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The US Navy’s “Sea-Air-Land” teams can trace their history to WWII where a group of volunteers chosen from the Naval Construction Battalions were assigned to clear obstacles from beaches targeted for amphibious landings.

These UDTs (Underwater Demolition Teams) were involved in missions all over the Pacific during World War II. They also participated in Korea at Inchon, Wonsan, Iwon, and Chinnampo, specializing in bridge demolition and mine-sweeping operations in rivers and harbors.

During the early 1960s, all branches of the armed forces formed their own counterinsurgency force. The Navy’s UDTs were renamed SEAL teams. In January 1962, SEAL Team one was assigned to the Pacific fleet and SEAL Team Two to the Atlantic. They conducted unconventional, counter-guerrilla or clandestine warfare and contributed significantly during the Vietnam conflict.

Today, the nature of war has changed. Chemical, biological, and nuclear terrorism are very realistic threats. Radical groups use hostages to negotiate for money, weapons, and release of political prisoners. Special Operations Forces (SOFs) like the Navy SEALs have become the US military’s most effective warriors against this kind of threat.

SEAL training is specially designed to be the toughest in the world. It challenges each individual mentally and physically. First Phase BUDs (Basic Underwater Demolition) training is conducted at the Naval Special Warfare Centre in Coronado, California. Here, future SEALs are
assigned to smaller groups, or “Teams,” then tested beyond most human physical endurance on land and in the water. Instructors order trainees to carry rubber rafts over their heads while they jog for miles, run a gauntlet of tough obstacle courses, and sit for hours in the frigid surf. They are verbally battered and allowed only four hours sleep in five and a half days. Working as a “Team” is stressed by instructors. Those who can’t or won’t are quickly eliminated. By the fifth week of training, commonly known as Hell Week, up to 70% of the trainees have dropped out.

The next phase consists of all aspects of underwater training, and then moves on to demolitions, weapons and reconnaissance, parajumping, SDV (SEAL Delivery Vehicle Training), and STT (SEAL Tactical Training). Next comes land warfare, which includes navigation, mountaineering, rock and ice climbing, skiing, snow-shoeing, and other tactics for conducting guerrilla warfare. The BUDs graduates are also required to take a 30-week Special Operations Medical Sergeant Course where they receive intensive training in diving medicine, burns, gunshot wounds, and trauma.

Once BUDs training is finished, qualified personnel are awarded a SEAL Naval Special Warfare Classification (NEC) Code and Naval Special Warfare Insignia and then assigned to either an SDV or SEAL Team. Advanced training includes Sniper School, Dive Supervisor, Language Training, SEAL tactical communications, or shore duty assignments such as research and development, instructor duty, or overseas assignments. It takes over five years to train a SEAL to a level of competence in all skills and mission areas.

SOF soldiers specialize in a single language and culture for the duration of enlistment. If required, a SEAL team could successfully blend in with a country’s population without suspicion, then channel critical information to Naval headquarters or commanders.

SEAL Teams are also regularly involved in training soldiers or commandos from other friendly countries and in all forms of tactical and guerrilla warfare. In most cases, every SEAL mission is considered classified, and there is no public recognition for what the Teams do.

Whether they’re conducting peaceful training missions or more dangerous ones, like monitoring secret missile sites in hostile nations or disarming chemical weapons, Navy SEALs are prepared, focused, and highly trained for any possible direct action. These men are truly the elite fighting teams of the US military Special Operations Forces.