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Special Warfare Combat Crewmen
Rating insignia (SB)
Founded16 April 1987; 36 years ago (1987-04-16)
Country United States
Branch United States Navy
TypeSpecial operations forces
RolePrimary roles

Other roles

Size755 (active)
50 (reserve)
Part of U.S. Special Operations Command
U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command
Nickname(s)"Boat Guys," "Dirty Boat Guys" (DBGs), and "The Boat Teams"
Motto(s)"On Time, On Target, Never Quit!"

The Special Warfare Combat Crewmen (SWCC /ˈsjɪk/) are United States Naval Special Warfare Command personnel who operate and maintain small craft for special operations missions, particularly those of U.S. Navy SEALs. Their rating is Special Warfare Boat Operator (SB).

Prospective SWCC sailors go through a special training program at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, where they learn boating and weapons tactics, techniques, and procedures that focus on clandestine infiltration and exfiltration of SEALs and other special operations forces. About one-third of entrants typically graduate and become SWCCs.[1]

Upon graduation, most SWCCs are assigned to one of the Navy's three Special Boat Teams.


PT-105 underway
A fast patrol craft on Cai Ngay canal during the Vietnam War in 1970

Special boat teams trace their history to the PT boats of World War II. Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three rescued General Douglas MacArthur (and later the Filipino president Manuel L. Quezon) from the Philippines after the Japanese invasion and then participated in guerrilla actions until American resistance ended with the fall of Corregidor. PT boats subsequently participated in most of the campaigns in the Southwest Pacific by conducting and supporting joint/combined reconnaissance, blockade, sabotage, and raiding missions as well as attacking Japanese shore facilities, shipping, and forces. PT boats were used in the European Theater beginning in April 1944 to help the Office of Strategic Services insert spies and French Resistance personnel and for amphibious landing deception.

The modern special warfare combatant-craft crewman grew out of efforts during the Vietnam War to develop forces for riverine warfare. In 1966, River Patrol Force (Task Force 116) operated River Patrol Boats (PBR) on counterinsurgency operations in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam. UDTs delivered a small watercraft far up the Mekong River into Laos and supported the Amphibious Ready Groups operating on South Vietnam's rivers. UDTs manned riverine patrol craft and went ashore to demolish obstacles and enemy bunkers. A SEAL platoon was assigned to each of the five River Squadrons inserted and extracted from their patrol area by PBRs. In July 1968, Light SEAL Support Craft (LSSC) began replacing PBRs as their primary support craft. Mobile Support Teams (MST 1-3) provided combat craft support for SEAL operations, as did patrol boat, river (PBR) and patrol craft, fast (PCF) sailors. In February 1964. Boat Support Unit One was established under Naval Operations Support Group, Pacific to operate the newly reinstated fast patrol boat (PTF) program and to operate high-speed craft for NSW forces. In late 1964, the first PTFs arrived in Da Nang, Vietnam. In 1965, Boat Support Squadron One began training patrol craft fast crews for Vietnamese coastal patrol and interdiction operations. As the Vietnam mission expanded into the riverine environment, additional craft, tactics, and training evolved for riverine patrol and SEAL support.[2]

SWCC detachments have participated in nearly every major conflict since then, notably in the Persian Gulf (operations Prime Chance and Earnest Will in 1987-88), the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989-1990, the 1990-1991 Gulf War, the 2001-21 Global War on Terror, and ongoing counter-narcotics operations in South and Central America.

To fight terror groups in the Philippines, the Navy dispatched special boat teams to train and advise Armed Forces of the Philippines and conduct maritime operations against piracy, trafficking, and port/waterway security.[3] Some 160 U.S. special operators went on patrol with Filipinos in the jungles of Basilan island, an Abu Sayyaf stronghold. In 2002, U.S. military personnel deployed to Cebu to support a six-month exercise.[4] In 2007, SWCC operated Mark V Special Operations Craft and conducted various maritime interdiction, visit-board-search-and-seizure, and reconnaissance operations.[5] Some unconventional tactics and equipment were used, such as canoes with outboard motors, small boats, and jetskis for low-profile collection operations.[6] During the 2017 Siege of Marawi, several SWCC operators helped the Philippines army.[7]

The Navy opened its special-warfare communities to women in 2016; as of 2021, 18 female sailors had attempted to pass the SWCC and SEAL training courses. One succeeded, becoming the first female SWCC in July 2021.[8] [9] [10]


SWCCs operate and maintain state-of-the-art, high-performance vessels to support special operations, particularly clandestine insertion and extraction and in shallow water where large ships cannot operate. They can perform Visit, Board, Search and Seizure, Maritime Interdiction Operations, direct action raids against enemy shipping and waterborne traffic, Maritime Search and Rescue, Waterside Security, Coastal Patrol, high risk personnel recovery, and force-protection missions. In recent years, many have trained for tactical driving and convoy operations.[11]

Their training and equipment allow them to handle intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions, particularly gathering data about enemy military installations and coastal shipping and keeping watch for ground troops.

SWCC also perform search and rescue for combat and humanitarian assistance, help law enforcement agencies, and train foreign units.[12]

Special warfare boat operator (SB) rating

Main article: List of United States Navy enlisted rates

See also: United States Navy SEALs § Special warfare ratings

The special warfare boat operator (SB) rating was established on 1 October 2006, under the same order that created the special warfare operator (SO) rating for SEALs.[13]

Navy rating Abbreviation Pay grade Special warfare rating Abbreviation Rank insignia
Master chief petty officer MCPO E-9 Master chief special boat operator SBCM
Senior chief petty officer SCPO E-8 Senior chief special boat operator SBCS
Chief petty officer CPO E-7 Chief special boat operator SBC
Petty officer first class PO1 E-6 Special boat operator, first class SB1
Petty officer second class PO2 E-5 Special boat operator, second class SB2
Petty officer third class PO3 E-4 Special boat operator, third class SB3

Special warfare combatant-craft crewman warfare specialty

Another important development was the recognition of the knowledge, skills, and training of SWCC crewmen as a warfare specialty, represented by the NEC 5352 and later denoted by the award of a military device or service badge.

For a brief period, qualified sailors were awarded no device; boat captain-qualified sailors wore the Small Craft Insignia created for and worn by riverine sections during the Vietnam War. Still earlier than this, the Small Craft pin was worn by those with the 9533 NEC. Many other units within the Navy awarded the Small Craft badge, and there was controversy regarding the original intent associated with its creation. The matter has been somewhat settled as the badge has in the 21st century been awarded only to conventional riverine units under the NECC and SWCC boat captains, who wear it in addition to the SWCC device.[14]

Qualification insignia

Former SWCC qualification insignia
New SWCC qualification insignias (from left to right: Basic, Senior, and Master)

The special warfare combatant-craft crewman insignia is a Navy qualification badge. First proposed in 1996, an initial version was approved for wear in 2001.

On 19 August 2016, the original insignia was replaced with three insignias that indicate qualification level: SWCC Basic, SWCC Senior, and SWCC Master. The SWCC Basic Insignia is a 2.5-by-1.25-inch silver matte metal pin depicting a Mark V Special Operations Craft atop a bow wave in front of a naval enlisted cutlass crossed with a cocked flintlock pistol. The SWCC Senior insignia adds an upright anchor in the background. The SWCC Master insignia adds a banner with three gold stars on the upper portion of the anchor.[15]


Students crawl through the surf: this intense physical and mental conditioning is used often to break down students
BCT students lay out navigational tracks on a chart
At BCT phase, a student demonstrates underwater knot tying skills during water proficiency testing while being roughed by instructors
During BCT students perform a "dump boat" exercise with the combat rubber raiding craft (CRRC)

To become a special warfare combatant-craft crewman, a service member must apply and be accepted to special programs, complete a special boot camp (called 800 divisions) alongside SEAL (SO) candidates, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) candidates, Diver Candidates and Aviation Air Rescue candidates.

SWCC and SEAL candidates then go together to Naval Special Warfare Preparatory School (NSWPS, also called BUD/S Prep) in Great Lakes Chicago, then to Coronado, California, to attend Basic Underwater Demolition Orientation/or SEAL Orientation (BO). Upon testing out of BO, SWCC candidates attend Basic Crewman Selection (BCS) while their SEAL candidate counterparts attend the 1st phase of BUD/S. 1st phase BUD/S completes Hell Week on the fourth week, and then BCS will go through the Tour on the fifth week. SWCC candidates go on to Basic Crewman Training (BCT) while their SO candidate counterparts go to BUD/S 2nd Phase. Following this, SWCC candidates will undergo Crewman Qualification Training (CQT) and then go on to specialized individual schools. The main difference between the pipeline for SWCCs and SEALs is that the former qualify as combat swimmers while the latter qualify as combat divers.


Applicants must:

Initial SWCC training consists of:


To proceed to basic crewman training, a trainee must pass this test:

But the Navy says it expects successful candidates to perform more like this:

Naval Special Warfare Preparatory School (BUD/s Prep)

The two-month Naval Special Warfare Preparatory School (NSW Prep or BUD/s Prep) takes place at Great Lakes, Illinois. NSW Prep has one goal: Improve a SWCC candidates physical readiness for the grueling trials of Basic Crewman Selection (BCS). Students are introduced to the obstacle course, soft sand runs, knot tying, open water swimming, water rescue, drownproofing, and basic navigational skills. Many candidates will quit during the first three weeks. After they pass Pre-BUD/s, candidates will go to BUD/S Orientation at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, California. Here they will spend the rest of their training and the next three weeks preparing for their pipeline along with SEAL candidates.[20]

Basic Crewman Selection (BCS)

Candidates perform a low crawl during Basic Crewman Selection

Instructors of the SWCC Basic Crewman Selection course train, develop, and assess SWCC candidates in physical conditioning, water competency, teamwork, and mental tenacity. This course starts with a three-week indoctrination. The SWCC basic crewman training last seven weeks. Physical conditioning with running, swimming, and calisthenics grows harder as the weeks progress. Students abilities, mental fortitude and teamwork skills are tested during an arduous 4-day evolution involving little sleep, constant exposure to the elements, underway boat and swimming events, and a test of navigational skills and boat tactics. This test is referred to as the Crucible or "The Tour". SWCC students participate in weekly timed runs, timed obstacle course evolutions, pool, bay and ocean swims, and learn small-boat seamanship. Upon the completion of SWCC Basic Crewman Selection(BCS), students advance to Basic Crewman Training(BCT).[20]

Crewman Qualification Training (CQT)

CQT students perform small unit tactics providing cover for their teammates in a medical evacuation training scenario

During the 21-week crewman qualification training, instructors train and evaluate SWCC candidates in basic weapons, seamanship, casualty care, and small unit tactics. In the first phase, Basic, candidates learn first aid, small arms, heavy weapons, basic combat skills, engineering, and towing and trailering procedures for SWCC boats. Candidates must pass tests in every subject to move on.

The final, or Advanced, phase includes communications, Tactical Combat Casualty Control (TCCC), navigation and boat handling, mission planning and execution, live fire while underway on the boats. Students are introduced to the NSW mission planning cycle, enabling them to participate in the planning, briefing, execution, and debriefing of an NSW mission. Physical training is geared to prepare the student to meet the requirements of the operational special boat teams. CQT concentrates on teaching maritime navigation, communications, waterborne patrolling techniques, marksmanship and engineering, as well as small unit tactics and close-quarters combat. SWCC also attend Jump school around this time, and after finishing CQT, attend SERE Level C school.[20]

Candidates that have made it through the pipeline are awarded their SWCC pins, designating them as a Special Warfare Boat Operator (SB) rating. They are subsequently assigned to a Special Boat Team to begin preparing for their first deployment.[20]

All this training means SWCC sailors are recognized as the U.S. military's premier "small boat" operators. SWCCs are qualified to operate with other units, service branches (particularly those within USSOCOM such as SEALs, Special Forces, MARSOC, AFSOC, and DSF), and armed forces. They operate in poor weather and sea state, can evade capture and fight on land in emergencies, and perform maritime special operations missions such as direct action, recon, ship boarding or vessel board, search and seizure, and sea-to-land support using a broad array of vessels and armaments.

Further training

Special Boat Team 20 jump from an Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft during a static-line parachute jump

SWCCs receive broad individual and detachment in-house training and attend schools as needed to support Naval Special Warfare Command. Before reporting to a Special Boat Team, SWCCs attend a 12-week language course, where they must learn a language assigned to them according to the needs of their respective teams. SWCC attend Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School to receive tactical boat training.

Every SWCC receives basic medic assistant training for combat lifesaving skills. After reporting to the teams SWCCs may attend schools relative to their respective individual specialities and or mission readiness schools such as desert survival, jungle survival, cold water survival, special operations combat medic training, naval special warfare combat fighting course, fast-rope, air assault, designated marksman school, tactical driving, and many others offered within Naval Special warfare.

Advanced equipment

SWCC often go to new U.S. Department of Defense schools according to the needs of their respective team and adaptable mission set. SWCCs also receive in-house training with the latest technology, such as advanced radio communications, joint terminal attack controller, advanced weapons systems, advanced navigation systems, small unmanned aerial systems (SUAS), technical surveillance operations, data analysis, signals intelligence/electronic warfare (SIGINT/EW), etc.), photographic image capture, outboard, diesel, and waterjet engines.

Combat medic training

A SWCC treats an injured teammate during a casualty assistance and evacuation training exercise
BLS & Medic Assistant Training

Combat first aid and lifesaving, emergency response, emergency life support, evaluation, water search and rescue, stabilization, packaging, transport, and MEDEVAC skills are of vital importance to all forces within the special operations community, since they operate far from medical assets and rely on their independent capabilities. SWCC platforms provide a unique opportunity to provide a "next layer" of pre-hospital medical stabilization and MEDEVAC capability between the field and helicopter/air transport. Inbound casualties are a likely scenario, and the nature of their missions places them at a high risk of casualty as well.

Because of this, all SWCCs receive ongoing and repeated in-house training in combat first aid, basic life support, airway management and oxygen administration, trauma care, limited emergency medication administration, and IV therapy – a set of skills roughly analogous to civilian BLS, BTLS, and EMT-B qualification, and thus quite arguably conferring on every SWCC the unofficial distinction of being a combat lifesaver by the general definition. However, the SWCC community generally recognizes these members as "medic assistants" to distinguish them from the lead [para]medic, whose primary function as a professional paramedic is continually reinforced by years of training and experience.

Many NSW medics originally came from the hospital corpsman rating. Thus, while not all hospital corpsmen are combat medics, and not all combat medics are hospital corpsmen, all SWCCs are by the general definition trained combat medics – particularly after repeated workup cycles and ongoing training have refined their skills to a level comparable with conventional combat medics and civilian EMTs.

Some SWCCs have attended (and continue to attend) civilian EMT or paramedic courses (either funded or completed through their own ambition); and several of these men have enjoyed an ad hoc, de facto status as "docs" serving in their detachments as medics in the past.

A more recent development is that designated SWCC medics attend the Special Operations Combat Medic course of instruction, and attend Naval Special Warfare-specific-based courses. As of 2012, most attend 18 Delta Fort Bragg's special operations medic course.

NSW combat medics and lead medics

Within the NSW community, the title of SWCC detachment "medic" applies to SB (SWCC) members who have completed Special Operations Combat Medic course and been designated as lead medics for a detachment. This training is equivalent or exceeds civilian EMT-P certification, a civilian qualification which they are indeed eligible to test for immediately after training. They are able to initiate and administer IV fluids and medications independently and perform certain minor surgeries and stitches in the field at their own discretion. They can intubate and administer oxygen and other interventions done by paramedics.

These men are among the rare exceptions to the general rule that "all Navy combat medics are hospital corpsmen". Because of changes leading to the establishment of the SB rating, non-corpsmen SWCCs attend the course,[21] become qualified NSW combat medics, and serve primarily as medics for the rest of their careers within Naval Special Warfare, in addition to performing the various other roles of a SWCC crewman.

Special warfare combat medics are the primary or lead combat medics in a SWCC detachment. Previously, SEAL corpsmen served as the lead medics in larger SWCC detachments and managed shoreside clinics at special boat teams, managing sick call, training all SWCCs as medic assistants, and rendering emergency medical care to both SWCCs and SEALs while deployed in the field. These SEALs contributed greatly to the special boat teams and the professional development of their SWCC combat medic counterparts. While readiness is still achieved by pooling of crew skills through medic assistant quals, SWCCs are now taking on lead medic roles within their community capitalizing on the benefit of a stable maritime platform, additional medical equipment, and the ability to provide longer-term stabilization of casualties on board their craft.

Aerial deployment training

All SWCC personnel are trained as military parachutists; some may also attend the U.S. Army Air Assault School.

Maritime craft aerial deployment system

SWCCs can drop boats from aircraft using specialized equipment. The Maritime Craft Aerial Deployment System (MCADS) drops an 11-meter RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) rigged with four large parachutes from the back of a C-130 or C-17 at about 3,500 feet. About four SWCCs immediately follow the boat out of the plane, land nearby, and have the boat ready to go in about 20 minutes.[22]

Special Boat Team 12 conducts MEATS exercise with the U.S. Army, 160th SOAR's MH-47 Chinook
Maritime external air transportation system

SWCC personnel can also use Army CH-47 helicopters to insert and exfiltrate their boats, using slings dubbed the Maritime External Air Transportation System (MEATS).[23]

A variant of the MEATS insertion method was seen in the movies Act of Valor and Apocalypse Now.[24]

SWCC units

Naval Special Warfare Group 4

Insignia Team Deployment HQ Notes
Special Boat Team 12 Worldwide Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, California Known for: Rescued 73 sailors during a critical at sea rescue mission in the Sulu-Archipelago.
Special Boat Team 20 Worldwide Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Virginia Known for: Battle of Umm Qasr, Rescued 9 people from a DUKW tour incident in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, utilizing a Mark V SOC.[25]
Special Boat Team 22 Worldwide John C. Stennis Space Center, Mississippi Known for: Battle of Al Faw (2003) Specializes in riverine warfare – only team to operate the SOC-R.


See also


  1. ^ "WHO WE ARE". SEALSWCC.COM (a U.S. Navy site). Retrieved 16 November 2023.
  2. ^ "Introduction". Retrieved 19 May 2011.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines,, retrieved 11 July 2007
  4. ^ "'No survivors' in U.S. chopper crash". CNN. 24 February 2002. Retrieved 16 December 2010.
  5. ^ "Navy helps Philippines' sea defense". warboats. Retrieved 9 July 2023.
  6. ^ "DIRTY BOAT GUYS: AN EXPANSIVE HISTORY OF NAVY SWCC". coffeeordie. 4 March 2022. Retrieved 9 July 2023.
  7. ^ Villamor, Felipe (14 June 2017). "U.S. Troops in Besieged City of Marawi, Philippine Military Says". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 July 2023.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Naval Special Warfare Welcomes CQT Class 115; First Woman Operator". DVIDS. Retrieved 12 December 2023.
  10. ^ Ives, Mike (16 July 2021). "First Woman Completes Training for Elite U.S. Navy Program". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 12 December 2023.
  11. ^ "The Tour - Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen Hell Week". United States Navy. Retrieved 21 November 2023.
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Special Warfare Boat Operator (SB)" (PDF). May 2022. Retrieved 6 May 2022.
  14. ^ "Missions". Retrieved 19 May 2011.[dead link]
  15. ^ Uniform Policy Update, NAVADMIN 174/16 Archived 9 September 2016 at the Wayback Machine, CNO Washington DC, dated 4 August 2016, last accessed 10 September 2016
  16. ^ SWCC, Navy. "SWCC Qualifications".
  17. ^ SWCC, Navy. "SWCC Career".
  18. ^ "NAVY SWCC PST CALCULATOR". Retrieved 18 April 2020.
  19. ^ "SPECIAL WARFARE COMBATANT-CRAFT CREWMAN (SWCC)" (PDF). p. 2. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  20. ^ a b c d "WE AIN'T NAVY SEALS: THE PATH TO BECOMING A NAVY SWCC". 15 January 2020. Retrieved 18 April 2020.
  21. ^[dead link]
  22. ^ "Special Boat Operators Reach Milestone MCADS Drop". Retrieved 18 April 2020.[permanent dead link]
  23. ^ "SWCC - MEATS". Retrieved 17 April 2020.
  25. ^ Schept, Susan (10 July 2010), "Navy, CG assist in Philadelphia boat rescue", Navy Times, archived from the original on 29 January 2013, retrieved 12 July 2010

Further reading