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Navy SEALs vs. Other Armed Forces

by Tom Streissguth

Joining the U.S. Navy's Sea, Air, Land force takes you into an elite military unit that can be called to duty anywhere in the world. The SEALs and other Special Forces go through a brutal program of training and preparation that ranks much tougher than standard boot-camp regimen of the Navy or other branches.

Training and Fitness

The SEALs take capable volunteers who are willing to go through a stringent course of training. Recruits must be in excellent physical shape to even pass the Physical Screening Test that gets them in the door. By the PST standards, you'll have to swim 500 yards in a maximum 12:30; do a minimum 42 pushups in two minutes; and run a mile and a half in 11:50 or better. By contrast, the Navy's Physical Readiness Test for new recruits measures you in curl-ups, pushups and the 1.5-mile run, scoring your results on a scale of Satisfactory (minimum) to Outstanding. The point system is much less stringent and will allow a trainee to exit Boot Camp with Good, the second-lowest ranking on the PRT.

Pay and Benefits

The SEALs draw their pay according to the standard Navy ratings, from seaman first class up to four-star admiral. A full pension is available after 20 years of service, while SEALs also draw bonuses and allowances for special training and hazardous duty. Typical SEAL bonuses include dive pay for underwater missions, jump pay for parachuting and special duty pay. There is a housing allowance and locality pay, as well as tuition grants and loans. The other members of the Navy and other branches of the service have similar bonus opportunities and comparable pay grades.

Missions and Targets

Navy SEALs belong to the military's Special Forces complex, under the overall Joint Special Operations Command. Comparable outfits are the Army Rangers and Delta Force, Marine Special Operations Regiment and the Air Force Special Operations Wings. The SEALs undertake "direct action" and reconnaissance missions in small teams, in contrast to standard battlefield missions carried out with large and coordinated units. SEAL teams also specialize in antiterrorist actions, such as the targeting of "high-value" terrorist cells and leaders.

Specialties and Gear

SEALs may train for specialized skill sets, just as any member of the Navy, Air Force, Army or Marine Corps may. These specialties are geared toward special warfare missions and include marksmanship and sniper training, parachuting, communications, intelligence, combat medicine and languages. SEALs commonly equip themselves with specialized equipment not available to conventional forces, including night-vision goggles, fire suppressors, small breaching charges and heavy bolt cutters for breaking through locks, fences and other barriers.

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