Aspiring to be a service member and fighting for your beloved country is one thing. That, in itself, is a commendable, noble pursuit and deserves the utmost respect. 

But it’s another thing to aspire to be a Navy SEAL. The decision entails bringing your entire being down to depths it’s never been in before. It’s pushing yourself beyond the limits and whatever exists in that realm. 

SEAL candidates in the water

So while you think about those aspirations to become a Navy SEAL, ask yourself one hard, soul-searching question: do you have what it takes? Are you cut out to be one of the elite? 

If you’re fumbling for answers, this article should give you an idea of what to expect. And all of this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Navy Special Warfare Preparatory School

The grind begins at the Naval Special Warfare Preparatory School. It’s in Great Lakes, Illinois.

SEAL hopefuls have a two-month stint there, kicked off by an initial Physical Screening Test. The idea is to get them pumped and ready for the grind they’re about to face in the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) program.

After two months of serious sweat and strain, they wrap it up with a beefed-up version of the Physical Screening Test (PST). This is different from your usual fitness test, though.

First, there’s a 1000-meter swim with fins. Recruits must finish this exercise within 20 minutes or less. Next are a minimum of 70 push-ups that must be completed within two minutes.

SEAL aspirants will then do a minimum of 60 sit-ups in under two minutes. Prep school culminates with a grueling four-mile run. Recruits must complete this final phase within 30 minutes or less, all while clad in combat boots and pants.

Hopefuls who don’t make the cut get booted from training camp, then relegated to other obligations within the Navy.

BUD/S Orientation

If they get through the rigorous first phase, candidates undergo BUD/S orientation. For three weeks, they get a preview of what to expect for the next six months of their lives.

BUD/S Training

Passed the test? Great! Get ready for the real deal, the Navy SEAL BUD/S training, a 6-month course designed to crush you. Think of every intense workout you’ve ever had, multiply it by a thousand, and stretch it out over half a year.

The BUD/S training comprises three phases to push your physical and mental boundaries into oblivion.

Phase 1: Physical Conditioning

First up, eight weeks of solid physical conditioning. That’s seven days a week of running, swimming, calisthenics, and much more. You’ll be up before the sun and end well after it sets. Be sure to eat all you can get your hand on; you’re going to need the calories. 

And the centerpiece of this first phase of Navy SEAL training? The dreaded “Hell Week.” It is a solid 132 hours of non-stop, intense physical and mental torment designed to push candidates to their absolute limits.

It usually starts on a Sunday and goes on the following Friday. What makes it genuinely diabolical isn’t just the physical exertion – it’s the sleep deprivation. In that whole 132-hour period, you’re only allowed about four hours of sleep. You read that right: four hours in five and a half days.

During Hell Week, candidates face a grueling series of challenges that include running more than 200 miles, doing physical training for 20 hours a day, carrying logs and inflatable boats over their heads, crawling through mud flats and cold surf, and swimming in the ocean – often in hypothermia inducing temperatures. 

Phase 2: Dive Phase

Assuming you’ve passed Phase 1 of Navy SEAL training and haven’t run screaming for the hills, you’ll move on to seven weeks of diving. Here you’ll learn open and closed-circuit combat diving and how to become comfortable and efficient in the water. 

The closed-circuit system they use is some high-tech stuff called a Dräger LAR V rebreather. It’s all about stealth, ensuring no one knows you’re coming until it’s too late.

Then, there are the ‘drown-proofing’ exercises. Picture this: your hands and feet are tied and thrown into the deep end. Sounds like a nightmare, right? But for these guys, it’s Tuesday. They bob, float, swim, and even fetch stuff from the bottom of the pool.

They also learn how to navigate underwater. Imagine finding your way in zero visibility with just a compass and a distance line. It’s like being blindfolded, spun around, and asked to find North.

Phase 3: Land Warfare

Here’s where the Navy SEALs learn all the “Rambo” stuff. We’re talking weapons training, demolitions (big booms), small-unit tactics, patrolling, rappelling, and marksmanship. You’ll get used to all terrains and environments, from deserts to jungles to mountains.

And, of course, there’s land navigation. Seals won’t always have GPS or Google Maps out in the field. So, candidates learn to navigate using just a compass and a map, often while trekking long distances with heavy packs.

This training phase involves turning candidates from ‘just’ adamant individuals into an effective Team that can handle any combat situation on land. It’s not enough to be the toughest guy in the room; SEALs have to work together, think on their feet, and get the job done no matter what.

The Mental Endurance of a Navy SEAL

First off, there’s the sheer grind. The relentless, day-in, day-out physical punishment will wear you down, exhaust you, and make you want to quit. Every day, you must wake up and choose to keep going, even when every fiber of your being is screaming at you to stop. 

Then, there’s the sleep deprivation. Nothing messes with your head like not getting enough shut-eye. Now imagine you’re trying to function on just a few hours of sleep over several days during Hell Week. 

Your body is exhausted, and your mind is fuzzy, but you must keep going, making decisions, and pushing through. You hallucinate, and you are colder than you have ever been in your entire life, but still, you persevere. 

U.S. Navy SEAL candidates participating in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

On top of that, there’s the constant pressure, the ever-present knowledge that one mistake, one moment of weakness, could mean the end of your journey to becoming a SEAL

The training is mentally brutal. There’s no room for error, no chance to catch your breath. You’re always on, constantly being tested. And let’s not forget the emotional side of things. 

You’re often away from your family and friends, your support network. You’re in this incredibly intense environment with all the stresses and strains that come with it.

Are You Cut Out For Navy SEAL Training?

So, what do you think? Do you have the grit, the resolve, and the sheer stubbornness to push through when every muscle in your body is screaming at you to quit? Could you stay cool while navigating a pitch-black ocean or stressful simulated combat? 

Becoming a Navy SEAL isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s for those rare individuals willing to give it their all and then some. For a few, “their all” has ended up being their lives. 

So, if you’re ready to push past the impossible, embrace the suck, and do whatever it takes to earn that coveted Trident, then maybe, just maybe, you may have what it takes to be a Navy SEAL. But that’s all up for debate until you make it through the other side.