A Navy SEAL is being selected to be the next Fleet Master Chief of Naval Forces Europe and Africa, becoming the first-ever SEAL in the United States Navy’s (USN) history to rise to that position.

“I am excited to announce Force Master Chief Derrick Walters will be our new Fleet Master Chief,” said Admiral James Foggo, the commander of Naval Forces Europe and Africa. “He is a proven leader who brings a tremendous and very unique wealth of experience and will advocate for our sailors and their families serving overseas.”

It is worth noting that there are just four Fleet Master Chief positions in the entire U.S. Navy (Fleet Force Command, Pacific Fleet, Naval Forces, Europe/Africa, and Manpower, Personnel, Training, and Education).

“Force Master Chief Walters has a stellar record,” Admiral Foggo said. “Accordingly, he rose to the top of an impressive list of candidates considered for this critical job and I look forward to the pride, professionalism, and experience he will bring to our mission in Europe and Africa.”

As a Navy SEAL, Fleet Master Chief Walters knows how to overcome adversity. During his time at Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training, Master Chief Walters was almost washed out because of his poor swimming skills, an incongruous shortcoming for an aspiring frogman. He failed the first phase’s 500-meter swim test. “There I was doggy paddling,” he said. “And the guys had already done one lap and I had only moved 20 yards. I said, ‘This is not good.’ When the time had elapsed, I had only gone 100 yards so I did not pass.”

He persisted and says he “crushed everyone else at the other events.” He graduated BUD/S in 1988. Thereafter, Master Chief Walters was assigned to SEAL Teams 2 and 8, eventually becoming the operations and Command Master Chief for the former. He then proceeded to become the Command Master Chief of Naval Special Warfare’s Group 2 (NSW Group 2) training detachment, which is the East Coast section of the Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC) and is responsible for Africa, Europe, and South America. It is comprised of SEAL Teams 2, 4, 8, and 10. Furthermore, he served as the Command Master Chief of BUD/S and as the senior enlisted adviser at NATO’s special operations headquarters in Belgium.

The U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa is headquartered in Naples, Italy. The command is responsible for conducting joint and naval operations in Europe and Africa. The choice of Master Chief Walters highlights the increased importance that political and military leaders are putting in SOF. Although Europe isn’t likely to be engulfed in war, Africa is full of low-intensity conflicts that are designed for SOF. Therefore, by choosing Master Chief Walters, the Navy is likely to want a bigger piece of the mission pie in Africa. That brings out a question of suitability. The current conflicts in Africa require unconventional warfare (UW) and foreign internal defense (FID) capabilities, which are the specialty of the Army’s Special Forces Groups. SEALs excel in direct action (DA) and special reconnaissance (SR), among other mission sets. Consequently, it wouldn’t be wise for them to try and force their way into an operational realm that they aren’t trained for or aren’t equipped to handle.