30 Navy SEAL training photos
How many hours in a row can you stay up? Or, how many hours of physical training in a day can you do? If your answer is “a lot,” consider that a Navy SEAL probably has you beat, and can do all of these things while being freezing cold, and caked in sand. Just about every aspect of Navy SEAL training is meant to be a brutal assault on the senses, and we have the photos from their history to prove it.
Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training
The Navy SEALs operate under the motto, “The only easy day was yesterday,” and this recruit is getting a special lesson on why today sucks. Of course, the average person would say that about a fully-clothed mud bath, but this hardened man — who’s grimacing to prevent a mud bath from becoming a mud nasal flush — welcomes this challenge.
Prior to entering actual SEAL training, or Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training (BUD/S), applicants are required to go through a grueling 7 to 9 weeks of rigorous physical tests. Among the minimum requirements are a mile-and-a-half run in under 11:30. Think that’s easy? They have to do it with pants and combat boots on.
Navy SEALs are first and foremost watermen, and that has everything to do with their history. The history of the SEALs dates back to WWII, when Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs) stealthily stalked the beaches of Normandy (and other invasion sites) weeks ahead of Operation Overlord, gathering intelligence for the upcoming invasion.
They operated in small groups, and to combat the strong ocean current, they basically had to be part-fish. That tradition continues today, as trainees have to pass five swim challenges so they can be declared “drown-proof.” Included in the challenges are floating on your back for five minutes, and a timed dolphin swim, which doesn’t seem hard, until you have both your hands and feet tied together while you do it.
HAHO and HALO jumps
At 22,000 feet in the sky, human beings can’t breathe without assistance. At 35,000 feet, the temperature is an average of -45 degrees Fahrenheit. Well, Navy SEALs typically jump from well above that altitude, and depending on what kind of jump it is, they might only open their parachute at the very last moment.
SEALs train for HAHO (High Altitude High Opening) jumps and HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) jumps. A HAHO jump requires a chute opening at 27,000 feet, allowing SEALs to travel up to 40 miles floating in the air. A HALO jump has SEALs fall until they reach terminal velocity, then they try not to break their neck as their parachute opens at a mere 3,000 feet.
‘Get comfortable being uncomfortable’
Whoops! This SEAL recruit is learning a lesson in gravity, as somehow he managed to slip while tight-roping across this pond. Of course, it’s not just a matter of strength and balance, as explosions, gunfire, and smoke grenades are bursting all around to distract him. Also, all around him are his mates, sitting helplessly in waist-deep water.
A common theme in training is that SEAL instructors go to great lengths to make everyone’s lives miserable at pretty much all times. Thus you have 30 men watching this embarrassing moment from inside the pond. The idea is to get recruits out of their comfort zones, and that’s why they embrace the saying, “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.”
Ripped from your face
It may be a little difficult to understand what’s going on in this photograph, but we’re happy to break it down for you. The guy on the right is a recruit, who was happily scuba diving in the pool, until a big bad instructor came along and ripped his regulator out of his mouth.
Diving accidents aren’t necessarily common among SEALs, but they do happen. This technique is meant to test the recruit’s coolness under pressure — and if you can handle having your oxygen supply ripped away from you at the bottom of a pool, perhaps you too could be a Navy SEAL (or take on water at the bottom of the pool; honestly, that’s more likely).
‘It pays to win’
The SEALs train on Coronado Island in Southern California, and every now and again the ritzy neighborhood gets a load of heavy-breathing men running through the streets with a boat on their heads. As you can see, these men are strained, running for God knows how long, with a frickin’ boat on top of their heads.
A simple problem makes this so hard: The tallest man has to shrink, and the shortest man has to grow. That’s the only way to balance the boat. The SEALs have another saying, “It pays to win,” and that’s important because if this is a race, the winner might be able to sit the next one out.
If a recruit passes Pre-BUD/S and all three phases of actual BUD/S, they’ll still have to look forward to Post-BUD/S, Basic Parachute Training, and then, finally, Advanced Training. If they’re able to make it through all of those courses, they may indeed be able to call themselves a full-time frogman (a soldier proficient in scuba and water operations).
That’s one of the parts the media gets wrong about Navy SEALs: It seems like their training is all out in public. That may be true for a large portion of Pre-BUD/S, and BUD/S training, but the public never gets to see the advanced training Navy SEALs receive to become truly elite.
Physical fitness is like, really important to SEALs
“Get comfortable being uncomfortable” applies to every moment of SEAL training, and that includes when doing something simple, like push-ups. They’re soaking wet with stabbing-cold water all over, and it’s meant to make the trainee feel overburdened and want to quit.
These recruits are in the middle of Hell Week, and we’ll get to that in a moment, but as of now, push-ups should be no problem for these men. In Pre-BUD/S training, they’ll be required to make a 500-yard breaststroke swim in under 12:30, six pull-ups, and an optimum performance would see them do 100 sit-ups and 100 push-ups in two minutes.
You’re not coming in the house looking like that
These men started their training exercise with a mud bath, and right now they look more like the walking dead than Navy SEALs. At least they have their oars, but it begs the question: Where the hell is their boat? Wherever it is, it must’ve been left behind, along with these men’s spirit, and sense of humor.
BUD/S training lasts a grueling 24 weeks, and to put that in perspective, consider that basic training takes half the time. There are three phases, and the physical fitness portion is just the first part. The next step includes scuba training, which entails underwater navigation and “drown-proofing.” The third is land warfare, where all the cool stuff happens.
Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen
You don’t have to be a yachtsman to look at this boat and say, “That’s awesome!” The sharp-angled surfaces tell us that this boat is at least partially stealth and basically looks like an oversize, more badass version of a Cigarette boat. Even though the operator of this craft went through SEAL training, he’s not a Navy SEAL, however.
SEALs operate side by side with Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCC), but each has its own separate history. The SWCC consider themselves “quiet professionals,” and you don’t hear about them too often, because their missions are even more secret than those of Navy SEALs.
This recruit is beyond caring about the muddy water, the fact that he’s soaked head to toe, or the fact that he’s plugging his ears because of constant explosions. This SEAL hopeful is experiencing the dreaded “Hell Week,” which occurs in the fourth week of BUD/S training.
Hell Week separates the tough from the really tough, as recruits will engage in five-and-a-half days of constant training. Only four hours of sleep is granted and that comes at the end, while recruits experience 20 hours of physical training every day. They’ll expect to run 200 miles during the week, and even though they consume 7,000 calories a day, they’ll still lose weight.
‘Be someone special’
If pulling up to a drive-through burger place in your car is your definition of a good time, then go join the Air Force. However, if your definition of cool is rolling up to a nuclear submarine in a Zodiac, then maybe you should join the Navy SEALs.
Upon graduation, SEALs will take to the podium, where a banner reads, “Be someone special.” That doesn’t mean that they are someone special for having become SEALs — it actually means that they’ll need to work hard every day to “be someone special.” Then you get to do awesome stuff all the time.
If a recruit is going to make it as a Navy SEAL, he’s going to have to be a very skilled waterman. Of all the special forces units on planet Earth, the SEALs are the only ones who consider water a safe zone, as others avoid it like the plague (probably because you can’t breathe when in it).
Here we have recruits participating in up-downs, and as you can see, their hands and feet are tied. Recruits dying in the pool is very uncommon, but drownings and revivals happen often, thus the instructors in scuba gear. These recruits will be expected to be able to do up-downs 20 times in five minutes in a 9-foot-deep pool. No thanks!
SEAL Team 6
Your eyes don’t deceive you, that’s a U.S. Air Force Osprey dangling two Navy SEALs out of its back. The Osprey does have the ability to hover like a helicopter, so it’s likely they’re not being dragged along like Hector’s head from Achilles’ chariot.
At any given time, there are 2,500 Navy SEALs on active duty spread out between eight different teams. There used to be only two teams — SEAL Team 2 and SEAL Team 6. When the founder of SEAL Team 6, Richard Marcinko, was asked why he chose the number six, he said he wanted the Russians to be worried about the other five.
Lookin’ good, recruit
If training looks dangerous for the Navy SEALs, that’s because it is. This recruit is experiencing firsthand what that’s all about, as he’s been swallowed by a smoke grenade. His face tells it all, as the stinging smoke hurts his eyes and threatens to fill his lungs, but at least purple is a good color for him.
According to a report by USA Today, training is actually more dangerous for Navy SEALs than real combat. Despite a heavy mission load, in 2013 and in early 2015, more soldiers died during SEAL training than on combat missions. That’s crazy to think about when they’re taking on the most dangerous missions on planet Earth.
Cold, freezing, and frigid
These men are hanging out in the surf on Coronado Beach, where the water can reach temperatures in the mid-50s. Hypothermia is a guaranteed result in water of that temperature, so these recruits have to stay huddled together to share one another’s body heat.
As part of “drown-proofing” recruits, SEALs used to be subjected to waterboarding. However, aside from having a terrible stigma attached to it, it was removed from training not long ago. The reason is that nobody could pass the test, leading to low morale in the ranks. And what was the longest anyone lasted? According to reports, 14 seconds was the record.
You’ll never guess what happened next!
OK, you can probably guess what’s going to happen next, and to say that this recruit is about to get severely punked is an understatement. Remember when instructors were taking regulators out of recruits’ mouths? Well, the pool is full of predators, and they take the form of Navy SEAL instructors.
In order to become “drown-proof,” if there is such a thing, recruits must actually experience what it is to drown. Instructors love inducing panic into their recruits because during the heat of battle, the urge to panic is very real. A cool head will be calm and prevail in this situation, while a normal person would probably be calling this instructor a “jerk.”
Desert recreation … sort of
This all-terrain, badass dune buggy is the Navy SEALs’ Desert Patrol Vehicle. These fast and light attack craft saw their first action in Operation Desert Storm, as they were the first vehicles to liberate Kuwait City in 1991. Their mission was born out of the need to cover vast amounts of terrain to get behind enemy lines safely.
We say “safely” because these little 200-horsepower vehicles pack a punch. There are two heavy mounted machine guns, and in case they run into something bigger, there’s also a 40 mm grenade launcher mounted for the rear gunner. Getting in a fight with this little guy entails getting peppered by bullets and grenades while it drives circles around the target.
Logs, and we’re not talking Lincoln Logs
The Master Chief and the rest of his SEAL instructors absolutely love log drills, mostly because recruits absolutely hate it. The same problem that vexes crew members while carrying their boat presents itself for log drills: the tallest man has to shrink, the shortest man has to grow.
The effort to shrink is particularly hard for the tall man and his back, and that’s probably why most Navy SEALs are average height or shorter. The agony that comes along with these drills is evident in their faces, and they’re probably wondering why on Earth they would volunteer for such torture.
In BUD/S, it doesn’t matter if you’re enlisted, an officer, or a graduate from the Naval Academy at Annapolis — everyone trains side by side. That means that everyone is expected to be experiencing the same kind of misery, such as this man, who has sand over every inch of his body, in his nose, and even in his right eye.
Something about the way his face looks tells us that he’s enjoying this, at least somewhat. The Navy SEALs have a saying: “It’s all mind over matter, and if I don’t mind, then it doesn’t matter.” Despite the fact that grains of sand scratch his eyeball, he has the semblance of a smile, which must really impress his superiors … or piss them off, that’s possible too.
A lesson in history
Navy SEALs were conceived in WWII, but they were born in the Vietnam War. During that war, the Navy SEALs were, for lack of a better word, active. The enemy referred to them as “the men with green faces,” and they were so effective that SEAL Teams 1 and 2 amassed a kill ratio of 200:1.
While the majority of the Vietnam War was fought in South Vietnam, SEALs operated not only in North and South Vietnam but also in Laos and Cambodia. Among their tasks were underwater demolition, search and destroy, and reconnaissance missions, which these SEALs are probably learning all about, as their history is integrated into their training.
Where are the women?
If you look close enough at this picture, and every other photograph from this collection, you’ll notice that there hasn’t been one female recruit. That’s not only the way it’s always been, but it’s actually required by law. Sorry G.I. Jane, but this equality fight is headed into the future.
In 2019, rumors surfaced that the Navy is actively recruiting women for the SEALs program. Presently, because of the extreme conditions SEALs go through, they don’t have accommodations for female applicants. As of April 2019, 12 women have completed the Army’s Ranger Course, which is an elite fighting unit similar, but not quite equal, to the SEALs.
At the conclusion of the Vietnam War, the SEAL community was drastically reduced in size, until it was reorganized in 1983. In that same year, low morale and a lack of intensity during training resulted in four Navy SEALs drowning in the Gulf of Mexico.
When tensions flared in Grenada, President Reagan ordered an invasion of the tiny island with a handful of American citizens living there. During a reconnaissance mission, four SEALs were dropped in severely choppy water and drowned in the rough sea. The rest of the team went on until they had to abort the mission when their boat began taking on water.
Hangin’ in there
When the Navy SEALs posted this photograph on Instagram, it came with the caption, “Life is way too short to waste a day feeling sorry for yourself.” We can’t say for certain, but given how fatigued these men look, they just might be feeling sorry for themselves.
SEALs don’t have time for that, and Grenada is a perfect example. While one mission was effectively a failure, another was put into a terrible situation and prevailed. A SEAL team tasked with taking a radio tower did just that, but was surrounded by heavy gunfire. They fought their way out, made it to the sea, and spent seven hours in the ocean before being picked up.
The look of determination
This man is paddling very hard, and if you’ve ever tried to break the open surf and make it out to sea in Southern California, then you know that a Herculean effort is required. These men are in the beginning phases of training, evidenced by their life jackets, which means these men are not “drown-proof” yet.
During Operation Just Cause, which was an invasion of Panama in 1989, SEALs successfully disabled the private airplane of then-outlaw President Manuel Noriega. Four SEALs were killed in the action in an intense firefight, but eventually, more SEALs caught up with Noriega himself, and successfully captured him.
It’s not enough to just survive BUD/S training, and every subsequent training necessary to become a Navy SEAL after that, as recruits are being evaluated all the time. Not only are recruits rated on their physical abilities and aptitude, but also their ability to work within a team.
“Log (physical training) is painful,” said military.com’s Stew Smith. He’s not kidding, and he recommends lifting with the legs instead of the arms. He also recommends that recruits worry more about their timed runs and swims, which is the stuff they’re actually evaluated on, than practicing for lifting a boat and a log.
Motivation ain’t got nothin’ on dedication
This Instagram post from the Navy SEALs comes with a motivating message: “You will have days where you feel unmotivated. It happens to everyone. Motivation does not last. Dedication does … Dedication will always override motivation. On those days where you are tired or don’t feel well, find a way to get better. It can be something small. Yet, one small achievement is better than none … Find a way to get closer to your dreams.”
Whatever your walk of life, if greatness is something you desire, then you have to go through the growing pains, and have the grit to pull through. These men chose to be the ultimate warrior, and in this photograph, we see them go through the growing pains of achieving their dream.
Blowing (stuff) up
Navy SEAL teams are greater than the sum of their parts, in that every single one of them brings separate expertise to the group. One of the specialties is more coveted than the others, and that is the Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team member.
Not only is this soldier proficient at disposing of land mines, but also underwater mines as well. In Panama, SEAL Team 4 led a mission to destroy President Noriega’s private gunboat, the Presidente Porras. Without firing a shot, the SEALs penetrated the harbor’s defenses, stealthily attached C-4 charges to the hull, and blew up the ship. Navy SEALs love to blow shi(p) up.
There should be no shame in it, given the extreme conditions produced during training, but this recruit is calling it quits. Having sand caked to every part of your body has got to suck, and this recruit knows that quitting comes with the promise of a hot meal, and more importantly, a hot shower and clean clothes.
The bell follows recruits everywhere they go, taunting them into quitting, as they know they just have to ring it to end it. Although instructors have adopted a more positive approach with recruits in recent years, they can constantly be heard taunting them, saying, “Want to quit?”
If a recruit can withstand all the mental anguish, pass all the physical requirements, survive the torment of instructors, and complete all phases of training, then they will wear one of the most respected tridents in the military on their uniforms.
The trident is referred to as the “Budweiser,” for a couple of reasons. The first is the obvious similarity in the sounds of “BUD/S” and “Bud.” The second is because of its uncanny similarity to the Budweiser logo — but you can be sure that anyone who wears it is no couch-sitting, beer-drinking slob. The Budweiser has a flintlock gun to show they’re a combat force, and a three-pronged trident for Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL).