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Navy Special Forces Units & Warfare 2023

Every branch of the US military, aside from the space force, has its own special operations forces, each having its own niche that further strengthens the diversification of US SOCOM. 

While every Special Operations Force (SOF) has its own overlaps and similarities with one another, Navy Special Operations is one of a kind. 

There’s Naval Special Warfare (NSW) and Naval Special Operations (NSO). If you’re wondering what the difference is, NSW happens to be the one that falls under US SOCOM (United States Special Operations Command). 

However, the other communities we will be covering today are still considered special operations when it comes to the Navy. Some of them fall under the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, but that’s a whole other story. 

Regardless, no one has a maritime focus like the Navy special operations forces. 

They seamlessly integrate into maritime objectives and have proven to be a lethal fighting force in a multitude of other areas. 

The Naval Special Warfare (NSW) and Naval Special Operations (NSO) personnel range from:

  • SEAL (Sea, Air, and Land Teams)
  • EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal)
  • SWCC (Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen)
  • SARCs (Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsmen)
  • Navy Divers
  • Rescue Swimmers

We’re going to go over each of these communities and highlight what they bring to the table in the world of the Navy Special Operations Forces. 

Let’s kick things off with the legendary Navy Seals. 


Do you notice something about all of these? They involve Navy Seals. 

The Navy Seals have built a global reputation for themselves. They’re popular not only in the military but throughout the entire world. 

The Navy Seals have become a household name, and for a good reason. They’ve led the way in several high-profile missions, such as Operation Neptune Spear, where they neutralized Osama bin Laden. 

Navy Seals are the heart of the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) force. They’re a multi-purpose combat force, organized and trained to conduct a variety of special operations missions in all environments. 

SEALs conduct clandestine missions and infiltrate their objective areas by sea, air, and land, which is exactly what SEAL stands for. 

Their proven ability to operate across the full spectrum of conflict, coupled with their ability to provide real-time intelligence and eyes on targets, offers unmatched versatility on the battlefield while in the face of rapidly changing crises around the world. 

Their stealth and clandestine methods of operation allow them to conduct multiple missions against targets that larger forces cannot approach undetected. 

Navy Seals typically operate in small units during the execution of special operation missions to capture or eliminate high level targets or gather intelligence behind enemy lines. 

They can deploy by any means necessary in maritime settings, such as off-shore carriers, submarines, and other various warships. 

Sea, air, and land is just a modest description of the environment Seals can operate in. They can work in jungle, urban, Arctic, mountainous, and desert environments in pursuit of those intense missions. 

Navy Seals are just as comfortable fighting in the mountains of Afghanistan as they are operating a sea delivery vehicle in the cold waters of the Pacific. 

But let’s get into the specific mission Seals are responsible for carrying out. 

With how capable Navy Seals are, a lot is asked of them. 

They use direct action against enemies, using raids, ambushes, and assaults to capture and neutralize adversaries. 

Not only that, they conduct reconnaissance and surveillance operations to collect data and information on the enemy, conditions, and terrain. 

They conduct foreign internal defense by training allies and foreign forces to increase their ability to respond to threats. 

And they pursue counterterrorism by eliminating threats and conducting counterterrorism strikes and preemptive strikes. 

With just a few examples, you can start to see just how capable a Navy Seal is. Their motto, The only easy day was yesterday, showcases the ever-growing standards Navy Seals hold themselves to both on and off the battlefield. 

With the Navy Seals covered, let’s move on to the Navy SWCC (Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen). 

Navy SWCC (Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen)

The Navy SWCC stands for Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen. 

Known as boat guys, these are the other elite warriors that make up Naval Special Warfare (NSW).

However, many are not aware of their existence. They are a small, tight-knit community that likes to keep things under wraps. 

So what do these boat guys do? 

Brass tacks, they drive and provide small caliber gunfire support on specialized high tech, high speed, and low profile surface combatant craft to secretly infiltrate and exfiltrate Navy Seals on special operations missions worldwide. 

While their bread and butter is supporting Navy Seals in special operations missions, there’s more to being a Navy SWCC than that. They’re the unsung heroes of Naval Special Warfare and play an important role in accomplishing the mission at hand. 

Navy SWCC (Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen)  are masters of the weapons and watercraft they operate with, allowing them to pack a powerful punch, all while being on a vessel that is small enough to operate in waters where large ships cannot go. 

Such vessels allow them to specialize in swift mobility, and by using their expertise in tactical driving and convoy operations, they play a key role in hot infiltration and exfiltration. They also:

  • Conduct special reconnaissance
  • Direct action through coastline or rivers
  • Execute strikes
  • Carry out captures
  • Execute ship take downs by Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) operations

For you military movie lovers, you saw a badass glimpse of what Navy SWCCs are capable of in the movie Act of Valor. 

Bottom line: Navy SWCCs (Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen) spend most of their time on their boats, but don’t think it’s all about just shooting some bad-ass guns. 

Boats of that size need maintenance and repair. After all, Navy SWCC boats are multimillion-dollar machines with many high-tech and complicated systems. 

One such boat they use is the Mark 1 Combatant Craft Medium. The MK 1 can hold a crew of 4, plus up to 19 SEALS, go over 50 knots, and has mounts that can arm it with multiple 50 caliber heavy machine guns, an M240, and MK 19 40-millimeter Grenade Launchers, all of which allow for this. 

Navy SWCCs (Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen) are not to be messed with, and are probably the best Uber you can ever ask for if you find yourself needing their help out in an operation. 

Their motto, On time, On target, Never quit, attests to what they stand for as a community. 

With Navy SWCCs covered, let’s move on to our next community, Navy SARC (Search and Rescue Crewman).

Navy SARCs (Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsmen)

If you’re here thinking that we’re going to be discussing about the Navy’s Sexual Assault Response Coordinators, you’re in the wrong place. 

We’re here to discuss about Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsmen. What are those, you ask? They’re the Navy’s badass Special Operations medics. 

But don’t get caught calling them medics. They’re corpsmen, not medics. 

Some of you reading this will get why. Navy SARCs (Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsmen) are one of a kind and have a unique place in Navy Special Operations. 

Unlike the other communities on this website, Navy SARC does not have its own job per se.

Navy SARCs (Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsmen) are a specialty within the hospital corpsman rating that have received the requisite training to be operators. 

If you’re unfamiliar with what a hospital corpsman is, they’re essentially the enlisted medical force of the Navy. 

What makes Navy SARCs so unique is how versatile they are regarding the communities they work with. Navy SARCs (Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsmen) are special operations combat medics, meaning that wherever there is a need for their expertise and stuff, they’ll be there. 

They mainly work with the Marine Corps, specifically Marine Recon and MARSOC (Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command). 

However, they also work with DEVGRU (“Development Group”), otherwise known as Steel Team Six, and have the ability to work at random billets wherever the Navy allows them to go. 

That means that Sarc can do one billet with the Recon Marines, go do another one at MARSOC, spend a few years as a schoolhouse instructor, and then go work at DEVGRU. No one else can really do that. 

You might be asking yourself, 

“Why do Navy SARCs exist when Navy Seals can also become combat medics?”

Well, for starters, the Marine Corps doesn’t have its own medical personnel. 

So since they’re in the Department of the Navy, hospital corpsmen are embedded in their units. The same goes for their special operations. 

In addition, to help you better understand why Navy SARCs are the most sought-after when it comes to medicine, being a medical professional is their main job. 

For all intents and purposes, a Navy SARC is a medical professional first and an operator second, whereas a Navy SEAL medic is an operator first and a medical professional second. 

That’s the great thing about being a Navy SARC; while your main purpose is medicine, you’re still trained up to speed with the rest of the boys and can be running and gunning just as much as they are. 

The Navy SARCs (Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsmen) motto is, the difficult anytime, the impossible by appointment only, which exudes their confidence in special operations medicine. 

With Navy SARCs out of the way, let’s move on to Navy EOD. 

Navy EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal)

Imagine someone who can kick down doors, jump, dive, and blow stuff up all while rocking some good hair. That would be a Navy EOD technician; EOD stands for Explosive Ordinance Disposal. 

EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) is quite literally the bomb squad of the Navy, but they’re much more capable than your average bomb squad at your local police department. 

Navy EOD is used to hold, detect, locate, render safe, and dispose of explosive threats all over the world. These threats range from chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons all the way to IEDs. 

Due to the nature of their duties, they have various types of equipment to help them get the job done. They have bomb suits, robots, high-tech gear, and loads and loads of stuff to assist them. 

Sounds pretty cool, right? But Navy EOD  isn’t unique to the Navy. There’s also the Army, Marines, and Air Force EOD. 

We tell you this because the Navy EOD is arguably the best EOD to work in out of all of the branches. 

How so? Well, Navy EOD is treated differently. It’s considered special operations. Other EODs don’t really get the same perks and benefits as the Navy EOD does. 

Not only that, the Navy EOD is the only EOD that dives and deals with underwater explosives. 

While the Marine Corps EOD is starting to dip its toes into the EOD diving world, underwater explosives are what the Navy EOD is known for.

They’re also the only EOD with jump school built into their pipeline. This allows Navy EOD to be tasked with some pretty cool missions and work with a variety of communities. 

As a versatile fighting force, the Navy EOD embeds and works with a variety of Special Operations Forces (SOF) units. They’re placed in SEAL teams, Army SF, DevGru, Rangers, etc.

While they’re in those units for their expertise in explosives, don’t think they sit around waiting for a bomb to diffuse. 

Navy EOD personnel are expected to be up to par with the operators of the units they’re embedded in and often receive training to put them up to speed with the rest of the unit. 

Now that Navy EOD has been rendered safe, it’s time to dive into the next community, Navy divers. 

Navy Divers

Navy divers literally tell you what they do in their job title; they’re divers who are in the Navy. 

But don’t think that all they do is dive with the fish for fun on any given day.

They dive with a purpose. There’s much more to being a Navy diver than meets the eye. 

The Navy essentially runs military diving. Because of that, Navy divers are afforded the most funding and availability to work in all facets of diving. 

Because their area of operations is so varied, they can be required to utilize any type of diving equipment for use at any depth or temperature in any part of the world. 

These dives can range from short, shallow ones, where they only go 25 feet deep, all the way to extreme depths for days or weeks at a time, known as saturation diving, where they have to decompress for several days before they can go back on land. 

Navy divers work in extreme conditions and do underwater tasks such as underwater ship repair, salvage operations, and assisting special operations forces.

They are the foremost experts in all things diving, so they are sought after for their expertise and resources by other military diving communities and civilian agencies. 

They’re also constantly learning and discovering more about the science of diving, coming out with efficient diving advancements to make diving not only safer but more effective. 

On a final note for Navy divers, this is where the road separates them from the first four communities we’ve covered thus far. 

While Navy divers are special operations in the Navy, don’t expect to see combat as a Navy diver. 

They’re more of a support role when it comes to other Special Operations Forces, and their mission does not include anything combat oriented. That wraps up the Navy divers. 

Let’s move on to the next community, air rescue swimmers

Navy Aviation Rescue Swimmer (AIRR)

Navy Air Rescue Swimmers, also known as Aviation Rescue Swimmers (AIREs), are naval air crewmen who are a part of one of the most elite helicopter emergency response teams in the world and are tasked with assisting those needing rescue in the most treacherous conditions. 

They are ready to go into harm’s way to complete the rescue missions in some of the most extreme environments imaginable. 

One day, you could be aiding in the evacuation of families amid a catastrophic storm. The next day you could be rescuing the crew of a ship off the coast, and then the following day you could be saving a mountain climber hanging from an inaccessible cliff. 

But there’s more to Navy Aviation Rescue Swimmers than just rescuing those who need to be saved. 

Since they’re also air crewmen, when they’re not performing rescues, they aid in the various functions the crew needs to get done. 

And in full disclosure, you’ll come to find out that Navy Aviation Rescue Swimmers can often complete their entire contract without a single save. 

So don’t go into this job thinking that’s all you’ll be doing. Having zero saves is not a guarantee, and everyone’s experience will vary. 

With that said, you can still have a cool, fulfilling job in this career field, and your time in air rescue will be what you make of it. 

In addition, the Navy’s rescue swimmers are actually split into two jobs: Naval Air Crewman Helicopter, or AWS, and Naval Air Crewman Tactical Helicopter, or AWR. 

AWSs are known as Sierras, and AWRs are Romeos. While a lot of what they do overlaps, to put it simply, Sierra’s primary jobs are: 

  • AWSs, or Sierras, primarily perform:
  • Search and Rescue (SAR) operations, 
  • Vertical Replenishment (VIRTREP), 
  • Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC), and 
  • Maritime Security Warfare (MSW) support. 

They are also trained to use crew-served weapons.

Romeos do everything Sierras do, but on top of that, they do surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and electronic warfare. 

You won’t know whether you’re a Romeo or a Sierra until you pass selection, so don’t worry about it until that time comes. 

And with air rescue covered, you just learned about the six career fields of Navy special operations. 

And if you found this article interesting, we’ve done one like this on Air Force Special Operations

Well, that is the down-and-dirty of Navy Special Operations. If you learn something from this article, make sure to comment and share.

George N.