MARCH 30, 2015, VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) – There is perhaps no other specialized fighting force in the world that is talked about more, but truly known about less, than the U.S. Navy SEALs.
The preparation, training, and capabilities of the SEALs are near legendary, but like most legends people do not really know where they came from. Then there is the much less talked about and even less known about, but just as effective, special warfare combatant-craft crewmen (SWCC, pronounced swick). Where do these guys come from? How does someone leave an ordinary life behind to make it legendary? And most importantly for the true warrior at heart – where do I sign up?
For the past eight years, the Navy has been operating The Navy SEAL & SWCC Scout Teams to help find these men and answer their questions and prepare them for the most challenging tests of their lives. Its priority is to maintain Naval Special Warfare’s (NSW) level of excellence, and to seek a diverse culture that fully leverages and values a workforce and environment in which everybody serving in the NSW community is able to achieve their full potential.
The East Coast team is led by retired Master Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Mark Courrier. With the enthusiasm of a kid showing off his new treehouse, every recruit gets treated to the same experience. He springs to his feet and meets them halfway into the room with a handshake and a grin that says, “You gotta see this!” It’s maybe not what most people would expect, but the reputation of ‘crusty old salt’ that is commonly endeared upon a 30-year enlisted U.S. Navy SEAL veteran doesn’t apply here. For Courrier, the goal he has for everyone is to leave his club house with the same feeling: “Wow, that’s something I want to be a part of.”
“First impressions are lasting impressions,” said Courrier. “For most visitors this is their first impression of NSW. It’s important to get up, move around your desk, and to shake that person’s hand.”
Courrier has been leading the charge of the East Coast team, which is responsible for multiple programs, since its inception in 2007. The Fleet Transition Program (FTP) for Sailors already in the fleet is intended to help Sailors apply to, and/or transition to, Basic Underwater Demolition /SEALs (BUD/S). It also operates an aquatics outreach program that is open to anyone, in or out of the military, who wants to become a SEAL or SWCC team member. Additionally, it does community outreach by sending SEAL and SWCC team members into communities to educate, motivate and inspire youth to follow their dreams.
After 30 years of active duty service and another eight – and counting – of civilian service, working with young men who are looking to do something important keeps the 56-year-old feeling young. During a four-mile group run on the beach – at sunrise in 35 degree weather – Courrier bragged, “Do you see why I love my job?”
Trainees will learn basic and advanced skill on swimming, running, calisthenics, strength training and other basic SEAL and SWCC skills. Trainees are closely monitored by qualified SEAL and SWCC team members, who will mentor them on core requirements required for prospective candidates.
“I didn’t get picked up by the SEALs when I first tried,” said Lt. j.g. Ethan Strauser, who is now slated to start BUD/S. “I started coming to the swim program six years ago trying to get with FTP. If you show you are motivated to be SEAL/SWCC they will do everything they can to help you. Commitment is huge. You have to be able to push through road blocks – if this is your dream don’t let anybody tell you no.”
Trainees will be expected to maintain a positive mental attitude, good military bearing, professionalism and Navy pride.
“Being able to work with people like Mark Courrier is a huge asset,” said Strauser. “He has a very high reputation within the community. He is very consistent with everyone, and very passionate and sincere, and will work with anyone on an individual basis.”
When Courrier says the swim program is open to anyone, he means it. Courrier regards one of his biggest successes when he met a 14-year-old, who did not know how to swim, and his mother. Courrier invited him to come to the swim program and started working with him. The young man swam nearly every day. When he was 17 he joined the Navy and did accomplish his dream of becoming a SEAL.
“To become a SEAL/SWCC, it’s 95 percent from the neck up, maybe a percent or two is physical and the rest is heart and soul,” said Courrier. “Nobody really comes to us who are not physically fit enough for the job, but that is not enough on its own.”
Helping trainees to be comfortable and confident in the water is a very large aspect to FTP and the swim program.
“The success of the SEAL & SWCC Scout Team is about the team,” said Courrier. “I do my best to instill into these young men to have dreams, have discipline, and most importantly, have fun. We are not instructors here, we are not in a school house. When you put an instructor in front of someone that changes things. We are mentors and coaches, not drill sergeants. I can’t do this job without the volunteers within the East Coast NSW community. This is not a Mark Courrier Success: this is a team success.”
The programs offered are 100 percent volunteer and extremely challenging. Only highly motivated individuals seeking a career in NSW are encouraged to participate. The courses are continuously run and have no start or stop dates.