If you are reading this, I’m about 99+% sure that you know what a Navy SEAL is, so I don’t have to go into that. But you might not be so sure about the acronym SWCC.

There, that pretty much covers the acronym, Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman (SWCC). Image Credit: The United States Navy

According to Navy. com, the official US Navy website, “SWCC are extensively trained to execute high-risk warfare and reconnaissance missions in river and coastline settings.”  Operators may be deployed anywhere on the face of the Earth, in any type of environment. Most operations, however, take place in a river or coastal area.

Before I go any further, I’d like to make it clear that all of the source material for this piece comes from the Department of the Navy. If you want the most accurate and up-to-date information, you must go right to the source.

In their (the Navy’s) own words:

“Navy SWCC support and perform maritime special operations in open ocean, littoral and riverine environments. Their professional occupation in the Navy is known as Special Warfare Boat Operator (SB). SBs are experts in maritime special operations tactics and missions; foreign cultural awareness; advanced weapons tactics; tactical communications; tactical air control; tactical ground mobility; small arms and crew-served weapons; fast roping and rappelling; advanced craft operations; long-range, over the horizon, and riverine navigation; tactical combat medicine and trauma care; intelligence operations; and chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear defense measures; among others.”

I thought I had a pretty good vocabulary until I read the SWCC definition above. I could figure out what “riverine” was. It must have something to do with rivers, right? It does. But what about “littoral”? As an Army ground pounder, I had no clue. Not even many words rhyme with it, so I looked it up. It turns out that “littoral,” according to Oxford Languages (and anyone who already knows), means “related to or situated on the shore or the sea or a lake.” Ok, my Navy friends can stop laughing at me now.

What it takes to be an SWCC. Video courtesy of YouTube and the United States Navy.

Now that you have an idea of what being an SWCC is all about, let’s find out how you, as a civilian or prior service enlisted individual, can try to become one. I’ll assume you are up for a challenge of epic proportions.

Any journey begins with taking the first step. In this instance, that involves visiting your local Navy recruiter. Tell them you want to be a SEAL or SWCC (whichever applies to you) and that you wish to make a Warrior Challenge contract. Then, as you might imagine, they’ll ask you a bunch of screening-type questions, mostly about your age, citizenship, educational background, legal and medical history…stuff like that.

You are going to want to be prepared to take some documents with you on that initial visit. Be sure to bring your birth certificate, high school and/or college diploma, social security card, the names and addresses of past employers, a list of the addresses where you’ve lived in the past ten years and, if you are prior service, a copy of your DD214 Statement of Service.

Pro tip: Do not lie about anything. If you do, it will be found out and later come back to bite you in the ass. If you’ve had minor legal issues (speeding tickets, misdemeanor charges, and the like) or medical issues, tell the recruiter about them. They will do their best to get you a waiver if possible. They don’t expect everyone that comes through their door has a 100% spotless record.

Pre-COVID photo from a MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) waiting room. Army photo from Sgt. Richard W. Hoppe/123rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

If there are no issues, your recruiter will send you to a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). Here you will receive a thorough medical evaluation and take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test. It can make for quite an interesting and long day, but you should only have to do it once. It’s like taking a really in-depth football physical and the SATs on the same day. If you get the thumbs up from the MEPS screeners, you’ll be given the opportunity to enter the Navy Delayed Entry Program (DEP). You may also be offered an enlistment contract for a job not involved in special operations.

Why the non-special warfare offer? You may have already heard that Naval Special Warfare (NSW)  schools tend to have a high attrition rate. It varies from class to class and according to the time of year, but roughly 75% or more of SWCC and SEAL candidates fail to make it through the pipeline for one reason or another. That’s why you have to have a plan B. The fact is, most guys are going to need it. It’s good to remember that you can choose to opt-out of joining the Navy at any point before you leave for training.

Now that you’ve passed MEPS, you have to go out and earn yourself an NSW contract. To do that, you have to have passed at least three Physical Screening Tests (PST). These involve a 500-yard swim, timed 2:00 pushups, 2:00 curl-ups, 2:00 pull-ups, and a one-and-a-half mile run. If you are wondering how your numbers on those events stack up, check out the SEAL PST calculator here.

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Getting wet and sandy, aka surf torture. In the front right corner is future Medal of Honor recipient Michael Monsoor. Image Credit: Photographer’s mate 1st class Shane T. McCoy/US Navy

When it’s ready, your recruiter will send your application package to Naval Recruiting Command (NRC). If you are fortunate and are selected to become an NSW candidate, you’ll receive an offer for either an SWCC or SEAL contract. Don’t think you can slack off, though. In order to keep that contract, you’ll have to pass another PST within 14 days of beginning Naval recruit training.

Oh, and what if you are female and want to try to become a SEAL or SWCC? No problem; the opportunity is open to anyone who can meet the challenge.