Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training or BUD/S is 24 weeks long and is the most intense part of Navy SEAL training. It starts with a three-week indoctrination followed by three seven-week phases. Week Three of Phase One is known as “Hell Week” and it’s during this period that most Navy SEAL candidates drop out.
BUD/S is a test of not only physical fitness but also mental strength and resolve. Only 10% of Navy SEAL hopefuls make it through BUD/S and it just goes to show how difficult it really is. Read on to learn more about BUD/S and Navy SEAL training in general as well as some of the things anyone about to start BUD/S should know.
Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training
Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training or BUD/S is arguably the most challenging training regimen in the U.S. military. To qualify for BUD/S you must first complete Navy Boot Camp and a seven to nine-week pre-BUD/S program as your A-School.
It starts with a three-week indoctrination period where you become acclimated to what the Navy SEALs are all about and then, the first of three seven-week phases begins.
Phase One is also known as Basic Conditioning. But, what you’re required to do during Phase One of BUD/S is anything but basic.
Phase One is undoubtedly the most difficult part of BUD/S and, therefore, all of Navy SEAL training. It assesses the candidate’s physical conditioning, water competency, teamwork, and most importantly, their mental tenacity.
The third week of Phase One is called “Hell Week” and the first two weeks are mostly preparing for that third week. During “Hell Week,” candidates endure five and a half straight days of training, sleeping only about four hours the entire time. You’ll run over 200 miles and train for 20 hours a day during “Hell Week.”
It’s so intense that each candidate gets two medical check-ups in the 24 hours after “Hell Week” to make sure that they’re healthy and a tradition has emerged when someone drops out. If you voluntarily leave BUD/S, it’s called a Drop on Request (DOR) and it’s customary to drop your helmet liner near a pole with a brass bell on it and ring the bell three times signaling your surrender.
After “Hell Week,” the final four weeks of Phase One include learning how to conduct hydrographic surveys and charts. Only a third of those who attempt BUD/S will make it past Phase One.
Phase Two is known as the Combat Diving phase and its where candidates learn the skills needed to become competent basic combat swimmers. The training remains intense and you’ll concentrate on diving physics, underwater skills, and become SCUBA certified.
The skills you learn in Phase Two of BUD/S is essentially what distinguishes you as a SEAL apart from all other U.S. Special Operations Forces. To complete Phase Two, you must swim two miles with fins in 80 minutes, run four miles wearing boots in 31 minutes, and complete both a 3.5-mile and 5.5-mile swim.
Phase Three of BUD/S is the Land Warfare phase. It’s where you learn the basics of weaponry, demolitions, land navigation, patrolling, rappelling, marksmanship, infantry tactics, and small-unit tactics.
A lot of this training is done in the classroom but during the last five weeks, the candidates are trained offshore on San Clemente Island. The days are long and intense and are supposed to prepare candidates for the work they’ll do in the field.
Training during Phase Three is seven days a week where you’re handling live ammunition and explosives on minimal sleep. By the end of it, you’re expected to complete a two-mile ocean swim in 74 minutes, a four-mile run in boots in 30 minutes, and a regular 14-mile run.
After BUD/S, the training isn’t over. You’ll then attend a three-week Parachute Jumping School and 26 weeks SEAL Qualification Training, just to fully cement everything you learned at BUD/S. When everything is said and done, only 10% of those who set out to become Navy SEALs actually achieve their goal.
Things You Need to Know Before BUD/S
BUD/S is a beast of a training program and there’s not much you can do to appropriately prepare yourself. There will be curveballs left and right and it’s best to stay humble and take things as they come. Still, there are some things you can do to get ready for Navy SEAL training in terms of mindset and how to set your goals.
According to Stew Smith, a former Navy SEAL, there are ten things you should definitely know before you start BUD/S.
- You need to already be fit. If you’ve only just passed the minimum standards on the physical fitness test for the Navy, you’re not ready for BUD/S. Aim to exceed the minimums with flying colors. Sometimes, this means taking a solid year to train.
- Know how to run in boots and swim fins. In the months leading up to BUD/S, it’s smart to train wearing boots while running (wearing long pants, too) and swimming with stiff fins that require booties.
- Know your place. For officers, it’ll be important to understand the power of delegation and staying humble. You’ll have to be motivated and lead from the front. Enlisted men should be ready to follow orders, work as a team, but not be afraid to speak up for the good of the group.
- Play the long game. BUD/S lasts six months, which means you have to have a marathon mindset. BUD/S is a marathon, not a sprint.
- Physical tests occur weekly. Knowing that you will be tested weekly with runs on the sand and ocean swims, it’s important to prepare accordingly. It all goes back to the marathon mindset.
- Take it meal by meal. In BUD/S, you’ll get three meals a day – during “Hell Week” you’ll get four! Since the training is so grueling, it can be helpful to focus on just getting to the next meal.
- Practice flutter kicks. Flutter kicks are a tough abdominal workout and you could be ordered to do 1000 sets of them at a time (which takes 45 minutes to complete!) Smith suggests you practice them.
- Prepare to be wet and sandy. A common punishment during BUD/S is to jump in the ocean before rolling around in the sand. It’s obviously uncomfortable but in BUD/S, more often than not, you’ll end up wet and sandy every day in BUD/S. Just assume that this will be your constant state.
- Get good at running. Last but not least, you’ll run hundreds of miles during your time in BUD/S. Before you start, you should be able to comfortably run four miles in 28 minutes with boots on. If you want to be a Navy SEAL, running is just part of the gig.
Many people think they’re up to the challenge and Navy SEAL training proves to be harder than they could’ve imagined. BUD/S is the bulk of that challenge and the 26 weeks you spend in California in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training will test your absolute limits.