Becoming a Navy Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman (SWCC) is no easy task. The SWCC selection pipeline is designed to weed out the weak and to create a training environment that simulates the stressful conditions that are experienced in real-world situations. If an individual is not physically and mentally prepared, they have very little chance to be standing at graduation day. The attrition rate is about 70-80%.

The SWCC training pipeline is divided into four major portions: Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Prep; NSW Basic Orientation; Basic Crewman Training (BCT); and Crewman Qualification Training (CQT).

NSW Prep takes place in Great Lakes, Illinois. Individuals with SWCC contracts report directly to NSW Prep after graduating from Navy “Boot Camp.” Sailors that were already in the Navy and were rewarded an SWCC contract are also required to report to NSW Prep to begin the SWCC training pipeline. NSW Prep is a two-month course designed to prepare SWCC and SEAL candidates for the rigorous training they will encounter once they arrive in Coronado, CA. At the end of the two-month prep course, candidates have to pass physical tests in swimming, pushups, sit up, pullups, and a four-mile timed run. If candidates fail to meet the minimum set requirement in any of these tests, they are removed from the SWCC program.

NSW Basic Orientation is a three-week course designed to give candidates a thorough introduction to the type of training they will be subjected to and to adjust them to its demanding schedule. During these three weeks, students are introduced to the obstacle course, soft sand runs, open water swimming, drown-proofing, water rescue, and basic navigational skills. Make no mistake, the orientation course is not designed to be easy. Many candidates will quit before the first three weeks are over.

SWCC candidates in the surf (Wikimedia.org.)

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The next step in the pipeline is BCT. BCT is the true selection process of the SWCC pipeline, similar to “First Phase” in BUD/S. BCT is a grueling seven-week course that will challenge candidates both physically and mentally. During this phase of training, candidates spend their time going through physically demanding training evolutions, including soft sand runs, timed runs, swimming, obstacle course evolutions, and water rescue to name a few. In addition, candidates will spend time on the SWCC boats, becoming familiar with and being tested on boat operations, anchor and towing drills, and navigating in both day and night. The culmination of the training received in BCT comes in the form of The Tour. The Tour is a three-day evolution where the candidates are allowed very little sleep. Sailors are subjected to physical evolutions along with training evolutions on the SWCC boats. The Tour is designed to push the candidates to their limit and to simulate the type of environment these sailors will encounter if they make it to the Special Boat Teams. The following are the Test Gates that all candidates must pass in order to move onto CQT:

  • Three-mile timed run on the beach in boots and pants: 24 minutes
  • One-mile ocean swim: 45 minutes
  • Obstacle Course completion: 20 minutes
  • Basic Water Survival: Pass/Fail
  • Water Rescue: Pass/Fail

There are also academic tests that SWCC candidates must pass, including Combat Rubber Raiding Craft (CRRC) assembly, chart plotting, and underway navigation.

Once candidates arrive at CQT, they begin to train and learn what it means to be a Navy SWCC. CQT is a fourteen-week course broken down into two sections: Basic and Advanced. During the Basic portion, candidates are trained in Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC), small arms, heavy weapons, basic combat skills, engineering, and towing and trailering procedures for SWCC boats. Candidates must pass tests on all of these subjects in order to move onto the next phase.

In the Advanced training segment in CQT, sailors are trained in communications, navigation and boat handling, mission planning and execution, live fire while underway on the boats. All this culminates in a final training exercise that combines everything that the candidates have learned.

Make no mistake: just because CQT focuses on technical and tactical training rather than a physical beatdown, candidates are still subjected to a demanding physical training schedule. Below are the physical test gates that SWCC candidates must pass in CQT:

  • Three-mile timed run on the beach in boots and pants: 22:30 minutes
  • One-mile ocean swim: 40 minutes
  • Obstacle Course completion: 15 minutes
  • Pushups / Situps / Pullups: 60/75/8

After CQT comes to an end, candidates attend Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) School, which is three weeks and Cross-Cultural Competence, which is one week.

Finally, the candidates that have made it through the pipeline are awarded their SWCC pins on graduation day.

After graduation, some new SWCCs will attend the Special Operations Combat Medic (SOCM) course in Fort Bragg, NC, the Special Operations Tactical Medic (SO-TM) course in Stennis, MS, Military Free Fall School (MFF), or will go directly to their respective Special Boat Team.