Coast Guard Joins the SEALs


The Coast Guard wants to get a bit more “hooyah” by jumping on the special operations forces bandwagon with a new program that could put as many as 28 of its personnel into elite Navy SEAL teams by 2016.

Under an agreement signed in early August among the Navy, Coast Guard and U.S. Special Operations Command, as many as four Coastguardsmen from across the service will be selected each year to undergo the rigorous SEAL training, including Basic Underwater Demolition School and follow-on instruction. Eventually they would become full-fledged members of SEAL commando teams deployed to terrorist war zones.

Coast Guard officials say this limited number of Coasties-turned-SEALs re-entering their ranks after a tour in the special warfare community — which could last as many as seven years — will be a boon for morale, training and job skills in a service that bridges the worlds of counter-terrorism operations and law enforcement.

“What this does is it provides us better capability, increased competencies, more experience and greater knowledge to do the things that we are already doing today,” said Rear Adm. Thomas Atkin, commander of the Coast Guard’s Deployable Operations Group which deals with specialized counter-terrorism and military missions.

“They’re going to be able to bring back an esprit de corps that you learn within the SEAL community. We don’t always have that,” Atkin added during an Aug. 15 interview with military bloggers. “We have a great service, I’m very proud to wear the blue, but the esprit de corps that comes out of the folks that go to BUDS [and] members of SEAL teams … those experiences, that knowledge, that mindset are all things that are going to benefit the Coast Guard in the long term.”

Though Atkin said “anecdotally” there’s a lot of enthusiasm for the program, so far no Coastguardsmen have applied in the two weeks since it was announced. The deadline for applications is in mid-September.

The SEALs, along with other special operations forces in the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps, have been adding to their ranks since the Sept. 11 attacks and the injection of even a few more personnel from the Coast Guard is a welcome addition, a Navy Special Warfare officer said.

“What that means to us is approximately two SEAL platoons,” said Lt. Cmdr. Christian Dunbar, director of training at the Navy Special Warfare Center in Coronado, Calif. “This just adds a greater base of qualified candidates that don’t come from recruits in the Navy or from the fleet. … It’s a win-win for everyone.”

The new relationship between the SEALs and Coast Guard was forged in an Aug. 1 memorandum of understanding signed by Commandant Thad Allen and representatives of the Navy and Special Operations Command after nearly a year of negotiations among the services. Allen wrote in an “Alcoast” message announcing the plan that Coastguardsmen will gain “valuable skills and knowledge to support [the] DoD and increase the Coast Guard’s capabilities in our ports, waterways and coastal security mission, specifically counter-terrorism and anti-terrorism operations.”

But the new program is not without its critics, particularly within the highest ranks of the Coast Guard community, sources say. The culture of the more than two century-old service bridges both civilian and military operations with a traditional emphasis in rescue, maritime safety and law enforcement.

Since the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard’s new counter-terrorism role, that culture and operational mentality has changed, experienced Coast Guard sources say. That’s made the shift toward a more SEAL-like ethos — particularly in the newly established Deployable Operations Group, where the SEAL vets will return for duty after their team tour — more acceptable to old-school Coastguardsmen.

“I think it’s going to be very compatible,” said Coast Guard Master Chief Petty Officer Darrick DeWitt, the DOG’s senior enlisted advisor. “When you look at the way the Coast Guard’s evolving … bringing in that type of mentality and culture and understanding of the operations is going to be great for our organization.”

Officials with the DOG will handle the initial SEAL applicants, putting them through a set of physical tests to demonstrate whether they have what it takes to be a commando — a process Dunbar said would “set them up for success.” Those who make it through will enter pre-BUDS training in December, and the first group will join a BUDS class in February 2009.

So far the plan is to have two officers and two enlisted personnel assigned to the SEALs each year, but Atkin said he’s not going to stick to that formula if the qualifications don’t match.

To Atkin, a former SEAL steeped in both the traditions of special warfare and law enforcement would be a key addition to his command — and one long in coming.

“This is historic, it’s different, but I think it’s very consistent with the long partnership we’ve had with the United States Navy stretching all the way back to our birth 218 years ago,” Atkin said.

— Christian

  • John

    “…so far no Coastguardsmen have applied in the two weeks since it was announced”
    That’s because anyone tough enough and determined enough to become a SEAL doesn’t join the Coast Guard, they join the Navy or the Marines. And I don’t mean that in a pejorative way.

    • Michael

      Wrong again.

      • Maggie

        Uhm my boyfriend is in the coast guard and is determined to do this after graduating from the academy. So watch what you say. You know nothing about it. He is extremely determined to do this so don’t be an *** and keep smart comments to yourself before you offend anyone else.

      • Maggie

        Uhm my boyfriend is in the coast guard and is determined to do this after graduating from the academy. So watch what you say. You know nothing about it. He is extremely determined to do this so keep smart comments to yourself before you offend anyone else.

    • Jesse

      Hahahahah wow, you obliviously don’t know what the heck your talking about, join the Military yourself before you make juvenile comments like this :/ geez

    • Mike

      “Today(3/11) at 1100, in a ceremony aboard Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, Naval Special Warfare welcomed into their ranks the third Coast Guard SEAL. The graduation of this officer from SEAL Qualification Training (SQT) is the culmination of what many consider to be the toughest military training available in the world. Congratulations and Hooyah!”…


    If you want to be a SEAL, why not just join the Navy? Seems like those that join the Coast Guard want to do Coast Guard stuff and people who join the Navy want to do Navy stuff.

  • Old Crusty Chief

    I disagree, boys. If they’re not already in, they’ll enlist soon enough. There are just some young men and women who want to be Coasties; having this brass ring hanging there will pull in just the kind of young men who’d love to reach for it wearing Coast Guard blue.
    What’s more, the Coasties have been cheek-by-jowl with the Navy for decades on several long-standing missions including LEDET for counter-drug ops. When the shooting stops in OIF/OEF, these folks will still be doing some nut-shrinkingly dangerous ops with drug interdiction and non-compliant boardings. Having fully trained and experienced SEALs in their ranks can only be an enhancement…, and if the word gets out far enough, a deterrent to knuckleheads on those non-compliant boardings.
    So, BZ to the USCG and bully to the first applicant!
    Chief B.

  • Old Crusty Chief

    Re: Byron
    I respectfully disagree, Byron.
    First, 9/11 forever blurred the formerly distinct lines among LE, intel, military, and civil operations. Insisting that the Coasties stick recklessly to an LE role is an obsolete idea. In any event, the nature of LE itself has evolved to become more violent and more akin to SOLIC. Would you have Joseph Wambaugh’s “Blue Knight” serving a drug warrant in the Los Angeles of today?
    Second, the cost of training a handful of Coasties to be SEALs is trifling. The Navy will likely spend that much on new nametags and brass mementos next year.
    Third, osmosis works. I speak from my own experiences that having someone in a small unit with better skills and training has a positive effect on the entire team as that member passes on the learning. “See one, do one, teach one” and “train the trainer” is the way we’ve done things in the naval service for a very, very long time. I don’t see why that wouldn’t work here as well.
    Lastly, any soul that can hump it all the way through BUDS and then all the follow on training to actually make it to the teams will no doubt have earned the respect of their fellow SEALs… begrudging or not. I’d be thoroughly dismayed to find it otherwise.
    J’attends votre r

  • stephen russell

    About time, why not & estd SEAL force for the USCG IE Sea SWAT Force from USCG ships for missions.
    Long overdue & needed. Expand the training for CG personnel A-Z.


    The Coast Guard has a record of working with EOD/Seal teams as far back as the 1984 Olympics. Oscar-Bravo 131, URAH! At least it is talked about now! Seals have gone to USCG schools and continue to do so at CG Special Missions training centers along with Force Recon,ETC.. 9th PSU trained with Force Recon. We were a deployable operations group.Can you identify a Russian APC?
    Do you know how to counter a patrol ambush? If not shut up, sit down and let those who have done and will do take the lead!

  • Byron Skinner

    Good Evening Leon,
    I guess I meet your criteria to comment. What we are seeing in Georgia is the Russian BMP-3 APC and as far as ambush patrols I was an 11B in Vietnam in 1966, I was out on dozens of ’em. How many have you been on?
    As for countering an ambush the platoon size unit on Nov. 21, 1966 earned a Preidental Unit Citation for countering and busting up an ambush of the NVA Dong Nai Regiment, we ended the war for them, our Platoon size unit not only protected a convoy we attacked into the ambush, we took 4 KIAs and left a body count in the hundreds and that was before Tac. Air got on the scene. The following week or so I was in another ambush at Soui Cat, that ended my career in Nam, there we took the 275th. VC Regiment out of the war. Oh by the way Leon, we got another Presidental Unit Citation for Soui Cat.
    What may I ask makes you an expert on ambushes?
    The Coast Guard is not in this business. They are the worlds best at what they do and with the politicians throwing money around they should be buying new boats, aircraft and modernizing their equipment.
    The Coast Guard needs a lot more items before they invest in the foolishness of SEAL training for a select few. For starter they can get a replacement Patrol Boat for Oceanside Ca. who previous boat was scrapped because of age.
    Byron Skinner


    My comments are directed at the internal view of those members of the USCG that resist any change toward military action. It used to be people were opposed to the larger law enforcement role that developed in the 1980’s. Anyone’s service outside of the USCG’s 8 specific mission roles would have more opportunity to do and know the skill sets that you possess, but most do not know the skill sets we possess.
    Equipment can come directly from DOD, when the CG comes under the NAVY during WARTIME. This has not happened yet. Most people need to see and hear regular USCG duties as an example, from US SPECIAL FORCES, a guide to to America’s Special Operations Units, the first paragraph states the following,”There’s an ocean-going service that is older than the US Navy, answers fifty thousand calls for help each year in all weather and sea conditions, and deploys “rescue swimmers” and aviation assets that are reminiscent of Navy SEALS ans AF Pararescue Jumpers….. Coast Guard INTEL has been given a place in the national security pantheon, and the NAVY has just transferred a dozen 170-foot Special Operations ships to Coast Guard control-both signals that this often overlooked branch of the service is about to assume a greater role in both security and Special Operations work.”
    My comments are trying to engage other service members like yourself. I remember the Marines in Quantico did not know what to call us, until afterwards they said we rated as equivalent to US Army Green Beret in our training scores for urban combat. I remember when during night training that the Marines at our destination point evaluation point kept wondering how we could find the right asimuth 99% of the time. I simply asked him had he ever run a rescue pattern at sea? The base paper listed the picture of Marines thanking the USCG for combat rescues during WWII.
    Thank you for your comments, it leads toward JIATF
    understanding and combined force doctrine!

  • demophilus

    Leon, Byron:
    Not for nothing, but you might be coming at the same point from different directions. The US has a lot of different brown water, “alligator navy” maritime irregular warfare assets: the USCG MSST, PSU and LEDET teams, Navy Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare, and Small Boat Units. That doesn’t even count dual function units: hazmat teams have some WMD response capability, and SAR can always drop the “rescue” part of their skill set, and segue to “destroy”, if the mission demands it.
    All of these units have been cross training for some time. By most accounts, current port security and VBSS tactics have been progressively refined by bouncing between USCG and USN teams. USCG and USN small boat units have worked side by side in pretty much every modern war we’ve had.
    If you’re familiar with that long history, having a few Coasties take SEAL training almost smells like a publicity stunt. It’s almost like a distraction from problems at higher levels of the USCG — Deepwater, the National Security Cutter, etc., etc.
    If not for the Posse Comitatus Act, the more efficient way to disseminate SEAL skills through the USCG would be to have SEALs tasked to the USCG. Because of Posse Comitatus, you could only do that with SEAL veterans, or possibly reservists. Don’t know if that’s realistic, but IMHO as a taxpayer, it beats the sh*t out of having them go to PMCs.
    Don’t know; it’s food for thought. IMHO, something happens to irregular warfare doctrine and/or units when you put a logo on them. Competence is more than a new patch, or rating.
    Good luck to everyone involved in the new venture. Here’s hoping they don’t put hype over substance. That’s the national disease.


    Byron, Leon:
    Same Page, I say again Same Page. Now let’s keep the brains working here folks. I agree with all the flavors in the dish, we just have to work out the cook time. Yes, maybe it is a publicity stunt, but let’s face it, the USCG needs as much PR as possible, never the less, the problems with procurement are a new problem to us. We used to say that our ships were made of wood and our crew of steel. Granted Deep Water seems to be another way to get Def Contractors paid with invalid results for the USCG. We know what we need, just let us build it off the shelf. Look how long it took the NAVY to fix the Mark V Seal Boat with the new one sitting in the water for review. I bet many injured SEALS knew how to fix it a long time ago!
    I am proud to have all of you comment about this issue. Hell, nobody even heard of a PSU,in the Coast Guard even, when we were starting 9th PSU.
    We better get this thing right because the more skill sets the better the survival probability.
    The way we are being hit in Afghan currently dictate that you cannot make any mistakes and you have to use what you got with you, no MIKE force.
    We have to get to my “Perfect Battalion Concept” and use everything and the kitchen sink to make it work. No limits. Fort Sam is becoming the Medic training base for all the services.Good start, pull some of us who have served to interface with authority to the defense contractors to solve problems like Byron has listed with the USCG in asset procurement, suggest action plans to the Joint Chiefs and lobby
    Congress if needed, but DO NOT STOP!
    Manpower problems aside, let’s get everyone to serve, now is the time! I do not care if you draft, buy or steal, but we have to number up everyone involved.
    Byron, I can remember when fuel was limited and patrols were restricted CONUS. I can remember when I would buy parts for my 41UTB and 30 boat.
    I can remember when 2 of us from Honor Guard were asked to stay behind in boot to train recruits and have unlimited schools but nothing promised.
    SEAL training maybe, but it was secret then and I had a guarenteed school and a future wife waiting for me. It just chaps this Chief’s butt that it took this long to get to this point!
    Semper Fidelis, Semper Paratus!

    • Dave

      Leon, I was part of 9th PSU, and eventually PSU-301. You are right over and over. And yes gentle readers we have been there and done that, read your history books.
      I remember that day on the grinder , Quantico VA, the USMC Col, did not know what we had in common with the USMC , except we like to tell Navy Jokes. Port Security Units have been deployed to the far reaches of the globe alongside our service brothers and sisters in all sorts of interesting theaters.
      Thanks Leon
      Semper Paratus,
      Simply Forgotus…

  • Alo Konsen

    Being a retired Coastie, I tend to bristle at ignorant comments like Byron Skinner’s. I invite everyone to read the applicable Federal law that defines “armed forces” and “uniformed services.” If you consult Title 10 of the United States Code, Section 101(a), you’ll find the following:
    (4) The term “armed forces” means the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.
    (5) The term “uniformed services” means - (A) the armed forces; (B) the commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and (C) the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service.
    I’d also like to point out that as a lowly USCG junior officer assigned to USCGC Basswood on Guam in 1995, my fellow boarding team members and I taught VBSS tactics to the SWCCs from NSWU-1. It was a natural partnership.
    The SEALs themselves regularly practiced their various attack tactics against our cutter while we practiced anti-swimmer tactics to try to stop them. The SEAL/SBU compound was literally two berths away from us on Victor Pier, so it was a no-brainer to work together.
    The lines separating the missions and skill sets of Coasties from the Naval Special Warfare community have been blurring for decades, dating back to at least the 1980s and the DIAT/IMLET project.
    For a more detailed understanding of the Coast Guard’s potential contribution to special operations, read LCDR Russ Bowen’s 2006 thesis on the subject at

  • Andrew

    As a relative of a Navy Seal, a veteran Law Enforemcent Officer with in DHS and aswell been in uniform I believe having SEALS in the USCG Is a great idea. Hopefully they’ll allow those USCG Seal’s to work with other areas of DHS too get even more cross training in.

  • eric

    We should call them sea lions.

  • MSST 12

    Having been in the Coast Guard’s MSST program I was trained by a host of ex special operators from many different branches as well as swat operators from across the country. The Coast Guard is most definetly a part of the military and has a very real mission that requires many of the same skills as that of a seal. The answer to the question about “why not join the navy to be a seal?” is that you are already in the USCG and want to do whatever you can to always be bettering yourself and contributing to the fight against this countries oppressors and enemies. The move to allow USCG members to be borrowed by the seals for training and operations purposes will be at the least a force multiplier for the entire Coast Guard and make the country a safer place by increasing the operational abilities of home based and deployable CG units. CG units that are based in the U.S. do not need posse comentatus (sp?) lifted to operate inside the united states which makes them an obvious choice for first responders against domestic attacks and threats. So everybody wins. The coast gets to flex it muscles and the american public gets to sleep sounder at night. Thanks to all the other operators out there who give up large portions and their lives to keep us safe. Semper paratus.

  • Kyle

    Wouldn’t it be easier to just make the Deployable Operations Group a billet that the Navy would rotate in 3 of it’s Navy Seals (one officer and 2 enlisted) to head the DOG. Because the way it is looking now we won’t be able to reap the benefits of having that training in the DOG for at least another 5 years while the Coast Guard men finish there obligation to the Seal Teams if they make it.

  • Hal Willis Jr

    As a 30+ years retired Coastie and Vietnam Vet 1970-71, I am very proud of the Coast Guard expanding their horizons. Semper Paratus

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