Navy SWCC training is undoubtedly tough; it tests students mentally and physically. It’s designed to be a suckfest, especially its Basic Crewman Selection (BCS) portion. Being a member of the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) community means you have to be equally comfortable in the water, on land, and in the air. Feeling at home in all three of these environments is not very normal for any human being. There’s plenty of SEALs and SWCCs who are scared of heights or would prefer not to swim miles in pitch dark water, but they find a way to get it done.

Water competency and the relative comfort of being in the water is a paramount requirement for making it through SWCC training. SWCCs specialize in maritime special operations, which makes it no surprise that water evolutions are an integral part of the SWCC pipeline.

Individuals planning on entering the SWCC pipeline must recognize the need to learn how to be comfortable in the water in less than ideal conditions. Not only are SWCC students subjected to long and tiresome swimming evolutions in the pool and ocean, but they are also tested on their water competency. This comes in the form of water survival training, water rescue, treading exercises, and various underwater activities. These evolutions test students physically and mentally, pushing them way past their comfort level. There are times that students probably feel like they’re going to drown or that they can’t go any further — they have to push past these barriers.

SWCC Water Competency: Being Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable
SWCC students undergoing underwater competency training. (DVIDS)

I always felt that these water evolutions were the ultimate mediator for everyone. I saw a lot of people quit in the pool. They freaked out in the water and didn’t stay calm, which only caused the instructors to be harder on them. By panicking, students end up failing their training evolution. This results in being rolled back or removed from training.

Being a solid swimmer is an important attribute for SWCC school. Of course, it will help you with the tough training evolutions I just discussed, but it will also help ensure that the long swims required in training, aren’t overly miserable. Being good at combat sidestroke and freestyle will ease the pain of the daily swimming evolutions. It sounds stupid, but candidates need to make sure they can swim in a straight line, and they need to practice this safely. On long, timed, open-ocean swims, it is crucial to swim in a straight line. If you don’t, you may fail the swim. Current and tide can easily push a swimmer off course if he is not paying attention.

Long story short: if you want to succeed and maybe even overachieve at SWCC school, you need to be good in the water. That means being a good swimmer, but also having the ability to relax and stay calm in the water during stressful situations. I’m not saying to go out and practice drowning yourself. Just know that the water evolutions are there for a reason: they weed out the weak and ensure that NSW is graduating real maritime fighters.


This article was originally published in September 2020.