Navy SEALS: Unknown Facts and the Crazy Things They Do
While TV shows like Hawaii Five-O make the skills of a Navy SEAL seem effortless — Lieutenant Commander Steve McGarrett does look darn good pulling off some unbelievable stunts — the reality is that being a Navy SEAL requires bravery that borders on crazy. Fortunately, a few of the best American soldiers are up to the challenge.
The training itself is intense and deadly, and the job only gets more dangerous and more challenging from there. Navy SEALs are the most elite members of the military because they have to be the best to survive.
The Speech That Started It All
It was President John F. Kennedy who started the Navy SEALs. On May 15, 1961, he gave a speech to Congress that changed military operations forever. As a Navy veteran himself, he knew that given the right resources, the military could put together an elite group of soldiers to conduct special missions.
No Women Until 2016
For the longest time, women weren’t allowed to train to be Navy SEALs. The restriction was never meant to be discriminatory — it was simply practical. Initially, it wasn’t possible to accommodate the different needs of women in terms of housing and operations.
A.K.A. The Budweiser
Officially called the "Special Warfare Insignia," a special gold symbol is worn on the Navy SEAL uniform. The name comes from the specialized training that the trainees have to endure. It used to come in two colors — gold and silver — to distinguish different rankings for officers and enlisted personnel.
Not Just Water Missions
Although most people think of water-related missions when they think of Navy SEALs, these special troops actually have all types of missions. The term SEAL stands for sea, air and land. Missions in the air are sometimes HALOs (High Altitude-Low Opening jumps).
Extremely High Failure Rate
The objective of the training to become a Navy SEAL is to find the absolute best candidates. These special teams carry great responsibility on their shoulders, and it requires stellar people to fill the role. For that reason, the training weeds out a whopping 80% of trainees in the very first stages of testing.
Training for Public Viewing
Nearly everything about Navy SEALs is top secret. They can't tell you what they do, where they go, what they do or anything at all about their work life. Considering all the secrecy, it’s surprising that one part of becoming a Navy SEAL can be viewed by the public.
Training with Waterboarding
Waterboarding used to be a part of the training process for Navy SEALs. This terrifying test is used to simulate the feeling of drowning. For SEALs, it was supposed to be about building endurance, but the technique was very controversial because it’s also used by terrorists as a torture method to get information.
Psychological Training Tactics
In order to endure such violence and horror, SEALs have to train their minds to process fear in a manageable way. They have to remain calm in the worst of situations if they are going to be effective teammates, keep each other safe and complete their missions.
In order to start the training to become a SEAL, a candidate first has to pass a series of physical tests. First, he must complete a 500-yard swim in less than 12:30. Then, he must complete 50 push-ups in two minutes and 50 sit-ups in two minutes. Next comes 10 consecutive pull-ups in two minutes. Finally, he needs to run 1.5 miles in less than 10:30.
After going through prep school — the name for the first section of Navy SEAL training — the trainees are faced with a grueling final test. The first part tests their swimming abilities, and they have to swim 1,000 meters with fins on in less than 20 minutes.
Known as BUD/S, Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training is the next step in becoming a SEAL. This brutal 24-week course physically trains the soldiers while teaching them about tactics, strategy and other techniques.
SEAL members must be prepared to endure any sticky situation that could present itself while on a water mission. As part of their training, they are taught how to swim with both their legs and arms tied up. In order to prove they have learned the skill correctly, they have to float for five minutes while tied up.
The final part of phase one of the BUD/S training program is what is known as "Hell Week." This is a very accurate description of the five-day ordeal. The trainees are put through almost endless physical tasks and are only allowed a total of four hours of sleep.
BUD/S Phase Two: Combat Diving
During part two of BUD/S, trainees are taught to deal with even more stressful water-based situations. They have to endure a very long 2-mile swim, and they have to deal with random "attacks" from their training officers designed to mimic real possible dangers in the water.
BUD/S Phase Three: Land Warfare
The next and final phase of BUD/S teaches trainees how to conduct combat on land. They learn all about rappelling, weapons handling and demolitions. After that training is complete, they are put to the test in a real-life simulation.
The final piece of the SEAL puzzle is air combat. Trainees must learn how to operate missions that start in the air. For air mission training, they are led through a series of airplane jumps that become more and more intense.
Final Course and Training
At this point, only 10% of the original recruits are left, and those who made it still have one last 26-week course to complete before they receive their own training for specific missions. This 26-week course is known as SEAL Qualification Training, or SQT.
More Deaths in Training Than in Combat
Being a Navy SEAL is obviously a very dangerous job, but it’s statistically more dangerous to go through the training process than to go on a deadly mission. In the last three years, more soldiers have died during training than from being in the field.
Full-Scale Practice Simulation
The mission that SEAL Team Six is best known for is the killing of Osama bin Laden. The mission was called "Operation Neptune Spear." In order to prepare for it, they built a full-scale replica of the compound where Osama bin Laden was hiding.
More Than 2.5 Years of Training
In its entirety, SEAL training can take up to two and a half years. It’s a serious commitment to train to become a Navy SEAL, but it’s not just about the time spent in training. It’s about being able to handle the physical and emotional brutality that comes with the job.
SEAL Team Six and a Name to Deceive
At the time of its most renowned mission, there were only three SEAL teams, but the leader of SEAL Team Six, Richard Marcinko, named it number six because he wanted the Russians to think there were more than just three teams. There was also a bit of controversy surrounding the way Marcinko found funds to support the team.
SEAL/CIA: The Omega Program
SEAL Team Six wasn’t recognized by the government, as it was supposed to be a secret group. Regardless, it’s no secret that during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, SEAL Team Six participated in tasks that combined being a soldier with being a spy.
SEAL Team Six saw a giant increase in funding that has resulted in a huge expansion — and by huge, we mean more than 1,800 people! While this might initially sound like a good thing because more people means more work gets done, but many fear that such an expansion has led to the group having too much freedom.
SEAL Team Six Weapons
One of the weapons used by SEAL teams is the Russian-made AK-47. It’s known to be reliable in almost every situation, which is critical for use in combat. SEALs have also used a new customized German-made rifle, and they put suppressors on their guns in order to make them quieter and less noticeable when they are fired.
Other Special Military Teams
There are eight SEAL teams in total that are numbered one to 10 and split into two groups. Group one has the odd numbers and group two has the even numbers. Navy SEALs are probably the most well-known special operatives in the military, but they aren’t the only military specialists.
Michael A. Monsoor
A hero to his entire team, Michael A. Monsoor sacrificed his life in order to save his friends. His platoon was sent to Iraq to train Iraqi soldiers. While there, they were faced with frequent attacks from insurgents. One day, while on a rooftop with his fellow SEALs, an insurgent threw a live grenade at them.
One of the most well-known snipers is Chris Kyle. He earned the nickname "The Devil" among the Iraqi soldiers because of his 150 confirmed kills. He released an autobiography called American Sniper in 2012, and a movie was made based on the book.
Killing Ratio in Vietnam
The central part of being a Navy SEAL is being really good at your job. The mental part of the job is even more difficult because almost all successful missions must be kept secret and aren’t publicized. However, one known success of the Navy SEALs is that during the Vietnam war, Seal Team One and Seal Team Two had a combined kill ratio of 200 to 1.
After 9/11, the number of SEALs skyrocketed. This tragic day led to an increase in the need for SEAL activity all over the world, and the Navy needed new members to fill the new roles. For example, SEAL Team Six only had 90 people before 9/11. After the terrorist attack, the roster had 300 people on the team.
Navy SEALs also have dog sidekicks that they use on missions. The favorite breed of dog for Navy SEALs is the Belgian Malinois also known as a War Dog. This breed of dog is very intelligent and perfect for the dangerous missions they go on with soldiers.