• In July, the first female sailor successfully completed a special naval warfare selection and training pipeline to become a commando team.
  • The sailor will become a crew member of Special Warfare Combatant-Craft, one of the smaller special operations career areas.
  • Here is the rigorous training the sailor has undergone, including the arduous final test.

In July, the first female sailor passed a special naval warfare selection and training pipeline to become a commando.

Naval Special Warfare – comprised of Navy SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen – is the maritime component of the United States Special Operations Command.

The anonymous sailor graduated from the SWCC Selection and Training Pipeline and joined the Special Boat Teams.

‘On time, on target, never give up’

Naval Special Warfare SWCC Hungary Danube

Hungarian Special Operations Forces and U.S. Navy Special Warfare Operators train for infiltration and exfiltration into the Danube on May 5, 2021.

US Army / CPS. Therese Prats

SWCCs specialize in direct action maritime operations; special recognition; Visiting, boarding, search and seizure operations; and the insertion and extraction of other special operations units, such as SEALs, Army Special Forces and Marine Raiders.

The SWCC community is one of the smaller special operations career areas and is made up of less than 1,000 operators, all of whom are enlisted sailors. Officers of the Navy SEAL occupy the officer positions of the unit.

There are three Special Boat Teams – SBT 12, 20, 22 – that specialize in river and blue water operations, while the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (formerly known as SEAL Team 6) has a A dedicated SWCC squadron, known as the Gray Squadron, which regularly conducts SWCC missions and maritime counterterrorism operations.

The pipeline

Special War Combat Crew Member

Instructors watch a Basic Crew Member Training student demonstrate knotting skills during waterbending training at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, Aug. 5, 2008.

US Navy / PO2 Christopher Menzie

The road to becoming a SWCC is not easy. About 65% to 75% of those who start it fail the 40-week process, which is divided into four main phases.

First comes Naval Special Warfare Prep, where SWCC and SEAL candidates head to after training camp to prepare for the physical rigors of selection.

Next is NSW Basic Orientation, a three-week course that introduces candidates to the particular evolutions they will encounter, such as soft sand tracks, obstacle course and open water swimming.

The third is Basic Crew Training, a seven-week selection that is equivalent to the first phase of the Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL Course. BCT and First Phase are where the majority of applicants give up and end their dreams of joining Naval Special Warfare.

Special War Combat Crew Member

Basic crew member training students conduct a dump boat exercise at Coronado Amphibious Naval Base, July 23, 2008.

US Navy

BCT candidates undergo upgrades such as timed races, timed swims, obstacle course, water rescue and physical log training. Familiarization and vessel operations, such as day and night navigation and towing and anchoring drills, are also a large part of the BCT, as SWCCs live and die near their boats.

The BCT is an increasingly difficult process, with “test gates” that ensure that only those who can meet SWCC standards will graduate.

These test gates are a 3 mile race on hard sand in less than 24 minutes, a swim in the mile long ocean in less than 45 minutes, a race through the obstacle course of approximately 800 to 1,000 yards in 20 minutes or less, and passing basic water survival and water rescue tests.

In addition to the physical test gates, applicants must pass academic exams in subjects such as navigation, chart plotting, and boat assembly.

The BCT ends with a final crucible which pushes the candidates to their absolute limits: the “Tour”.


Crew member of a special combat ship of war

Crew member qualification training students took to the surf before medical training in Coronado on September 10, 2008.

US Navy Mp2 Christopher Menzie

During the 72 hour evolution known as the Tour, SWCC candidates undergo constant physical and training evolutions. In addition to the timed races, they run everywhere, racking up tens of miles at the end of the evolution and swimming nearly 5 miles in total.

But at the heart of the Tour is a series of team building evolutions that test the candidates’ ability and aptitude to work in a close-knit team environment.

“The Tour is a test to ensure that only those who really want to graduate will graduate. But it’s also the icing on the cake – selection is much more than the Tour and, depending on who you ask, [the Tour is] not necessarily the hardest part, ”one SWCC operator told Insider.

For many candidates, it’s the daily routine and the realization that it’s not a sprint but a marathon that makes them give up.

Watching high-speed recruiting videos from the comfort of your living room is one thing, but when you’re submerged in freezing water at 2 a.m. and have to wake up at 4 a.m. for another day in hell, only the inner fire will make you pass.

Special War Combat Crew Member

A Special Warfare Combatant-Craft crew member reloads a .50 Caliber M2HB machine gun during live fire exercises at Ft. Knox River Training Field, August 11, 2008.

US Navy / M1 Kathryn Whittenberger

“At this point, those who won’t give up, no matter what gets through the Tour – unless they’re injured, it always sucks to lose a good guy to an injury – for them it is ‘is just another development, even though this one comes from the cold depths of hell, “said the SWCC operator.

“For those who have questioned themselves, the Tour is the ultimate test: ‘How much do you really want? Are you ready to endure three days of non-stop hits for your dream?” “Added the operator. .

Completing the Tour and obtaining the BCT diploma is not the end of the process.

BCT graduates are then required to successfully complete the Crewman Qualification Training, a 14-week course that focuses on advanced aspects of the SWCC profession, such as marine engineering, heavy weapons handling, and communications.

Candidates then move on to Survival, evasion, resistance and evasion training before graduating and joining an operational team.

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a Special Operations Defense Journalist, Hellenic Army Veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ) and graduate of Johns Hopkins University.


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