(Editor’s Note: This article was written by Navy Petty Officer First Class Benjamin Kittleson for the Defence Visual Information Distribution Service.  The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.)

CORONADO, Calif. – The sun is still below the horizon as the ocean breeze blows on a chilly winter morning in San Diego, where the latest group of Navy Sea, Air and Land (SEAL) and Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman (SWCC) hopefuls hits the soft sand for some morning physical training. Overseeing this training is an experienced instructor, alternately observing and motivating the class to stay focused.

“Listen up! Eat, sleep and train. That’s all you’re getting paid for!”

These are the three things Chief Petty Officer Joan Jennings, an instructor at Naval Special Warfare’s Basic Training Command (BTC), wants candidates thinking about as they start their day. It’s an important lesson she knows from years of special warfare assessment and selection: keep your goals in the now – and make them simple. This is how candidates travel the long, arduous road to join the Navy’s elite commando force. Humility helps.

“When you get down to the basics,” she said, “you joined to serve your country.”

BTC’s instructor cadre has a broad range of experience, talents and backgrounds. Many, like Jennings, have deployed to combat zones.


Coronado, Calif. (Nov. 30, 2021) – Chief Mass Communication Specialist Joan Jennings, center, leads Navy Sea, Air and Land (SEAL) and Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman (SWCC) candidates in stretching exercises to increase mobility onboard Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. Chief Jennings is an instructor at Naval Special Warfare Basic Training Command, a component of the Naval Special Warfare Center. NSWCEN provides initial assessment and selection and subsequent advanced training to the Sailors who make up the Navy’s SEAL and Special Boat communities. These communities support the NSW mission, providing maritime special operations forces to conduct full-spectrum operators, unilaterally or with partners, to support national objectives. For more information on the NSW assessment, selection, and training pathway, visit https://www.sealswcc.com/. (U.S. Navy photo by Benjamin K. Kittleson)

“I was embedded with Army infantry prior to women being allowed in combat zones,” she said, reflecting on her time as a Navy second class petty officer deployed in a combat camera role to Bagdad in 2008. “There were moments when I realized I was the only female in the FOB (forward operating base), but I didn’t think of myself as some sort of trailblazer. The whole time I was there, the idea of me being a girl never really crossed my mind because we were all there to do a job, to complete the mission. I wanted to be in it and document the fight.”