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Q and A with Stew Smith for a High School Project (updated June 2012)
Recently, I received a letter in the mail from a high school junior who was doing a English project on Navy SEALs and our training. What I appreciate from the young man who sent me the typed letter was the perfect use of English. Usually, I receive these type of requests in text language often a paragraph of 15-20 lines with NO punctuation, NO capitalized letters, and littered with misspellings. Many requests are just a mess of words that brutalize the English language and that I have to figure out the 5-6 questions I need to answer. Since this young man, took the effort and cared enough to actually write, I am going all out to answer his questions as thoroughly as possible.
Here are the questions he asks: These are very commonly asked
questions and should provide many future SEALs / Spec Ops members with some
1. Why did you want to be a Navy SEAL?
When I joined the military when I was 18, I was accepted into the US Naval Academy. At that time in my life, I knew I wanted to serve, but I did not know what area. Truthfully, I was looking at becoming a pilot mainly because in 1987 there was not much information on Navy SEALs and what they did. Once I got to the Academy, I met and started training with the Navy SEALs in the mornings before school. I found it helped me quickly change from power lifting football player shape to an advanced military shape that I needed to excel at the Academy. After a year, then two years of this type of training, I was hooked and got to know many other SEAL wanna-be's who successfully completed the program. I was determined to follow that path after countless people providing their positive feedback about the experiences of not only training itself but the life in the Teams. The SEALs seemed like a great job to pursue.
2. What distinguishes SEALs from other Special Forces in the military?
Mainly the ability to insert from / extract into and live in the water. SEALs will always have one foot in the water and these skills are valuable as most of the people on Earth live near the shore line. Now, we also focus on Land and Air operations and have an outstanding record in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other regions, but what makes us different is our abilities in the water. Personally, I think we have a huge respect for the ocean and what mother nature can bring down on you if she wishes. We do not conquer the ocean - the ocean let's us work in it when she wants us to.
3. Are there many career opportunities available within the Navy SEALs?
4. Generally speaking, what type of compensation and benefits do SEALs
5. What would you recommend doing physically and mentally to prepare
6. What is the best approach to be guaranteed a shot at BUD/S training?
You have to ace the "entrance exam" first - the BUD/S Physical Screening
Test (PST). It is composed of a
Above Average: If you can score: sub 9 min swim, 100+, 100+, 20+, and 9 min run respectively you have an 85% chance of graduating SEAL training compared to if you score the posted minimum standards you only have about a 6% chance of graduation. That is why they started pre-screening students and they have to reach closer to the above average numbers before going to BUDS now.
Also - you have to have a high school diploma or some college credits with a GED, no felonies on your record, and meet the height / weight standards.
But for the How to Get to BUDS Info - see article on topic
7. What consistent characteristics do BUD/S candidates who succeed
8. What can I do to better prepare myself right now (3-4 years away from training)?
Play sports, workout hard, and get good at swimming, swimming with fins, SCUBA diving, running, high rep calisthenics, and weights too. You have to get good at ALL of the above. You do not have to be great in ALL, in fact every body has a weakness at BUD/S, but get good at everything. Learning how to be a team player right now is critical to you being able to work well as a team member on ANY Spec Ops unit. Study hard - make good grades. Learn a foreign language (French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, etc)
9. What was the hardest thing about SEAL Training?
Like I stated above - we all had weaknesses. Mine was running. I had to put out every time to stay in the pack in running. I got better at running prior to BUD/S and actually we a decent runner by the time I finished BUD/S. But each run was a challenge. I went through training at 200-205lbs and have always been faster when lighter. Many people have issues with the water confidence, cold temperatures, and constantly being wet and sandy. Getting used to being uncomfortable is key otherwise it will drive you crazy. Getting yelled at by instructors got to people and the daily head games they will play with you takes it toll if you lack any self motivation / self confidence.
10. After graduation from BUD/S, what are the daily responsibilities of that SEAL?
Immediately after BUD/S you still have several months of training to complete before you are ready to become an active member of a SEAL team. So your responsibilities are to remain in RECEIVE MODE and take in as much as possible from your instructors. It is your job to learn advanced tactics / skills that will help you become proficient as well as keep you alive. After that - once at a Team - your job is to prepare for upcoming deployments into foreign countries by training, training, training. You only get to be the best at something if you do it well over and over again - not only yourself but as a TEAM. That is why understanding team dynamics is one of the most critical skills you can learn as a teenager.
Thanks to the young man from New Hampshire for making this a much less painful process by taking the time
to actually write. I wish you the best of luck with the project as
well as any future dreams of becoming a Navy SEAL.
Send me an email and I may post it up as an article next week. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author
certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National
Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a
workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the StewSmith.com
Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at StewSmith.com. To contact
Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at
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