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Is it harder to become a Navy SEAL or Green Beret?

Quick Answers

Both Navy SEAL and Green Beret training are extremely challenging, but most experts agree that Navy SEAL training has higher attrition rates and is considered more physically and mentally demanding. However, Green Berets undergo intensive training as well and need to master important skills like language proficiency. Ultimately, they are both elite special operations forces with complementary capabilities. The focus should be on an individual’s strengths and interests rather than perceiving one as “harder” than the other.

Navy SEAL Training Overview

The Navy SEAL qualification course, known as BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL), is conducted in three phases:

Phase 1: Physical Conditioning

– 10 weeks long
– Focus on physical training, swimming, running, calisthenics
– Goal is to push candidates to their limit
– Attrition rate around 70-80%

Phase 2: Combat Diving

– 7 weeks long
– Learn diving physics, underwater knot tying, navigation
– Intense pool competency drills and open ocean swims
– Attrition rate around 60-70%

Phase 3: Land Warfare

– 7 weeks long
– Weapons training, small unit tactics, raids, demolitions
– Rigorous ruck marches, navigation exercises
– Attrition rate around 30%

Overall BUD/S attrition rate: Only about 20-25% make it through the entire course.

Green Beret Training Overview

Green Beret qualification happens in three phases:

Phase 1: Individual Training

– Lasts 4-6 months
– Advanced infantry, communications, weapons skills
– Rigorous ruck marches, field exercises
– Attrition rate around 50%

Phase 2: Collective Training

– Lasts 5-7 months
– Small unit tactics, Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE)
– Unconventional warfare operations
– Attrition rate around 25%

Phase 3: Special Forces Qualification Course

– Lasts 24 weeks
– Advanced Special Forces tactics
– Significant focus on language training
– Robin Sage culmination exercise
– Overall attrition rate around 30%

While exact attrition rates vary, generally around 65-75% make it through Green Beret qualification.

Key Differences

Navy SEALs Green Berets
Maritime operations focus Unconventional warfare focus
BUD/S has higher attrition rate Language training emphasis
Direct action missions Working with local forces

Some key differences:

– Navy SEALs focus more on maritime operations, while Green Berets specialize in unconventional warfare.

– BUD/S is known for having extremely high attrition rates around 75-80%, versus 30-35% for Green Beret qualification.

– Green Berets spend significant time learning languages and cultural skills to train friendly local forces.

– Navy SEAL missions often involve higher intensity direct action like counterterrorism raids, while Green Berets focus more on advising local allies.

Shared Qualities

Despite their differences, SEALs and Green Berets share some key qualities:

– Both undergo intensely demanding training designed to push candidates to their limit.

– They must demonstrate unwavering mental fortitude, determination, and resilience.

– Each specializes in collecting human intelligence on the ground.

– They are trained to operate in small, autonomous teams for long periods behind enemy lines if necessary.

– Both must maintain expert competency across weapons systems, communications, infiltration.

– They are versatile operators able to adapt and overcome in extremely challenging environments.


Navy SEAL training has higher attrition rates and is widely considered more physically demanding, while Green Beret qualification places greater emphasis on unconventional warfare and cultural expertise. However, both are highly-skilled elite special operations forces with the mental and physical toughness to endure extreme hardships in combat. The differences come down to maritime versus land-based operations. Rather than arguing which is “harder,” the focus should be on the unique capabilities each bring to the battlefield and an individual candidate’s technical preferences and talents. With rigorous selection, training, and world-class leadership, both communities produce exemplary operators vital to national defense.