Lessons from the Navy SEALs

Posted on March 20, 2012 by


The Navy SEALs are one of the world’s elite military special forces.  The qualification process has been recognized for years.  BUD/S training in San Diego narrows the field from very qualified men to the best of the best.  Perhaps most impressive about the SEALs is the continual training to which they are committed.  If we wish to be our very best, I submit three areas of that we can learn from the SEALs: time in training, the extent of training, and sacrifice in training.

Inside Seal Team Six, “My life and missions with America’s elite warriors,” Don Mann describes his life and career as a Navy SEAL.  It is typical for a SEAL platoon to operate on two year deployment cycles.  These men will spend a year to 18 months in advance preparations.  The first of three phases may include the following: language work, parachute rigging and jumping, climbing and roping, technical surveillance, sniper and scout operations, unmanned arial vehicle operations, and diving.  The second phase, lasting six months, includes the following: land warfare, small unit tactics, urban warefare, close quarters combat, combat swimming, long range target interdiction, hostile maritime work, rotary and fixed-wing air operations, and special reconnaissance.  The third phase is squadron interation training; it consists of advanced training with the support of special boat squadrons, medical teams, interpreters, intelligence teams, and crypto logical teams.  Upon completion the training cycle, the SEALs would undertake the mission in the specific theatre.  The mission could be six weeks to six months. (p104)

A casual observation leads one to believe that a disproportionate amount of time is spent in preparation.  Ultimately, this elite force is only called-upon for the most complex and vital military operations in protecting the interests of the United States.  Do you view your ministry as complex and vital?  Life and death?  If so, then I urge you to consider the impact of more time invested in preparation.  In preparing a message (club talk for instance), it may be obvious that far more time can spent in preparation.  Have you trained to do contact work?  How much time have you invested in preparation for contact work?  We get busy as summer camp approaches, but how much of this busy-ness is actual prep time for camp?  Have you spent any time in advance on cabin times?  Consider spending intentional time preparing to work with the leaders in your area.  Jesus challenges us in Luke 14:25-33 to ‘count the cost of discipleship.’

It is not just the amount of time that is important, but the extent of the training in the allotted time that is critical.  For the SEALs, contingency training can be summarized as follows: “[D]evelop well-thought-out, sound actions in advance of possible threats…We all learned the importance of developing situational awareness.” (p 129)  In ministry, our preparation has to include prayer, reading/studying God’s word, studying our target culture (youth in general, youth locally, the school, our campaigners, discipleship kids) working with our leadership team, working with extended teams (committee, donors, school officials, community leaders, the local church, etc).  All facets of program require rehearsal if we are to do them with excellence.  This includes memorizing character lines, song lyrics, and chords.  Are we training for contact work?  Do we study the campus?  Who attends what events?  Where do kids gather other than at the school?  Are we rehearsing campaigners?  Are we praying for these future leaders? Are we training them for their role as they pray for friends; invite friends along; help with club, campaigners, and camp?  As outlined in the lists of training proficiencies of the SEALs, the list is extensive.  May we be stretched in the extent of our continuous training as YL staff.  “Training-based scenarios helped us identify our individual strengths, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities.” (p 128)

The third consideration is sacrifice in training.  “The more sweat and tears you put into the training, the less blood you’ll shed in time of war,” is a motto of the SEALS.  (p 72)  Sacrificial living is a mark of a disciple of Jesus Christ as Luke 14:27 states, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”  Consider, then, training as a part of discipleship.  What used to seem senseless to me (loss of life in training military exercises), now is understandable.  Upon a closer consideration, I now see that the training is so serious, that loss of life is acceptable if it means the mission is completed successfully.  Implicit in this success is saving multiple lives or eradicating an-going drastic safety concern or threat of loss of life.  Likewise, the required sacrifice we make is welcomed if it leads to even one sinner that repents.

Our mission of introducing kids to Jesus Christ and helping them grow in their faith is a matter of life and death.  In order to operate at our best, let us consider lessons we learn from our military, including time in training, the extent of training, and sacrifice in training