What sort of physical activities will SEALs be required to perform in the course of their missions? To answer this question, the types of missions that you perform need to be examined. A partial list of these missions is shown in Table 2-1, and a brief description of these missions is provided below.
Table 2-1. A Summary of Various SEAL Missions
Small Unit Patrolling High Speed Boat Operations Combat Swimmer Operations SDV and Dry Deck Shelter Operations Urban Warfare Winter Warfare Operations
One capability that will be needed in almost all SEAL land warfare operations is the ability to carry a substantial amount of weight over long distances. You will typically carry two weapons and a supply of ammunition. There is no good way to know exactly how much ammunition you will be required to carry for a particular mission and SEAL operators tend to pack heavy in this category. In addition, your loads will often include explosives and specialized items. Water needs to he carried in the loadout and, if the mission is a sustained one, rations must also be included. Loads of 70-80 pounds are standard in the community and much heavier loads arc not uncommon. How far must you carry this load? There is no one distance that can accurately he used as an upper limit, but certainly 10-20 miles in a 24 hour period, depending on the difficulty of the terrain, may be required for some operations. Walking long distances with a heavy load is a significant challenge in itself, but you may also be required to run and scramble over terrain features, walls, and fences.
Load-carrying is one of the most important physical activities a SEAL can practice.
The ability to carry a wounded fellow operator on your back or shoulders is also important. Buddy shoulder carries are critical in that they arc currently the anticipated mode of transporting a wounded SEAL to a secure area where medical care can be rendered. These carries are somewhat different than long distance hikes with equipment because the load is distributed quite differently on the body and in some cases, the weight of the wounded operator may be in addition to the basic load.
How do you train for these activities? Long distance runs with shorts and running shoes are useful in promoting cardiovascular fitness, but do not adequately simulate load-bearing activities. Similarly, the number of bench presses you can do at a given weight does not ensure your being able to walk long distances with a heavy load. Moreover, some of the problems associated with load-carrying are musculoskeletal injuries and blisters. These can only be avoided (or minimized) by practicing the specific activity.
High Speed Boat Operations
The Special Boat Environment imposes unique physical demands. Such missions typically include extended periods in transit, often at high speeds in stormy seas. This type of activity requires extraordinary stability of the knee, elbow, shoulder and ankle joints. Since maintaining a slight bend in the knees, elbows and ankles is essential for minimizing musculoskeletal injuries, training to improve muscle strength and endurance is critical.
With the current-day SEAL teams having had their origin in the Scouts and Raiders, Naval Combat Demolition Units, and Underwater Demolition Teams of World War II, it is not surprising that combat swimmer operations are still an important part of the Naval Special Warfare mission. These operations may last as little as one or two hours in some situations, and as long as eight to 10 hours in others. You may be swimming on the surface or swimming underwater compass courses with the Draeger LAR V or MK Ifj closed-circuit underwater breathing apparatuses. These operations are often carried out in very cold water; thus, hypothermia is a constant concern. In many instances, you will be towing something in the water (usually something with a very rapid rate of combustion), thereby increasing the effort needed to accomplish the mission. Some missions involve exiting the water and climbing up the side of a ship using a caving ladder or other climbing apparatus. These are difficult maneuvers under any circumstances, but much more so when your hands are numb from cold exposure and you are climbing with weapons, ammunition, and explosives. Regular exposure to cold water immersion will help to develop physiological adaptations so that you will fare better when subjected to cold water on a mission. In addition, both upper body and leg strength are important for shipboarding techniques. Grip strength, in particular, is critical for maintaining a firm hold on the rope or ladder. Caving ladder or rope climbs are very important to develop the muscle groups that will be used for shipboarding; you should do these climbs with gear whenever possible.
Swimming with fins is an activity basic to all SEAL combat swimmer missions and should be done on a regular basis in team physical training evolutions. Swimming without fins, while a very good activity for promoting cardiovascular fitness, is not typically required for SEAL missions. It is
important to mention that encouraging speed on combat swimmer operations is fine for surface swims, but should not be done on underwater swims because of the reduction in the LAR V operating range and increased risk of central nervous system oxygen toxicity.
High exercise rates under water increase the diver's chance of having an oxygen convulsion.
These operations are basically combat swimmer operations, but ones in which the SDV does the majority of the work. They are typically longer than operations in which free-swimming divers arc used, but this is not always the case. As SDV operators, you need to be able to accomplish the same physical tasks noted for combat swimmers above. In addition, these operations may require significant upper body strength to handle the heavy equipment required for the mission both in the Drv Deck Shelter and later at the objective.
Some SEAL missions call for direct action operations in an urban setting. Although it is difficult to generalize, these missions might be expected to require less of a load-bearing challenge because some form of transportation will often be available. In addition, the distance to be covered on foot will typically be less than many remote missions. Generally, you will need to carry less food and water than with other types of land warfare missions. Your need for weapons and ammunition, however, will not be reduced, so significant gear loads are still a possibility. Additionally, you may need to perform demanding physical tasks, such as sprints and rapid stair climbs, in the urban warfare setting. Moreover, there is the potential of having to accomplish these maneuvers while carrying or dragging a wounded buddy or hostage.
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