The official name of the Navy SEALs is the United States Navy Sea, Air and Land Forces, and is a special branch of the Navy devoted to counter-terrorism, reconnaissance, and direct action operations. They have come into the spotlight recently after killing three Somali pirates and rescuing an American ship captain off the coast of Somalia on Easter Sunday, 2009. This is just one of the many successful missions accomplished by this elite group of specialists in their almost fifty years of service.
The Navy SEALs began after President Kennedy allocated funds to expand special operations forces that already included the Army’s Green Berets, when the conflict in Vietnam began heating up in the early 1960s. This unit evolved from and gained early training methods from their precursor, the Underwater Demolition Teams, or UDTs. Underwater Demolition training is still part of the SEAL indoctrination today.
Navy SEAL advisors were in operation in the early days of Vietnam instructing the Vietnamese in clandestine operations and reconnaissance missions. By 1966, SEAL teams were commission to Vietnam for direct action missions and operated until the last SEAL team left Vietnam in March of 1973.
Since Vietnam, Navy SEAL teams have been directly involved in conflicts in Granada, the Persian Gulf, Panama, both Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and more recently conducted missions in Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, and Liberia. Following Sept. 11, 2001, Navy SEALs were put into service in Afghanistan, and played a significant role in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Admission into the SEALs is voluntary and is restricted to men from the Navy or Coast Guard aged eighteen to twenty-eight. They must pass a rigorous screening process which includes proven proficiency in swimming and physical fitness beyond even normal military standards. This is before they receive several intensely physical training courses which includes the Underwater Demolition course, jump school, cold weather survival training and following all that, a fifteen week SEAL Qualificaiton Training course.
Once SEAL training is complete, the graduate can be deployed and 20% of them are done so immediately. Those that are not are assigned to a team where they begin an eighteen month work up where they receive additional training in sniping, technical surveillance, climbing, driving, and advance jumping skills.
The Navy SEALS, those who are allowed to wear the trident which is a symbol of successful completion of SEAL instruction, are some of the most highly skilled and trained combat and counter-terrorism troops in the world. As it states in the Creed of the United States Navy Seals, “We train for war and fight to win….. I will not fail.”