The Coronavirus pandemic has forced Special Operations units to improvise when it comes to their training and selection programs.
The Naval Special Warfare Command (WARCOM) has suspended a number of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) and Basic Crewman Training (BCT) classes; the former course is the first major hurdle to those aspiring to become Navy SEALs, and the latter is the selection for the Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCC) career field. However, classes that were already underway and reaching their final stages (for example, Phase 3 of BUD/S) haven’t been canceled.
The Marine Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) has resorted to online means to ensure the continuation of training. Marines who had completed the Assessment & Selection and were in the Individual Training Course (ITC) portion of the Marine Raider pipeline, have been taking online classes for some of the material taught in the seven-month ITC.
“The ITC schedule has been restructured to ensure the safety and health of the two classes currently undergoing training. Some of the in-class material has been shifted to online learning, to include parts of the Basic Language Course,” said Gunnery Sergeant Lynn Kinney to the Marine Corps Times.
But there is only so much that can be taught online. ITC is comprised of several phases, most of which require physical teaching (for instance, Small Unit Tactics or Close Quarters Battle).
“MARSOC is making adjustments to training and other daily operations to effectively preserve and balance the health and safety of our personnel with our responsibility to maintain operational readiness. The health and welfare of our personnel is a top priority,” added Gunny Kinney.
Of course, the Marine Raider community isn’t the only affected by the pandemic. SOFREP has learned that a lot of Special Operations units have canceled their spring selection processes in order to comply with the Department of Defense (DoD) guidelines. More alarmingly, however, is the rumor that certain courses have been shortened, cutting out vital components of the syllabus, so as to speed up the graduation process. SOFREP is paying close attention to the topic and will provide updates.
And yet not all training courses have been put on hold. Some Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC) classes are still going. But these are components of the Q Course that take place mostly outdoors, for example the revamped version of Small Unit Tactics (SUT), thus providing an unconventional adherence to the social distancing policy prescribed by the Pentagon.
Meanwhile, the DoD has made the wearing of masks mandatory for the essential personnel who still have to go to work. In a guideline, the Pentagon had ordered that:
“Effective immediately, to the extent practical, all individuals on DoD property [Military Personnel, DoD Civilian Employees, Family Members], installations, and facilities will wear cloth face coverings when they cannot maintain six feet of social distance in public areas or work centers (this does not include in a Service member’s or Service family member’s personal residence on a military installation).”