Hell Week. These two words alone conjure a lot of feelings in people. If you’re a Navy SEAL who has been through it, you might get a cold chill thinking about the level of sacrifice and suffering you endured, along with the chafes burning your raw skin and salt water enhancing the raw inner legs forcing you to walk bowlegged for days to come. It may be hard to believe, but the one predictor of success is not just about being physically strong, but the grit and perseverance of not quitting. It really comes down to who is willing to sacrifice everything to succeed.
BUD/S instructors will dangle sweet rewards for anyone willing to quit. The brass bell used for anyone wanting to quit is mobile (back of a pickup truck during beach runs) making it convenient to ‘ring out’ while cold recruits are tempted with hot coffee and donuts.
There are about 2,500 active Navy SEALs today. Every one of them who went through will forever remembers Hell Week. For a few, nightmares may never end.
Here’s a breakdown of Hell Week so that you have a better understanding.
What Is Hell Week?
Navy SEAL Hell Week takes place in the final week of the first of three phases of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training (BUD/S) in Coronado CA.
This test of mental and physical endurance and human will is known as one of the most taxing and arduous in all of the military. It’s held early in the process so that the Navy knows whether they should invest more time, effort, and resources into an individual going through the process. Roughly 25% of candidates make it through Hell Week, on average.
If you’re learning how to get through Hell Week, knowing the schedule helps:
Hell Week Sleep Schedule
So, how long do you stay awake in Hell Week? Sleep is very limited during this 5-and-a-half-day stretch. During this time, Navy SEAL candidates are limited to a paltry 4 hours of sleep.
It’s been said, recruits burn up about 2,000 calories per day and run about 200 miles during this week alone.
While other parts of BUD/S training revolve around a schedule, BUD/S Hell Week is built strictly to push people to and past their limits. Instructors have free reign to deter from the schedule, and demoralizing the incoming class is the main point.
In addition to sleep deprivation and harsh conditions, many people are hurt or injured when going through Hell Week. Although there are medical personnel during all events, recruits often have to be ‘rolled back’ to the next class if they are not able to continue.
It’s a mind-over-matter situation since surviving Hell Week doesn’t even guarantee that candidates will go on to become Navy SEALs. After Hell Week and BUD/S training, candidates will still have 20 weeks of training that they will need to satisfy.
Food and Regular Intervals
While Hell Week can be unpredictable in many ways, it’s important to know that there is some regularity that candidates come to rely on. They are given food at normal intervals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with some food at midnight.
They are also provided plenty of water to stay hydrated, along with hot coffee to provide a boost of energy. These breaks aren’t just necessary for nutrition and safety, but it also provides a way to break up the days with solid intervals.
Some of the most tried-and-true advice that trainees have been given is to just get to the next break. Hell Week is so much of a mind game that it’s easy to forget in the moment that it has to end at some point. After eating breakfast, trainees going through Hell Week can take solace in the fact that they’ll get a break in a few hours at lunch.
Likewise, the punishment that they endure after lunch will eventually be halted by dinner. These precious breaks make Hell Week smaller. Rather than lamenting when it’s all going to be over, trainees can save themselves just enough mental capital to make sure that they make it to the next meal.
Cold Weather and Poor Conditions
At some point during Hell Week, Navy SEAL candidates can expect to be cold, wet, and incredibly uncomfortable. Training involves a lot of diving into the water, holding up boats in the water along with their boat crew, lots of sweat, and temperature changes throughout the day and night.
This is when the weather is clear. It’s also very possible to expect strong rain and wind, and candidates will have to deal with sand all over their skin, even underneath their clothing. All of these things, along with infrequent bathing, sleep deprivation, and getting rest in uncomfortable situations is enough to test anyone’s morale.
It’s highly likely that during the most uncomfortable of these conditions, Hell Week instructors will tempt trainees to find a way out. When they’re cold, wet, and sleep deprived at 3 a.m., instructors might remind them how good a hot shower or a warm set of clothes might feel, and how it’s theirs if they just go ring the bell.
As harsh as this week is physical, it’s the ultimate test of mental endurance and a trial of the human will. The people who make it through Hell Week aren’t necessarily those who are the most athletic, but those who have their hearts and minds set on becoming Navy SEALs.
Teamwork and Camaraderie
Teamwork in the teams is everything. Aside from testing individuals, Hell Week is all about fostering teamwork and camaraderie. Survival during a military operation depends on the team’s ability to cooperate and work together.
Candidates will rely on their teammates to pick them up when morale is low. They can transcend the conditions when they align their energy and encourage each other. This is how they will overcome conditions and circumstances so that they can achieve the dream of becoming Navy SEALs together.
Motion Is a Constant
Without question, motion is the biggest constant during Hell Week. With very little sleep, SEAL candidates are constantly on the move. They’re being put through their paces with running, physical therapy (PT), carrying heavy boats, trudging through the sand and mud, pushups, and more.
All of this takes place with soaking wet clothing, bone-chilling wind conditions, and water and mud up to the waist. After making it through Hell Week, the vast majority of candidates go on to graduate BUD/S because they feel unstoppable. This gives them the mettle that they need to make it in combat situations as they proudly serve as Navy SEALs.
Navy SEAL Hell Week, Explained
Now that you know more about Navy SEAL Hell Week, it takes away some of the mystery and misconceptions. A candidate doesn’t have to be the toughest, strongest, or even the smartest to get through this infamous week.
They need a strong will and desire to persevere so that they can eventually call themselves Navy SEALs.
If you’re considering a career in the Navy, start with this information and rely on us to keep learning