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Special warfare combatant-craft crewmen

Special warfare combatant-craft crewmen
Special warfare combatant-craft crewmen insignia
Active April 16, 1987 – Present
Country 23x15px United States of America
Branch Template:Dodseal United States Navy
Type Maritime Special Operations Force
Role Special warfare combatant-craft crewmen operate and maintain the inventory of state-of-the-art, high-performance boats used in conjunction with SEALs and on other special operations missions
Size 755 (active)
50 (reserve)
Part of 20px United States Special Operations Command
24px United States Naval Special Warfare Command
Nickname "Boat guys"
Motto "On time! On target! Never quit!"
Engagements Multinational Force in Lebanon
Operation Earnest Will
Operation Iraqi Freedom

The U.S. Navy's special warfare combatant-craft crewmen (SWCC, pronounced "Swick") is a Special Operations Force that operates and maintains an inventory of small craft used to support special operations missions, particularly those of the U.S. Navy SEALs.[1] Individually, SEALs and SWCC go through separate specialized training programs that emphasize special operations in the maritime environment. SWCC are trained extensively in craft and weapons tactics, techniques, and procedures. Focusing on clandestine infiltration and exfiltration of SEALs and other special operations forces, SWCC provide dedicated, rapid mobility in shallow water areas where large ships cannot operate. SWCC must be physically fit, highly motivated, combat-focused, and responsive in high-stress situations.


File:Fast Patrol Craft PCF-38 on Cai Ngay canal 1970.jpg
A fast patrol craft on Cai Ngay canal during the Vietnam War in 1970

Special boat teams can trace their history back to World War II. Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three rescued General Douglas MacArthur (and later the Filipino president) from the Philippines after the Japanese invasion and then participated in guerilla 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 combatants. PT boats were used in the European Theater beginning in April 1944 to support the Office of Strategic Services in the insertion of espionage and French Resistance personnel and for amphibious landing deception. While there is no direct line between organizations, United States Naval Special Warfare Command embracement is predicated on the similarity in craft and mission.[clarification needed]

The development of a robust riverine warfare capability during the Vietnam War produced the forerunner of the modern special warfare combatant-craft crewman. Mobile support teams 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 patrol torpedo fast (PTF) program and to operate high-speed craft in support of 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]

File:Special Operations Craft-Riverine.jpg
SWCC in the special operations craft, riverine

SWCC detachments have participated in nearly every major conflict since then, particularly in the Persian Gulf theatre during the 1987–1988 period of conflict and the 1991 Gulf War to the more recent War on Terrorism. In August 1996 while attached to USS Sides during counter drug operations in Colombia, Special Boat Squadron 1 (SBS1) came under attack in the Antioquia Valley region by members of FARC, Colombia's revolutionary movement, while conducting field operations. Six SBS1 members held off a force of approximately 150 rebels. The battle lasted for three days and nights and members of SBS1 found themselves surrounded and cut off from each other on several occasions. Short of ammunition and water, SBS1 held on until first light on day three, regrouped and counter-attacked, punching a hole in the FARC defense line and linking up with Colombian special forces sent there to assist them. An estimated 43 FARC rebels were killed during the battle and four were captured with only one team member being wounded. Members of the team were cited for their heroism and bravery.

Special warfare boat operator (SB) rating

The Global War on Terrorism was the impetus for several important changes in the NSW community. One of these many changes was the creation of a new SB rating system for SWCCs, which allows them to focus on their unique skill sets, to avoid limitations and constraints imposed by the old regime of "source ratings", to reach consensus and unity within the profession, and to allow them to enjoy advancement opportunities on par with the rest of the Navy.

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 originally 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 small craft badge has recently been awarded only to conventional riverine units under the NECC and SWCC boat captains, who wear it in addition to the SWCC device.[3]


To become a special warfare combatant-craft crewman, a service member must apply and be accepted to special programs, pass SWCC basic crewman training school, and pass other schools. Following this, they undergo crewman qualification training concurrently with a probationary period.


File:U.S. Navy special warfare combatant-craft crewmen (SWCC), Special Boat Team 22 conducts training 16 AUG 09.jpg
U.S. Navy special warfare combatant-craft crewmen from Special Boat Team 22 drive a special operations craft-riverine at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, 16 August 2009

Only men are eligible to apply for the SWCC program. To qualify for SWCC training, one must:

Initial SWCC training consists of the following:


Assignment to basic crewman training depends on passing the physical screening, which requires the following minimal:

  • Swim 500 yards under 10 minutes (side stroke)
  • Rest 10 minutes
  • 60 push-ups within 2 minutes
  • Rest 2 minutes
  • 60 sit-ups within 2 minutes
  • Rest 2 minutes
  • 6 pull-ups (no time limit)
  • Rest 10 minutes
  • 3-mile run under 24 minutes
  • Pass a basic underwater demolition/SEAL physical fitness screening test in boot camp and in the delayed entry program in order to qualify

SWCC basic crewman training

Instructors of the SWCC basic crewman training 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 is eight weeks long. 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 51-hour-long 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 "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 training, students advance to crewman qualification training.

Crewman qualification training

Instructors of crewman qualification training develop, train and qualify SWCC candidates in basic weapons, seamanship, first aid, and small unit tactics. This phase of training is 21 weeks long. Physical training here 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 close-quarters combat and SERE Level C. The student also receives an introduction to the NSW mission planning cycle, enabling him to participate in the planning, briefing, execution, and debriefing of an NSW mission from their tasking, to launch point, and on to their combat objective, where students apply all the techniques they have acquired during training.[6]

Due to the training and prerequisites involved in qualification, the SWCC is recognized by those within the broader realm of "small boat" outfits of the armed forces as a comparatively difficult qualification to obtain.

Due in part to the extremely difficult training and operating environment of SWCCs, they are qualified to operate jointly with other armed forces (particularly those within USSOCOM such as SEALs, Special Forces, MARSOC, and AFSOC), operate in inclement weather and sea state, evade and fight on land as a contingency, 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

File:SBT 22 on SOC-R boats.jpg
Special Boat Team 22 in SOC-R boats

SWCCs invariably receive broad individual and detachment in-house training and attend schools as needed. Before reporting to a team, all SWCCs must attend a 12-week language course, where they must learn a language assigned to them according to the needs of their respective teams. After reporting to the teams SWCCs may attend schools related to radio communications, weapons, maritime and land navigation, outboard, diesel, and waterjet engines, desert survival, jungle survival, air assault, special operations combat medic training, and many other U.S. Department of Defense schools according to the needs of their respective team. SWCCs also receive extensive in-house training in these and other areas on an ongoing basis in order to keep skills fresh and synergies alive.

Combat medic training

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 I.V. 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. Every SWCC receives basic medic assistant training.

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 and Tactical Combat Casualty Control (TCCC)-based courses. As of 2012, most attend 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. It also makes them Independent Duty Corpsmen within the military. 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,[7] 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

An 11-meter RHIB descending to the water after a successful MCADS launch
SWCC operators from Special Boat Teams 12 & 20 rig their RHIB to a CH-47D while underway during a MEATS training exercise
Maritime craft aerial deployment system

SWCC personnel are now more frequently trained as parajumpers with the development of the maritime craft aerial deployment system (MCADS).

Serving as a force multiplier, the MCADS capability enables naval special warfare sailors to rapidly deploy anywhere in the world in a maritime environment. The system deploys an 11-meter RHIB (rigid hull inflatable boat) rigged with four large parachutes from the back of a C-130 or C-17 at approximately 3,500 feet. Approximately four SWCCs immediately follow the boat out of the plane and parachute to the immediate proximity of where the boat lands in the water. Within 20 minutes the SWCCs have the boat unpacked and rigged to get underway to deliver an element of SOF (special operations force) operators to any potential target of interest, or to conduct their own mission.

Maritime external air transportation system

SWCC personnel may also attend the U.S. Army Air Assault School. A common operation the SWCC train for involving helicopters is called maritime external air transportation system (MEATS).

Special boat teams use the MEATS insertion and extraction delivery system. MEATS allows an Army CH-47D helicopter to hover over a craft used by SWCC to be rigged to the underbelly of the helicopters with slings. The combatant-craft crewman will then ascend a ladder dropped down from the helicopter into the craft. Once all the SWCC are on board, the CH47D will extract the craft from the water. A SWCC craft can also be inserted into a maritime environment giving the SWCC a longer range on land or at sea.

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

SWCC Units

Insignia Team Deployment HQ Notes
50px Special Boat Team 12 Worldwide Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, California
50px Special Boat Team 20 Worldwide Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Virginia Rescued 9 people from a DUKW tour incident in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, utilizing a Mark V SOC.[8]
50px Special Boat Team 22 Worldwide John C. Stennis Space Center, Mississippi Specializes in riverine warfare – only team to operate the SOC-R.


The special warfare combatant-craft crewman insignia is a military qualification badge of the United States Navy which was first conceived in 1996, though the design was not approved for wear until 2001.

The insignia is authorized for wear by volunteer members of special boat teams (formerly special boat units) under U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command. Candidates must pass the SWCC basic crewman training and crewman qualification training.

See also

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  1. ^ "Navy". Retrieved March 22, 2013. 
  2. ^ "". Retrieved 19 May 2011. 
  3. ^ "". Retrieved 19 May 2011. 
  4. ^ SWCC, Navy. "SWCC Qualifications". 
  5. ^ SWCC, Navy. "SWCC Career". 
  6. ^ "". Retrieved 19 May 2011. 
  7. ^[dead link]
  8. ^ Schept, Susan (10 July 2010), "Navy, CG assist in Philadelphia boat rescue", Navy Times, retrieved 12 July 2010 

Further reading

External links

Template:Naval special operations forces