Entering training to become a Navy SEAL is voluntary; and officers and enlisted men train side-by-side. To volunteer, SEAL candidates must meet the following criteria:
- U.S. Citizen (Not waiverable)
- 18–28 years old, 17 with parental permission. Waivers are considered on a case-by-case basis.
- Male in the United States Navy or Coast Guard (Not waiverable)
- High school graduate or equivalent. Be proficient in reading, speaking, writing, and understanding English.
- Uncorrected vision no worse than 20/200 in both eyes. Both eyes must be correctable to 20/20.
- Minimum [ASVAB] Score of: General Science (GS) + Mechanical Comprehension (MC) + Electronics Information (EI) = 165 or Verbal Expression (VE) + Mathematical Knowledge (MK) + Mechanical Comprehension (MC) + Coding Speed (CS)=220.
- Pass the SEAL Physical Screening Test (PST).
- No recent prior drug abuse, and good moral character (waivers are required for criminal offenses and traffic tickets and if the offense category exceeds limit, no waiver is allowed)
1A memorandum of understanding was signed with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Special Operations Command that will allow Coast Guard personnel to train and serve in the Naval Special Warfare Community. The memorandum will allow selected Coast Guard personnel to be assigned to the SEAL training pipeline and possible duty as a Navy SEAL. The program is intended to give Coast Guard personnel the opportunity to gain experience in the execution of special operations.
Assignment to BUD/S is conditional on passing the Diver/SEAL Physical Screening Test (PST). Prospective trainees are expected to exceed the minimums. The minimum requirements of the PST are:
- 500 yd (460 m) swim using breast or Combat sidestroke in under 12:30 with a competitive time of under 10:30
- At least 42 push-ups in 2 minutes with a competitive count of 79 or more
- At least 50 sit-ups in 2 minutes with a competitive count of 79 or more
- At least 6 pull-ups from a dead hang (no time limit) with a competitive count of 11 or more
- Run 1.5 mi (2.4 km) in boots and trousers in under 11:30 with a competitive time of 10:20 or less
Of those men who contacted a Navy recruiter with the intent to become a SEAL candidate, those who:
- Signed an enlisted contract: 79 percent.
- Graduated recruit training: 58 percent.
- Completed SEAL pre-indoctrination program: 90 percent.
- Completed SEAL indoctrination: 85 percent.
- Completed BUD/S phase 1 (includes “Hell Week”): 33 percent.
- Completed BUD/S phase 2: 87 percent.
- Completed BUD/S phase 3: 96 percent.
- Graduated from Airborne School: 100 percent.
- Completed SEAL Qualification Training: 99 percent.
SEAL training consists of the following:
- 4–12 weeks Naval Special Warfare Preparatory School (enlisted men)
- 3 weeks Indoctrination
- 24 weeks Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training at the Naval Special Warfare Center, Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, California.
- 4 1/2 weeks Parachute training (5 days of static-line, 3 1/2 weeks of military free-fall) at the U.S. Navy Tactical Air Operations School in San Diego, CA
(From the 1970’s to 2003, BUD/S graduates were sent to the Army’s Airborne School to earn their wings. The reason why parachute training has been transferred to the Tactical Air Operations School is because it gives provides more oppurtunities for SEAL canidates and SWCC trainees to receive their wings)
- 16 weeks of SEAL Qualification Training
Basic Underwater Demolitions/SEAL (BUD/S)
Upon arrival at Naval Special Warfare Command, check-ins for BUD/S are immediately placed into a pre-indoctrination phase of training known as ‘PTRR’, or Physical Training Rehabilitation and Remediation. PTRR is also where all of the ‘roll-backs’ are placed while waiting to be put into a class. Once additional medical screening is given, and after enough BUD/S candidates arrive for the same class, organized physical training begins.
BUD/S consists of a three-week ‘Indoctrination Course’, known as INDOC, followed by three phases, covering physical conditioning (seven weeks), diving (eight weeks), and land warfare (nine weeks) respectively. Officer and enlisted personnel go through the same training program. It is designed to develop and test their stamina, leadership, and ability to work as a team. In the first phase, BUD/S students are divided into ‘Boat Crews’ which can consist of six to eight men. Although some exercises will be undertaken as boat crews (such as ‘log PT’, which requires boats crews to exercise with logs that weigh 150 lb (68 kg) each, and ‘Surf Passage’, where boat crews must navigate the Pacific surf in inflatable boats), the first phase of BUD/S also consists of a series of demanding individual physical tests including frequent sets of push-ups and sit-ups, ocean swims and timed 4 mi (6.4 km) runs in boots and long trousers, in soft sand (to be completed in 32 minutes). The first phase is most well known for ‘Hell Week’, 132 hours of continuous physical activity, which usually occurs during week four. A student may drop on request (DOR) from the course at any time. The tradition of DOR consists of dropping one’s helmet liner next to a pole with a brass ship’s bell attached to it and ringing the bell three times (the bell was taken away for a few years in the 1990s, then later brought back).
Classes typically lose around 70–80% of their trainees, either due to DORs or injuries sustained during training, but it is not always easy to predict which of the trainees will DOR during BUD/S. Winter class drop out rates are usually higher due to the cold. SEAL instructors say that in every class, approximately 10 percent of the students simply do not have the physical ability to complete the training. Another 10–15 percent will definitely make it through unless they sustain a serious physical injury. The other 75–80 percent is ‘up for grabs’ depending on their motivation. There has been at least one BUD/S class where no one has completed the program. Most trainees are eliminated prior to completion of Hell Week, but trainees will continue to DOR in the second phase or be forced to leave because of injuries, or failing either the diving tests or the timed runs and swims. In fact, the instructors tell the students at the very start of BUD/S that the vast majority of them will not successfully complete the course and that they are free at any time to drop out (via the bell) if they do not believe they can complete the course. A trainee who DORs from First Phase before the completion of Hell Week and reapplies to the BUD/S program must start from the beginning of INDOC (if they are accepted). Any BUD/S trainee who drops on request after Hell Week goes through the same out-processing as a trainee who quits before or during Hell Week. If they reapply to BUD/S they would stand a very good chance of being accepted, but they must complete Hell Week again.
However, those who have completed Hell Week, but cannot continue training due to injury are usually rolled back into the next BUD/S class after Hell Week, or the respective phase in which they were rolled. There are many SEALs who have attempted BUD/S two and even three or more times before successfully completing training.
SEAL Qualification Training (SQT)
After Selection in BUD/S, graduates attend SEAL Qualification Training (SQT), which is the NEC 5326 awarding schoolhouse of NSW. SQT is an arduous 16-week program consisting of the basic and advanced skill sets required to be a SEAL. The BUD/S graduates attend a sequential course consisting of: SERE, Tactical Air Operations (Static Line/Freefall), Tactical Combat Medicine, Communications, Advanced Special Operations, Cold Weather/Mountaineering, Maritime Operations, Combat Swimmer, Tactical Ground Mobility, Land Warfare (small unit tactics, light and heavy weapons, demolitions), Hand-To-Hand Combat, Close Combat Weapons and Assaults/Close Quarters Combat. The emphasis in SQT is building and developing individual operator skills with the concentration being on junior officer and non-commissioned officers. Students are broken into 10-man squads with two 5-man fireteams.
The course teaches current and standardized Naval Special Warfare Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs) as they pertain to NSW mission sets. The goal of SQT is to send qualified, deployable new operators to the SEAL Teams. Attrition in SQT is still somewhat high, but is due to failure to grasp tactics or lead men, as opposed to being unable to take the punishment of BUD/S Training. Current attrition is roughly three drops and five rolls for every class. Most rolls are performance based with some medical rolls as well.
SQT staff consist of three troops of cadre in each of the core training sets (Mobility, Land Warfare, Assaults). Each cell is run by a post platoon Chief Petty Officer (E7/E8) and consist of two platoons of specialty training. The Headquarters element consist of a OIC (Post Platoon O3), a Training Officer (CWO3/CWO4), a Senior Enlisted Adviser/Curriculum Manager (Post Troop SEA), a Operations and Training Chief (Post Platoon Chief E7/E8) and a civilian deputy operations manager. SQT also employs former SOF operators in civilian weapons and tactics instructor positions. The civilian instructors come from all USSOCOM branches and help introduce the students to other US SOF units and doctrine.
Upon completion of SQT the students are awarded the Navy SEAL Trident, assigned to a SEAL Team, and are deployable. 20% of graduates deploy immediately to combat with their assigned team.
As of the 2006-2009 transition, enlisted members of the SEAL community are identified with the occupational rating of Special Warfare Operator (SO) and the (SEAL) warfare designator. For example, SO1(SEAL/FPJ) John Smith is identified as Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Petty Officer John Smith and is both SEAL and Free Fall Parachutist qualified.
SEAL Platoon Training
Following SQT, new SEALs will receive orders to a SEAL Team and assignment to a Platoon. New operators will join their Platoon wherever they are in their deployment cycle. The normal workup or pre-deployment workup is a 12 to 18 month cycle divided into three phases. Phase one of a work-up is called the Professional Development Phase (PRODEV). PRODEV is several months long where individual operators attend a number of formal or informal schools and courses. These schools lead to required qualifications and designations that collectively allow the platoon to perform as an operational combat team. Depending on the team’s and platoon’s needs, operators can expect to acquire some of the following skills:
- Scout/Sniper (SOTIC)
- Breacher (Barrier Penetration/Methods of Entry)
- Surreptitious Entry (Mechanical and Electronic Bypass)
- Technical Surveillance
- Advanced Driving Skills
- Climbing/Rope Skills
- Advanced Air Operations: Jumpmaster or Parachute Rigger
- Diving Supervisor or Diving Maintenance-Repair
- Range Safety Officer
- Instructor School
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Operator
- Language School
Phase two of a work-up is called Unit Level Training (ULT). ULT is a 6-month block run by the respective Group (NSWG1/NSWG2) Training Detachment, where the Platoons train in their core mission areas Small Unit Tactics, Land Warfare, Close Quarters Combat, Urban Warfare, Hostile Maritime Interdiction (VBSS/GOPLATS), Combat Swimming, Long Range Target Interdiction, Rotary and Fixed Wing Air Operations, and Special Reconnaissance.
Phase three of a work-up is called Squadron Integration Training (SIT). SIT is the last 6-month block where six platoons conduct advanced training with the supporting attachments of a SEAL Squadron, Special Boat Squadrons, Medical Teams, EOD, Interpreters, Intelligence/HUMINT Teams, Cryptological Support Teams, etc. A final Certification Exercise (CERTEX) is conducted with the entire SEAL team to synchronize platoon operations under the Task Group umbrella. Following CERTEX, a SEAL Team becomes a SEAL Squadron and is certified for deployment.
Once deployed a Squadron will either become a Special Operations Task Force (SOTF) or combine with a Joint Task Force (JTF). Once assigned, the SOTF will assign the Troops an Area of Operations (AOR) and allow them to decentralize their Platoons either intact or in Squads or Elements to conduct operations. A SEAL Team deployment currently is approximately 6 months, keeping the entire cycle at 12 to 24 months.