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Green Berets vs Navy SEALs: Differences & Comparison

In times of crisis, the commander-in-chief has the entire United States military at their disposal. 

When it comes to dangerous and sensitive missions, certain elite soldiers can get the job done. 

The elite soldiers we’re talking about are the Navy SEALs and the Green Berets. Each is a Special Forces branch of the military. 

Let’s examine the similarities and differences between Navy SEALs and Green Berets, two military powerhouses.

Navy SEALs: Sea, Air, and Land Commandos

Historical Background

The name Navy SEAL tells us two things.

  • The first is that this is the Special Forces branch of the Navy and that they conduct missions on sea, air, and land. 
  • This is what the acronym SEAL stands for. These elite soldiers are used in direct raids, reconnaissance missions, and action against terrorist forces. 

The Navy SEALs can trace their heritage back to World War II. During the war, elite naval soldiers were assigned to naval combat demolition units and underwater demolition teams. 

The missions they carried out were to disarm mines and recover sunken objects. These dangerous missions required the best soldiers the Navy had to offer. 

They were nicknamed frogmen after their green suits and amphibious nature. These frogmen eventually evolved into what’s known today as the Navy SEALs.

Formation and Evolution

Due to Cold War tensions in 1961, President John F. Kennedy called for an increase in Special Forces. The following year, the US Navy created the first two SEAL teams. 

  • The soldiers were recruited straight from the underwater demolition units. 
  • Navy SEALs continue to carry out important and top-priority missions to this day. 

Green Berets: Army Special Forces

Origin and Specialization

Green Berets are the Special Forces unit of the United States Army. The Green Berets specialize in counterinsurgency. Like the Navy SEALs, the Green Berets can also trace their history back to World War II. 

However, the name Green Beret did not come into use until the 1950s. The idea behind creating Green Beret squads was to create small tactical teams that could sabotage enemy communications and supply lines. 

The first actual Special Forces unit in the US was formed in 1952 under the US Army Psychological Warfare Division. 

Two years later, the Army Special Forces soldiers incorporated their iconic Green Berets into their uniforms to distinguish themselves from other branches of the military. 

In 1962, the Army Special Forces gained official and exclusive rights to the Berets, thus immortalizing the name Green Berets in history

Entry Requirements for Elite Forces

Navy SEALs Requirements

Navy SEALs and Green Berets both have their own requirements for candidacy. 

To become a Navy SEAL, you must have at least 20:40 vision in your best eye and 20:70 in your worst eye with no color blindness. 

This means that some people are disqualified just on eyesight alone. You must have a minimum armed services vocational aptitude battery score of 220 and be 28 years old or younger. 

The final requirement is that you need to be a US citizen and eligible for security clearance. 

You must meet all these requirements before you will even be considered for the training regimen.

Vision20:40 in best eye, 20:70 in worst, no color blindness
ASVAB ScoreMinimum of 220
Age Limit28 years old or younger
CitizenshipMust be a U.S. citizen eligible for security clearance

Green Berets Requirements

In order to be considered for the Green Berets, an applicant must be a US citizen and between 20 to 32 years of age by the day they’re sent to Infantry 1 station unit training. 

You must also be an active-duty Army or National Guard member and qualify for airborne training. 

To meet strength and endurance requirements for the Green Berets, an applicant must complete a minimum of 49 pushups, 59 situps, run two miles in under 15 minutes and 12 seconds, and do six pullups

Age20 to 32 years at Infantry 1 station unit training
MembershipActive-duty army or national guard member
Airborne QualificationMust qualify for airborne training
Physical Standards49 pushups, 59 situps, 2-mile run under 15:12, 6 pullups

Training Regimens Comparison

How do the training regimens stack up between the Navy SEALs and Green Berets? 

Navy SEAL Training

Training for a Navy SEAL is consistently rated the most difficult training out of any branch of the military. The training is comprised of three core pillars:

  1. Character: Upholding Navy’s core values.
  2. Physical: Fitness and environmental adaptability, especially in water.
  3. Technical: Intellectual capacity and task learning ability.


The first is to create men of character, which means to train each soldier to uphold the Navy’s core values. 


The next pillar of training is physical. Navy SEALs must be physically fit and trained to work in every environment, but most especially water. 


The final pillar of training is technical. The training to become a Navy SEAL requires soldiers to be intelligent and able to quickly learn new tasks. 

There are two months of preparatory training before a soldier can even begin their Navy SEAL training. 

This preparatory period includes demanding physical and mental screening tests. Once the preliminary training is over, SEAL candidates enter a six-month basic underwater demolition training program. 

This is the part of the training that is cited as being the most difficult training in all of the US military. 

The candidates must undergo constant physical and mental tests. They’re also trained in basic water competency skills, underwater combat, weapons and demolitions training, and navigation on dry land. 

Hell Week

Then there is Hell Week, and it lives up to its name. This part of SEAL training is five days or more of candidates being pushed to their breaking point through intense physical and mental exertion around the clock.

They’re only allowed about four hours of sleep the entire period. It’s at this point, about 75% of candidates fail or drop out. 

If a candidate makes it through Hell Week, then they’re put through weeks of intermediate training, including small unit tactics, parachute and cold weather operations, but nothing is as difficult as Hell Week. 

If a soldier can make it through all of the rigorous training exercises, then they’re awarded the Trident. 

This is the official Navy SEAL symbol. Once the soldier receives their Trident, they are assigned to a SEAL Platoon, where they have several more months of advanced training for specialty skills. It’s after this point that soldiers can call themselves a Navy SEAL

Stages of Navy SEAL Training Summary

Preparatory Training

  • Duration: Two months
  • Activities: Demanding physical and mental screening tests
  • Additional Notes: Prepares candidates for the rigors of BUD/S

Basic Underwater Demolition Training

  • Duration: Six months
  • Focus: Basic water competency, underwater combat, weapons and demolitions, land navigation
  • Note: Known as the most challenging part of the US military training programs

Hell Week

  • Duration: Five days+
  • Challenge: Intense physical and mental exertion with minimal sleep (about four hours total)
  • Outcome: About 75% of candidates fail or drop out during this phase

Intermediate Training

  • Activities: Small unit tactics, parachute and cold weather operations
  • Continues after successful completion of Hell Week

Awarding of the Trident

  • After successfully completing all training phases, soldiers are awarded the Trident, the official Navy SEAL symbol.
  • Marks the transition to an active SEAL

Advanced Specialty Training

  • Post-Trident assignment to a SEAL Platoon for several months of advanced training in specialty skills.
  • Final preparation before full operational deployment

Upon completion of these stages, soldiers earn the title of Navy SEAL.

Green Berets Training

Green Berets start out with basic combat training. 

Candidates who aspire to be Green Berets must also have completed advanced individual training and US Army Airborne School. 

Soldiers then need to report to Fort Bragg to complete a six-week course in physical fitness and land navigation called the Special Forces Preparation Course. 

Next, the candidates need to go through the Special Forces Assessment and Selection training. 

During this training, soldiers’ survival skills are tested and their physical and mental fitness is pushed to its limits.

The final phase of the training is the Special Forces Qualification Course. This is a 53-week training course in:

  • Small unit tactics
  • Combat marksmanship
  • Advanced Special Forces tactics
  • Language and cultural training
  • Unconventional warfare

Once these 53 weeks are over, the soldier can finally be deployed as a Green Beret.

Green Beret Training Overview

Basic Combat TrainingIntroduction to military life and operations
Advanced Individual TrainingSpecialized role-based training
US Army Airborne SchoolParachute training for airborne operations
Special Forces Preparation CoursePhysical fitness and land navigation
Special Forces Assessment and Selection (6 Weeks)Evaluation of survival, fitness, and mental resilience
Special Forces Qualification Course (53 Weeks)Extensive tactical and operational training

Upon completion of all these phases, a candidate is recognized as a Green Beret.

Active Duty Numbers and Squad Sizes

Navy SEALs and Green Berets are both elite special forces units. The Navy SEAL training is more difficult to get through, but the Green Berets training is a longer process. 

There’s currently around 2,500 Navy SEALs on active duty. There are about 7,000 Green Berets on active duty.

Reports state that the number of Green Berets may be decreasing. The strain of repeated deployments and failure to meet recruiting targets are starting to take its toll on the Green Berets. 

The amount of soldiers in a squad differs between Navy SEALs and Green Berets as well. 

SEAL squads consist of approximately 16 men but may be divided into smaller squads and fire teams as needed. 

Green Beret squads work as 12-soldier teams known as an A-Team. Each member of the team has a specific job within the squad. 

Active Duty Personnel

UnitActive Duty Members
Navy SEALs~2,500
Green Berets~7,000

Squad Composition

UnitSquad SizeComposition
Navy SEALs~16Divided into smaller squads/fire teams as needed
Green Berets12Known as an A-Team, each with a specific role

Mission Types and Deployment

The two Special Forces branches have specific mission types. However, Green Berets and Navy SEALs do work together from time to time.

There have been missions where the two branches are deployed to complete missions together, and other times where a squad is a mix of Navy SEALs and Green Berets. 

Navy SEALs Mission Assignment

Normally, Navy SEALs are assigned to specific missions based on the skills required. In the case of Navy SEALs, the skill set of the squad drives the decision of where they’ll be deployed.

Green Berets Mission Spectrum

Green Berets are assigned to nine different types of missions. These missions are:

  • Unconventional warfare
  • Foreign internal defense
  • Direct action
  • Counterinsurgency
  • Special reconnaissance
  • Counterterrorism
  • Information operations
  • Counterproliferation of weapons of mass destruction
  • Security force assistance

If the squad has been trained in Middle Eastern cultures, they will likely be deployed to that region of the world. 

But in extreme circumstances, Green Berets are sent wherever they’re needed most. 

When it comes down to it, the training necessary to join each elite force is rigorous and difficult to get through. 

You can be sure that the soldiers from both branches of the military will be skilled and lethal

Weapons and Equipment

But what about their weapons? How do Navy SEALs’ weapons stack up against the weapons of the Green Berets?

Navy SEALs Armament


For handguns, the Navy SEALs use a 9-millimeter SIG SAUER P226, which can have a 20-round clip. 

The other option Navy SEALs have is the MK23 Mod 0 .45 caliber offensive handgun, which has a standard 12-round clip. 

Both handguns are equipped with a suppressor and laser aiming module. These modifications allow for stealthiness and better accuracy.

  • 9-millimeter SIG SAUER P226 with a 20-round clip
  • MK23 Mod 0 .45 caliber offensive handgun with a 12-round clip

Handgun Features

  • Equipped with a suppressor and laser aiming module
  • Enhanced stealth and accuracy

Rifles and Other Firearms

For rifles, Navy SEALs use a plethora of different guns. The most common is the M4A1, which has a 550-yard range and a 30-round magazine. SEALs have also been known to use the AK-47 along with submachine guns, shotguns, and sniper rifles to supplement the firepower in their squad.

  • Predominantly the M4A1 with a 550-yard range and a 30-round magazine
  • Also use AK-47s, submachine guns, shotguns, and sniper rifles

Green Berets Armament

Standard Issue Handgun

The standard issue handgun for the Green Beret is the Glock 19. This pistol was selected for its low visibility, which allows it to be concealed easily. 

This is important as the Green Beret uniform might change to meet mission requirements. The Glock 19 magazine capacity can vary from six rounds to 33 and can fire over 100 rounds a minute. 

  • Glock 19, chosen for its concealability and varying magazine capacity (6 to 33 rounds)

Primary Rifles

The two most used rifles for the Green Berets are the MK17 SCAR and the M4 Carbine. 

The SCAR is designed for mid-range engagements and has a standard 20-round magazine. The M4 is used by soldiers who prefer the customizable ability of the gun and its lightweight.

Green Berets will choose the right gun for the specific mission they’re assigned. 

  • MK17 SCAR for mid-range engagements, 20-round magazine
  • M4 Carbine favored for its customizability and light weight

Vehicles and Deployment

Another difference between the Navy SEALs and the Green Berets are the crafts they use from mission to mission

Navy SEALs Vehicles

Navy SEALs have a wide variety of vehicles at their disposal for deployment. They use aquatic crafts such as the SEAL Delivery Vehicle and the combat rubber raiding craft, a 15-foot heavily reinforced inflatable rubber boat. The Navy SEALs also have several other ships and larger craft for deployment and extraction. 

A diverse fleet for varying environments:

  • SEAL Delivery Vehicle for underwater missions
  • Combat rubber raiding craft for aquatic operations
  • Additional ships and craft for broad deployment capabilities

Green Berets Vehicles

On the other hand, Green Berets tend to only use one vehicle, the Ground Mobility Vehicle. It’s a lightweight, all-terrain truck that can be used in a variety of environments and missions, and it would seem that the Ground Mobility Vehicle is versatile enough to complete almost any Green Beret assignment. The fact that the Navy SEALs must work in water and air as well as on land means they need a more diverse array of delivery vehicles. 

Deployment Cycles


Deployment time varies within each Special Forces branch. SEALs typically operate on 18-month cycles and are deployed for six months at a time. However, some units with special assignments or skills have their own schedules. They may be deployed more frequently, but for shorter amounts of time.

  • Navy SEALs: Typically 18-month cycles with 6-month deployments

Green Berets

Green Berets’ deployment lengths can vary, but deployment time is normally between 90 days and 15 months. 

  • Green Berets: Deployment lengths can range from 90 days to 15 months

All in all, Navy SEALs and Green Berets are well-trained elite soldiers. They can get deployed anywhere around the world for a variety of missions. 

Conclusion: Elite Force Capabilities

Both Navy SEALs and Green Berets have to go through hell and prove they have what it takes through months of training. These soldiers are the best of the best and are given the equipment they need to complete any mission. Sometimes, SEALs and Green Berets work together, and I’d hate to be the mission target for that squad. Now go watch “American Soldier, USA vs British Soldier, Military Comparison.” Or if you want to learn more about another branch of the US military, watch “Typical Loadout of a US Marine.

George N.