Established in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy, the Navy SEALs (Sea, Air, Land) are an elite, maritime military force who conduct unconventional, clandestine missions that large forces with high-profile platforms cannot. SEALs conduct small unit maritime military operations, originating and returning to rivers, oceans, swamps, deltas, or coastlines. These operations are very important, as half the world’s population is located within one mile of an ocean or river. Navy SEALs, however, are trained to operate in all environments, not just water. They are trained to execute missions in the extreme climates of deserts, the Arctic, and humid jungles as well as mountainous regions such as Afghanistan and the Middle East.
Predecessors of the Navy SEALs include the Army Scouts, Navy Raiders, Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDUs), Office of Strategic Services Operational Swimmers, Navy Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs) and Motor Torpedo Boat Squadrons. Operational Swimmers of the Office of Strategic Services used flexible swim fins and facemasks and closed-circuit diving equipment while the Scouts and Raiders performed beach reconnaissance. NCDUs were involved in explosive cable cutting and commando raids around world. These groups trained for national security requirements in the 1940s, and saw combat in Europe, North Africa, and the Pacific, but after World War II they were largely disbanded.
During World War II, NCDU teams, as well as Scouts and Raiders played a pivotal role in the Normandy D-Day invasion on 6 June 1944 conducting surveillance missions along the French coast. The teams also built replicas of barricades that had been placed along the Normandy coastline allowing them to practice demolitions and to formulate the best strategy to storm the beaches. The catastrophe on the island of Tarawa, in which many Marines were stuck on an exposed reef and were killed by enemy fire or drowned during WWII made the need for UDT very clear. UDTs were called upon to prevent such a loss from happening again. After Tarawa, 34 UDT teams were established and prior to ground troops going ashore, UDT teams were sent across the Pacific in every major amphibious landing to provide reconnaissance and to survey the landing area.
During the Korean War the Underwater Demolition Teams started to expand on their expertise gained from WWII and revise it to more of an offensive role. Not only focused on demolitions and mine disposal, the UDTs targeted bridges, tunnels, and other coastal targets preventing North Korea from advancing at times. The UDTs played a crucial role in the landing at Inchon marking low points in the channel and searching for mines, making it safe for the Marines to go ashore. Also, operations in Wonsan Harbor involved locating mines and rescuing sailors that had hit mines and sank.
The Korean War tested the limits of UDTs and defined new guidelines for their style of warfare leading President Kennedy to establish the Navy SEALs during the Vietnam conflict. Designed as the maritime counterpart of the Army’s Green Berets, the SEALs were deployed to Vietnam to advance through the delta and the many rivers and waterways of Vietnam to disrupt the enemy’s maritime missions. The Navy SEALs were involved in counter guerilla warfare and clandestine missions, and initially they advised and trained Vietnamese forces.
Since being established in 1962, the Navy SEALs have participated in virtually every major military mission including Grenada (1983), the Persian Gulf (1987-1990), Panama (1989-1990), Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, Liberia, and Iraq as well as having a large role in defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan. Since 2001 the SEALs have patrolled land, air, and sea searching for terrorists, pirates, and other war criminals, conducting rescue missions, and capturing and killing high-ranking terrorists. The Navy SEALs played a crucial role in the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011.
Navy SEAL training is extremely demanding, one must be in excellent physical condition to pass the SEAL Physical Screening Test (PST) before even being considered a SEAL candidate. The PST includes a 500-yard breast or side stroke swim, two minutes of push-ups, two minutes of sit-ups, pull-ups and a 1.5 mile run. Each test has a minimum, an average, and an optimum benchmark; to be considered a prospective candidate must meet the minimum requirements, but it is recommended to strive for the optimum requirement. SEAL training stresses the candidates beyond their limits to make sure they’re worthy to serve with the world’s best. The training prepares candidates for extreme physical and mental challenges of SEAL missions. Information on SEAL training can be found at: http://www.military.com/special-operations/training-to-be-a-navy-seal.html
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