09 May 2011

What it takes to be a Navy SEAL

What does it take to be a US Navy SEAL, the likes of whom were sent on the mission to locate and eliminate Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden?


What does it take to be a US Navy SEAL, the likes of whom were sent on the mission to locate and eliminate Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden?

The SEALs, warriors of the Sea, Air and Land, don’t get their job titles easily. To become one of these physical and mental superbeings, you will have to endure a gruelling 30-month training course, including the notorious Hellweek.

Counterterrorism (CT) missions are but a fifth of what SEALs are trained to do. Their mission types also include:

  • Unconventional Warfare (UW): a type of unorthodox, yet smart, strategy in eliminating the threat by use of traps, diversions, demolitions, etc.
  • Foreign Internal Defense (FID): Establishing a relationship with foreign nationals by offering to train foreigners.
  • Direct Action (DA): assaults that include hostage rescues, ambushes and assaults on land and sea targets.
  • Special Reconnaissance (SR): surveillance, observation and to gather intelligence.

Entry requirements

No one becomes a SEAL overnight. Entering the Navy SEAL training programme is voluntary, but you have to pass their basic requirements first.

The requirements include: male, must be an active member of the US Navy, 28 years or younger, a US citizen, excellent vision, must have passed the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery and most importantly, pass this physical screening test:

Exercise Minimum Average Optimum
1. Swim 450m, followed by 10-minute rest 13 minutes 10 minutes 9.5 minutes
2. Push-ups in 2 minutes, followed by 2-minute rest 42 79 100
3. Curl-ups in 2 minutes, followed by 10-minute rest 50 79 100
4. Pull-ups no time limit, followed by 10-minute rest 6 11 25
5. Run 2.4km 12.30 minutes 10.20 minutes 9.20 minutes


If you managed to pass the requirements, the real pain begins. The total training course time period is 30 months, starting off with Basic Underwater Demolition/ SEAL (BUD/S) that lasts seven months.

The BUD/S course is divided into four parts:

  1. Indoctrination
  2. Basic conditioning
  3. SCUBA training
  4. Land-warfare training

At the end of the Basic condition, comes the notoriously well-known Hellweek.

Hellweek is basically a week-long endurance exercise that will test any SEAL wannabe both physically and mentally. The week begins on a Sunday evening and ends on the Friday evening. The trainees are kept constantly moving, and have to endure cold, wet, muddy conditions. It is so severe that medical personnel monitor them constantly.

Some examples of what recruits can expect include carrying a life boat up sand dunes, repetitive push-ups / pull-ups / sit-ups, running and performing unusual workouts in both the sea and mud.

The trainees are also heavily sleep deprived during this week. A total of four hours sleep is all they get for the whole week. The instructers only allow them to sleep long enough until they reach REM and then they forceably wake them.

Mental acuity and being able to follow orders clearly, even under extreme physical and psychological stress, is vital to operating effectively as a SEAL. Thus during BUD/S and Hellweek especially, instructors may deliberately leave out part of an order to see who among the sleep-deprived, brain-fogged recruits picks up on it. Those teams that get the order correct then may earn a small rest - a few minutes extra sleep perhaps.

Approximately 70% of the candidates never make it past BUD/S, and most of them drop out during Hellweek. The BUD/S instructors constantly remind the trainees that they can opt out simply by ringing a shiny brass bell that is on the camp site, for all to hear and see.

Take a look at this footage and ask yourself; “Am I fit enough to become a Navy SEAL?”

(Kyle Boshoff, Health24, May 2011)

(References: US Navy Physical Fitness Guide,,,, News24)

Read more:

Osama bin Laden

A legacy of fear

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