Special Operations: The SEALs Go Hunting



August 19, 2008: The U.S. Navy has angered many in the Coast Guard by aggressively recruiting Coast Guard personnel for the SEAL forces. The Coast Guard is particularly concerned that the SEAL recruiters will go after the Coast Guard rescue swimmers (who jump off ships or out of helicopters to rescue people). This is an elite force (half the candidates for the training flunk out). The Coast Guard has only 300-350 of these highly trained rescue swimmers, and doesn't like the navy poaching them.

For the last few years, the U.S. Navy has been spending a lot more effort in trying to recruit sailors into the elite SEALs, and expand the force from 2,400 to 2,800. The training is very tough, with over half of those accepted failing to complete the SEAL training. The navy refuses to ease up on these high standards. One reason is, if they did, there would be a major exodus of SEALs not willing to serve with those trained to a lower standard. The navy is already using re-enlistment bonuses of up to $150,000 to keep experienced SEALs in service.

The U.S. Navy has managed to lower the older attrition rate (75 percent) of candidates for SEAL training by establishing a "prep school" for recruits wanting to become SEALs. Noting that the major cause of failure is the inability of the candidates to handle the heavy physical demands of the training, the navy decided to help wannabe SEALs cope. The navy hired former SEALs, who are stationed around the country to show potential recruits how to prepare for the physical screening tests they have to pass to get into SEAL school, and what level of conditioning is required to complete the course. So far, the failure rate has been cut from 75 to 60 percent. The navy has also been recruiting civilians who are athletic and want to be SEALs, and the addition of the physical conditioning coaches has made SEAL school less intimidating.

The former SEALs also play a role in abolishing a lot of the myths about SEAL training. Yes, it's tough, but there's a lot of urban legends out there making it seem impossibly tough. The navy knows it has lost a lot of potential SEALs because of all the wild stories. The former SEALs, serving with the recruiters, get potential SEAL recruits into the right physical, and mental, shape to get into, and pass, SEAL school.


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