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How To Become a Navy SEAL?

how to become a navy seal

To anyone who has earned a navy SEAL Trident pin, it’s the membership to an exclusive community that not many people can say they are a part of. These pins are only granted to those individuals who’ve endured the necessary training and mental toughness to become one of the world’s elite combat specialists. A Navy SEAL.

The military uses a lot of acronyms, and it’s no different in the navy. SEAL stands for sea, air, and land and acknowledges the ability to wage war in almost any setting. When you sign up for the challenge of a lifetime, you can’t expect that every day will be the same. The one thing that remains constant is the mental and physical pressure and exhaustion.

So, let’s dive into my in-depth guide on How To Become a Navy SEAL and see if you have what it takes!

how to become a navy seal

What Does It Mean To Be A Navy SEAL?

Becoming a SEAL is not for everyone, which is why only 25% of the starting class successfully makes it through BUDS training. Every year about 1000 candidates enroll in the training program. Of those 1000, only 250 succeed. Often the numbers are even lower than this.

There are a total of nine active-duty SEAL teams stationed across thirty different locations around the world. To be accepted as a SEAL, you will have to be the best of the best. Navy SEAL training takes a total of 61 weeks from start to finish. Even after you’ve joined a SEAL team, there will be an additional year or more of training before your first deployment.

How To Become A Navy SEAL?

You must enlist in the Navy before you can apply to become a SEAL. Fortunately, you can do both at the same time by asking for a SEAL Challenge Contract to indicate this is your chosen path. This will speed the process up rather than enlisting first and applying to become a SEAL later.

Here is an outline of what the steps look like for someone to obtain their Navy SEAL trident pin.

The steps involved are

1 Physical Screening Test (PST)

2 Complete Naval Special Warfare Preparatory School (8 weeks)

3 BUD/S – Basic Underwater Demolition/Seal Training (24 weeks)

  • BUD/S orientation (3 weeks)
  • Phase 1 – Physical conditioning (7 weeks)
  • Phase 2 – Combat diving (7 weeks)
  • Phase 3 – Land warfare (7 weeks)

4 Parachute Jump School (3 weeks)

5 SEAL Qualification Training (26 weeks)

6 SEAL Troop Training (52 weeks)

Physical Screening Test (PST)

To even qualify to be accepted onto the SEAL training course, the applicant must be a US citizen and a minimum of 18 years old and no older than 30 years of age. In addition, all candidates must have at minimum 20/70 vision, corrected to 20/25, with no prior history of drug abuse and a clean criminal record.

The minimum and recommended physical requirements on the PST are as follows:

  • A 500-yard swim in under 12½ minutes – recommended standard 8-9 minutes.
  • 50 push-ups in under two minutes – recommended standard 80-100.
  • 50 sit-ups in under two minutes – recommended standard 80-100.
  • 10 pull-ups in under two minutes – recommended standard 15-20.
  • A 1.5 mile run in under 11 minutes – recommended standard 9 ½ minutes.

Hitting the minimum requirements will likely not be good enough. The highest scores on the PST will get selected for Naval Special Warfare prep school first. You’ll need to be reaching the recommended standards or beyond, to give yourself a competitive chance. Now you have a general idea of what it takes to qualify for training; I’ll now go into the details of each remaining stage.

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Naval Special Warfare Preparatory School (NSW Prep)

Once you’ve passed the PST, you’ll start an eight-week stint at the Naval Special Warfare Preparatory School. This part of SEAL training is primarily focused on improving your physical readiness for the next part of the course – the Basic Underwater Demolition/Seal Training.

By the end of the eight weeks, to be eligible for BUD/S training, you will have to complete a modified version of the PST, which includes:

  • A 1000-yard swim with fins in under 20 minutes.
  • 70 push-ups in under two minutes.
  • 60 sit-ups in under two minutes.
  • 10 pull-ups in under two minutes.
  • A four mile run in under 31 minutes, wearing pants and boots.

Basic Underwater Demolition/Seal Training (BUD/ST)

If you passed the modified PST test, it’s on to the third stage of SEAL training, BUD/S. This is comprised of an orientation period and then three phases.

How to become a Navy SEAL – BUD/S Orientation?

Candidates will spend 21 days getting introduced to BUD/S. During this phase, each will be exposed to physical training, swimming, obstacle courses, and other unique aspects of SEAL training.

Phase 1: BUD/S Physical Conditioning

Candidates will endure seven weeks of training to enhance physical conditioning. This will include various activities such as teamwork events, water fitness, physical conditioning, and improving mental capacity.

Participants will complete daily runs on the beach, water calisthenics and participate in teams, also known as boat crews. This will require them to work in conjunction with one another to build team morale.

So many dropouts in the first phase!

Since these events and exercises are timed, it increases the level of pressure. As a result, it is often during this phase that a large number of candidates voluntarily drop out of the program by putting in their Drop On Request (DOR).

If this occurs, the individual is required to drop their training helmet on the ground next to a brass pole. They then ring the bell at the top of the pole three times to signify they are quitting.

how to become navy seals

Weeding out the weak…

As the week’s progress, everyone becomes increasingly exhausted, beginning to break down mentally. This can make simple tasks much more difficult, especially when co-operating with team members. The training is set up specifically to filter out weak-minded individuals, which is exactly what the Navy want’s when trying to qualify SEALS.

The first three weeks of this phase will condition everyone for the fourth week, also known as Hell Week. This may be the most publically known phrase associated with the Navy SEALs because it is talked about by so many active SEALs as the most difficult part of the training.

The Infamous “HELL WEEK”

Hell week is designed to test everything you’ve learned up to this point over the course of a grueling 5½ day period. It focuses on your mental tenacity, water competency, physical training, and teamwork skills.

Throughout hell week, each participant will only get an average of five hours of sleep. In addition to this, they will run, swim and paddle more than 200 miles, whilst competing in physical training exercises for at least 20 hours per day.

It really is your own personal hell!

They are fed at least three meals per day to ensure proper nutrition, but this week is more about testing mental strength than anything else. The test of hell week will tell the Navy what someone is truly capable of enduring when everything else is stripped from them. It’s supposed to replicate as close as possible, the conditions you might encounter in a war zone.

Of the remaining candidates who survive hell week, the remaining three weeks of phase one involve daily physical conditioning, along with learning how to conduct hydrographic surveys and charting.

Phase 2: Combat Diving

This is another seven-week training period that focuses on aquatic operations. Similar to the previous phase, the tasks at hand become increasingly difficult as the weeks progress. The areas of focus are specifically diving physics, combat SCUBA, and underwater skills. You don’t have to be SCUBA diving qualified, but you should have some experience or understanding before attending.

You’ll learn open and closed circuit SCUBA diving techniques and have to complete a pool competency test. This will test your ability to stay calm in high-pressure underwater situations when things are going badly wrong. Outside of Hell Week, this can be one of the most challenging tests on the course. You’ll also be required to complete an untimed six-mile ocean swim.

how to become the navy seal guide

Phase 3: Land Warfare

This stage is also seven weeks in duration and covers topics including:

  • Patrolling.
  • Navigation.
  • Demolitions.
  • Marksmanship.
  • Basic Weapons Training.
  • Rappelling.
  • Other combat tactics.

Land warfare has the lowest dropout rate as it is way less demanding. The candidates that progress to this stage have already shown strong dedication.

It doesn’t get any easier…

The final three weeks of this phase are conducted remotely, sixty miles offshore on San Clemente Island, with each day becoming increasingly longer. The level of stress also rises as training progresses.

Candidates are pushed to new limits whilst receiving limited hours of sleep, all while handling live ammunition and explosives. The overall goal of these weeks is to teach candidates to combine all aspects of their training to complete their mission.

You think you’re finished?

Finally, to pass this phase, students are required to complete another round of physical conditioning tests. You’ll have to be fitter than ever, as these will include runs of 10-15 miles, 3-4 mile swims, and a 20-mile march with full gear on San Clemente.

So that’s BUD/S training completed. The next obstacle is parachute jump school.

Parachute Jump School

It’s off to San Diego for three weeks to learn static line and freefall skydiving. To pass this course, students must complete multiple jumps, including night jumps, often falling from minimum heights of 9500 feet.

SEAL Qualification Training (SQT)

Lasting 26 weeks in total, SEAL Qualification Training is the longest and final training stage for a Navy SEAL student. The goal of SQT is to bring candidates to the next level of combat training, taking their tactical training from the basic fundamentals to an advanced level.

The candidates form teams and are exposed to topics of training, including:

  • Medical Skills
  • Cold Climate Training
  • Demolitions
  • Land Navigation
  • Small Unit Tactics
  • Maritime Operation
  • Extra Weapons Training

You will also spend a lot of time in the classroom studying intelligence gathering and how to plan missions as a team, from insertion through to extraction.

Seal Troop Training

If you’ve made it this far, you will now receive orders to join a SEAL team and undergo a further 12-18 months of advanced training. Additional classes and training include:

  • The SEAL Sniper Course.
  • Advanced Air Operations.
  • Training in Advanced Demolitions.
  • Advanced Special Operations.

Two additional areas of training include unit-level training and task group-level training. Unit level training allows each SEAL to train in their core mission area, whilst task group level training allows them to specialize even further on the unit level training they received.

By the end of SEAL troop training, you are a fully qualified Navy SEAL ready to put everything you’ve learned into action in your first deployment.

Do You Have What It Takes, Soldier?

Firstly, let’s start with our Does The Marine Corps Accept Felons, Does The Army Accept Felons, and Can Felons Join The National Guard, and check out our What Military Branch Accepts Felons, and Government Agencies With Remote Jobs And Flexible Work, for further options.

Why not read personal experiences of Navy Seals who have been through ‘Hell Week’ and survived! Check out The Making of a Navy SEAL: My Story of Surviving the Toughest Challenge and Training the Best, and The Finishing School: Earning the Navy SEAL Trident, or what about SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper and the fascinating Navy SEAL Training Class 144: My BUD/S Journal.

Most importantly, if you’re not sure whether you have what it takes, we highly recommend reading Hell Week and Beyond: The Making of a Navy SEAL and The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday: Making Navy SEALs, or how about the Damn Few: Making the Modern SEAL Warrior, or The Way of the SEAL: Think like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed and First, Fast, Fearless: How to Lead Like a Navy SEAL all available online in 2023.

Final Thoughts

Do you think you have what it takes to get through such a rigorous training program? The only way to fully answer that question is to give it a shot.

Many candidates possess the physical attributes to become a Navy SEAL, but do they have the mental fortitude to make it through the program? Most qualified SEALS will tell you that the mental side of the game is the most important.

So, maintain a positive mindset along with your training, and it could take you all the way.

Good luck, and I hope you survive your Navy SEAL Training!

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About Carmen Smith

Carmen grew up in San Diago but now lives in Boston. She loves traveling, experiencing other cultures, and basically exploring the world, be country at a time.

Her other passion is helping people find the perfect career. We spend 33% of our working lives at work, so it's ridiculous that many people do jobs that they do not enjoy. Carmen wants to change this and thinks that anyone who isn't happy in their employment should keep looking until they find something that they really enjoy. 

She firmly believes that "Everyone's perfect job is out there; it's just a case of continually looking until you find it."

Carmen lives with her husband Johnny, a keen birder who also loves to travel. He finds birds while Carmen makes plans for where they will be eating next...

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