screening test (PST) if you want to qualify for the next step in becoming a SEAL. In fact, SEAL candidates must do the running portion of the PST wearing boots and long pants.
You’ll also need to take the Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test to assess your ability to learn, and the Computerized-Special Operations Resilience Test (C-SORT) to test your mental toughness and resilience.
If you meet the stringent standards to qualify, you’ll go off to boot camp and begin training with your SEAL mentor. If boot camp isn’t a breeze, you might want to get yourself a desk job now. However, if you push yourself to rise to the elite levels during your boot camp training, you might earn yourself an invitation to train at the Naval Special Warfare Prep (Pre-BUD/S) school in Great Lakes, Illinois.
There, you’ll prove that you can endure the next leg of your adventure. Pre-BUD/S is a seven-to-nine-week apprenticeship training school that will prepare you for the mental and physical hell you’ll face in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training (BUD/S).
BUD/S and Hell Week
If you make it through Pre-BUD/S, you’ll ship off to Coronado, California for the toughest seven months you’ll ever spend. BUD/S occurs in four phases — really four-and-a-half when you factor in Hell Week:
Indoctrination: Here, you’ll learn about what you’ll undergo, as well as SEAL lingo, special techniques, and what will be expected from you.
Phase 1 – Basic Conditioning: In this phase, you’ll learn small boat seamanship, how to read and follow hydrographic charts, and undergo the most intense physical conditioning you’ll ever experience. About four weeks in comes Hell Week.
Hell Week: You’ll spend five days and five nights with only four hours of sleep the whole time. Though you might get hot meals and MREs, that’s about all the physical comfort you’ll have. You and your team will carry your boat over your heads, crawl through ice-cold mud, run through weeds and mosquitoes, do pushups in knee-deep sludge, and get confusing orders from your instructor — all while he calls you the most ego-busting names he can think of (My instructor’s “pet name” for me was “worm”). Here’s where you’ll be tempted beyond belief to ring that bell. But hang in there (sometimes literally).
Phase 2 – Diving: You’ll learn both closed- and open-circuit combat diving — how to successfully complete long-distance underwater transit dives so that you can get where you need to go without the enemy knowing you’re coming.
Phase 3 – Land Warfare: In this phase, you’ll learn how to navigate on land, rappel down cliffs, and handle land and underwater explosives. You'll also learn about small-unit strategies and tactics, and undergo advanced weapons training.
Post-BUD/S SEAL Training
The fun doesn't stop after you graduate from BUD/S, your training doesn’t stop. Before the Navy assigns you to a SEAL team, you need to complete a few more courses, including:
- Basic parachute training
- More diving training
- Special Operations medical training (for medical personnel)
After all this coursework, you’ll become part of a special delivery vehicle (SDV) or SEAL team. You’ll continue with drills and physical conditioning as long as you’re a SEAL. Additionally, you can take advanced coursework, such as training in foreign languages, tactical communications, sniper skills, free-fall parachuting, explosives, and much more.
This is one thing you must know, training to become a Navy SEAL is a never-ending process. With a dropout rate of around 74 percent, the most important thing is never to ring the bell. Not only as a SEAL, but with whatever life throws your way. As Admiral Bill McRaven, who managed the SEALs involved with the Bin Laden raid, puts it, “The only thing that matters is that you go in with this purpose in mind…you are just not going to quit, no matter what happens."