Naval Special Warfare Center at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, has suspended training for three of the 11 current SEAL and SWCC classes. The decision was made on March 16 and will last for eight consecutive weeks.
The classes that were temporarily suspended were those that were in the earlier phases of training.
The First Phase of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) and the Basic Crewman Training (BCT) segment of the SWCC pipeline expose students to very harsh conditions. Spending extended periods of time in cold water, along with physical fatigue and sleep deprivation, can create symptoms similar to COVID-19 and result in students being immunocompromised.
During Hell Week and other training evolutions, because of the amount of time spent immersed in water combined with physical exertion, it is not unusual for students to develop swimming-induced pulmonary edema (SIPE). SIPE occurs when blood vessels in the lungs leak fluid and blood into the alveoli (airspaces). This condition causes wheezing, crackling, shortness of breath, and the spitting up of blood.
Having seen people with SIPE first-hand, the Naval Special Warfare Center is making the right decision. The inability for someone to properly breathe, combined with spitting up blood, can be very dangerous for a student. A serious condition could become deadly if a student with SIPE acquired COVID-19.
Due to the inherent nature of NSW training and the fact that students in certain training segments are undoubtedly vulnerable, COVID-19 could prove extremely dangerous.
Naval Special Warfare spokeswoman, Captain Tamara Lawrence 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.”
In addition, she said, “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.”
Capt. Lawrence assured that this temporary suspension in training will not hinder NSW’s ability to train, prepare, and graduate new SEALs and SWCCs.
On March 19, three days after the decision was made to suspend training, the Naval Special Warfare community recorded its first COVID-19 case. A Petty Officer 2nd Class was training at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, in Washington State, when his test results came back positive.
NSW would not confirm if this individual was a SEAL.
The Navy put out a statement saying that “as in similar cases across the military, the sailor is isolated and restricted in movement in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.”