Before February 2008, Sailors who wished to become Navy SEALs were thrown into the grueling six-month SEAL training program with no advanced preparation, other than Navy Basic Training. Those days are now gone. After 13 months of operation, the Navy's SEAL Prep School (officially called the Special Warfare Preparatory School) at Great Lakes, IL has proven to be a success.
Established on February 8, 2006, the SEAL Prep school has now graduated more than 1,200 students. Before the establishment of the school, the graduation rate from SEAL training for enlisted personnel stood at around 26 percent. Since the establishment of the prep course, the failure rate for early Basic Underwater Demolition School (BUD/S) (prior to completion of " Hell Week," has decreased by 22 percent. This is important, as the Navy wants to increase the size of its SEAL enlisted force to 2,500 by 2012.
The primary focus on the course is physical fitness. The Navy has hired civilian instructors, most of whom are professional athletic coaches, to instruct the classes. The curriculum provides each candidate with the opportunity for success through daily physical and academic training, while continuing the standardization and military training environment provided by Navy Basic Training. The prep course also adds an opportunity for a candidate to change his mind, for the few candidates who may decide being a SEAL is not for them or for those who may not be completely ready, physically or mentally.
While the prep course focuses primarily on physical conditioning, swimming and underwater confidence, academics are not ignored during the process. Sailors are instructed in SEAL Ethos, core values, exercise science, nutrition and mental toughness.
The course lasts between 1 and 8 weeks, depending on the recruit. To graduate the course, recruits must pass a timed physical fitness test, very similar to the Initial Physical Fitness Requirements, used for non-recruit applicants.