The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the way that the U.S. military does business. Naval Special Warfare has not been immune to these changes.
As previously discussed on SOFREP, on March 16, The Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Basic Training Command (BTC) put a hold on BUD/S classes that were in the 1st Phase and 2nd Phase and the SWCC class that was in the Basic Crewman Selection phase. SEAL and SWCC classes that were further along in the pipeline were permitted to continue with training.
During the peak of the pandemic, a SEAL and SWCC class did graduate. NSW made it a point to not interrupt the flow of new operators to the Force.
In the past several weeks, the NSW Center has reinstated all SEAL and SWCC training classes, but times have changed. New protocols and safety measures have been put in place. These protocols begin at Boot Camp and continue on throughout the phases of NSW training in an effort to guarantee the safety and success of students. NSW has taken big steps to adhere to the CDC’s and DOD’s medical recommendations to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Upon arrival at Boot Camp, all SEAL and SWCC candidates are quarantined for two weeks before they can begin their eight weeks of Boot Camp. Since recruits are unable to leave the Boot Camp facility, maintaining isolation is not overly difficult. Following Boot Camp, NSW candidates move across the street, to attend the two-month NSW Prep program, where the same level of safety and isolation is set in place.
After candidates complete the NSW Prep course, they are flown to Coronado, CA via military aircraft, to prevent extensive exposure to the public. Previously, students would usually fly on commercial flights.
To keep the SEAL and SWCC candidates safe, Capt. Bart Randall, commodore of the NSW Center explained that the students are being kept in a “closed ecosystem.” This means that all students receive daily COVID-19 screenings. Candidates receive take-out meals from the galley and only eat with their classmates.
Additionally, policies have been implemented, limiting the number of students permitted to be in a classroom, and enforcing social distancing during physical evolutions when possible. Instructors wear masks and gloves. According to Randall, “The instructors are a few steps back now, they can stand off 10 feet, and, trust me, the students have no problem hearing them.”
Randall stated, “If any student shows signs of illness, we will pull them from training to be evaluated by medical professionals. We will take care of them and make sure they are healthy before getting them back in the fight.”
NSW refuses to lower the standard of training, regardless of the circumstances. Randall claimed, “We are not going to change the training we have established throughout the history of NSW.”
Randall did acknowledge that many SEAL and SWCC evolutions require students to be in close proximity to one another. This closeness is a necessary requirement for the completion of training objectives, but it also creates a strong bond between students, which will carry over once they graduate and go to the SEAL Teams and Special Boat Teams.
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