There is a very good reason that the Special Warfare breast insignia, also familiarly known as the SEAL trident, is one of the most coveted and instantly recognizable badges in the United States Navy: Anyone who has earned one has successfully completed what is arguably the most physically demanding and mentally challenging training programs in the United States Armed Forces.
Just reading the “syllabus” outlining of training that Special Warfare Operators, more commonly referred to simply as SEALs for the acronym SEa, Air, and Land, is enough to make the average person weary. Before beginning training in earnest, candidates for the Special Warfare qualification must complete the two-month Naval Special Warfare Preparatory School held at Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois. Designed to weed out candidates who simply don’t have the physical makeup for the almost superhuman challenges that lie ahead, the test is comprised of a series of activities with time limits: a 1,000-meter swim (under 20 minutes), 70 push-ups (2 minutes), 60 sit-ups (2 minutes), and a four-mile run with (31 minutes). The only exception is the pull-ups component; there is no time limit to perform a minimum of ten.
Next up is Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training—so intense that potential SEALs first go through a three-week introductory course during which they become familiar with BUD/S training and the goals they must achieve to earn their Special Warfare qualification. The next 20-plus weeks are spent in actual BUD/S training in Land Warfare, Combat Diving, and of course physical conditioning.
All this is before the SEAL Qualification Training course begins, which also includes courses in SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) and Parachuting (held at the Basic Airborne School in Fort Benning, Georgia).
With all this in mind, it’s easy to see why this is one of the few insignias is issued only in gold. And because officers and personnel alike go through precisely the same training, it’s also one of the few pins for which the officer and enlisted versions are identical.