Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWWCs) pride themselves in being subject matter experts and jacks of all trades simultaneously. As all special operations units do, SWCCs operate in small groups in harsh and remote environments. This unique mission set requires operators to become very good at their respective jobs because most likely, they won’t have any backup.
Each SWCC detachment has at a minimum a Detachment Chief, Boat Captain, Navigator, Communications Operator, and Chief Engineer. There are also collateral duties that are mandated for every detachment, which include a medic, a Joint Tactical Air Controller (JTAC), and a Weapons Rep. As stated before, SWCCs are jacks of all trades, so it is very normal for one operator to have multiple responsibilities. In order to qualify for these positions, operators are sent to specialized training schools.
A Detachment Chief is an E-7 who has spent an extensive amount of time at the Special Boat Teams. They are put through many tests and review boards before they are given the authority to run a detachment.
Boat Captains are typically E-6s or senior E-5s. Oftentimes, the Boat Captains also hold the role of Lead Petty Officer (LPO) for the detachment. Becoming a Boat Captain is no easy task: they are required to pass tests in navigation, communication, engineering, and medic tests. Many Boat Captains, and SWCCs in general, are sent to Coast Guard-approved civilian captain’s license courses. These courses help SWCCs sharpen their skills in navigation and overall seamanship. After completing one of these courses, SWCC operators are eligible to apply for their Coast Guard captain’s license, which can pay dividends in the civilian sector.
The Navigator’s job is very demanding. Before a boat can go underway, the navigational route must be planned out in detail and approved by a higher authority. The Navigator’s job has no break while the boat is underway. He’s required to constantly monitor the navigational electronics and provide the Boat Captain with updates. It’s the Navigator’s job to tell the Boat Captain when to turn and to ensure that the boat is in safe water. Remember, SWCC boats typically operate at night.
The Communicator, better known as the “Comms Guy,” is responsible for the effective installation, programming, and operation of all communication equipment for the boat and each operator. Communicators attend the NSW Communications Course in order to become experts on all types of radios that NSW has in its inventory. Having good comms is essential for the success of an operation.
Anyone that knows anything about boats knows that something is always broken. This is why the Chief Engineer position is invaluable in the detachment. Chief Engineers, better known as CHENGs, are required to pass written and hands-on tests in order to qualify for the position. CHENGs are required to have a thorough understanding of all engineering systems on the boat. They are expected to be able to troubleshoot and repair issues while on the water, in order for the boat to be able to get back to base safely. Many CHENGs are given the opportunity to attend diesel schools to enhance their knowledge of the engines and systems found on their respective boats.
Each detachment has a qualified medic, he will either be a graduate from the Special Operations Combat Medic Course (SOCM) or the Special Operations Tactical Medic Course (SO-TM). The medic will typically also sit as the Comms Guy, Navigator, or CHENG. The same is true for the JTAC position. The JTAC’s job is to communicate with fixed-wing aircraft and helos in order to call in airstrikes and gun-runs on enemy targets.
Large amounts of time are spent cross-training so that each operator is capable of performing every job in the detachment. In case someone becomes incapacitated, it is vital that the operation goes on and that the detachment is able to make it back home safely.
In training and real-world operations, oftentimes the OIC of the Troop, a Navy SEAL officer, will be onboard. He serves as the ground force commander (GFC). His main role is to coordinate with other assets and to observe the battlespace to make final tactical decisions.
With a thorough vetting process and a demanding training regimen, SWCCs are able to adhere to their mantra: “On Time, On Target, Never Quit.”