There is a good reason they named part of US Navy SEAL training Hell Week --only 25% of candidates make it through. And that's only one phase of the three phases required to become a certified US Navy SEAL. Earning the Special Warfare insignia, or SEAL Trident, is one of the toughest achievements in the American military. Most gung-ho applicants who grow up with dreams of becoming a SEAL don't realize just how grueling that journey will be. In fact, if those young dreamers were more aware of the brutal testing and training that SEALs go through, they might just pick a different career to fantasize about.
Although the animal version of seals are comfortable on both land and in the water, Navy SEALs aren’t actually named after them. Instead, SEAL is an acronym that stands for Sea, Air, and Land, and SEALs are trained to take part in missions in any earthly terrain. Because of this, SEAL training is long, brutal, and covers a wide range of specialties from underwater drills to explosives and weapons handling. Upon graduation, Navy SEALs will be experts in all manner of military techniques and equipment—that is, as long as they decide to voluntarily DOR (Drop On Request).
To even start the path toward becoming a US Navy SEAL, trainees must pass a physical “entry exam” that the vast majority of Americans would flunk. After intensive medical screening that eliminates a high number of candidates, would-be SEALs face a tough physical test. For each of the tasks, minimum scores must be exceeded in order to enter SEAL training, but candidates are advised to aim for the “competitive” standards to give themselves the best chance of proceeding.
For this first test, the standard scores include completing a 500-yard swim in nine minutes or less, 90 or more push-ups and sit-ups in two minutes each, eighteen pull-ups, and a 1.5 mile run in combat boots in 9:30 or less. These tasks must be done consecutively, with minimal rest time in between.
Once potential Navy SEALs complete their Physical Screening Test and successfully enter the training program, they’re rewarded with a trip to Preparatory School and more grueling tests of endurance. To move on from the preparatory stage, individuals must swim 1000 meters with fins in 20 minutes or less and run four miles in boots and pants in 31 minutes or less, along with tests involving push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups. Those who fail are eliminated from the SEAL program and reclassified to other Navy positions.
Approximately only 12% of all potential Navy SEAL candidates make it as far as Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training, or BUD/S. The core component of SEAL training, BUD/S lasts for 24 weeks and consists of brutal physical exercises, including carrying telephone poles in groups and plenty of ocean-based endurance training. Trainees aren’t just training their bodies, however, as they’re also required to learn about tactics, strategy, and other subjects while pushing themselves to their physical limits. Only by completing BUD/S does a prospective SEAL even get the chance to enter SEAL Qualification Training, or SQT.
SEAL training requires a lot of swimming, but the program goes to extreme lengths to ensure that potential SEALs are comfortable in the water at all times—even in excessively distressing situations. Trainees are required to undergo “drown proofing,” in which they must learn to swim underwater with their arms and legs bound. They’re also required to float for five consecutive minutes while bound. The goal is teach prospective SEALs that they can swim their way out of trouble in even the most intense of scenarios.