For the past 30 years, the SEAL Teams have had had an agreement with Washington State to be permitted to train on five of their State Parks. Recently, the Navy presented a proposal to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, seeking access to 29 State Parks for training purposes.

These State Parks, many of which are in the western part of the state, bordering the Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean, provide an ideal training environment for Navy SEALs. The tidal conditions, cold water, rocky and wooded terrain create a tough environment, giving SEALs the ability to train in demanding conditions, which they may encounter in real-world operations.

Currently, when SEALs go to train at one of the five State Parks, the parks have to be shut down, which is an obvious inconvenience for park-goers.

According to a spokesperson for Navy Region Northwest, the Navy believes that if the SEAL teams had access to more parks, fewer operators would have to be at one park at the same time, thus allowing the parks to stay open during training exercises.

The Navy has guaranteed that the training on these State Parks would not involve live-fire shooting, demolitions, off-road vehicle operation, vegetation destruction, or alteration of the landscape in any way.

The purpose of using these State Parks is to allow SEALs to train in insertion/extraction, diving, over-the-beach operations, and reconnaissance. The Navy argues that these types of training exercises place an emphasis on the importance for operators to remain undetected and to blend in with their environment, leaving no trace that they were ever there. With this type of training profile, SEALs should have very little interaction with or impact on park attendees or the parks in general.

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But there are those that are against this proposal. According to a Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission spokesperson, they have received many comments arguing against the potential expansion of access for SEALs. Yet, the spokesperson went on to point out that they had never received negative comments about training exercises in the past.

The Whidbey Environmental Action Network, in particular, is up in arms about the idea of Navy SEALs having the right to train on 29 State Parks. They started an online petition, claiming that SEALs would be “spying on park visitors” and that this was “essentially wargaming.” The network has gained some traction, and as of a week ago, had collected 2,843 signatures.

Analysis:

Special operations units have to participate in extensive training to maintain their skills and prepare for deployment. For the most part, this training takes place in the United States. The U.S. is so large and diverse that special operations units can travel to locations within this country that very closely simulate environmental conditions that would be encountered on deployment.

The Washington State Parks provide an ideal maritime and coastal training environment that meets the requirements necessary for training and preparing SEAL Teams. These parks are relatively unpopulated and cover large swaths of land. States should be eager to assist special operations units with training exercises. With that being said, it is the responsibility of the SEAL Teams and each individual SEAL to adhere to their part of the agreement, making it a point to not disturb the natural beauty of the parks or the park visitors in attendance.