BUD/S: Everything you need to ace Navy SEAL training (2024)

Military Life

All your burning questions about BUD/S, answered.

BUD/S: Everything you need to ace Navy SEAL training (1)

By Joshua Skovlund

Posted on Oct 31, 2023 11:57 PM EDT

10 minute read

BUD/S: Everything you need to ace Navy SEAL training (2)

If you recently signed a contract with the U.S. Navy for a shot at Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, better known as BUD/S, there are a few things you need to know in order to pass the grueling training.

The U.S. military has some of the best-trained and most experienced special operations forces in the world. Navy SEALs have become legends for their exploits on battlefields throughout the world as far back as the 1960s. Even before the SEALs were established, their predecessors completed beach reconnaissance for the Allied invasion on D-Day.

SEALs can go into any environment and dominate the enemy, a testament to the advanced training and funding they receive at their unit, but also the assessment and selection that happens during BUD/S.

A brief history of Navy BUD/S training

Navy SEALs trace their lineage to the Scouts and Raiders, Naval Combat Demolition Units, Office of Strategic Services Operational Swimmers, Underwater Demolition Teams, and Motor Torpedo Boat Squadrons of World War II.

UDT units are the origin of SEAL culture, and their training was adopted into what BUD/S is today. Lt. Cmdr. Draper Kauffman organized the Naval Combat Demolition Unit (NCDU) training school and is the mastermind behind the infamous ‘Hell Week’ that is in today’s BUD/S training.

The first NCDU classes in 1943 had an overall attrition rate of 65-75%, similar to the current BUD/S training attrition rate of approximately 68%. Those who made it through earned the ‘Frogman’ nickname.

UDT divers became some of the first instructors to run the first BUD/S class in 1962. Originally, there were only two SEAL Teams; SEAL Team One on the West Coast and SEAL Team Two on the East Coast. Now, freshly minted SEALs are assigned to one of the 10 SEAL teams.

The SEALs demonstrated their skill and lethality during the Vietnam War. But as warfare changed, the SEALs adapted their training to meet new demands. But, BUD/S has remained similar in process and approach for decades.

How long is Navy BUD/S training?

All in, a candidate will be in training for almost two years before joining a SEAL platoon. SEAL candidates start their training pathway with Navy recruit training, which is followed by a five-week Naval Special Warfare Preparatory Course. Candidates will move on to attend Naval Special Warfare Orientation, where they are introduced to ocean swims, sand running, and obstacle courses over two weeks.

SEAL candidates who prove they are ready to move on are assigned a class number to begin BUD/S training. First phase is seven weeks long, and candidates are pushed to their mental and physical limits. From grueling physical training to obstacle courses to learning and conducting hydrographic survey operations, SEAL candidates drop like flies during the first phase.

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First phase ends with the infamous Hell Week. SEAL candidates take on the grueling five-and-a-half day gauntlet and only get about four hours of sleep total. Candidates run more than 200 miles and undergo physically demanding tests every day. Each event by itself may not pose a challenge to physically fit candidates, but everything combined with lack of sleep makes this week true to its name: hell.

Second phase is seven weeks long. It’s when high-impact selection transitions into what makes Navy SEALs real frogmen. Candidates hit the classroom and learn about the principles and physics of diving and dive medicine. They undergo water confidence testing that will weed out anyone who’s even slightly uncomfortable in the water.

Everything from ripping snorkel masks off to tying up oxygen hoses, candidates are put through rigorous testing to find and eliminate any weaknesses in the water. If you panic underwater, it can get you and your fellow SEALs killed. That’s why the BUD/S cadre put candidates through such rigorous training on both open and closed-circuit diving.

Third phase introduces SEAL candidates to land warfare orientation, including training on basic weapons, demolitions, land navigation, patrolling, rappelling, marksmanship, and small-unit tactics. Candidates who make it through third phase walk away with the foundational skills needed to be a SEAL.

Those same skills are honed during the following 26 weeks of advanced training following the completion of the third phase, called SEAL Qualification Training (SQT). During this evolution, SEAL candidates will attend static line parachute and military freefall training, SERE school, and several other courses. SQT is meant to put aspiring SEAL candidates through a Navy SEAL workup for a deployment, which includes extensive training with weapons, small unit tactics, ambushes, demolitions, land navigation, and other skills expected of a Navy SEAL.

Navy BUD/S training requirements

The standards and requirements at BUD/S demand discipline, extensive mental and physical strength, and toughness. According to the Navy, the traits they say make up a SEAL are “maturity, self-assurance, and self-confidence.”

You must arrive at BUD/S in peak physical performance; don’t assume you can show up barely passing minimum physical training requirements and make it through the rigorous training. A former Navy SEAL instructor and later, a mentor, said a lot of candidates who can’t pass the Navy Physical Screening Test (PST) are encouraged to join the Navy and try out for BUD/S later.

The problem is there are no good ways to train up for the PST if you are on a ship at sea. It’s not impossible, but being new to the fleet, you will need to learn the basics of your job and master what’s expected of you. What you have available to you is limited.

“Which navy ship has a f*cking swimming pool? Zero, right? So you can’t train on the ship. You’re working 12 hours, and you have 12 hours off,” the former SEAL instructor said. “There’s no f*cking way you’re gonna want to get in the pool after 12 hours of working if the Navy did have pools on the ships, there’s no way.”

Another mistake the instructor warned SEAL hopefuls of is relaxing after passing a PST, especially if you have an extended delay before you ship out for training. If you barely passed the PST and have a ship date several months out, don’t stop working out or you are setting yourself up for failure.

On top of that, if you barely passed the PST and then ship out for Navy basic training, you don’t get a lot of time to train to the level of fitness you need to make it through BUD/S.

“If you left your hometown barely passing that test, that three months of training will turn that barely passing score into a f*cken you’re done failing score,” the instructor said.

But there are other requirements you must meet before you secure your spot at BUD/S. You must be a U.S. citizen that qualifies for a secret clearance. No college degree is required, but you must meet the minimum requirements of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) score:

  • GS+MC+EI=170
  • VE+MK+MC+CS=220
  • VE+AR=110 MC=50

Physical and health-related requirements:

  • 28 years old or younger
  • 20/40 best eye; 20/70 worst eye; correctable to 20/25 with no color blindness
  • Pass a diving physical
  • Pass a PST

The PST consists of a 500-yard swim with either a sidestroke or breaststroke (minimum of 12:30), pushups (50 repetitions), curlups (50 repetitions), pullups (10 repetitions), and a 1.5-mile run (10:30 minimum). Remember, minimums will not get you your SEAL trident, so make sure you train appropriately.

Once you make it into BUD/S, you have to pass weekly tests, including a four-mile timed run, a timed obstacle course, and a two-mile timed swim. Each week compounds with more running, swimming, and other physical training, and by the time you reach Hell Week, you’re body will be tired, but you can make it if you are dedicated to becoming a SEAL.

Navy BUD/S training preparation

The former SEAL instructor said the biggest problem people face is overtraining or stressing themselves out with knowing too much. He recommended just focusing on the Physical Training Guide that the U.S. Navy has available on the NSW website.

The program is 26 weeks long and is designed for those with an “average” level of fitness. A rule of thumb is you need to be able to complete the work required in the first week, and if you can’t, you might need to seek out specialized assistance to work your way into that first week.

This training guide is built to ease your body into the rigors of training it will endure during BUD/S. You must focus on key warm-ups, nutrition, and rest during your training. By doing so, you maximize the gains while lowering the risk of injuries from over-training.

Overtraining will often cause an injury or make you susceptible to injury, causing a snowball effect of problems that sets a candidate up for failure.

“They leave with an injury, and of course, everybody keeps it to themselves. They’re going through boot camp and there’s no physical therapy at boot camp. You know, there’s no stretching, no yoga f*cking meditation hour helping you recover,” the instructor said. “So you’re sliding back on your scores because you’re not PTing because you have an injury. Then you’re showing up just a bag of ass because you were rushed, essentially.”

That’s a Navy problem, the instructor explained, but there are things candidates can do to give themself the best shot they’ll get.

To earn a spot at BUD/S, you have to pass a PST. But only so many slots are available per year. So if more guys pass the PST than there are slots, the Navy will pick candidates by the top PST scores. But even that isn’t a guarantee.

The best way to prepare for BUD/S is to maintain the training program and a healthy diet until you ship out. Make sure you don’t over-train and only re-assess your PST every four to six weeks. Don’t stop training if you have auto-qualifying scores on the PST, which means you can perform a 9:30 500-yard swim, 75 push-ups, 75 curl-ups, 15 pull-ups, and a 9:30 1.5-mile run.

The one thing some might argue is you either have or don’t have the mindset needed. Don’t show up to BUD/S for fame, money, or bragging rights. Show up willing to do the work necessary to earn the coveted trident and join the Navy’s elite SEAL Teams. Only a true desire to become a Navy SEAL will get you through those moments when you’re low on rest, face down in the sand after being in the cold ocean all night.

What is Navy BUD/S training really like?

BUD/S is a brutal training phase in the overall Navy SEAL training pipeline. Lack of sleep, strong urges of hunger, and the onslaught of log PT, sand, and saltwater combined will lead to many of your BUD/S class ringing the bell and quitting. Just the thought of quitting is a dagger to the heart.

“If guys think about getting out or going away, that’s all it takes before guys f*cking quit. I mean, that first month is brutal — the first couple of days are especially brutal,” the instructor said.

The historical average attrition rate in BUD/S is 68% of the starting class. But, if you dig deeper into the numbers, you’ll find a couple of points of relief should you find yourself making it to that point in the training. If you make it into Hell Week, you statistically have a significantly higher chance of graduating BUD/S because 45% of the starting class quits, gets injured, is dropped for performance, or is rolled by the end of the third week.

Only 21% of the remaining class will quit or get dropped by the end of Hell Week. A total average of 8% historically quit, got injured, dropped, or rolled during phases 2 and 3. So, if you make it to Hell Week, know you are statistically on the right side of the cut, even more so once you make it into phase two of BUD/S.

FAQs about [keyword]

You have questions, Task & Purpose has answers.

Q: Are women allowed in BUD/S training?

A: Yes, women are allowed to attend BUD/S. So far, there has only been one woman to become a Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewman, a different specialty within Naval Special Warfare. But so far, there have not been any females to become a Navy SEAL.

Q: How long is a typical day in BUD/S training?

A: Each BUD/S class is slightly different, so the length of each training day can vary. Estimates of 8 to 20 hours exist, but an official average has not been posted by the U.S. Navy or NSW. Go into it knowing you won’t always know when the day will end, and you’ll be pushed beyond physical barriers you didn’t know existed.

Q: How do I pass BUD/S training?

A: First and foremost, don’t quit. By refusing to quit, you are giving yourself a 71% chance of passing. The historical number of BUD/S candidates quitting in the first three weeks is 29%. After, you have a statistically significant chance of earning your SEAL Trident, as very few are dropped, quit, or become injured after the first three weeks.

Q: Does BUD/S have a training evolution on writing books or producing movies?

A: No, but sometimes we wonder.

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BUD/S: Everything you need to ace Navy SEAL training (2024)

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