Amid the ongoing social distancing measures affecting the country and the military, the Navy SEAL community just received its newest operators.

SEAL Qualification Training Class 336 graduated on April 15 and its members received the coveted SEAL Trident.

Last month, Naval Special Warfare Basic Training Command decided to suspend some SEAL and Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCC) classes in order to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. A prudent measure considering the battering that NSW students take while going through their respective pipelines. The suspended classes were going through or about to go through the first phases of training, where students are clustered together and before the weeding out of the weak has begun.

During the ceremony, Commander Keith Marinics, the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Basic Training Command Commanding Officer, emphasized the importance of acting with integrity and staying humble and professional throughout their careers regardless if they stay in for an enlistment or for 20 plus years.

CORONADO, Calif. (April 15, 2020) Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Basic Training Command Commanding Officer Cmdr. Keith Marinics addresses members of SEAL Qualification Training Class 336 during their graduation ceremony at NSW Center in Coronado, Calif., April 15. Marinics told the graduates to never forget the importance of always acting with humility, professionalism and integrity. The ceremony was limited to students and staff, and implemented other CDC guidelines to the extent applicable as part of NSW Center’s proactive approach to combat COVID-19. NSW Basic Training Command falls under NSW Center, which provides initial and advanced training to the Sailors who make up the Navy’s SEAL and Special Boat Teams. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anthony W. Walker/Released) 

The rigors that Special Operations selection courses place on the bodies and minds of candidates are immense. It’s not just the seemingly endless physical activities but also the sleep deprivation that takes a toll on the students’ immune systems.

You can come close to replicating this feeling, if only briefly, when you complete a tough workout – think of at least two hours or high aerobic and relatively high strength output. After you finish such a session, you might feel symptoms similar to that when you’re having the flu, for instance, loss of appetite, overall weakness, a sore throat. This happens because your immune system has been weakened by the extreme exertion. Now, imagine doing a couple of such workouts per day – and mind you, to a set standard – in addition to a myriad of other things.

However, BUD/S and Basic Crewman Training (BCT), the initial phase of the SWCC pipeline, add an additional stress to the immune system because of their emphasis on water and underwater activities. As described in another SOFREP article, SEAL and SWCC students often develop a swimming-induced pulmonary edema (SIPE), which occurs when the blood vessels in a student’s lungs begin to leak fluid and blood into the alveoli (clusters of air bags found in the lungs). SIPE causes coughing, shortness of breath, and the spitting up of blood.

When NSW had decided to suspend some of the classes, Captain Tamara Lawrence, the NSW spokesperson, had stated that “Due to the high prevalence of respiratory symptoms in BUD/S classes, almost every student would be pulled from training due to symptoms similar to COVID-19. The decision to pause training will reduce risk to students immunocompromised during high-risk training such as Hell Week, which could cause more severe outcomes in candidates who might contract COVID-19.”