The U.S. Navy’s Special Warfare Operators—almost always referred to as SEALs, an acronym of the rating’s sole Job Title “SEa Air Land”—have established a reputation for superhuman endurance and an unswerving focus on completing their mission assignments. At times, the feats attributed to them seem to border on the apocryphal. But those doubts start to fade when you consider the physical fitness requirements and mental toughness Sailors must meet to simply qualify for training in the Special Warfare Operator rating.

Sailors seeking the Special Warfare Operator raring must undergo a Physical Screening Test (PST) administered by a Naval Special Warfare Coordinator in order to receive a Navy SEAL contract. which consists of swimming 500 yards (breast stroke or side stroke) in less than twelve-and-a-half minutes; doing at least 42 push-ups in under two minutes; a minimum of 50 sit-ups in two minutes; six pull-ups or more (no time limit); and running a mile-and-a-half in under eleven minutes. Be aware those are the minimums; eligibility is actually determined by how a Sailor’s PST scores rank against actual entry-level scores that were achieved by current SEALs.

Mental toughness is evaluated using a Computerized-Special Operations Resilience Test (C-ORT), which grades candidates in three areas: Personality traits, performance strategies, and psychological resilience. Eligibility is determined by combining the C-SORT score with the PST results. Candidates who fall short are not allowed to retake the C-SORT in order to boost that combined score, but they’re allowed to retake the PST in an effort to improve their score in that area and offer tangible proof of their desire to become a SEAL.

Like all Sailors, SEAL candidates go through the Navy’s “boot camp” held at Naval Station Great Lakes in Great Lake, Illinois. But even here the potential SEALs are held to higher standards. Housed in a different building than other recruits, they arise earlier so they can get in extra physical training (PT), and they also perform an extra session of PT at night.

Completion of Recruit Training is followed by Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) Preparation, also held at Naval Station Great Lakes. The fact that SEALs must undergo this eight-week program to ready them both physically and psychologically for the rigors ahead should give you a good idea of know incredibly challenging the SEAL training truly is.

Countless articles have been written about the intensity of what future SEALs go through during the next two components of BUD/S Training. Google the phrase “SEALS Hell Week,” and you’ll come away with a newfound appreciation for just what it takes to become a member of the elite group of Sailors who make up the Special Warfare Operator rating.

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