Navy SEALs are America’s elite fighting force.
They are America’s most qualified soldiers who elect to undertake the most difficult selection process and training in existence. They are preselected by a number of traits, including intelligence, physical strength, incredible perseverance, and prior military service. Those who attain the title come from a variety of backgrounds, but without fail, they are exceptional. These most remarkable individuals are then subjected to the most difficult training, so they might perform the most complicated, non-traditional, can-not-fail operations that the American military needs completed, the vast majority of which will be forever confidential. SEALs who responsibly maintain their title and position earn the right to this role.
Some, especially those who were unable to complete the SEALs training, or those of other military branches, may claim the SEALs are over-trained for their roles. How often do SEALs really infiltrate an armored compound in Pakistan at night to eliminate and extract America’s most-wanted man while inflicting no collateral casualties? How often do SEALs marksmen really need to eliminate several pirates on a rocking lifeboat at the exact same moment while shooting from a moving, rocking Navy ship to save the life of a civilian? Captain Phillips may stand in favor of the rigorous selection and training requirements, as he likely owes his life to these brave men.
Some soldiers, who pursued positions in less selective units of the military, state in hindsight that they likely would have met the training requirements if they had tried. They state that they were too immature at the time, that they had personal problems that prevented them from pursuing the training, or propose a variety of other mechanisms for why they could not pursue their dream of being a SEAL. They state that though all those problems have resolved, it’s now too late to pursue such a title. Other non-SEAL soldiers, with medals and accolades of unclear merit and meaning that can hardly be contained to the breast of their elegant dress jacket, state that their training in a less selective military unit may be equivalent to or may even exceed SEAL training, and they argue against the prestige of the SEAL trident pin, especially given the lack of professional behavior recently noted amongst certain members of the group.
More wars have been won by the Marines, the Army, and other traditional fighting units, and in fact, there is no data in the form of randomized controlled trials or meta-analyses to support the use of Navy SEALs over traditional military units for special operations. SEALs may argue that it is inherent in the fact that their preselection, training for, and performance of the most complex and nuanced military operations (successfully) establishes their role in continuing to do so. Some soldiers may claim there is extensive job overlap between the SEALs and other military units, and most “days at the office” likely appear similar. A normal routine might include extensive exercise, training at various shooting ranges, cleaning weapons, and practicing a variety of other skills that may be valuable in a conflict. Overlap of job functions may actually occur on the vast majority of workdays.
There is evidence to suggest that other traditional military units may have members who exceed any one SEAL in a variety of tasks. Marine sharpshooters may surpass a SEAL in marksmanship. Members of the 101st Airborne Division may have performed more parachute drops than a SEAL. There may be soldiers who can more quickly assemble and disassemble their weapon than a SEAL. It appears the Navy SEAL may be fallible after all, as it is clear that if any part of a SEALs skillset is cut into a small enough niche, there is likely a non-SEAL who is superior.
Fortunately for the SEALs, there are few who question them as the premier warfare providers. When a special military operation cannot fail, only one group of men is considered for the task. Their reputation precedes them, and a Navy SEAL has no burden to prove his capacity beyond other warfare providers, as it is inherent in the attainment and maintenance of his title: Navy SEAL.
The author is an anonymous physician.
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