The Real Reason You Wouldn't Survive Navy SEAL Training

Close to 1,000 fresh-faced candidates start the Navy SEAL training program every year. Before these candidates even set foot on training grounds, most will have spent months pummeling their body into shape and studying furiously to pave their way mentally for the grueling process lying ahead of them. Still, only around 200 make it. Navy SEAL training is wickedly hard. It's the kind of hard you can fully anticipate and plan for, but which still ends up sucker-punching your soul into absolute submission.

Navy SEALs end up being dropped into impossible scenarios, and the training journey reflects just that. To successfully enroll into the first tier of Basic Underwater Demolition School (BUDS), candidates need to demonstrate they can swim 500 yards in under 13 minutes, pump out 50 push-ups, crank out the same number of curl-ups, and cap the ordeal off with a cheeky mile-and-a-half mile run in 10 minutes. Richard Simmons-esque prancercize this most definitely isn't. But far from grabbing a self-congratulatory beverage on the other side of physical screening, candidates have to undergo a battery of aptitude tests, including an assessment of ability to operate effectively under psychological pressure — an ominous precursor to the hellish training days ahead. And this whole nightmare ordeal of preparation and uncompromising performance only gets your foot in the door.

The deeper challenge

Over the next two months, candidates undergo intensive physical training — enough to make those entry-level physical tests look like high school PE badminton class. Stage two and three of the training process consistently up the ante, culminating in (the aptly named) Hell Week. Over seven agonizing days, candidates must endure constant sleep deprivation and 20-hour physical workdays. They'll walk over 200 miles and undergo a devil's buffet of nasty physical tests which call for impeccable judgment and quick-fire problem-solving. And through all this, the first moment a candidate buckles under the strain may spell the end of their Herculean journey to making it as a Navy SEAL. Improbably, it keeps getting tougher. Those who survive Hell Week move on to combat diving school. Then comes land warfare training. After that? Welcome to Seal Qualification Training, where the finer points of survival, evasion, resistance, and escape are drummed home alongside a regular diet of jumping out of planes, enduring extremes of temperature, and getting cozy with the art of blowing stuff up, both on land and at sea.

The deeper challenge here is a heart-shriveling double-punch. The uncomfortable truth of Navy SEAL training is that a good brain, amazing dedication, and the physical toughness of an old leather boot on a desert highway simply aren't enough to guarantee you'll make it. Those who do make it are gifted with a rare added quality of ridiculous, nigh-on-insane levels of resilience. At the end of the day, the training is designed to find those rare people who can be ground down into a gooey human-colored paste, and for whatever reason, just keep on going.