How to Become a Navy SEAL

What to Know About Navy Special Warfare Operators (SO)

Students in Navy SEALs qualification training navigate the surf off the cost of Coronado.
••• Stocktrek Images / Getty Images

The Navy calls them Special Warfare Operators (SO), and they're known around the world as the SEALs, but either way, they are one of the toughest outfits to get into in the U.S. military. Navy SEALs have to endure rigorous training and tackle the toughest missions the military can throw at them.

If you're interested in joining them, there are a few things you will need to know about what duties they perform and how to become on.

What Is a Navy Special Warfare Operator (SO)?

Navy Special Warfare Operators are the foundation of Naval Special Warfare combat forces. They are called Navy SEALs because of the environments in which they operate: SEa, Air, and Land. Since 1962, when the first SEAL Teams were commissioned, Navy SEALs have distinguished themselves as individually reliable, collectively disciplined, and highly skilled warriors.

Duties Performed by Navy SEALs

SEALs must perform some of the most dangerous duties in the military, including:

  • Conducting insertions/extractions from the sea, air, or land (hence SEAL) to accomplish covert, special operations missions in any environment throughout the world
  • Capturing high-value enemy personnel and terrorists around the world
  • Collecting information and intelligence through special reconnaissance missions, reconnoitering both enemy installations and enemy movement
  • Carrying out small-unit, direct-action missions against military targets
  • Conducting underwater reconnaissance and the demolition of natural or man-made obstacles prior to amphibious landings

Working Environment for Navy SEALs

SEALs perform special operations missions from fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, ships, and submarines. They may be exposed to arctic, desert, or jungle environments, including survival in enemy-controlled areas and all water conditions. They may also perform administrative and foreign training missions in a wide variety of climates throughout the world.

Training for Navy SEALs

SEALs go through what is considered by many to be the toughest training, both physically and mentally, among any military unit in the world.

After completing basic training, these sailors take the SEAL Preparatory Course at Great Lakes, Ill., for up to four weeks. Next is Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALs training for 26 weeks at the Naval Special Warfare Training Center in Coronado, Calif. That's followed by three weeks of Basic Airborne Training at Fort Benning, Ga., and 13 weeks at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Panama City, Fla., for small battery powered wet submersibles (SDV) training.

Once they've successfully completed (and not everyone does) BUD/S, and basic airborne training, graduates are assigned to SEAL and SDV Teams where they gain on-the-job experience as members of operational platoons/detachments.

Qualifying as a Navy SEAL

You'll need a combined score of 165 on the verbal (VE), general science (GS), mechanical comprehension (MC), and electronics information (EI) on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) tests.

SEALs conduct highly sensitive missions, and if you want to be part of this group you need to be able to qualify for a secret security clearance from the Department of Defense. Generally, a history of drug use is disqualifying, as are some medical and mental health conditions. If you have a criminal history, you'll need to obtain a waiver.

You'll also need to be a U.S. citizen and have normal color perception, and you have to be under age 29 when you join.

Navy SEAL Physical Fitness Requirements

Applicants must meet the following Initial Physical Fitness Requirements:

  • 500-yard swim in 12 minutes and 30 seconds
  • 10-minute rest
  • 42 pushups in two minutes
  • Two-minute rest
  • 50 situps in two minutes
  • Two-minute rest
  • Six pull-ups (no time limit)
  • 10-minute rest
  • 1.5-mile run in 11 minutes and 30 seconds

Those who volunteer under the SEAL Challenge program at the time of enlistment and those who volunteer during Navy basic training do not have to meet the above physical fitness standards at the time of application. However, they must meet similar standards before they can graduate from the SEAL Prep Course and prior to attending BUD/S.

Sea/Shore Rotation for This Rating

The following is the expected sea/shore rotation of deployments for this rating:

  • First sea tour: 60 months
  • First shore tour: 36 months
  • Second sea tour: 60 months
  • Second shore tour: 36 months
  • Third sea tour: 48 months
  • Third shore tour: 36 months
  • Fourth sea tour: 48 months
  • Forth shore tour: 48 months

The Naval Special Warfare community is a sea-intensive community. Due to the unique nature of the special warfare mission, sailors in the elite communities of Navy Special Warfare Operator (SO) and ​Naval Special Warfare Boat Operator (SB) should expect to serve back-to-back sea tours prior to assignment ashore.