The United States Navy Sea, Air and Land (SEAL) teams are the elite Special Operations Forces of the U.S. Navy, employed in unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, direct action, Counter-Terrorism, and special reconnaissance operations.
Those qualifying to become Navy SEALs are authorized, after completing a specialized program known as SQT (SEAL Qualification Training) and a probationary period, to wear and display the Special Warfare Badge, also known as the SEAL Trident. This badge (sometimes called “the Budweiser” for its resemblance to the Anheuser-Busch eagle logo) serves as the insignia for the SEALs as a whole and is the largest and most recognizable warfare insignia among U.S. Special Operations Forces. It is usually worn along with the U.S. Navy paratrooper wings, which are awarded after 10 jumps. During the Vietnam, SEAL members wore “tiger stripe” camouflage uniforms, often with civilian blue jeans and “coral” sneakers, for patrol missions. On base, they wore standard uniforms with a black beret during the early years (when they patrolled alongside the Swift and STAB boat units of the “Brown Water Navy”) and tiger-striped “boonie” hats in later years. Currently, they wear variations of the U.S. Marine Corps MARPAT camouflage and RAID BDUs. Only men may apply to become SEALs.
Concurrently, Naval Operations Support Groups were formed to aid UDTs, SEALs, and two other unique units—Boat Support and Beach Jumpers—in administration, planning, research, and development. During the Vietnam war, UDTs performed reconnaissance missions and SEALs carried out numerous offensive operations.
- Spring 1943: The first group of volunteers selected from the Naval Construction Battalions (Seabees). They were organized into special teams called “Navy Combat Demolition Units” (NCDUs) and were trained at Waimanalo, Hawai'i and Fort Pierce, Florida. The units reconnoitered and cleared beach obstacles for troops going ashore during amphibious landings, and evolved into Combat Swimmer Reconnaissance Units, often known as frogmen. Some of these frogmen were recruited from breath-holding divers who dived for abalones on the California coast before the war. The NCDUs distinguished themselves during World War II in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters.
- 1947: The Navy organized its first underwater offensive strike units.
- 1950 June – 1953 June: During the Korean Conflict, these Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs) took part in the landing at Inchon as well as other missions including demolition raids on bridges and tunnels accessible from the water. They also conducted limited minesweeping operations in harbors and rivers.
- 1960’s: Each branch of the armed forces formed its own counterinsurgency force. The Navy used UDT personnel to form units called SEAL teams.
- 1962 January: SEAL Team ONE was commissioned in the Pacific Fleet and SEAL Team TWO in the Atlantic Fleet. These teams were developed to conduct unconventional warfare, counter-guerrilla warfare and clandestine operations in both blue water and brown water environment.
- 1963: First Vietnam war-detachment of elements of SEAL Team One in Da Nang, Vietnam to serve under the command of the CIA-COS.
- 1964: Seals became a component of the military-CINC of Vietnam’s theatre.
- 1967: The Naval Operations Support Groups were renamed “Naval Special Warfare Groups” (NSWGs) as involvement increased in special operations.
- 1983: Existing UDTs were renamed as “SEAL teams” or “SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams” and the requirement for hydrographic reconnaissance and underwater demolition became “SEAL missions”.
- 1987: SEAL team SIX became DEVGRU (DEVelopment GRoUp).
- 1984-04-16: The Naval Special Warfare Command was commissioned at the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in San Diego, California. Its mission is to prepare Naval Special Warfare forces to carry out their assigned missions and to develop special operations strategy, doctrine, and tactics.
- 2002 March; Operation Anaconda in the US invasion of Afghanistan.
- 2003 March; participated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Navy SEAL Teams and Structure
A Navy SEAL Platoon consists of 16 men (2 officers, 14 enlisted men). This can be easily split into 2 squads or four 4-man fire teams for operational purposes. The size of each SEAL “Team” is larger, ranging between eight to ten Boat Teams per SEAL Team.
As of 2006, there are eight confirmed Navy SEAL Teams. The original SEAL Teams in the Vietnam War were separated between West Coast (Group ONE) and East Coast (Group TWO) SEALs. The current SEAL Team deployments are from Teams 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, and 10. The Teams now deploy as Naval Special Warfare Squadrons. Any Team can deploy anywhere in the world. Each of these 8 teams is commanded by a Navy Commander (O-5), and has a number of operational SEAL platoons and a headquarters element.
- “Little Creek” is a naval base in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
|ONE||Coronado, Ca||8||was SE Asia|
|TWO||Little Creek, Va||8||was Europe||It was the only SEAL Team with an arctic warfare capability.|
|THREE||Coronado, Ca||8||was SE Asia|
|FOUR||Little Creek, Va||10||Was Central/South America||The only SEAL Team with a viable standing language
|FIVE||Coronado, Ca||8||was Northern Pacific|
|SIX||Damneck, Va||Decommissioned - DEVGRU|
|SEVEN||Coronado, Ca||8||A newly commissioned SEAL Team.|
|EIGHT||Little Creek, Va||8||Caribbean, Africa, and the Mediterranean|
|TEN||Little Creek, Va||8||A newly commissioned SEAL Team.|
Training and Requirements
Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training is conducted at the Naval Special Warfare Center in Coronado (San Diego, CA) and lasts 26 weeks. Assignment to BUD/S is conditional on passing the PST, which requires the following minimums:
- 500-yard swim using breast or side stroke in under 12:30
- At least 42 push-ups in 2 minutes
- At least 50 sit-ups in 2 minutes
- At least 6 pull-ups (no time limit)
- Run 1.5 miles in boots and long pants in under 11:30
- Members’ vision must be 20/200 uncorrected or correctable to 20/20. SEAL candidates may qualify for PRK or LASIK surgery to correct their vision
- Asvab Requirements: GS+MC+EI=165 or VE+MK+MC+CS=220
- Age Requirements: 28 years or less (waivers for 29-30)
Again, the above are the minimum requirements necessary to qualify for BUD/S. Prospective trainees are expected to far exceed these minimums. Competitive scores are as follows:
- 500-yard swim using breast or combat side stroke in less than 10:00
- 100 push-ups in 2 minutes
- 100 sit-ups in 2 minutes
- 20 pull-ups (no time limit)
- Run 1.5 miles in boots and long pants in under 9:30
Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL Training (BUD/S)
Upon arrival at Naval Special Warfare Command, check-ins for BUD/S are immediately placed into a pre-indoc phase of training known as “PTRR”, or Physical Training Rest and Recuperation. 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 an" Indoctrination Course”, known as INDOC, followed by three phases, covering physical conditioning (eight weeks), diving (eight weeks), and land warfare (nine weeks) respectively. Officer and enlisted personnel go through the same training program, and it is designed to develop and test their stamina, leadership and ability to work as a team.
First Phase (Basic Conditioning) - 8 weeks - First Phase Trains, develops, and assesses SEAL candidates in physical conditioning, water competency, teamwork, and mental tenacity. This phase is eight weeks long. Physical conditioning with running, swimming, and calisthenics grows harder and harder as the weeks progress. You will participate in weekly four mile timed runs in boots, timed obstacle courses, swim distances up to two miles wearing fins in the ocean, and learn small boat seamanship.
The first three weeks of First Phase will prepare you for the fourth week, better known as "Hell Week." During this week, you will participate in five and one-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 while in First Phase. Hell Week 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. The remaining four weeks are devoted to teaching various methods of conducting hydrographic surveys and how to create a hydrographic chart.
BUD/S is known for Hell Week. During this period, from Sunday evening until Friday afternoon, trainees get a total of approximately four hours of sleep, (exactly how much depends upon the schedule set by the instructors, and how closely the trainees can be kept to that schedule) while subjected to intense physical stress. Trainees are almost always wet and sandy and develop what is known as the “Hell Week shuffle”, which is a way of walking that keeps salt-stained clothing away from chafed skin. The last day of Hell Week is known as “So Sorry Day”, during which the BUD/S students are made to crawl and slither their way through scum-covered water in the “demo pits” as automatic weapons fire blank rounds over their heads and artillery simulators explode around them.
Second Phase (Diving) - 8 weeks - Diving Phase Trains, develops, and qualifies SEAL candidates as competent basic combat swimmers. This phase is eight weeks long. During this period, physical training continues and becomes even more intensive. Second Phase concentrates on combat SCUBA. You will learn two types of SCUBA: open circuit (compressed air) and closed circuit (100% oxygen). 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 a skill that separates SEALs from all other Special Operations forces.
Third Phase (Land Warfare) - 9 weeks - Third Phase trains, develops, and qualifies SEAL candidates in basic weapons, demolition, and small unit tactics. This phase of training is nine weeks in length. Physical training continues to become more strenuous as the run distance increases and the minimum passing times are lowered for the runs, swims, and obstacle course. Third Phase concentrates on teaching land navigation, small-unit tactics, patrolling techniques, rappelling, marksmanship, and military explosives. The final three and a half weeks of Third Phase are spent on San Clemente Island, where students apply all the techniques they have acquired during training.
SEAL training and duty is voluntary. Many BUD/S students find that they do not have the desire to continue to endure the physical and mental strain of training, and subsequently Drop On Request, or DOR, from the course. 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. Classes typically lose around 70–80% of their trainees — either due to DORs or injuries sustained during training. The Navy will not release exact numbers, either percentages or raw figures, of the attrition rate for BUD/S. Most trainees are eliminated prior to completion of Hell Week and far fewer “brown shirts” (those who have made it through Hell Week wear brown t-shirts instead of white) quit the BUD/S program.
There is no way to predict what percentage of trainees will DOR during BUD/S. 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.
A trainee who DOR’s from First Phase before the completion of Hell Week must start from the beginning of INDOC if they subsequently reapply to the BUD/S program and are accepted. They must complete Hell Week again. Trainees who rolled back after completing Hell Week due to injury or another factor are rolled into whatever day of training a board of instructors and other individuals deem necessary. Some are back to day 1–1 of 1st Phase, while others may be rolled into day 5–1. 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 must also complete Hell Week again.
There are many SEALs who have attempted BUD/S two or even perhaps three times before successfully completing training. There is only one person who has successfully completed Hell Week three times. He completed training after his third application to BUD/S.
After BUD/S, students must then attend the Navy’s Strategic Air Operations (SAO) school in the desert outside of San Diego. Until 2003, the Army trained Navy Special Warfare teams to freefall. The new school allows more SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant Crewmen (SWCC) to become free-fall and HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) qualified than ever before. Upon completion of the three-week SAO school, they receive their Naval Special Warfare Classification (NEC) code. Finally, the last requirement before going to a team requires students to go through SEAL Qualification Training, or SQT, which is a 15-week course. This course is also conducted in and around the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. After completion of SQT training and a probationary period, students are then considered SEALs and are awarded the SEAL pin, or Trident. Upon assignment to a team, the new SEALs undergo more advanced training during the 18 month work-up to their first 6 month deployment and are not considered experienced until having completed at least three deployments.