To become a SEAL in the Naval Special Warfare/Naval Special Operations (NSW/NSO) community, you must first go through what is widely considered to be the most physically and mentally demanding military training in existence. Then comes the tough part: the job of essentially taking on any situation or foe that the world has to offer.
Direct action warfare. Special reconnaissance. Counterterrorism. Foreign internal defense. When there’s nowhere else to turn, Navy SEALs are in their element. Achieving the impossible by way of conditioned response, sheer willpower and absolute dedication to their training, their missions and their fellow spec ops team members.
Navy SEALs have been living up to their highly skilled, intensely disciplined reputation since being established by President John F. Kennedy in 1962 as a small, elite maritime military force suited for all aspects of unconventional warfare. In this role, you will provide immediate military options amidst crises around the world. Offering decision makers a proven way to successfully control the most challenging scenarios.
Your duties as a SEAL may include and are not limited to:
Conducting insertions and extractions by sea, air or land to accomplish covert, Special Warfare / Special Operations missions
Capturing high-value enemy personnel and terrorists around the world
Collecting information and intelligence through special reconnaissance missions
Carrying out small-unit, direct-action missions against military targets
Performing underwater reconnaissance and the demolition of natural or man-made obstacles prior to amphibious landings
No college degree is required to become a Navy SEAL, but the standards of qualification require the kind of mental and physical fortitude that few possess. For those making the cut, immense challenges and constant training are a way of life. And for those SEALs with further leadership aspirations and a college degree, Officer roles are available – providing opportunities to lead SEAL units and train aspiring SEAL warriors.
The job of a Navy SEAL relies heavily on adaptability and teamwork. Members train and work in all manner of environments, including desert and urban areas, mountains and woodlands, and jungle and arctic conditions. Whatever the specific mission and surroundings, you’ll utilize the specialized skills and the high-tech equipment required. And you’ll operate not only as a highly capable individual but also as a member of tightly knit SEAL units. These include task units (32-man), platoons (16-man), squads (8-man), teams (4-man) and swim buddy (2-man).
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Training and Advancement
The comprehensive SEAL training process prepares you for the extreme physical and mental challenges of SEAL missions. Your preparation will consist of more than 12 months of initial training that includes Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL BUD/S School, Parachute Jump School and SEAL Qualificiation Training (SQT), followed by an additional 18 months of pre-deployment training and intensive specialized training. Everything in training is designed to push you to your physical and mental limits. If you’re up to the task, you’ll emerge in incredible physical shape and possess the necessary confidence, determination and teamwork to succeed in a combat environment.
SEAL Prep School
Here, aspiring SEALs are given a crash course in the physical standards required to even attempt to become a SEAL. It starts with an initial Physical Screening Test and ends with a more demanding Physical Screening Test, one that includes a timed four-mile run and a timed 1,000-meter swim. The goal is to increase your physical readiness between the two tests so that you are ready to move on to BUD/S. Those unable to pass the final test are removed from the SEAL training pipeline and reclassified into other jobs in the Navy.
Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL BUD/S School
BUD/S is a 24-week training challenge that develops your mental and physical stamina and leadership skills. Each BUD/S phase includes timed physical condition tests, with the time requirements becoming more demanding each week.
BUD/S – Orientation (3 WEEKS)
This initial course introduces candidates to the BUD/S program, its instructors and the lifestyle to expect here. You will get a sense of the training regimen that awaits and be prepared to start the first phase.
BUD/S – Physical Conditioning (7 WEEKS)
The first phase of BUD/S assesses SEAL candidates in physical conditioning, water competency, teamwork and mental tenacity. Physical conditioning utilizes running, swimming and calisthenics and grows harder and harder as the weeks progress. You will participate in weekly four mile timed runs in boots and timed obstacle courses, swim distances up to two miles wearing fins in the ocean and learn small boat seamanship.
The first three weeks of Basic Conditioning prepares you for the fourth week, known by many as Hell Week. During this week, you will participate in five and a half days of continuous training, with a maximum of four hours sleep total. This week is designed as the ultimate test of one’s physical and mental motivation. It proves to those who make it that the human body can do ten times the amount of work the average man thinks possible. During Hell Week, you will learn the value of cool headedness, perseverance, and above all, teamwork. For those who make it through this grueling challenge, the remaining three weeks are devoted to teaching various methods of conducting hydrographic surveys and creating a hydrographic chart.
BUD/S – Combat Diving (7 WEEKS)
The Diving Phase of BUD/S trains, develops and qualifies SEAL candidates as competent basic combat swimmers. During this period, physical training continues and becomes even more intensive. This second phase concentrates on combat SCUBA. You will learn two types of SCUBA: open circuit (compressed air) and closed circuit (100% oxygen). Also, basic dive medicine and medical skills training is provided.
Emphasis is placed on long-distance underwater dives with the goal of training students to become basic combat divers, using swimming and diving techniques as a means of transportation from their launch point to their combat objective. This is what separates SEALs from all other Special Operations forces.
BUD/S – Land Warfare (7 WEEKS)
Land Warfare trains, develops and qualifies SEAL candidates in basic weapons, demolition and small-unit tactics. Physical training continues and becomes even more strenuous as the run distance increases and the minimum passing times are lowered for the runs, swims and obstacle course.
This third phase concentrates on teaching land navigation, small-unit tactics, patrolling techniques, rappelling, marksmanship and military explosives. The final three and a half weeks are spent on San Clemente Island, where students apply all the techniques they have acquired during training.
Parachute Jump School
Upon successful completion of BUD/S, SEAL candidates go on to receive both static line and free-fall training at Tactical Air Operations in San Diego, CA. The accelerated 3-week program is highly regimented, facilitated by world-class instructors, and designed to develop safe and competent free-fall jumpers in a short period of time.
To complete the course, you must pass through a series of jump progressions, from basic static line to accelerated free fall to combat equipment – ultimately completing night descents with combat equipment from a minimum altitude of 9,500 feet.
SEAL Qualification Training
Next comes the process of taking fit, versatile and determined candidates, those who’ve already proven themselves exceptional, and transforming them into something even greater: warriors worthy of the SEAL designation. If you have what it takes to get this far, you’ll spend the next 26 weeks further honing your mental and physical prowess.
SEAL Qualification Training (SQT) teaches standardized Naval Special Warfare Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs) – running candidates through a gauntlet of rigorous training courses. You’ll develop expertise in areas that include cold-weather survival, marine operations, advanced combat swimming, close-quarter combat and land-warfare training. Here, you’ll learn the intricacies of operating not only as a highly capable individual, but as an effective member of an operational platoon. Graduation from SQT culminates in the awarding of the coveted Navy SEAL Trident – after which you’ll immediately begin advanced training and be assigned to a SEAL team.
Advanced Training and Team Placement
Upon reporting to your First SEAL Team or Special Delivery Vehicle (SDV) Team, you can expect 18 months of advanced training broken equally between Individual Specialty Training, Unit Level Training and Task Group Level Training. Those Enlisted SEALs with a medical rating first attend Advanced Medical Training Course 18D for 6 months in order to become a SEAL medic. Those pursuing Officer positions first attend the Junior Officer Training Course to learn about operations planning and how to perform team briefings.
Training, physical conditioning and drills are part of the SEAL lifestyle. Once you’ve completed SEAL initial training, you can go even further with advanced training that could include foreign language study, SEAL tactical communications training, Sniper, Military Free-Fall Parachuting, Jump Master (Static line and Military Free Fall), Explosive Breacher and much more.
Here’s a quick guide to the process of becoming a SEAL:
STEP 1: CHOOSE YOUR SEAL RATING (SO)
STEP 2: TRAINING
SEAL Prep Course (8 weeks – Chicago, IL): Gives candidates an introduction to required BUD/S techniques and performances, beginning and ending with Physical Screening Tests
BUD/S Orientation (3 weeks – Coronado, CA): Introduces those who’ve passed the SEAL Prep Course to the BUD/S training program, training facilities and instructors
BUD/S Phase I: Physical Conditioning (7 weeks – Coronado, CA): Includes continuous physical conditioning; students also study small boat seamanship and hydrographic surveys and charts
BUD/S Phase II: Combat Diving (7 weeks – Coronado, CA): Covers SCUBA skills; students learn open- and closed-circuit combat diving, learn how to complete long-distance underwater transit dives, and receive basic dive medicine and medical skills training
BUD/S Phase III: Land Warfare (7 weeks – Coronado, CA): Includes land navigation, small-unit tactics, rappelling, military land and underwater explosives and weapons training
Parachute Jump School: (3 weeks – San Diego, CA): SEAL candidates receive both static line and free-fall training at Tactical Air Operations; students must complete and pass basic, accelerated free fall, combat equipment and night descents training
SEAL Qualification Training (SQT): Advanced Sea, Air and Land Training (26 weeks – Coronado, CA): Includes cold water survival, marine operations, advanced combat swimmer, close-quarter combat and land warfare training
Graduation and Naval Special Warfare SEAL Classification - Opportunities for Advanced Training
STEP 3: ADVANCED TRAINING/PLACEMENT
Report to First SEAL Team or SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) Team (Virginia Beach, VA; Pearl Harbor, HI; or Coronado, CA)
Those Enlisted SEALs with a medical rating will first attend Advanced Medical Training Course 18D to become a SEAL Medic (6 months – Ft. Bragg, NC)
Those pursuing Officer positions first attend Junior Officer Training Course to learn about operations planning and how to perform team briefings
Individual Specialty Training (6 months) while assigned to a SEAL Platoon or SDV Task Unit
Unit Level Training while assigned to a SEAL Platoon or SDV Task Unit (6 months)
Task Group Level Training (6 months) while assigned to a SEAL Platoon or SDV Task Unit
STEP 4: DEPLOYMENT AND COMBAT OPERATIONS
Your typical mission as a Navy SEAL may involve insertion into a combat objective by any number of means: parachute, submarine, helicopter, high-speed boat, foot patrol or by a combat swimmer insertion. Your training will make you capable of operating a wide range of high-tech, specialized equipment. Most of your deployments will last 6 to 8 months.
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As a member of the Naval Special Warfare/Naval Special Operations (NSW/NSO) community, you will have any number of unique opportunities to advance your knowledge. You may learn the fundamentals of explosive ordnance disposal through formal Navy schooling. Or you may receive education and training about chemical and biological warfare, military tactics, deep-sea diving or a number of other tactical military procedures. The courses in this field are demanding, but those who accept these challenges will be rewarded not only with extra pay, but extraordinary duty assignments anywhere in the world.
You can put your training and education to use outside your official duties. Through the American Council on Education (ACE), you may receive college credit for what you’ve learned in your training “pipeline.” Check out the Military Guide Online to find out what training qualifies for college credit. If you have any questions about converting your Navy education into college credit, you can call ACE at 866-205-6267 for answers.
In addition to normal military pay and allowances, the Navy offers a $15,000 enlistment bonus for SEALs. You will also earn additional pay that includes special duty assignment pay, parachute jump pay, dive pay and demolition pay. Together, these incentives make SEALs the highest paid enlisted operators in the U.S. military.
For complete details on available special pay and enlistment bonuses, contact a recruiter.
By law, only men are eligible to apply for the SEAL program. Upon joining the Navy, you must:
Meet specific eyesight requirements: 20/40 best eye; 20/70 worst eye; correctable to 20/25 with no color blindness
Meet the minimum Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) score: GS+MC+EI=165 or VE+MK+MC+CS=220
Be 28 years old or younger
Be a U.S. citizen
Pass a physical examination required for divers
The chart below highlights the current minimum Navy Physical Screening Test (PST) requirements for Navy Challenge Programs – for aspiring members who are in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP), in Boot Camp or already serving in the Navy.
NOTE: If you're pursuing an NSW/NSO position, much better PST scoring is expected.
Physical Screening Test
Swim 500 yards
(450 M) – breaststroke or sidestroke
REST: 10 MINUTES
[in 2 minutes]
REST: 2 MINUTES
[in 2 minutes]
REST: 2 MINUTES
[in 2 minutes]
REST: 10 MINUTES
Run 1.5 miles
*AIRR may use sidestroke or breaststroke and utilize American crawl/freestyle or a combination of all.
NOTE: You should consult your physician or other health-care professional before starting any exercise regime or other fitness program to determine if it is right for your needs. This is particularly true if you (or your family) have a history of medical illnesses or ailments that could be made worse by a change in physical activity. Do not start a fitness program if your physician or health-care provider advises against it.
After the Navy
As a Navy SEAL, you will be part of a community that values leadership, self-determination and organization. Employers in the military and civilian communities alike will value you as you mature in your field. Completing some of the most demanding training our country has to offer says that you have what it takes to accomplish any task an employer could throw your way. Careers within the Naval Special Warfare/Naval Special Operations (NSW/NSO) forces have comparable civilian counterparts that include anything from high-level security assessment to emergency medicine to Chemical-Biological-Radiological (CBR) protection and response.
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