Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen

The Navy's Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCC, pronounced "swick") operate and maintain the inventory of state-of-the-art, high-performance boats used to support SEALs and special operations missions. Individually, SEALs and SWCC go through separate, but similar, specialized training programs that emphasize special operations in the maritime environment. SWCC are trained extensively in craft and weapons tactics, techniques and procedures. Focusing on clandestine infiltration and exfiltration of SEALs and other special operations forces, SWCC provide dedicated, rapid mobility in shallow water areas where large ships cannot operate. Like SEALs, SWCC must be physically fit, highly motivated, combat-focused and responsive in high stress situations.


Special Boat Teams can trace their history back to WWII. The Patrol Coastal and Patrol Boat Torpedo. Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron THREE rescued General MacArthur (and later the Filipino President) from the Philippines after the Japanese invasion and then participated in guerrilla actions until American resistance ended with the fall of Corregidor. PT Boats subsequently participated in most of the campaigns in the Southwest Pacific by conducting and supporting joint/combined reconnaissance, blockade, sabotage, and raiding missions as well as attacking Japanese shore facilities, shipping, and combatants. PT Boats were used in the European Theater beginning in April 1944 to support the OSS in the insertions of espionage and French Resistance personnel and for amphibious landing deception. While there is no direct line between organizations, NSW embracement is predicated on the similarity in craft and mission.

The development of a robust riverine warfare capability during the Vietnam War produced the forerunner of the modern Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewman. Mobile Support Teams provided combat craft support for SEAL operations, as did Patrol Boat, Riverine (PBR) and Swift Boat sailors. In February 1964, Boat Support Unit ONE was established under Naval Operations Support Group, Pacific to operate the newly reinstated Patrol Torpedo Fast (PTF) program and to operate high-speed craft in support of NSW forces. In late 1964 the first PTFs arrived in Danang, Vietnam. In 1965, Boat Support Squadron ONE began training Patrol Craft Fast crews for Vietnamese coastal patrol and interdiction operations. As the Vietnam mission expanded into the riverine environment, additional craft, tactics, and training evolved for riverine patrol and SEAL support.

SWCC detachments have participated in nearly every major conflict since then, particularly in the Persian Gulf theatre during the 1987-1988 period of conflict and the 1991 Persian Gulf War to the more recent Global War on Terrorism.

SWCC are now recognized as masters of a special subset of maritime Special Operations, and employ their specialized training, equipment, and tactics conducting missions worldwide, both independently and in support of US and foreign Special Operations Forces (SOF).

The Special Boat Operator (SB) Rating

The Global War on Terrorism was the impetus for several important changes in the NSW community. One of these many changes was the creation of a new SB rating system for SWCCs, allowing them to focus on their unique skill sets, avoid limitations imposed by the old regime of "source ratings", reach consensus and unity within their knowledge base, and enjoy advancement opportunities on par with the rest of the Navy.

The Special Warfare Combatant Crewman (SWCC) Warfare Specialty

Another important development was the recognition of the knowledge, skills, and training of SWCC crewmen as a warfare specialty, represented by the NEC 5351 and later denoted by the award of a military device or service badge.

For a brief period qualified sailors were awarded no device; POIC-qualified sailors wore the Small Craft Insignia originally created for and worn by Riverine Sections during the Vietnam War. still earlier than this, the Small Craft Pin was worn by those with the 9533 NEC. Many other units within the Navy awarded the small craft badge, and there was controversy regarding the original intent associated with its creation. The matter has been somewhat settled as the small craft badge has recently been awarded only to Conventional Riverine units under the NECC and SWCC POICs, who wear it in addition to the SWCC device.


To become a Special Warfare Craft Crewman, a service member must apply and be accepted to special programs, pass SWCC Basic Crewman Training school, and pass other schools such as SERE. Following this, they undergo Crewman Qualification Training (CQT) concurrently with a probationary period.

SWCC Basic Crewman Training (BCT)

Instructors of the SWCC Basic Crewman Training course train, develop, and assess SWCC candidates in physical conditioning, water competency, teamwork, and mental tenacity. This course starts with a two-week indoctrination. The SWCC Basic Crewman Training is five weeks long. Physical conditioning with running, swimming, and calisthenics grows harder as the weeks progress. Students abilities, mental fortitude and teamwork skills are tested during an arduous 72 hour long evolution involving little sleep, constant exposure to the elements, underway boat and swimming events, and a test of navigational skills and boat tactics. SWCC students participate in weekly timed runs, timed obstacle course evolutions, pool, bay and ocean swims, and learn small boat seamanship. Upon the completion of SWCC BCT, students advance to Combat Qualification Training.

Crewman Qualification Training (CQT)

Instructors of Crewman Qualification Training (CQT) train, develop, and qualify SWCC candidates in basic weapons, seamanship, first aid, and small unit tactics. This phase of training is fourteen weeks in length. Physical training here is geared to prepare the student to meet the requirements of the operational Special Boat Teams. CQT concentrates on teaching Maritime Navigation, communications, waterborne patrolling techniques, marksmanship and engineering. The student also receives an introduction to the NSW Mission Planning Cycle, enabling him to participate in the planning, briefing, execution, and debriefing of an NSW mission from their tasking, to launch point, and on to their combat objective, where students apply all the techniques they have acquired during training.

Due to the training and prerequisites (such as graduation from the SWCC and SERE schools) involved in qualification, the SWCC is recognized by those within the broader realm of "small boat" oufits of the armed forces as a fairly difficult qualification to obtain.

Due in part to SWCC's extremely difficult training and operating environment, which are somewhat similar to those of their SEAL colleagues, they are qualified to operate jointly with other armed forces (particularly those within USSOCOM such as SEALs, Special Forces, MARSOC and AFSOC) operate in inclement weather and sea state, evade and fight on land as a contingency, and perform maritime special operations missions such as direct action, recon, ship boarding or Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS), and sea-to-land support using a broad array of vessels and armaments.

Further Training

SWCCs invariably receive broad individual and detachment in-house training and attend schools as needed. SWCCs may attend schools related to radio communications, weapons, maritime navigation, outboard and diesel engines, desert survival, air assault, special operations combat medic training, and many other DOD schools according to the needs of their respective Team. SWCCs also receive extensive in-house training in these and other areas on an ongoing basis in order to keep skills fresh and synergies alive.

Combat Medic Training

BLS/Medic Assistant Training:

Combat First Aid, Emergency Response, Emergency Life Support, and medevac skills are of vital importance to the Special Operations Community, who operate far from medical assets and rely on independent capabilities.

However, all SWCCs receive ongoing and repeated in-house training in combat first aid, basic life support, trauma care, and I.V. therapy, arguably conferring on every SWCC the unofficial distinction of being a combat medic by definition. However, the SWCC community generally recognizes these members as "medic assistants" in order to clarify the role of the lead medic, whose primary and consistent function is reinforced by years of training and experience. Every SWCC receives this training. Some, but not all SWCC medics came to NSW from the Hospital Corpsman rating before becoming an SWCC. Thus, while not all Hospital Corpsmen are combat medics, and not all combat medics are Hospital Corpsmen, all SWCCs are by the general definition combat medics- particularly after repeated workup cycles and ongoing training has refined their skills to a level of proficiency congruent with combat medics at large.

Some SWCCs have attended and continue to attend civilian EMT and paramedic courses; these men have enjoyed an ad-hoc, de facto status serving as detachment medics and gone on to become official NSW combat medics.

NSW Combat Medics/ Lead Medics

Within the NSW community, the title of "combat medic" is applied to SB (SWCC) and SO (SEAL) members who have completed NSW combat medic course. These men fall among several rare exceptions to the general rule that "all combat medics are Hospital corpsMen (HMs)". Because of changes leading to the establishment of the SB rating, it is possible for non-corpsmen SWCCs to attend the course, become qualified NSW combat medics, and serve primarily as medics for the rest of their careers within Naval Special Warfare, in addition to their other various functions as a SWCC.

Special Warfare Combat Medics are the primary or lead combat medics in a SWCC detachment. In the past, SEAL Corpsmen served as lead medics in some SWCC detachments and shoreside clinics at Special Boat Teams (SBTs). Normally, smaller detachments pooled the skills of all crewmembers to execute medevacs and treat emergencies. Most recently, SWCCs are taking on the lead medic role through rigorous schools and ongoing training within the SpecWar community.


The Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman insignia (SWCC insignia) is a military qualification badge of the United States Navy which was first conceived in 1996, though the design wasn't approved for wear until 2001. The insignia is authorized for wear by volunteer members of Special Boat Teams (formerly Special Boat Units) under U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command. Candidates must pass the SWCC course (BCT) of instruction at Coronado, California and then complete Crewman Qualification Training (CQT) for their specific Special Boat Unit or Special Boat Team (SBT).


Further Reading

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