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The United States Navy Sea, Air, and Land Forces, commonly known as the Navy SEALs, are the Special Operations Forces of the United States Navy, employed in direct action and special reconnaissance operations. SEALs are also capable of undertaking unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, hostage rescue, counter-terrorism, and other missions.


The origins of the Navy SEALs go back to World War II when the United States Navy saw that in order for its troops to successfully land on beaches it needed brave men to reconnoitre the landing beaches, take note of obstacles and defenses, and ultimately guide the landing forces in.As a result the Amphibious Scout and Raider School was established in 1942 by joint- Army and Navy at Fort Pierce, Floridamarker. It was intended to train explosive ordnance disposal personnel and experienced combat swimmers from the Army and Marine Corps, becoming the Naval Combat Demolition Unit, or NCDU.

They were trained by then-Lieutenant Commander Phil H. Bucklew and then later, then-Lieutenant Draper L. Kauffman. The NCDU was first employed in Operation Torch during the invasion of North Africa in 1942. This unit became the 'first group' specialized in amphibious raids and tactics in the United States Navy.

By 1943, Kaufman had expanded the Amphibious Scout and Raider School syllabus to include underwater demolition.Following the near-disaster of the landing force on Tarawa during World War II in November 1943, when offshore coral reefs and other obstacles in the surf resulted in many of the Marines drowning, Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner directed the formation of nine Underwater Demolition Teams mostly composed of navy personnel from the Naval Construction Battalions (Seabees). These volunteers were organized into special teams and were tasked with reconnoitering and clearing beach obstacles for troops going ashore during amphibious landings, and evolved into Combat Swimmer Reconnaissance Units, becoming the Navy UDTs.

UDT members using the casting technique from a speeding boat.

President John F. Kennedy (a World War II Navy veteran), aware of the situations in Southeast Asia, recognized the need for unconventional warfare and special operations as a measure against guerrilla warfare. In a speech to Congress on May 25, 1961, Kennedy spoke of his deep respect for the United States Army Special Forces (Green Berets). He announced the government's plan to put a man on the moon, and, in the same speech, allocated over $100 million toward the strengthening of the special operations forces in order to expand American capabilities in unconventional warfare.

The Navy needed to determine its role within the special operations arena. In March 1961, the Chief of Naval Operations recommended the establishment of guerrilla and counter-guerrilla units. These units would be able to operate from sea, air or land. This was the beginning of the Navy SEALs. Many SEAL members came from the Navy's UDT units, who had already gained experience in commando warfare in Korea; however, the UDTs were still necessary to the Navy's amphibious force.

The first two teams were on both US coasts: Team One at Naval Amphibious Base Coronadomarker, in San Diego, Californiamarker and Team Two at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creekmarker, in Virginia Beach, Virginiamarker. The men of the newly formed SEAL Teams were trained in such unconventional areas as hand-to-hand combat, high-altitude parachuting, demolitions, and foreign languages. Among the varied tools and weapons required by the teams was the M16 assault rifle, a new design that evolved from the AR-15 rifle. The SEALs attended UDT Replacement training and they spent some time training in UDTs. Upon making it to a SEAL team, they would undergo a SEAL Basic Indoctrination (SBI) training class at Camp Kerry in the Cuyamaca Mountainsmarker. After SBI training class, they would enter a platoon and conduct platoon training.

The Pacific Command recognized Vietnammarker as a potential hot spot for conventional forces. At the beginning of 1962, the UDTs started hydrographic surveys and along with other branches of the US Military, the Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) was formed. In March 1962, SEALs were deployed to South Vietnam as advisers for the purpose of training Army of the Republic of Vietnam commandos in the same methods they were trained themselves.

The Central Intelligence Agency began using SEALs in covert operations in early 1963. The SEALs were involved in the CIA sponsored Phoenix Program where it targeted key North Vietnamese Army personnel and Vietcong sympathizers for capture and assassination.

The SEALs were initially deployed in and around Da Nangmarker, training the South Vietnamese in combat diving, demolitions, and guerrilla/anti-guerrilla tactics. As the war continued, the SEALs found themselves positioned in the Rung Sat Special Zone where they were to disrupt the enemy supply and troop movements and in the Mekong Delta to fulfill riverine operations, fighting on the inland waterways.

SEALs on patrol on the River Mekong Delta.

Combat with the Viet Cong was direct. Unlike the conventional warfare methods of firing artillery into a coordinate location, the SEALs operated within inches of their targets. Into the late 1960s, the SEALs were successful in a new style of warfare, effective in anti-guerrilla and guerrilla actions. SEALs brought a personal war to the enemy in a previously safe area. In Vietnam, Navy SEAL kill ratio was extraordinary, with over 100 enemy dead for every SEAL casualty. The Viet Cong referred to them as "the men with green faces," due to the camouflage face paint the SEALs wore during combat missions.

SEALs continued to make forays into North Vietnam and Laos, and covertly into Cambodiamarker, controlled by the Studies and Observations Group. The SEALs from Team Two started a unique deployment of SEAL team members working alone with South Vietnamese Commandos (ARVN). In 1967, a SEAL unit named Detachment Bravo (Det Bravo) was formed to operate these mixed US and ARVN units, which were called South Vietnamese Provincial Reconnaissance Units (PRUs).

At the beginning of 1968, the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong orchestrated a major offensive against South Vietnam: the "Tet Offensive." The North hoped it would prove to be America's Dien Bien Phumarker, attempting to break the American public's desire to continue the war. As propaganda, the Tet Offensive was successful in adding to the American protest of the Vietnam war. However, North Vietnam suffered tremendous casualties, and from a purely military standpoint, the Tet Offensive was a major disaster for the Communists.

By 1970, President Richard Nixon initiated a Plan of Vietnamization, which would remove the US from the Vietnam conflict and return the responsibility of defense back to the South Vietnamese. Conventional forces were being withdrawn; the last SEAL adviser left Vietnam in March 1973 and Vietnam fell to the communists in 1975. The SEALs were among the highest decorated units for their size in the war. SEALs were awarded two Navy Crosses, 42 Silver stars, 402 Bronze Stars, 2 Legions of Merit, 352 Commendation Medals, 3 Presidential Unit Citations and 3 Medals of Honors.

In 2005, the Navy Seals took part in Operation Red Wing, in which 19 Navy SEALs and Nightstalkers died in what was, at the time, the largest single loss of American life in the War in Afganistan (2001-).



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.

SEALs conduct a training exercise.
A SEAL sniper team


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:

  • 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 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

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, CAmarker
(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 trainees endure surf torture.
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 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 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).
BUD/S trainees covered in mud.
 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.
BUD/S trainees during Diving/Second Phase.
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:
Two SEALs wearing dive gear scout a beach during an exercise.

  • 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.

Navy SEAL teams and structure

A Navy SEAL carries his assault rifle.

Naval Special Warfare Groups

Naval Special Warfare Command is organized into the following configuration:
  • Naval Special Warfare Group 1: SEAL Teams 1, 3, 5, 7
  • Naval Special Warfare Group 2: SEAL Teams 2, 4, 8, 10
  • Naval Special Warfare Group 3: Special Delivery Vehicles Teams 1, 2
  • Naval Special Warfare Group 4: Special Boat Teams 12, 20, 22
  • Naval Special Warfare Group 11: SEAL Teams 17, 18 (formerly Operational Support Teams 1, 2)

The total amount of personnel assigned to Naval Special Warfare Command is about 2,500. About half are based at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Basemarker and Dam Neck Annexmarker in Virginia Beachmarker, Virginiamarker. Most of the rest are based in San Diegomarker, Californiamarker.

SEAL Teams

SEAL Teams are organized into two groups: Naval Special Warfare Group One (West Coast), and Naval Special Warfare Group Two (East Coast), which come under the command of Naval Special Warfare Command, stationed at NAB Coronado, California. As of 2006, there are eight confirmed Navy SEAL Teams. The original SEAL Teams in the Vietnam War were separated between West Coast (Team ONE) and East Coast (Team TWO) SEALs. The current SEAL Team deployments include Teams 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, and 10.Each SEAL Team is designated an Operational Area (AO). These teams specialize in a particular area and were trained in operating in that particular type of environment.

The Teams deploy as Naval Special Warfare Squadrons or Special Operations Task Forces and can deploy anywhere in the world. Squadrons will normally be deployed and fall under a Joint Task Force (JTF) or a Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force (CJSOTF) as a Special Operations Task Force (SOTF)

A SEAL Team has a Staff Headquarters element and three 40-man Troops. Each Troop consist of a Headquarters element consisting of a Troop Commander (O-4), a Troop Senior Enlisted (E-8), a Targeting/Operations Officer (O-2/3) and a Targeting/Operations Leading/Chief Petty Officer (E-6/7). Under the HQ element are two SEAL platoons of 16 men (2 officers, 14 enlisted SEALs and sometimes 2 enlisted EOD Operators making a platoon of 18); a company-sized Combat Service Support (CSS) and/or Combat Support (CS) consisting of staff N-codes (the Army and Marine Corps use S-codes); N1 Administrative support, N2 Intelligence, N3 Operations, N4 Logistics, N5 Plans and Targeting, N6 Communications, and N8 Air/Medical. Each Troop can be easily task organized into 4 squads or eight 4-man fire teams for operational purposes. The size of each SEAL “Team” with Troops and support staff is approx. 300 personnel. The typical SEAL platoon has an OIC (Officer in Charge, usually an O-3), an AOIC (Assistant Officer in Charge, usually an O-2), a platoon chief (E-7), an LPO (Leading Petty Officer, E-6) and others ranging from E-6 to E-4 (most are E-5). Occasionally there is a "third O". Usually the third O is an O-1 on his first operational deployment. This makes the platoon consist of 3 officers and 13 enlisted personnel. The core leadership in the Troop and Platoon are the Commander/OIC and the Senior Enlisted NCO (Senior Chief/Chief).

Troop core skills consist of: Sniper, Breacher, Communicator, Maritime/Engineering, Close Air Support, Corpsman, Point-man/Navigator, Primary Driver/Navigator (Rural/Urban/Protective Security), Heavy Weapons Operator, Sensitive Site Exploitation, Air Operations Master, Lead Climber, Lead Diver/Navigator, Interrogator, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Technical Surveillance, and Advanced Special Operations.

Each SEAL Team is commanded by a Navy Commander (O-5), and has a number of operational SEAL platoons and a headquarters element. In 1987, SEAL Team 6 was renamed to the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group, although members are still frequently referred to informally as "SEAL Team 6". Naval Amphibious Base Little Creekmarker, a naval base in Virginia Beach, Virginiamarker, is home to SEAL Teams 2, 4, 8, and 10. Naval Amphibious Base Coronadomarker, a naval base in Coronado, CAmarker, is home to SEAL Teams 1, 3, 5, and 7. There are also two SDV units, SDVT-1 located in Pearl Harbor, HI, and SDVT-2 in Virginia. SDV Teams are SEAL teams with an added underwater delivery capability. An SDV platoon consists of 12-15 SEALs.

Insignia Team Deployment Number of Platoons HQ Notes
SEAL Team 1 Worldwide 6 Platoons Coronado, CAmarker Operational area: Southeast Asia
SEAL Team 2 Worldwide 6 Platoons Little Creek, Virginiamarker Operational area: Europe
SEAL Team 3 Worldwide 6 Platoons Coronado, CA Operational area: Southwest Asia
SEAL Team 4 Worldwide 6 Platoons Little Creek, Virginia Operational area: Central and South America
SEAL Team 5 Worldwide 6 Platoons Coronado, CA Operational area: Northern Pacific
United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group Worldwide Unknown Dam Neck, Virginia Seal Team 6 was dissolved in 1987. The operators of SEAL Team Six established the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group, also known as DEVGRU.
SEAL Team 7 Worldwide 6 Platoons Coronado, CA
SEAL Team 8 Worldwide 6 Platoons Little Creek, Virginia Operational area: Caribbean, Africa, and the Mediterranean
SEAL Team 10 Worldwide 6 Platoons Little Creek, Virginia
SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team ONE Worldwide 4 Platoons Pearl Harbor, HImarker
SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team TWO Worldwide 4 Platoons Little Creek, Virginia

Notable Navy SEALs

See also

Other nations:


  • McCoy, Shane T. (August 2004). "Testing Newton's Law", All Hands Magazine, p. 33.

  • Sasser, Charles W. Encyclopedia of The Navy SEALs, Facts on File, 2002. (ISBN 0-8160-4569-0)

Further reading

  • Bahmanyar, Mir. US Navy SEALs. Osprey Publishing, 2005. (ISBN 1-84176-807-3)
  • Bahmanyar, Mir with Chris Osman. SEALs The US Navy's Elite Fighting Force. Osprey Publishing, 2008. (ISBN 1-84603-226-1)
  • Couch, Dick. The Sheriff of Ramadi: Navy SEALs and the Winning of al-Anba. U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2008. (ISBN 1591141389)
  • Couch, Dick. The Warrior Elite. The Forging of SEAL Class 228. Three Rivers Press, 2003. (ISBN 1400046955)
  • Luttrell, Marcus. Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10. Little, Brown and Company, 2009. (ISBN 0316044695)

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