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Last Updated: 28 March, 2016

1.0     Introduction

This article provides a brief overview of commissioned officers in the US Navy’s Naval Special Warfare Command.

Logo, NAVSPECWARCOM, US Naval Special Warfare Command, US, Special Forces, US Navy

2.0     Branch Title

Qualified US Navy commissioned officers are, collectively, known as Naval Special Warfare Officer’s or NSW Officers.

3.0     SEAL versus SWCC

Both commissioned officers and enlisted (other ranks) personnel can undertake US Navy SEAL training, although only enlisted personnel can undertake Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCC) training.

4.0     NSW Officer Selection and Training Process

NSW officers go through the sea, air, land (SEAL) training pipeline as enlisted personnel at the Naval Special Warfare Centre (NSWCEN), which is part of the Naval Special Warfare Command (NAVSPECWARCOM).

NSW officers attend the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) with enlisted personnel but will then attend a 5-week Junior Officer Training Course (JOTC).

Upon completion of JOTC, NSW officers will continue onto:

  • Basic Airborne Course (scroll down to Section 3.2);
  • Survival, evasion, resistance, and escape (SERE) training; and
  • SEAL Qualification Training (SQT) course.

5.0     Pre-Course Aid and Help

It can be safely said that becoming a US Navy SEAL is no easy task. And, although many try, few are left standing on graduation day and even fewer receive their Tridents (the badge of a qualified SEAL) after completing SQT.

Accordingly, there are a number of programmes designed “to reduce the attrition rate without lowering standards and jeopardising the integrity of the training programme.” (NAVSPECWARCOM Public Affairs, 2011, p.27). These programmes include:

  • Motivators located in states all over the US to help young men and women train while enrolled in the Navy Delayed Entry Programme.
  • Pre-BUD/S was put in place in 2008/2009.
  • The NAVSPECWARCOM Recruiting Directorate is consistently targeting elite candidates.
  • VAST Programme: Otherwise known as the Varsity Athletes in Special Warfare Training, is a programme delivered in partnership with NAVSPECWARCOM and the United States Naval Academy (USNA). The VAST Programme is designed to specifically target and improve a midshipmen’s chances of passing the course, by providing them with opportunities to train and apply for SEAL jobs in their senior year. There are approximately 30 slots for midshipmen at the USNA (NAVSPECWARCOM Public Affairs, 2011). However, NAVSPECWARCOM Public Affairs (2011, p.27) stated that “While the success of the program and its correlation to selection into NSW has not yet been determined, VAST has improved and increased the amount of minority applicants to NSW and created the opportunity for midshipmen to improve their skills.”

6.0     NSW Officer Jobs/Roles

An NSW officer can expect to spend their entire career in a variety of special operations assignments including:

  • Operational Navy SEAL;
  • Navy SEAL Delivery Vehicle;
  • Special Boat Teams (i.e. SWCC);
  • Leadership and staff officer [LINK] roles in:
    • US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM);
    • Naval Special Warfare Command (NAVSPECWARCOM);
    • US Navy staff; and/or
    • Joint Staff.

7.0     Women and NSW Officer Jobs/Roles

From January 2016 all military occupations are open to women (Pellerin, 2015).

8.0     Useful Links

9.0     Useful Books

Bahmanyar, M. (2005) Elite 115: US Navy SEALs. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd.

Liptak, E. (2009) Elite 173: Office of Strategic Services 1942-45: The World War II Origins of the CIA. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd.

Liptak, E. (2014) Elite 203: World War II US Navy Special Warfare Units. Oxford Publishing Ltd.

McNab, C. (2013) America’s Elite: US Special Forces from the American Revolution to the Present Day. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd.

Special Operations Forces Reference Manual. 4th Edition (2015)

10.0     References

Naval Special Warfare Command Public Affairs (2011) USNA’s VAST Program Boosts Potential SEAL Officer Numbers. Ethos: Official Magazine of the Naval Special Warfare Command. Issue 13, p.27.

Pellerin, C. (2015) SecDef Opens all Military Occupations to Women. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.therecruiterjournal.com/secdef-opens-all-military-occupations-to-women.html. [Accessed: 04 December, 2015].