Image Credit: Senior Chief Petty Officer Jayme Pastoric/US Navy/DVIDS
When you’re a US Navy SEAL, you’re part of the United States Navy Sea, Air, and Land Teams and are the primary special operations force of the US Navy. The US Navy SEALs were created by President John F. Kennedy on January 1, 1962.
Here, we’re going over a brief history of the US Navy SEALs, how you train to become a Navy SEAL, and what it means to earn the title. So, keep reading!
Who are the US Navy SEALs?
US Navy SEALs have a few main functions performing small-unit unconventional special operations missions in maritime, jungle, urban, arctic, mountainous, and desert environments. Long story short, they face challenges many of us could never even dream of.
The goal of a Navy SEAL is usually to capture or, when necessary, eliminate high-level targets or gather intelligence behind enemy lines. They’re considered the “cream of the crop” and Navy SEALs have been the ones to complete some of the most important missions in all of war history.
A Brief History of US Navy SEALs
As we previously mentioned, the US Navy SEALs came about in 1962 but their history can be traced back to World War II. Leadership in the Navy recognized that they desperately needed covert reconnaissance of landing beaches and coastal defenses. From there, the Army and Navy jointly founded the Amphibious Scout and Raider School in Fort Pierce, FL in 1942.
The Scouts and Raiders were a select group of Army and Navy personnel and their first mission was during Operation Torch on the North African Coast. They went on to support other missions throughout Europe in Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, Normandy, and southern France.
In total, there were only three groups of Scouts and Raiders with the third and final group carrying out missions in Asia. But this is only one piece of the puzzle that would later come to be the US Navy SEALs.
Naval Combat Demolition Units also began forming in 1942 where Navy personnel would complete a week-long course in demolitions, explosive cable cutting, and commando raiding techniques. Their first missions were side by side with the Scouts and Raiders in Operation Torch. Around 1943, one specific group of NCDUs would go on to form Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) Able which would become a major stepping stone toward what we now know as SEALs.
Another major lineage of US Navy SEALs is the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Maritime Unit, a paramilitary organization. The OSS conducted special operations and the Green Berets (Army Special Forces) also deem the OSS to be their starting point.
OSS teams were operating between 1943 and 1944 which means all of these units were operating more or less simultaneously. By 1950 and the Korean War, the UDTs were deployed once again.
President Kennedy understood the situation occurring in Korea and it became obvious that the military needed to employ more special operations using unconventional warfare to combat the guerilla warfare that took place in southeast Asia. Eventually, the original SEALs came from the UDTs and they combined tactics from the Scouts and Raiders, the NCDUs, the OSS Maritime Unit, and the UDTs. Overall, it’s a pretty lethal combination.
Since their induction, the Navy SEALs have assisted in every military effort in which the United States has been involved.
It should be mentioned here that as of 2019, there are currently only male Navy SEALs. In a progressive 2016 move, the US Navy has allowed female recruits to join the SEALs so long as they’re able to meet all the same requirements that have always been asked of SEAL candidates.
A few females have attempted Navy SEAL training but have come out of it unsuccessfully. Still, it seems like only a matter of time before an exceptional female makes the cut. After all, only 10% of those who want to be SEALs make it to graduation in the first place.
It’s nearly impossible for everyone – not just females. There are already two female Army Rangers (the Army’s special forces unit) which begs the assumption that females are capable of enormous physical and mental feats, so, the Navy SEALs should be seeing their first female graduate sooner or later.
Navy SEAL Training
It’s no secret that training to become a Navy SEAL is one of the most challenging undertakings one could attempt. Navy SEAL training occurs in five steps: an eight-week Naval Recruit Training (also known as Navy boot camp), an eight-week Naval Special Warfare Prep School, 24 weeks of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training (BUD/S), three to five weeks of Parachute Jump School, and finally, a 26-week SEAL Qualification Training (SQT).
When people talk about US Navy SEAL training, they’re usually referring to BUD/S. It’s possibly the most strenuous part of the process and it’s the point where most candidates drop out. Only 10% of Navy SEAL hopefuls will even make it past Phase One of BUD/S.
BUD/S includes and three-week indoctrination period followed by three distinct seven-week phases.
Phase One is the Basic Conditioning phase where you’ll undergo continuous physical training, learn small boat seamanship, and conduct hydrographic surveys and charts. Week Three of Phase One is what’s known as “Hell Week” and it’s the part of BUD/S that proves to be the most difficult to complete.
“Hell Week” consists of five straight days of training usually with candidates sleeping only four to five hours throughout all five days. You train for 20 hours a day and by the end of it, you’ll have run at least 200 miles. It’s not for the faint of heart and many who have done it say it’s even more of a mental game than it is a physical one.
So many people drop out of BUD/S during “Hell Week” that a tradition has formed around the pattern. When you Drop on Request (DOR) out of BUD/S, it’s customary to drop your helmet liner by a pole that holds a brass bell and ring it three times to signal your surrender.
Phase Two is the Combat Diving Phase where candidates learn all their underwater skills like becoming SCUBA certified, open and closed combat diving, and long-distance underwater transit.
Phase Three is the Land Warfare Phase and rounds out the SEALs training by ensuring candidates understand land navigation, small unit tactics, rappelling, military land and underwater explosives, and weapons training.
From there, candidates go through Parachute Jump School, which is what it sounds like, and finally, they’ll complete SEAL Qualification Training which is still incredibly grueling but, after BUD/S, most of the remaining candidates come out of SQT successfully.
On graduation day, SEALs are presented with the coveted Navy SEAL Trident which designates them as Navy SEALs and they begin 18 months of pre-deployment training. That’s right, even after BUD/S and SQT and earning their SEAL classification, the training continues. But, it’s part of the gig and readiness is the most important thing leading up to entering a warzone. Everything is at stake.
What It Means To Be a US Navy SEAL
After all the time and effort it takes to earn the Navy SEAL Trident, it’s a huge honor to be able to call yourself a Navy SEAL. It’s difficult enough to earn your way into the military in the first place, let alone to distinguish yourself as being part of a special forces unit.
Becoming part of the US Navy SEALs means something different to everyone but it’s without a doubt that it’s full of pride, humility, and sheer grit. The Navy SEALs are, as mentioned, “cream of the crop” and every day you serve is a huge accomplishment.