The SEAL acronym stands for Sea, Air, and Land, which identifies the elements in which they operate. SEALs work in small units -- often one to two men, but sometimes in a platoon comprised of up to 16. They are trained to perform specific tasks under any type of circumstance and in any environment. Their training takes place in the desert, the jungle, in extreme hot and cold weather, and in urban areas.
SEAL missions require detailed planning and precise execution. SEALs are trained to perform missions that fall into five main categories:
- Unconventional Warfare (UW) - Using guerilla warfare tactics in battle. Guerilla warfare is characterized by small, mobile combat groups that operate using often "unorthodox" battle methods like destroying enemy supplies, creating diversions, ambushing small enemy units, demolitions, and other "hit and run" types of operations.
- Foreign Internal Defense (FID) - Training given to foreign nationals in order to build relationships. During Operation Desert Storm, Navy SEALs trained 13 Kuwaiti operators in maritime infiltration techniques in order to set up a secret meeting with local resistance contacts within Iraq-occupied Kuwait City.
- Direct Action (DA) - Moving against an enemy target. This may include assaults on land- or water-based targets, hostage rescues, ambushes, etc.
- Counterterrorism (CT) - Includes direct action against terrorist operations, antiterrorist actions for preventing terrorist acts, and protecting citizens and troops.
- Special Reconnaissance (SR) - Includes conducting preliminary surveys to gather information, manning observation posts, and other types of surveillance, both overt and covert, where the goal is to gather information.This may include gathering hydrographic data (beach and water surveys) for landings or following an enemy unit and reporting its position.
When SEALs aren't deployed, they're in constant training, both to hone basic skills and to learn new skills and techniques that will make a difference when they are deployed.
The above categories overlap when it comes to actual missions, but these are the basis of SEAL training: to be expert in the skills required to perform these various tasks.