Think you have what it takes to be a Navy SEAL (Sea, Air, Land)? First, sorry girls, you must be male, and an active-duty member of the Navy with adequate preparatory training – no chaplains or clerks. You must also be 28 or younger and have good eyesight and immense determination.
SEAL training is fierce and sustained. It takes many months to train a SEAL to the point at which he is deployment-ready.
Keen to have a go? First, here’s a taste of the rigors that wannabe SEALs face in the vital first 6-month BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) phase conducted at the Naval Special Warfare Training Center in Coronado, California. Consider these seven iron man-style tests performed after the initial five-week “indoctrination” designed to promote the right mindset.
1. Swim 500 yards in 12 minutes or less. Experts agree that contenders should always shoot to beat the minimum requirement.
2. Do at least 42 push-ups in under two minutes. Again, a wannabe SEAL will aim to do more than the minimum.
3. Run at least 4 miles in 28 minutes in boots.
4. Complete a lung-busting 50-meter underwater swim.
5. Take a swimming pool “drown-proofing test”. That means dropping from the surface to the bottom then bobbing back up, with your hands and feet bound. Also, you must retrieve an object from the bottom with your teeth.
6. Tie a knot underwater. Make that “knots”: the bowline, square knot, weaver’s knot, clove hitch and right angle: hard enough to do on dry land.
7. Undergo “cold water conditioning”. Also called “surf torture”, it means lying flat in the bone-chilling surf that makes recruits shiver and gasp.
8. Brainpower: Ultimate success usually goes to the smart, silent candidates with heart – enormous staying power. Through their steely determination, they overcome fear and pain – make the brain ignore the body’s pleading, in step with the core SEAL belief in mind over matter.
The pressure, which could crush a professional tri-athlete, peaks during Hell Week: five and a half days of around-the-clock training that drives half of trainees to quit.
Cold, wet and hungry, trainees are kept constantly moving. One ordeal – or “evolution” to use SEAL jargon – “log PT” forces makeshift boat crews to carry shoulder-shredding logs weighing 150 lb (68 kg).
Despite consuming up to 7,000 calories a day, as the stress ratchets up, trainees lose weight. Granted almost no sleep, they teeter on the brink of exhaustion, caked in mud that covers uniforms, hands and faces. Sand chafes raw skin and stings bloodshot eyes.
Beat the bell
Besides the physical discomfort, the borderline zombies have to negotiate mind games played by psyched-up instructors firing blanks from M-60 machine guns and yelling through bullhorns. Demoralized trainees are free to “Drop-On-Request” (DOR) and admit defeat by ringing the brass boot camp bell. Some just collapse, felled by ailments including pneumonia, then are fielded by medics awaiting emergencies.
Few make it through BUD/S. Some sources peg the figure as low as 10 per cent. Survivors are well-placed to go all the way but still face stiff challenges. Think counterterrorism training, parachuting and extreme cold-weather survival in Kodiak, Alaska, among other things.
Successful completion supposedly proves that the human body can achieve 10 times more than the average man dreams possible. Graduates are primed to tackle any task they could be assigned. Lives rest on their versatility.
Sometimes, as in August when 22 SEALs died after a Taliban rocket-propelled grenade downed their helicopter, nightmares unfold. Still, navy SEALs are considered some of the world’s best-trained troops, credited with taking out Osama Bin Laden, among other feats that give them reason to cheer. Hooyah!