Ask Stew: What Does It Take To Be A Navy SEAL?

7 Steps to Become a SEAL

People ask about preparing for challenging military special ops training programs—especially teens.  There are many things to consider before undertaking such a challenge as SEAL training or any other special ops training for that matter. Here is an email from a young teen (typical question) about just how hard training is and how much he will have to rely on mental toughness while at training:

Hi, I took an interest in the SEALs when I was in 7th grade and decided that I'm going to be one. What can you tell me about the mental toughness required to make it through BUD/S? I believe I have the mental toughness to make it through but I want a second source for the toughness required. Thank you – J.J.


That is great that you feel you have the mental toughness to endure one of the hardest training programs in the world where nearly 80% on average do not make it. The truth is your physical preparation will help you build mental toughness—especially on days and early mornings when you “just do not feel like” but you train anyway.

If you can ace the PT test to get TO the training, then start to prepare yourself for a few years to make it THROUGH the training, you can be in good enough shape so you do not have to access “mental toughness” until later in the day of training.  Events like 2-mile timed swims with fins in cold water, 4-mile beach timed runs, hundreds of reps of PT, obstacle courses, challenging pool skills, SCUBA diving for miles in dark and cold water, and much, much more, will test your physical preparedness daily. Some days will require mental toughness to endure the constant discomfort of training. You need to be constantly engaged in mental toughness during your training.

Team Work And Other Factors

Obviously, physical preparedness and mental toughness are required and related to each other, but your ability to be a good team player cannot be overlooked. You do not get through BUD/S by yourself. You and your boat crew, swim buddy, and class will ultimately have to gel and figure out how to work together to accomplish very difficult daily tasks. Sometimes just showing up on time with all the proper gear is challenging enough and you will all pay for classmates failing to meet this standard.

The thing to remember is that BUD/S is the test to get to your dream job—becoming a Navy SEAL. Do not make a decision to quit just because you think that the SEAL Team life is not for you, because at that moment, BUD/S is not for you. BUD/S is not an accurate description of life in the Teams. In ways, life in the Teams is harder on you personally, way more tactically challenging, but not as hard physically (not all the time). There will be days that you are hotter or colder than you ever were at BUD/S in the Teams and days that you do not sleep similar to your experiences during Hellweek. The question is, “Are you prepared both mentally and physically for the test (BUD/S)?” In the end there are no secrets to getting through SEAL Training—you have to do it. 

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