Elite Combat Crewmen

“On time. On target. Never quit!” is not a catchphrase,…


“On time. On target. Never quit!” is not a catchphrase, but a promise that Naval SWCC (Special Warfare Combat Crewmen, pronounced “swic”) operators make to their country, their brothers and themselves that they will complete their mission every time. It is the last six words of the SWCC creed. It’s an unflinching approach shared by some of the most committed military professionals alive today. It’s simple, definitive and to the point.

SWCC are our nation’s premier force for operating and maintaining high-performance, state-of-the art craft on NSW (Naval Special Warfare) combat missions in shallow-water environments. These elite fast-boat operators are part of Naval Special Warfare Command, which is comprised of SEAL Teams, SDV (SEAL Delivery Vehicle) Teams and Special Boat Teams. Together, they constitute the Maritime component of U.S. Special Operations Command, which exercises joint command of Navy, Army, and Air Force Special Operations Forces.

Focusing on clandestine infiltration and extraction of SEALs and other special operations forces, SWCC provide dedicated, rapid mobility in shallow water areas where larger ships cannot operate.

cremen21.jpgMen Of Character
“We’re looking for smart, motivated men who are intrigued by boats and engines. We want guys who want to do what we do. It’s not just sneaking around in the dark, which is intriguing, but it’s what we’re doing—running around at 100 miles an hour with our hair on fire. That’s who should be out there with us,” said Naval Special Warfare Group 4 Command Master Chief (SWCC) Rich Evans.

The Navy’s SWCC community is an all-male, all-enlisted fighting force comprised of some of this country’s best and brightest. Like the SEALs they serve alongside, SWCC operators are much more than just mindless commandos. SWCC are men of tremendous character, with the mental acumen and physical capabilities to carry out their mission.

“I don’t think there is one of our new guys coming out that even knows the word ‘quit.’ Most of the time you’re cold, you’re wet, you’re tired, but you have to be totally confident,” said Chief Special Warfare Boat Operator (SBC) Henry (last name withheld). “Anybody can go out on a perfect day and do some good things on an operation, but when you start getting run down, that’s when you really start to figure out what kind of operator a guy is.”

The nature of maritime special warfare also requires a good degree of versatility among crewmen. Everyone has to be a navigator, a communicator and everyone has to be able to drive the boat and operate all the weapons. Communicators have to be fluent in photo intelligence and a variety of communications on different networks, while multi-tasking in a three-dimensional battle space.

“You have to be able to just jump in and work every position. It’s leadership at all levels,” said Henry. “The mission planning cycles we go through, there’s no one guy saying ‘this is how it is.’ It’s every guy in there coming up with ways to get it done better.”

ccw2.gifRoad To Brotherhood
Talk to an operator long enough and you’ll hear a recurring theme: brotherhood. They are kindred souls who look after their teammates like family members—not only on the job, but on and off the water. They are truly a Naval Special Warfare family that takes care of each other and their families.

“From going through SWCC school together and then going on training missions and operations together. You feel the struggle and the pain of everything you do together and it just draws you closer. We (SWCC) are made up entirely of enlisted personnel and Warrant Officers, so all of our guys at each pay grade are responsible for a lot more than they would be in the regular Navy. So all of our guys have a lot of responsibility and we all share that burden together. That’s why we’re brothers,” Henry told us.

Individually, SEALs and SWCC go through separate, but similar, specialized training programs that emphasize special operations in the maritime environment. SWCC are trained extensively in craft and weapons tactics, techniques and procedures. Like SEALs, SWCC must also be physically fit, highly motivated, combat-focused and responsive in high-stress situations.

The road to becoming a SWCC operator is difficult. Candidates must first pass a physical screening test (PST) designed to assess the applicant’s physical ability to undergo initial training, but just because you can run a mile and a half in 12 minutes or do eight pull-ups doesn’t mean you’re ready for SWCC Basic Crewman Training (BCT).

Instructors of the BCT course train, develop, and assess SWCC candidates in physical conditioning, water competency, teamwork, and mental tenacity. This course starts with a two-week indoctrination. The SWCC Basic Crewman Training is five weeks long. Physical conditioning with running, swimming, and calisthenics grows harder as the weeks progress. Students’ abilities, mental fortitude and teamwork skills are tested during an arduous 72-hour evolution involving little sleep, constant exposure to the elements, underway boat and swimming events, and a test of navigational skills and boat tactics. SWCC students participate in weekly timed runs, timed obstacle-course evolutions, pool, bay and ocean swims, and they must learn small-boat seamanship. Upon the completion of SWCC BCT, students advance to Combat Qualification Training.

ccw3.gifSWCC training is based on three core pillars: character, physical and technical. The mission requires men who uphold the Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment. Additionally, SWCC operators must prove physically fit and capable in every environment, especially the water, and possess the mental capacity to quickly learn the new tasks associated with maritime special operations.

“SWCC volunteer twice, not only to serve our country, but again they step up and subject themselves to grueling and arduous training that most people will never experience, to become part of the elite,” said Capt, Evin Thompson, Commander Naval Special Warfare Group 4. “In other words, they are assessed and selected to be Naval Special Warfare shooters. They know their mission is essential, and they are proud to be the ones the Nation turns to in times of need.”

Boats That Carry The Firepower
Naval Special Warfare has three Special Boat Teams to which SWCC personnel are assigned: Special Boat Teams TWELVE (SBT-12), TWENTY (SBT-20), and TWENTY-TWO (SBT-22). Each is unique in its location, mission, primary designated Operational Area, and numbers and type of craft. They are all under the overall command of Naval Special Warfare Group FOUR, which is headquartered in Little Creek, VA.

SBT-12 is based in Coronado, CA and led by an O-5 Navy SEAL Commander. It has enlisted SWCC personnel who operate and maintain Mark V Special Operations Crafts (SOC) and Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs). SOC-Rs are a medium-range insertion and extraction platform for SEAL and special operations forces in low-to-medium threat e070825-n-9769p-197.gifnvironments, capable of speeds up to 48 knots with a range of more than 500 nautical miles, while RHIB is a is a high-speed, high-buoyancy, extreme-weather craft made of glass-reinforced synthetic with a range of approximately 200 nautical miles and a top speed of 45 knots. These craft normally operate in detachments of two boats with crews. SBT-12 supports NSW maritime and coastal Special Operations missions in the Pacific and Middle East. The command deploys detachments aboard amphibious ships, to Naval Special Warfare Unit ONE (NSWU-1) in Guam, and Naval Special Warfare Unit THREE (NSWU-3) in Bahrain.

SBT-20, based in Little Creek, VA supports NSW maritime and coastal operations in Europe, the Mediterranean, and South America. It deploys detachments aboard amphibious ships and to Naval Special Warfare Unit TWO (NSWU-2) in Stuttgart, Germany, and Naval Special Warfare Unit TEN (NSWU-10) in Rota, Spain. Like SBT-12, it also operates and maintains the Mark V and RHIB boats.

Among the three boat teams, SBT-22 is unique in that it is the only unit not based on an ocean. The capabilties of the 33-foot Special Operations Craft Riverene (SOC-R) boat are better suited for its home base at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. These craft normally operate in detachments of two boats with crews. SBT-22 supports NSW riverine operations worldwide. The SOC-R is an aluminum-hulled boat capable of speeds up to 40 knots with a range of about 200 nautical miles.

minigun.gifSWCC Forces Train Teams, Then Leaders
While littoral warfare goes back 900 years and SWWC trace their origins to the “Brown Water” navy of the Vietnam War, special boat operators did not have their own distinct career path until 1 October 2006 when the Navy created the Enlisted Special Warfare Boat Operator (SB) rating. Prior SWCC operators were drawn from several source ratings, but with the amount of time needed to train before deployment, most sailors assigned only managed a couple of operational tours before returning back to the “big navy.”

“One of the greatest ways the closed loop improved our operators is, before we would have to take rating exams in whatever rate you were, so you would have to spend countless hours studying for a rate you don’t even work in. Now they only study SB stuff. You become a SWCC and that’s what you do your whole career,” said Henry.

The Navy now has 525 qualified SBs—ranging from SB3 (E-4) to SBCM (E-9). Of those 525 SB’s, about 480 are assigned to Naval Special Warfare Group Four with the majority assigned to the three teams, the rest are on various staffs, U.S. Special Operations Command, and Theater Special Operations Commands.

The two-year deployment cycle is designed to be on a one-in-four rotation. The first six months of the rotation is for professional and personal development, followed by a second six-month unit-level training where the operators train up as boat crews. The third rotation is squadron integration training where they bring the SEAL Team, their boat troops, SDV troops, and other combat enablers together to form up a Naval Special Warfare Squadron. They train and work together for six months and then they deploy to support the global war on terror for the final six months in the cycle.

During that first deployment, they will have one of the basic tasks onboard the boat—most likely the chief engineer, lead navigator or perhaps a gunner.

ccw.gifWhen they return from that first deployment they will take that experience and will start training up to be a boat captain. The boat captain is the guy who drives the boat and is in overall command of that boat. Before his next deployment he will go through a rigorous qualification process with both practical exercises on the water and a very demanding board with a team of commanding officers and their command leadership before they qualify him as a boat captain. This represents their second deployment.

Their next qualification is patrol officer, where they are in charge of two or more boats at a time to execute a mission. They are given tactical and operational responsibility for mission success.

“These warriors are some of the very best-trained in the world, and they are now serving in multiple countries supporting every Geographic Combatant Commander. By working closely with other special operations forces, warriors from services like the Army’s Special Operations shooters, Special Forces and Rangers, we are able to bring a synergy, which is very powerful,” said Thompson.

“I believe that as we move forward, the key to continuing to root our terrorists, no matter where they hide, is to have strong, cohesive and multi-faceted units who can work with each other in any scenario to accomplish the mission.”

Load Comments
  • FmrRiverineHere

    @ RealSWCChere. Brother, you just did your entire community a disservice. What happened to the Grey man? So you want to talk down a program that has only been in existence for less then 4 years. A program that went into a non permissive environment less than 1 year after standing up? Great, you are entitled to your opinion. You obviously dont remember your roots very well. I remember an SBU as a bunch of drunk out of control fleeters and that was only a blink of an eye ago in the big picture. Yes, SWCCs have been refining thier piece of the puzzle and do it well. Riverines do their part and do it well. We all started somewhere and trust me when I say SWCC had a real rough start back when they close looped. There is alot I could pick away at your comments below but I will let this lay. Same team same fight right?

  • CWO3 SWCC (RET) E. Selva

    Great article. Although, in this age you will find many Fleet VBSS crews claiming to be SWCC’s and claiming to do the same things that SWCC do. This cannot be further from the truth… SWCC personnel are part of the Naval Special Warfare community and just as our counter parts SEALs we go to specialized training to wear the pin. Just as you have the “wanna be SEALs, you have NOW wanna be SWCC’s…. is all part of the covert, clandestine operations / missions in which SWCC and SEALS operate. I agree if you want to become a SWCC talk to a motivator or a real SWCC with a pin on his chest. On Time! On Target! Never Quit!

  • I’ve found your site via aol and I’m really glad to find information you include in your posts. Btw your sites layout is really broken using firefox4

  • Nathan

    This is a great article that serves to surmise all that I’ve researched regarding the SWCC to this point. Thank you Curt, now I’m motivated to take the challenge even more. However the “Real SWCC here” commented that “SWCCs are conducting operations on land without boats as well as on the water! You know it all’s are seriously lacking in real definitive knowledge!” which I found fascinating as nothing I’ve read until now regarding the SWCC has commented on this. Do you happen to know whether his claims are true? Are members of the SWCC conducting land missions and if so what type? Any information would be really helpful.

  • Real SWCC here

    I shouldn’t post, but I will! SWCC are not the Navy Riverines and the Navy Riverines are know where even in the same arena, let alone the same playing field as SWCCs.

    I also the drop people off comment. Cannot be further from the truth and truly highlight your ignorance. I can count on one hand how many times we dropped people off in a 5.5 month pump to Iraq. Other than that, we were by ourselves conducting Special Operations missions, on land and on the water. There is much more that goes on than the “know it all’s” know, or think they know etc. Hence the term “Special Warfare” or “Special Operation Forces.” Get it?

    Now lets talk about the Riverines. The Navys extremely poor excuse for a combat force. The Riverine community is filled with zero motivation fleet sailors that want to on a ship, complaining, whining, negligent discharges, zero navigation skills, running aground, getting drunk and pulling guns on each other or my favorite having an ND with a M203 on there compound. These guys want nothing more to be a SEAL or SWCC and they try to convince everyone they are “similar” or that they do all these “great” things like security or patrolling. How many combat deployments and not one round fired on purpose at the enemy? WEIRD!

    The only thing I every heard from a Riverine was whining, and a bunch of it at at that. Just FYI, almost 30% of the Riverine force are comprised of BUDS and SWCC and EOD quitters, so that in itself should tell you something! Keep in min there are a few good Riverine guys.. Maybe 1-1.5%.

    If you want real info on SWCC, talk to a SWCC.
    If you want details about combat operations.. It is not going to happen.

    Another thing, if you never had a SWCC pin on your chest your not a SWCC. Pretty simple… SWCC is not just being at a boat unit 10-15 years ago. SWCC is an extremely advanced, highly trained special forces element that are taking the fight to the enemy day in and day out all over the world. And for those of you that are curious.. SWCCs are conducting operations on land without boats as well as on the water! You know it all’s are seriously lacking in real definitive knowledge!

  • Sen. Oblap Mejia

    SWCC is a program worth dying for. SWCC is for the smart and intellegent folks. I imagine that al candidates most know thier potenital to over pass thier goals.

  • SWCCDaddy

    Mom’s and Dad’s of potential SWCC’s should read this article.

    From a parent’s perspective, I felt that I just received a knowledge upgrade. I read and collect all articles on SWCC’s, and I believe this captures the essence of what my son describes his experience to be, and more.

  • Gordon

    How about the elite USCG that began shallow water and the river patrols in 1965 VN and still are.

  • John Chalus

    They are more like the MST(Mobile Support Teams and BSU(Boat Support Units of the Vietnam era.Both groups supported Navy SEAL and UDT missions in Vietnam. In the early days PBR and Swift Boats were used. Late the Heavy SEAL Support Craft (HSSC), Medium SEAL Support Craft(MSSC) and LSSC (Light SEAL Support Craft) as well as the Strike Assault Boat (STAB)were used. The STAB was also known as the SEAL Team Assault Boat. The STAB was originally part of STABRON 20 which existed for one year and was then decommissioned. My cousin was a plank owner in STABRON 20. I am a former SEAL. SEAL Team ONE 1970-1973 Vietnam Vet

  • BMC(SWCC/SW) Jones, C

    Outstandind article. As a retired SWCC Im proud to see that SWCC’s are still leading the way. Glad to see they decided to give them there own rating. Yes our birth place was in the brown waters of Nam. But now we do more….

  • A great story on the SWCC I served on Swifts in VietNam operations Market Time and SeaLords.It is good to know the Navy started making it a career option and made it a part of specops cpo RonDurham SCW/CC usn ret

  • Nick

    Riverines: Elite Combat Crewmen
    Pretty sure this is what he was referring to, the link to the story has it saying this story is about Riverines, however SWCC is indeed an entirely different command from Riverine Dets.
    Riverine dets still take their respective rates rating exams, they are not SB’s. Special warfare was split up into groups, SB’s and SO’s, the first being special boat, SO being special operations, or seals. Riverines do not have a different rating as of yet.
    As most of you know, SB’s transfer SO’s up river so they can get to their drop off point and proceed to their target.
    Riverine Dets do not transport anybody, they are more like river security if you will. Making sure the river and nearby area is and stays secure.
    Next time you are doing “research” at little creek you should walk next door and talk to the riverines.

  • oldanchors

    This article makes me proud to be a River Rat.
    got tha blood pumpin,if i was 40 years younger,
    would feel privlidged to serve agin.be safe,O.A.

  • Chuck

    Not only an extension of PBR’s in VN, but also Swift Boats. Different war, different water, but part of an elite group that goes back a long way.

  • Wilbur R.Moore

    This seems to be an extention of the PBR teems of Vietnam. Way to keep up the Navy history of combat.

  • Randy

    Dave, since Riverines and SWCC are so different, please tell us what the differences are so we may know…..

  • Curt Cooper

    I appreciate your comment (if that’s what you want to call it). I want to start by letting you know a little about the author who apparently has his head stuck in his butt. I am a retired Navy photojournalist with a background in special warfare and public affairs. Futhermore, the content of this article was thoroughly researched and approved by the Special Warfare public affairs office in Little Creek, Va.

    Although I intially considered your comment baseless and ignorant, I would be doing this publication, our readers and my professional integrity a disservice if I didn’t at least give the matter it’s due attention. Maybe I missed something. Maybe the PAO, my editors and I all have our collective heads up our butts. Upon futher review I have concluded that you only read a single sentence that mentioned a Riverine craft. At no time in the approximately 1800 of this article did I ever draw a direct comparison between SWCC and Riverines so I ask. “Who’s head is up their butt?!?”

    Curt Cooper

  • Dave

    Hey author, you need to pull your head out of your butt – Riverines and SWCC are completely different communities.