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Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewman

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One member of a Special Boat Team (SBT) lays down cover fire with a minigun during a practice narrow river beach extraction.

Official Navy Photo
Three SWCC communities exist. The West Coast SWCC units are based in Coronado (SBT-12) and operate RHIBs and MK Vs. The same inventory is located at the East Coast SWCC (SBT-20) in Little Creek, Va. And down south, in Stennis, Miss., SBT-22 operates the SOC-R craft.

But to get to one of these units, you must attend SWCC basic school: a physically grueling indoctrination into the ways of Naval Special Warfare, portions of which are combined with SEAL basic training. After this 10-week “weed out the weak” phase, a required Crewman Qualification Training (CQT) course is taken. After CQT, a Sailor earns the SWCC pin: a unique insignia that is worn with your regular Navy uniform and that identifies these professionals’ important place in Naval Special Warfare.

“You will run, swim and do more push ups and sit-ups than you ever thought your body could do,” said Moore. “SWCC school is extremely tough. You have never been challenged like this before in your life. It’s very demanding physically and mentally, and it’s designed to get rid of weak individuals who aren’t focused and driven. If you have any questions in your head about being there you will be packing your bags for a new career.”

Moore also noted that the attrition rate is high–about one-third make it through.

“When it’s 3 a.m., and you’re getting yelled at, doing a lot of push-ups, sit-ups and getting wet and sandy in the cold water of San Diego, many Sailors ask themselves, ‘Why am I doing this?’ If the answer to the question is, ‘I don’t know,’ you’ll quit. For those few guys who don’t ask themselves that question, or come up with an answer that motivates them, they will move to the next evolution.”

After SWCC school, graduating students arrive at a Special Boat Team where they begin an 18-month pre-deployment training cycle starting with Professional Development (PRODEV), Core Training and Squadron Interoperability Training (SIT).

“You need to be hard to make it as a SWCC,” said Master Chief Damage Controlman (SWCC) Patrick Battles, who went through the school at the age of 37. “The attrition rate in my class was high,” he said. “We started with 47 and ended up with 16.” Battles added that those who are strong swimmers have an advantage. He agreed with Moore that the traits required to be successful as a SWCC are being razor sharp –physically and mentally–which is required due to the extremely dangerous nature of their work.

“You have to be intelligent, good-hearted and physically and mentally tough,” said Moore. “It takes a unique person to do our job–one who can adapt to new surroundings quickly and efficiently.”

Heavy weapons knowledge is also a tool of the trade. And Battles, like other SWCCs, have it. In “war speak” understood by a select few, he said his “preferred weapons posture is to mount a .50 caliber MSHB machine gun with PEQ TWO lasers forward on both RHIBs. We also have a .50 caliber machine gun aft, and sometimes a MK-19 Mod 3 40 mm Grenade Machine gun.”

According to Battles, “It’s pretty exciting to launch 40 mm high explosive dual purpose grenades and fire .50 caliber armor piercing incendiary tracer rounds.”

Indeed. SWCC personnel embrace a philosophy of dominance through superior firepower. As a petty officer in charge of a small force of riverine specialists at Special Boat Unit 22, Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class (SWCC) Thomas Wiggins knows this well.

During a typical SEAL extraction, Wiggins and his crew, along with three other Special Operations Craft, rush into an extraction point at up to 30 knots in a hailstorm of protective fire from a trio of M-60 machine guns aft, and a thundering .50 caliber machine gun at the bow.

To see this sight is awesome, but only if you’re on the shooting end. Spent rounds bounce off the metal deck, tracers pierce the darkness, dense foliage is shredded with a barrage of cover fire, ears ring, and the thumping .50 caliber drumbeat massages insides, as dominating, incessant firepower is laid toward the enemy. SEALs board the craft, a speedy exit is made and the fire continues until they are out of sight.

An extraction of this sort is measured not in minutes but in seconds.

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