As the Naval Special Warfare community stumbles from controversy to controversy, the top special operations officer graciously stepped forward and offered a helping hand to the embattled community.
Army General Richard Clarke, the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), was the guest speaker to the graduation ceremony of the SEAL Qualification Training Class 322. General Clarke was the first Army officer to be invited to address the newest members of the SEAL Teams. The fact that he accepted the invitation signifies a desire to salvage what positive remains from the SEAL reputation. Indeed, it was a statement of confidence that the SEAL community is larger than a few bad apples, howsoever rotten these may be.
“You can be sure that we will continue to ask our SEALs to accept the most difficult missions,” he said. “This will challenge you in ways you cannot anticipate, and you need to be ready now. We count your success here as assurance of your courage, your competence and, most of all, your character. I know that all of you are sufficient for the task.”
General Clarke also focused on the challenge that the aspiring SEALs faced when they first stepped in the Naval Special Warfare Center in Coronado, California. “For each of you preparing to walk across this stage, it is an almost indescribable achievement . . . [you had a] desire to test yourselves, to experience a unique challenge, to be part of something bigger than yourselves and to put the needs of the nation ahead of your own,” he added.
Class 322 graduated 57 sailors out of the initial 157 who began the arduous SEAL selection and training process almost 15 months ago. Their ordeal began with the notoriously tough Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training. Upon successful completion of the three phases of BUD/S, the SEAL candidates under the SEAL Qualification Training course (SQT). The combined pipeline has attrition of 73 percent, making it one of the most difficult selection and training programs in the U.S. military.
“Right now, around the globe, Navy SEALs — your teammates — are hard at work,” added General Clarke. “SEALs have — and will continue to play — an active and vital role in our national security efforts. The American people trust that you — that we — will take on these challenges. That we will not only win, but win with honor [and] with your values intact. Never allow a disordered loyalty to an individual or team to obscure the values, commitment and trust you share with your great Navy service, with Socom [sic] and with the nation.”