Two and a half months ago, the Coast Guard quite unexpectedly announced that it was training it's first SEAL Team. Now, we all know about the US Navy SEALS, the highly specialized unit that gained iconic status when they took out Osama Bin Laden. But, a Belize SEAL team? It sounded too outlandish to be true. But it is – and we know because we have footage them training today.
And with the training we saw them enduring, it must be something special! Jules Vasquez reports:
Jules Vasquez Reporting
They're bathing in mud, doing pushups in the midday heat, creeping around on all fours, huddling in the sun for extended periods - you may think these coast guard officers have gotten sun stroke!
These 8 coast Guard officers have lived through hell, almost literally. This odd exercise you see them doing, crawling on all fours may look strange or even demeaning, but this is the culmination of what is known as "hell week".
Admiral John Borland - Commandant, Belize Coast Guard
"These men, over the last 5 days, have been through hell, literally. They've only slept 4 hours in 5 days, and they've been on their feet going through rigorous, extreme and harsh conditions of training, broken down to nothing, and now, we're in the process of building them up back. But, right now, they're ready for anything."
It is the completion of their first five weeks of training to become the first Belize SEALS:
Admiral John Borland
"We became faced with a number of threats that weren't exactly what the regular Coast Guard units were trained, equipped and poised to take on. So, we saw the need for a form of special operating forces. We sold the idea to SOUTHCOM and Special Operations Command, and we got the green light to go ahead and form our own SEAL forces. So, these guys are the Belizean SEALS, the Coast Guard SEALS, and they're mandate - as I said - is for unconventional warefare, meaning direct action, counter terrorism, high-risk boardings, counter narcotics, over the beach operations, detail, behind-the-lines operations, close target reconnaissance - that sort of operation where a regular, conventional force or unit is not prepared to go. Initially, we didn't think of calling them SEALS because that is something that is kind of sacred, that you don't want to mess around with. But, as we got into the details, we were given the green light, that we can use the term, SEALS, which means being able to attack from sea, land or air. And if you recall, the greatest military mission that took place in the 21st century was given to the SEALS, not the Army Special Forces, not to the Green Berets, not to anyone else. In Afghanistan, not too long ago, if you know what I am talking about, that mission was given to the SEALS; it was trusted to no one else. So, that is what we're trying to build here today."
It has been rigorous, demanding training, whittling down the team to the most durable 8:
Admiral John Borland
"5 weeks ago, we started with 19, but this training is not for just anyone. It is only for the sound of mind and heart, so eventually, we lost the others, and we're down to 8. The SEALS platoons will consist of 16 men, and so this is only half of a SEALS platoon. This is one squad of a platoon. The end state in the vision of the Coast Guard strategy calls for 3 SEALS platoon consisting of 16 men per platoon."
And to commemorate their accomplishment as the first eight - here's how they got to celebrate, by jumping from the blazing heat into a Zodiac inflatable boat full of ice water – where they had to not only bear it but sing the national anthem at the top of their voices!
Today the eight completed their first five weeks of training.