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Training and selection

Basic requirements to enter Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training

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NAVY SEALs - Most elite unit of United States Navy 4

To become a member of one of the world’s most elite special operations forces is not easy. Today, it is estimated that US Navy SEALs have around 2,500 operators divided into eight (8) SEAL teams, and it represents less than 1% of overall active duty personnel in the United States Navy.

As I already mentioned, to become a frogman isn’t an easy task, but truth is, it is everything except easy. Every candidate who fulfil basic requirements needs to spend over a year in a series of formal training environments before being awarded the Special Warfare Operator Naval Rating and the Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC) 5326 Combatant Swimmer (SEAL) or, in the case of commissioned naval officers, the designation Naval Special Warfare (SEAL) Officer. Once upon the time, someone said that it is easier to climb Mount Everest than to finish Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S).

navy seal BUDs

SEAL candidates during the BUD/S are subjected to heavy physical fitness exercises

The journey starts with the assumption that you are a men aged between 18 and 29 already a member of the Navy because SEAL team members are exclusively male and recruited only from the US Navy. Sometimes, there are some exceptions for waivers which are available for 17-year-olds with parental permission and on a case-by-case basis for 29- and 30-year-olds.

I want to talk about BUD/S and the things happening there, to explain basic steps and requirements which will grant you a ticket to the BUD/S.

Academically, all candidates must have the equivalent of a high school education, have a composite score of at least 220 on the ASVAB and be proficient in all aspects of the English language. Medically, all potential applicants must have at least 20/75 vision, correctable to 20/20, be able to pass the SEAL Physical Screening Test and have no recent history of drug abuse. Lastly, applicants must have “good moral character” as determined by his history of criminal convictions and civil citations.

SEAL Physical Screening Test (PST)

To get into the BUD/S class, the candidate needs to beat PST. Prospective candidates are expected to exceed the minimums. The minimum requirements to successfully pass the PST are:

  • 500 yd (460 m) swim using breast or combat sidestroke in under 12:30 with a competitive time of 9:00 or less;
  • at least 50 push-ups in 2 minutes with a competitive count of 90 or more;
  • at least 50 sit-ups in 2 minutes with a competitive count of 90 or more;
  • at least 10 pull-ups from a dead hang (no time limit) with a competitive count of 18 or more;
  • run 1.5 mi (2.4 km) in running shorts and boots in under 10:30 with a competitive time of 9:30 or less.

Once the candidate fulfill basic requirements and pass successfully PST, he is sent to a crash course in the physical standards required to even attempt to become a SEAL.

Naval Special Warfare Preparatory School

The so-called crash course is held at Naval Special Warfare Preparatory School in Great Lakes, Illinois where the candidates are subjected to the opening Physical Screening Test and ends with a more difficult Physical Screening Test, one that includes a timed four-mile run and a timed 1,000-meter swim.

Navy SEAL recruits during the BUD/s

SEAL candidates during the BUD/S

The aim is to increase the SEAL candidates’ physical readiness between the two tests so that they are ready to move on to Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) Training. Those candidates who are unable to pass the final test at Naval Special Warfare Preparatory School are removed from the SEAL training pipeline and reassigned into other units inside the Navy.

The Naval Special Warfare Preparatory School lasts for 8 weeks.

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Training and selection

“Best Ranger” mentality: Pushing to the limit

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As I crossed that finish line in 2001, I genuinely, and finally knew what it was to be tested. Up until that time, I had conquered most challenges I had thrown myself into without feeling that I had ever, truly, been pushed to my limits.

I had won State & National wrestling championships, a State football championship, finished marathons, triathlons and had made it into the 75th Ranger Regiment as a private. I volunteered for every hard school possible including the Special Forces Combat Dive school; a school that even most Army Rangers would tell you that you were crazy to attempt. I had gotten to a point where I thought that there was nothing that could kick my ass, physically and more importantly, mentally.

Most people try their hardest to avoid what appears to others, to be a failure. A few, though, endeavor to strive to reach their maximum potential and then push past even that. I was never afraid of failure; I was always afraid of not knowing what was possible for myself, not knowing how hard & how far I could push myself. There’s something to be said about intimately knowing what you as a human being can endure, or can’t endure.

Some would argue that this has to do with machismo but it is on a completely different level. Some people spend a lifetime seeking enlightenment while others push the mind and body past its limits and find that intrinsic knowledge that everyone seeks; the knowledge of self and that life is what YOU make of it. Unfortunately, for most, they will never know the limits of their potential or lack thereof limits.

Sgt. Andrew Fuccillo of team 7 representing the 75th Ranger Regiment pushes himself through frigid water and barbed wire in the early morning hours of the 2008 Best Ranger Competition April 18 at Fort Benning, Ga.
Photo by J.D. Leipold

Over the years, I had seen many men meet their limits and have the image of what they thought they saw as themselves destroyed in an instant. I’d seen grown men crushed because they could not accomplish what they saw themselves able to accomplish. In spite of this, I still wanted to push myself to my limits, not to find my limit and stop, but to find my limit and push past it. Your body will quit and your mind will want to quit, and to push past that takes a monumental psychological & mental effort.

In all honesty, you can be assured that I had been pushed close to those limits; often times of my own volition. I put myself in peril quite often, just training for the challenges I set upon myself. On more than several occasions, I was alone, training in hot weather, miles from civilization with no water or any way to call for help and all I could think was, “How stupid am I going to look if this is how I die.” Fortunately, I never succumbed to my lack of preparation and momentary stupidity but I did spend years training my mind and body; you don’t just wake up one day and say, “I think I’m going to do a 50-mile mountain run today.”

Eventually, I had the opportunity I had been waiting for; to compete in the US Army Best Ranger Competition. Three days competing against the top men in the US Military in what was and still is considered one of the toughest endurance competitions in the world. I was recovering from a calf injury, battling bronchitis and I was still sure that me and my Ranger buddy; a seasoned physical phenom and fellow combat diver, could win or at least finish in the top 3; the goal, of course, being a first time out win.

We were in 7th place going into the second night, with hopes of jumping a few spots but that was quickly dashed during a 40 to 50-mile trek through, what we call, dinosaur land in Ft Benning’s nastiest terrain. By the time the sun started to rise, we were just hoping to finish the orienteering course and not be eliminated from the competition. After 11 hours and 50 minutes, we finished the course with 10 minutes to spare, only to find out we were first up for one of the hardest obstacle courses in the world.

As thoroughly exhausted as I was, I felt a great comfort and happiness. During that second day of the US Army Best Ranger Competition, I had pushed myself to a point I momentarily thought I wasn’t going to be able to pass. There was finally a point where I thought, I’m finished, why to continue, I’m beaten. I had met that side of myself that I didn’t think existed, the, “I’m done, I quit” self.

2016 Best Ranger Competition – Day 2 (Spartan Race, Ranger Stakes)

I had to resign myself that morning to the fact that I was NOT going to win the Best Ranger Competition on my first try but I was overwhelmed with joy, knowing that I had finally met that human impulse to quit, to give up. Instead, of that course, though, I looked deep inside my heart and mind and decided that I wasn’t going to allow that part of me to exist.

Only twenty 2-man Ranger Teams, out of 50, finished later that day. Crossing that finish line was one of the most momentous events of my life. In Combat Diver lingo, “I saw the wizard and told him to (****) off.” I wanted to quit but drove on whether I was going to be allowed to officially finish or not. Where others might see failure, I felt triumph. I finally felt human and at the same time super-human.

I’d spent most of my 29 years being the best I could be at whatever was put in front of me; this time I wasn’t the Best…but I was the Best “me” I had ever been. There was no outward celebration but I felt like a new person, I knew that I could do whatever my mind set out to accomplish from that point forward. I would compete and finish again but that was the year that I would have to look back to for strength in future times where I would face personal, physical & financial trials & tribulations. Most would think, “It was only 3 days.” It wasn’t the 3 days, it’s what happened in those 3 days that set the path for the rest of my life.

The author of this article is a former Best Ranger competitor who wishes to remain anonymous. Article firstly appeared on The Havok Journal.

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Training and selection

The Reality of Combat and Special Operations Forces Training

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We all know “that guy.” We’ve all got that one friend. The friend who always seems to have a better story than everyone, yet no one has ever seen him do anything. And nowhere is this more obvious than when it comes to training for warriors.

When it comes to talking tough, “that guy” is the king. He fought a Gracie in an underground parking garage in Japan, yet seems to pronounce all the Gracie names with an “R” and not an “H.” He’s the guy who is unemployed but “works for the government” and tells stories about knife fights with Pakistani Taliban in stairwells. (And yes, I’ve actually had someone tell me both of these things, although, thankfully, it was two different people. The guy who told the Gracie story told me the son he fought was Pablo Gracie.)

The thing about combat is that since we crawled out of the ooze and figured out how to turn a stick into a club, we have been fighting. It is far more likely that the world’s oldest profession is fighting, and that the world’s other oldest profession came later as a way to keep troops occupied between fights. In other words, we know what works and what doesn’t as history gives us real clues on how to create effective fighters, whether this is in armed or unarmed combat.

Spartan warriors

A few years ago everyone was signing up for boot camps, but for some reason now we’re all keen to be SEALs or Rangers. Rather than write you a cookie-cutter plan for recruit or Special Forces selection, instead I’m going to tell you why you don’t want those plans. And for those of you who are actually thinking about attempting selection into one of the various special groups, here’s some things to keep in mind.

For starters, there’s a fair chance that where you’re starting from is different to where a friend of yours might be starting from. While the testing you may go through will ultimately be the same, how you get there, and what you need to focus on will be different.

If You Have a Power Sports Background

If you’ve competed in football (American football to non-U.S. based readers), then you’re likely quite big and strong. Likewise, if you’ve done field events like discus or shot put or competed in lifting sports like powerlifting or weightlifting, then you’ll have some aspects of the testing nailed down already and will likely cruise through pack marching as the weights will seem like nothing to you. But, you’re also likely to think that anything over 100m is a long-distance run and you probably haven’t trained over five reps in years.
I have bad news for you. You will need to get used to running and doing high-rep bodyweight conditioning. As an example, until only a short while ago it was a mile run to and from the beach to the chow hall for BUD/S candidates to eat. That adds up to six miles (10km) of running each day – just to eat. There is also a timed run of four miles on sand in wet boots and pants. (Standard time is 32 minutes, which equates to 8min/mi or 5min/km). Add in that bigger guys will sink into the sand more, and that running on sand expends 63% more energy and you have your work cut out for you.

Boot camp

Your plan for the next six to twelve months should be to forgo a lot of the heavy weight you’ve been lifting. Focus on the things you’re not good at, as it will take some time to build endurance. Don’t worry about losing some muscle. It’s only slowing you down anyway.
If You Have an Endurance Background

This is the other end of the spectrum. Chances are you run quite fast and swim like a fish. The SEALs often say that what they’re looking for are triathletes. Yet most triathletes I know are so puny they can’t do a single pull up, and with many organizations having minimum standards of twenty or more pull ups, you’ve got some work to do.
While your heart and lungs may be well conditioned and you won’t struggle at all on the timed runs, you may suffer badly during PT. Most endurance athletes are seriously lacking in upper-body strength and will need to focus all their attention on gaining enough muscle and strength to get through even the basic physical standards. While they may lose a small amount of running speed, the extra warmth created by being a bit bigger will help them when it comes to being cold for long periods of time, as well.

If this is you, you’re going to need to work on strength. Some good ol’ fashioned 5×5 of squats, deadlifts, and bench press will become your new best friend, along with doing pull ups constantly. Don’t be surprised if it takes a year or more to develop the necessary strength to go with your ample endurance. Don’t neglect running entirely during this time, but you only need to do enough to keep your speed and endurance, which may be as little as two shorts runs during the week and one longer run on a weekend.

Run, Run, and Run Some More

Any military training plan that is minimal on running you don’t need to waste your time with. If you have a firm running base, and are only heading to basic/recruit training, then you may be able to get away with that. But if you’re looking to get into any of the “special” groups, then you need to run, run, and run some more.

Run, run and run

A quick look at the Australian 2nd Commando Regiment suggested training plan shows a dedication to running at least twice per week, as well as swims and pack marches. But remember, this is the bare minimum and the Commandos expect candidates to add their own training on top of this to address their own weaknesses. If you are aiming for the SEAL teams, then add in that you need to be able to run six miles daily just to eat, and figure out if that is enough running for you.

In the 8 Weeks to SEALFit plan, Mark Divine sets out a great training plan that shows exactly how important running is to those wishing to enter Special Forces selection. The baseline/break-in plan that is comprised of four weeks of training performed over five days has fourteen runs in a possible maximum of twenty sessions. In the actual Advanced Operator Training eight-week plan, there is running on every single day except two (46 workouts out of a possible of 48). That should give you a clue as to how important running is.

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