Today, I have wisdom from an elite member of the U.S. Naval Special Operations Forces to share with you. He’s part of the Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen team, Navy SWCC (pronounced “Swick”). As part of their job, they handle all the insertion and extraction of Navy SEALs from their missions, lead training operations around the world, and conduct recon missions. To protect his identity and the security of his team, he will remain unnamed.
Known as “Boat Guys,” he is in a team of some of the most well-trained individuals in the U.S. Military. You’ll learn how he made it through the most rigorous and challenging training. It is wisdom, skills, and tactics that you can use no matter where you are in life. You will find it relevant. It will help you reach your goals.
Navy SWCC go through several months of training. They start with a two-month training at the Naval Special Warfare Preparatory School (NSW Prep) in Great Lakes, Illinois.
Following NSW Prep, candidates go on to the 8-week Basic Crewman Selection (BCS). Followed by a 21-week Crewman Qualification Training (CQT).
Success rates are low and SWCC school is extremely tough. The training is both mentally and physically demanding. Of those who qualify to go through the training, only about 18% who start end up graduating. Currently, this number is 30%, up from the graduating class of this SWCC member.
“The goal of instruction is to produce the highest quality maritime warrior who can adapt to missions in any environment… The ultimate test of the candidates’ physical and mental fortitude comes during “The Tour” a three-day training period during which students apply skills, teamwork, and mental tenacity in various weather conditions – all with limited sleep.”
– U.S. Navy SEAL + SWCC Scout Team, “The BCS Training Stages, They’re Designed to Weed Out the Weak“
I was curious to learn how this SWCC team member made it through the most grueling parts of his training.
What made him able to handle all the pressures of training while so many others cracked?
Was he more physically capable? Did he have a sharper intellect? Better trained?
Nope. None of those things. To be fair, he has those qualities, but so do a lot of the training recruits when they start.
He handled the pressures of his environment, didn’t give into discomfort, and kept himself going regardless of what he was going through.
He was able to cope with friction and not only get through it, but thrive in the face of it.
Friction is defined as “those forces that resist action and sap energy.” If you want to learn more about the concept of friction, read Sebastian Marshall’s article “Unit Cohesion.”
It is mental agility and resilience that allowed him to stick with it. He didn’t give in when all other environmental and mental forces were pushing against him.
He used several tools to accomplish this feat. These are techniques that he used all through training and continues to use on a daily basis.
The thing about tools is you actually have to use them. Knowing them without applying them won’t do you any good. Don’t only learn them, apply them.
Use them when you’re in a situation where the pressure is on and you’re not sure if you can make it through.
Here are the tools that this Navy SWCC Team Member shared:
- Positive Self Talk. He envisioned his family and friends cheering him on, rather than wondering what they’d say if he didn’t make it. He said this is a foundational piece that he uses all the time. Recently, he’s getting back into better shape and he realized he wasn’t using this tool enough. By starting to use positive self-talk again, his gym experiences are a lot more fun. It helps to not be hard on himself for not being able to “go as hard” in the gym like he used to.
- Visualization. He would see himself go through things before he would actually do them. By doing this, you’ve already gone through the process at least once. Fun fact: to your mind, doing something in a visualization is the same as actually doing it. This is a technique that a lot of pro sports players use. It makes things a lot easier.
- Focus on what you’re doing in the next 5 minutes. Focus on what is now rather than thinking about the whole day or the whole week. One thing at a time.
- Let the mind go and be in action. Focus on the breath and let the mind go quiet. Rather than thinking about what you’re doing, judging it, thinking about why you like it or don’t like it, just do it. The mind has all sorts of opinions. It’s possible to detach from the pain and allow yourself to be in an observer state.
- Mantras. “Just keep swimming” from Finding Nemo was one of his favorites. What’s a mantra you can use? “I think I can” from The Little Engine that Could, is another good option.
He reflected that in the beginning, the positive self-talk helped a lot. Later on, it was letting the mid go and allowing the body to be in action. Being in the observer state let him view himself from the outside. He was able to watch without getting attached to the pain.
You might not have a lightbulb moment when using these tools. The right way to look at these methods is to not expect a change right away. These are tools you apply, focus on and work on until you feel, sleep and think them. If you don’t notice much of a change in the first week, stick with it. After a couple weeks, you’ll notice a shift in your mentality towards a more general positive outlook. A positive shift in your eating habits takes time to show the impacts, so do these shifts in your mental health.
The closest he came to quitting was before he even started. It was while he was in bootcamp. He was sick, the experience was hard, and he was hating life. He was seriously thinking about quitting. He thought, “if I’m having a hard time with this, how will I be able to do one of the hardest trainings the military has to offer?”
A different thought won out: “There’s no pride if you quit without giving it a shot.”
He felt like he would regret it if he didn’t go for it and decided to give himself a chance to try. Once he did, he could quit if it wasn’t his thing. Turns out it was his thing and he’s been a member of SWCC for 8 years and counting.
It’s pretty amazing what our minds can try to talk us into (or out of) when we don’t even know what an experience will be like. The fear of the unknown combined with a negative perspective can have us bail before we even try to show up. Thinking “I can’t” or “I don’t have the skills or abilities” are a couple ways our thoughts try to take us down.
You might be interested in what motivated him. A lot of people talk about the importance of having a why. Simon Sinek’s TED talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” is a good resource to learn about this. He wanted “to prove to myself that I could.”
This SWCC member’s experience is a great example of what we can do when we give ourselves the opportunity to show up.