Wednesday, March 28, 2007
For anyone interested in becoming a SEAL - or for those who simply want to test their strength, spend the next few minutes with me as I take you through the Physical Screening Test, or PST. This is what all SEAL hopefuls have to pass before they can get orders for BUD/S - Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL training.
It's barely dawn on Coronado Island. Ten active duty sailors line up on a pool deck in swimming trunks. These guys are hoping to become SEALs.
Carl Romahn has been one for the last 18 years. Today, he's giving the PST.
Romahn: This thing is a very hard evolution. And this is just scratching the surface. This is easy to some of the things they're going to do in BUD/S and in seal teams themselves.}
Here's what the PST involves. First, a 500 yard swim, in under 12 ½ minutes. A minimum of 46 pushups and 50 sit-ups in under two minutes each. Then, at least six pull-ups. And finally, a mile-and-a-half run in under 11 ½ minutes. Oh, and by the way - you do that in boots and pants.
Before it all starts, Carl Romahn offers the guys a few words of encouragement.
Romahn: Don't put any pressure on yourself. That's why I'm known as Uncle Carl. I want you guys to pass this thing. I want you to get over to BUD/S. I want you to get orders.
Among those here is Jeremiah. We've been asked not to reveal his last name given the nature of his future work, if he makes it. He's already failed the PST twice.
Jeremiah: I was pretty nervous. I'm not going to lie -- a little scared. But I've changed it. I’m not scared this time.
No time to think about it now, anyway. It's time to start.
Romahn: There is no freestyle, no arms coming out of the water. Sidestroke or breaststroke. is everyone prepared and ready.}
That's right - no freestyle. Romahn explains why.
Romahn: If you watch, you can see how low profile it is. You can barely see them. Low profile is what we're all about.
Everyone passes the swim. And it's on to pushups. Romahn has Jeremiah demonstrate the proper technique.
Romahn: What do we have here? What kind of angle? Everybody - past 90 degrees. Correct.
The guys all make the minimum in pushups and sit-ups. In fact some break 90.
Then it's time for pull-ups. Romahn has noticed that the biggest guy here, Josh, has been struggling all morning.
Romahn: Good job big guy, come on, get another one - at least. Come on push. There you go, very good.
And lastly - over to the track for the run.
Romahn: Are we ready, set, go.
The ten take off. Jeremiah looks good. But soon Josh is falling behind.
Romahn: Well, big guy’s has found that running 1 ½ miles is pretty hard after all the other evolutions. We'll give him the talk afterwards. 6:56 - come on big guy. You're going to have to put out if you're going to make it.
A bunch of guys cross the finish line with only seconds to spare. The time to beat remember is 11:30.
Jeremiah, who failed the run twice, has made it.
Jeremiah: Oh man, the feeling's indescribable. Mind if I say something to my parents? Hi mom and dad. Hi everyone back home in Barrow. I did it -- see you Monday.
That's Barrow, Alaska if you're wondering. Well over a minute after everyone else, Josh comes around the last bend.
Uncle Carl attends to him immediately.
Romahn: Don't feel bad, that's the worst thing you can do.
A few minutes later - Josh offers his thoughts on the PST.
Josh: It's no joke. And I mean, this is just the test. The main event leading up to hell week is the thing everyone tries to prepare for. I wasn’t ready - but I will be.
He'll be back in about a month to try again.
For KPBS, I'm Andrea Hsu.
(Photo: Navy SEAL hopefuls undergo strenuous training. Naval Special Warfare Center).
Part 1: Navy SEALs»