Tridents and SWCCs Earn Degrees on the BUD/S Grinder

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161214-N-AV746-083 CORONADO, Calif. (Dec. 14, 2016) A chief warrant officer, assigned to Naval Special Warfare Command, congratulates a chief petty officer as he makes his entrance before a graduation ceremony at Naval Base Coronado. Twenty-eight Navy SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewmen received bachelor’s degrees in organizational leadership and one operator earned his master’s degree in strategic leadership from the University of Charleston. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy M. Black/Released)

Story by: Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy M. Black / CNSWC Public Affairs

CORONADO, Calif. – Twenty-nine Sailors assigned to Naval Special Warfare received college degrees in leadership from the University of Charleston West Virginia, Dec. 14, at Naval Special Warfare Center’s grinder.

Twenty-eight Navy SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewmen received bachelor’s degrees in organizational leadership and one operator earned his master’s degree in strategic leadership.

“It is very important for us to come out here and recognize what they have accomplished, they are phenomenal,” said Dr. Edwin Welch, president of University of Charleston. “It is an honor for us to serve them who serve us and help them prepare for a professional career after they complete their military service.”

Chief Petty Officer Isaac Smit, assigned to Center for SEAL and SWCC, earned his Master’s of Science in Strategic Leadership, and also helps other operators obtain their education at Naval Special Warfare. He started on his path toward higher education 10 years ago, and today was the first time he walked in a graduation ceremony since high school.

“Education is invaluable, it not only benefits you now but also when you get out, because the job force is hard out there,” said Smit. “Employers are really looking for people who are educated; getting an education combined with experience makes you competitive.”

Since Aug. 2015, approximately 18 percent of enlisted SEALs and SWCC have their bachelor’s degrees and serving an average of 9.5 years whereas 30 percent of the officers have their master’s degrees and serve an average of 13 years.

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161214-N-AV746-293 CORONADO, Calif. (Dec. 14, 2016) A Sailor, assigned to Naval Special Warfare, listens to Dr. Edwin Welch, president of the University of Charleston speak during a graduation ceremony at Naval Base Coronado. Twenty-eight Navy SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewmen received bachelor’s degrees in organizational leadership and one operator earned his master’s degree in strategic leadership from the University of Charleston. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy M. Black/Released)

Preparing for the future and post-navy life is a crucial motivator for many student-Sailors.

“I encourage everyone to pursue their education, it is invaluable and it is going to not only help you in your career but as a Sailor and when you retire,” said Smit. “As I tell a lot of people that the Navy is only a portion of your life, you have to prepare for what comes next.”

161214-N-AV746-231.jpg
161214-N-AV746-231 CORONADO, Calif. (Dec. 14, 2016) Sailors, assigned to Naval Special Warfare, pray during a graduation ceremony at Naval Base Coronado. Twenty-eight Navy SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewmen received bachelor’s degrees in organizational leadership and one operator earned his master’s degree in strategic leadership from the University of Charleston. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy M. Black/Released)

The degrees aren’t just pieces of paper. Many of valuable lessons learned in the classroom by senior operators have already been implemented in the way NSW educates their senior leaders, a compounding and rippling effect that gives these leaders an edge on both the battlefield and in their careers.

“They’re learning leadership and to have that academic side of leadership to go with their experience side and physical side and all their mental skills that learn in SEAL or SWCC training,” said Welch. “I think it is a helpful component and perhaps gives them a larger context of understanding of what leadership is and their different styles that they have exercised successfully.”

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