Is It Easier Today To Become a Navy SEAL?

Is it easier today to become a Navy SEAL?

The short answer follows:

Getting to BUD/S- No, it’s a bit harder to get to BUD/S

Graduating BUD/S- No, or so subjective that it’s impossible to be certain

Graduating STT- A bit harder - more oversight here

The long answer is next:

The number of people applying to the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) pipeline, including both SEAL and Special Warfare Combatant Craft (SCWCC), spiked after the US cultural awareness of NSW increased post-9/11. In particular, the Abbottabad raid that killed Osama Bin Laden (OBL) generated tremendous interest. While traveling through the airport in Charlotte (CLT), I counted seven hardcover books that sported either the NSW insignia or the word SEAL decorating the best-seller rack. That’s effing crazy.

This trend was also fueled by an absurd number of SEAL-centric films and video games, some of them starring active-duty SEALs who should have known better.

Because of this interest, the competitive physical entrance scores for BUD/S increased significantly, so extra work was/is required to stand out.

Concerning the difficulty of completing Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL (BUD/S), the graduation rate has remained consistent, mainly fluctuating with the seasons. Winter Hellweek classes generally have higher attrition. The technical challenge posted by post-BUD/S professional development has gone up significantly. The SEAL Qualification Training (SQT) takes the physically and mentally tough BUD/S graduate and increases his demands. This rigorous, more consistent training course differs from the previous Team- and coast-specific SEAL Tactical Training Courses.

Once you earn your Trident, the really hard part starts. You will be more tired, sleep-deprived, colder, hotter, and more stressed on Team duty than during your training. You will sustain a frenetic pre-deployment training/group schedule and then deploy it over and over and over and over. Your leadership will rotate in and out, not because they want to (being a SEAL platoon OIC is the best job in the Navy), but because their detailer (the officer career scheduler in the Pentagon) (waves at Margaret the Hutt, the detailer’s assistant) won’t let them stay in one place for too long. You will be expected to maintain that pace for years at a time.

In exchange, you will work in a tightly integrated team, conducting the most challenging, most important, and most dangerous missions the Department of Defense calls upon to perform. You may have to deal with shitheads some of the time - SEALs are not angels, and they can make stupid mistakes, lethal ones even. That is not new - only the public’s awareness of the SEALs is new.

Thanks, Internet.

On the upside, medical support for NSW has radically improved post 9/11. It still isn’t ideal, but it is light years ahead of the late 20th-century regime. In particular, the pre-retirement medical screen and cataloging process has a pretty good chance of catching most of what will inevitably be wrong with you, from spinal injury to bilateral tears in your rotator cuff to multiple TBI, etc.

Despite all that, it is completely worth it for the right people. I certainly wouldn’t change my choice.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

Jumping out of a C-17 at 30k feet, freefalling to under a thousand, sneaking into a jihadist compound to snatch a terrorist, wrapping him up, and hustling out to your top-secret helo ride home is all well as good. However, it isn’t NEARLY AS COOL as sitting behind two bored teenagers who are manning the helm and dive planes of a nuclear-powered submarine, trading flatulence for eight hours at a stretch, or learning that special trick to get the last few grams of soft serve ice cream out of the wardroom auto dog (you can have up to three months underwater at time to learn that trick, by the way) but hey, we can’t all be super cool submariners.

*Oh, and a last note: if you want to learn about being a SEAL and you are a potential selectee, call your local recruiter and ask to connect with a regional SEAL Motivator - they can answer all this stuff - that’s their paid job. You probably DON’T want to rely on what the officers from other Navy specialties have to say. The big clue is that after guessing at the relative difficulty of getting to and then through BUD/S and SQT, they spend 60% of their answer telling you how much more important their specialty is/was and how much more money they make.

If your number one concern is making money (which is fine, by the way), you don’t belong in the military, certainly not as a career and certainly not as a frogman.

FYSA, I spent more than a decade in the Navy, including time running a couple of chunks of BUD/S (at the Naval Special Warfare Center). Before that, I also qualified in Submarines (Enlisted).

Again, thank you Rat SEAL, or Freddy Frogman! Your insights are lightning in a bottle! 

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