On the journey to becoming a Navy SEAL, candidates complete approximately 25 weeks of training before arriving to San Clemente Island (SCI) for basic weapons, demolition and land navigation training. Arrival at SCI, means students are about to get very familiar with marksmanship, small arms and explosives.
Students spend seven weeks in Third Phase (land warfare training), five of which are held on SCI. While there, they receive two weeks of weapons training, two weeks of demolition training and one week of small unit tactics along with daily physical conditioning. Students, whose training days usually run 14 hours, also receive a series of professional military education classes and mentorship sessions designed to develop the individual personally and professionally.
“The Third Phase mission is to continue selecting, training and qualifying the BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) student by establishing the foundation of basic soldiering skill sets,” said Master Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Jonathan Gumbert, NSW Basic Training Command Third Phase Senior Enlisted Advisor. “Emphasis is placed on developing the working relationship between enlisted and officers in a SEAL platoon/squad sized setting.”
The foundational skills learned on the island are critical to the student being able to operate among and support his teammates and will be built upon in advanced SEAL training. Owned by the U.S. Navy and used to conduct vital training operations, SCI offers a unique training environment because of its remoteness and the flexibility of its ranges. It offers both static and dynamic small arms ranges with demolition ranges on the northern tip. The variety of ranges, coupled with short travel times to reach them, helps students focus on the required training without interruptions.
Instructors are able to work closely with each student to provide world-class basic marksmanship training. While the majority of candidates have been around firearms before, the ones who have no experience are generally thought to be the easiest to train because they have no “bad habits” that must be corrected. Though sometimes that inexperience can leave a student a bit intimidated.
“The Third Phase Staff spends hours conducting both dry and livefire exercises that build an individual’s confidence,” Gumbert said. “Students will leave SCI having shot thousands of rounds through a variety of SEAL weapon systems and will have qualified — at a minimum — as a Navy marksman on the M4 rifle and 9mm pistol.” This training is important not only because it’s the foundation for future training but because it’s the foundation for future mission execution.
“All SEALs need to have ‘shoot, move and communicate’ ingrained in their subconscious so that actions on a dynamic battlefield become synced and automatic,” said Gumbert. “Our job is to build the student into a competent shooter with a basic understanding of the applications of demolitions in support of SEAL missions.”
San Clemente Island is located in the southern part of California’s Channel Islands and hosts classes of 45-60 students each for Third Phase training six times each year. It has a rotating, on-scene instructor staff of approximately 8-10 people depending on the evolutions being conducted.
Navy SEALs are the maritime component of U.S. Special Operations Forces and are trained to conduct a variety of operations from the sea, air, and land.