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Naval Special Warfare Center Resumes Training, With COVID-19 Precautions

May 6, 2020 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

One of the toughest training courses in the military has reopened with Navy special warfare recruits adapting to operating in the time of coronavirus.

Navy Capt. Bart Randall, the commodore of the Naval Special Warfare Center in Coronado, California, said training for new maritime special operators, or SEALs, began again May 4 after being suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

SEAL candidates exercise on the sand as the surf washes over them.
SEAL Training
SEAL candidates perform physical training on the beach during Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training at the Naval Special Warfare Center in Coronado, Calif.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Anthony Walker
VIRIN: 200504-N-QC706-1273

Randall made changes to the training regimen for special warfare personnel. Instructors will wear masks and gloves and use megaphones rather than yelling face-to-face. The number of students in a room will also be reduced, he said. ''Our classes will maximize bubble-to-bubble travel in order to limit personal contact outside of their training cohorts, and they're going to remain on base until after the candidates complete Hell Week,'' Randall said.

The students will be quarantined together, and their health will be monitored daily. 

There will be no reduction in the standards that students must meet to become SEALs or special warfare combatant-craft crewmen.

SEAL candidates exercise in the surf.
SEAL Surf Immersion
SEAL candidates participate in “surf immersion” during Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training at the Naval Special Warfare Center in Coronado, Calif., May 4, 2020.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Anthony Walker
VIRIN: 200504-N-QC706-0039

''I am confident in our constant medical assessment that we have with these students,'' Randall told reporters during a conference call. ''I'm not afraid to continue [to] train or, if conditions should change, I will pause training. Because the No. 1 thing to me is the health and welfare of these students.''

Students who come down with the virus will be pulled from the course immediately and go through the full medical procedures the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends, the captain said. 

Right now, no one at Coronado has tested positive for coronavirus, Randall said. The center is part of the test protocol that gives faster test results.

SEAL candidates undergo inspection.
Personnel Inspection
SEAL candidates participate in a personnel inspection during Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training at the Naval Special Warfare Center in Coronado, Calif., May 4, 2020. The center restarted paused portions of its SEAL and special warfare combatant-craft crewman selection-and-assessment training following careful planning that included implementing COVID-19 mitigation efforts based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Defense Department medical guidance.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Anthony Walker
VIRIN: 200504-N-QC706-1967

Although 100 percent of the personnel at the center have not yet been tested, they are moving in that direction, Randall said.

The pause in the course should not affect the yearly number of special operators the center produces. The number of people who pass the legendary tough course varies from cohort to cohort. Yearly, only about 25 percent of those in the basic course qualify to become SEALs or special warfare combatant-craft crewmen.