A Brief History Of: The Navy SEALs

A Brief History Of: The Navy SEALs
As darkness fell on April 12, Captain Richard Phillips was bound at gunpoint on a lifeboat bobbing in the Indian Ocean, held hostage by a band of Somali pirates who had attacked his container ship five days earlier. Saving Phillips’ life meant taking out his three captors in as many shots–which the Navy SEAL snipers who rescued him managed to do from the swaying fantail of a destroyer 75 ft. away. It was just “a day at the office” for the √©lite fighting force, as author and Vietnam-era SEAL Dick Couch said. The Navy has deployed maritime commandos since World War II, when amphibious squads fought in the beach landings at Normandy and Pacific-theater operations. The first SEALs–the acronym derives from their proficiency in sea, air and land combat–were commissioned in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy to meet a growing need for guerrilla-warfare specialists. SEALs earned a reputation for valor and stealth in Vietnam, where they conducted clandestine raids in perilous territory. Since then, teams of SEALs have taken on shadowy missions in strife-torn regions around the world, stalking high-profile targets such as Panama’s Manuel Noriega and Colombian druglord Pablo Escobar and playing integral roles in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. SEAL training is a grueling ordeal: its core six-month course includes a “hell week” in which waterlogged recruits undergo five straight days of push-ups, running and advanced exercises–like learning to swim with their hands and feet tied–on a total of four hours of sleep. The Navy has more than 330,000 active sailors but only about 2,000 SEALs. The small fraction of recruits who pass training, as Phillips knows, are excellent shots. See the world’s most influential people in the 2009 TIME
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