It was a steady 15 knots through the San Diego Bay;
but upon clearing the channel, the boat began to
pick up speed; 17 knots, 24 knots, 36 knots in a
matter of seconds.
"Air contact, heading three-five-zero, position
angle two!" shouted aft lookout Operations
Specialist 2nd Class David Beem.
Lookouts were yelling surface and air contacts from
every direction. The other two boats ahead crashed
every wave at full throttle. With every crest came
another heavy hit.
Once in the open water, it was all over. Some of the
crew were leaning against the side of the boat and
holding on with all of their strength.
Instructor, Quartermaster 1st Class (SWCC/SW) Jason
Capelle looked at them with a grin and said, "Are
you scared yet?"
"Hold on!" the coxswain shouted.
Since the war on terrorism began, there is no such
thing as a safe zone, especially in the endless
miles of vast ocean.
At Naval Amphibious Base (NAB), Coronado, Calif.,
students of class 54-2, Special Warfare
Combatantcraft Crewman (SWCC) School are challenged
physically, mentally and on navigational
capabilities. In such a small community, SWCC team
members rely on each other to get the job done.
The program is designed to test Sailors' abilities
to perform under pressure and have the skills to
accomplish any mission, pushing their limits to the
"You have to be comfortable tying knots, doing a
buddy tow and other vigorous exercises in and out of
the water," said Chief Quartermaster (SWCC/FPJ)
Chris Moore, one of the instructors.
The program is broken down into three phases, two
weeks of SWCC basic indoctrination, five weeks of
basic crewman training (BCT) and 14 weeks of crewman
qualification training (CQT).
During the indoctrination phase, candidates learn
about the history of SWCC, the Navy's Core Values,
sports medicine, hygiene and nutrition. They also
begin their physical training.
Candidates run an average of 30 miles a week, and
are expected to run from an evolution, to chow and
back to an evolution at a seven-minute mile pace.
From indoctrination to BCT, students begin classes
in navigation, boat familiarization, hull inspection
and first aid. Their physical conditioning improves
along with water rescue tests. Each passing day
brings harder challenges and more core
"Initially, all students have fear in their eyes,
because they are stepping into the unknown," said
Instructor, Enginemen 1st Class (SWCC/PJ) Billy
Burt. "It's our job as instructors to get them to be
confident through training. The purpose of this
course is to evaluate, test, and pressurize the
students to see how they react in all types of
During BCT, students are taught to expect the
On time! On target! Never quit! It's the SWCC motto,
and it's the motivational tool instructors try to
instill in the students.
On time - Sea, Air and Land (SEAL) teams and other
special operating forces (SOF) rely on SWCC to be
there at a specific time. It's imperative to all
missions, including being at school. On target - The
accuracy with their weapons. Never quit - this
mentality is carried for life.
"Their limitations aren't that bad," said
Instructor, Gunner's Mate 1st Class (SWCC) Robert
Staples. "They need to realize they can push
themselves a lot farther."
"Go until you can't go anymore, and go one more,"
Phase three, CQT epitomizes Moore's statement.
Mission planning, rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB)
operations, and engineering and damage control make
CQT academically challenging.
Students are tested on weapon systems, chart
plotting, communications and seamanship.
"Intense training comes along with CQT, driving
boats and shooting weapons," said Hospital Corpsman
2nd Class Anthony Dominguez, class leader of 54-2.
Damage Controlman 2nd Class Ricardo Torres, a member
of Class 54-2, said it's all about execution.
"I'll actually apply all of the skills I've been
taught on a daily basis to my job and my missions,"
Of the special forces, SWCC has the skills and
knowledge of maritime insertion and extraction of
"SWCC provides platforms that very few military
forces can master," said Hull Technician 1st Class
Lawrence Obst, an instructor at the school. The boat
teams work hand-in-hand with Navy SEALs who are
equipped to support any and all operations in
maritime and riverine environments.
"We're not fighting for our jobs," said Staples.
"Not one other person does our job in the military,
and SWCC is in high demand because of it."
Vessel Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS),
close-quarter battles and counter intelligence are
conducted with surface assets or combat crafts to
secure afloat missions using MK-V craft, RHIBs and
the SOC-R riverine boat.
"All the training at the SWCC School is geared
around what the boat guy does for a living because
we take the biggest beating," said Staples.
All boats have different equipment and different
operating capabilities, but all boats have one
mission - combat terrorism.
"Our MK-V craft is extremely fast," said Moore. "The
boat can be going full speed and come to a complete
stop within the length of that boat. It's called a
crash back," he said.
When USS Cole (DDG 67) got hit, the SWCC boat guys
were the ones protecting the waters from further
attacks," said Staples.
For Burt, being part of a boat team is intense.
"Most people don't understand what we do. It's a big
misconception and we have to educate people," said
Burt. "Once they understand how tough it is to
operate in a maritime environment, at night with low
visibility, they gain respect and appreciate SWCC."
The instructors have camaraderie, and they are a
real close team, said Torres. "In our training, we
rely on each other in the same aspects."
The mindset of the boat teams builds confidence and
mission success for the quiet professionals SWCC is
"It's more than just being part of an elite
brotherhood. Being in the water, pushing fast boats,
jumping, and shooting - it's all part of an awesome
job," said Obst.
With approximately 540 designated SWCC in the
military, the demand for more of the elite combatant
crewman has caused the Navy to make SWCC its own
rating of Special Boat Operators (SB).
Five hours after leaving the bay, the teams had
plotted every fix for the evolution. It was dark;
the only thing they could see were the downtown
lights that seemed miles away. Their clothes were
soaked; their knees were sore and everything was
covered in salt from the sea spray and the aft
lookout was still wide-eyed in search for contacts.
"Surface Contact one-eight-zero position angle two!"
Beem shouted to the coxswain.
Beem looked at the students with a smile and said,
"Don't you just love it?"
SWCC BCT class 54-2 had just completed their first
low light/night operations evolution.
The class leader of 54-2 said it best. "If you want
to be a part of something bigger and better, this is
the place to be," said Dominguez.
Seven weeks down and 14 more to go; but for them,
it's just the beginning.
Jones is assigned to Fleet Public Affairs Center,