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Two Medals of Honor, four generations of Navy SEALs at Class 342 graduation

30 April 2021

From Scott Williams, Naval Special Warfare Center Public Affairs

CORONADO, Calif. - Thirty Navy SEAL candidates earned their Tridents during a graduation joined by extraordinary guests onboard Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, April 30, 2021.

The members of SEAL Qualification Training (SQT) Class 342 completed Naval Special Warfare (NSW)’s assessment, selection and training pathway, the grueling process through which candidates must demonstrate they possess the cognitive, character and leadership attributes necessary to join the Navy’s SEAL teams.

The graduation ceremony, which marks a pivotal moment in a SEAL’s life, was all the more significant because of its speakers. Two Medal of Honor recipients offered their words of advice for Class 342. Master Chief (ret.) Edward Byers served as the guest speaker and former Sen. Robert Kerrey joined remotely.

Byers, who earned his Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan, challenged the newly-minted SEALs to remain committed to constant personal and professional improvement. “Your discipline is now warfare. It comes in many forms. It’s an art – it has subtleties. It will mimic an orchestra. It will be complex like chess. Study it. Practice it,” said Byers. “This job is as mentally demanding as it is physically. You are now part of a community that strives, seeks and demands excellence. You're going to make mistakes – to err is human. Own those failures, own the process that is required to learn from them and own the difficulty in changing the behavior.”

Kerrey, whose service as a Lt. j.g. SEAL in Vietnam earned a Medal of Honor, advised Class 342 to choose humility and team over self. For the class he wished, “may your choices in life continue to bring you success, may your heart never tire of loving our imperfect country, and may you always understand the importance of having teammates you trust with your life.”

Of special significance, Byers (SQT Class 242) and Kerrey (Underwater Demolition Team Replacement Accession Class 42) are considered “centennial” and “tri-centennial” graduates, respectively. Within the NSW community, operators often mark the passage of time through the sequential order of graduating classes, returning to Coronado to observe the next generation of candidates taking their place among the ranks 100, 200 or even 300 graduations after their own.

“Congratulations to Class 342. You’ve met our standard and demonstrated the character, cognitive and leadership attributes that make our force timeless and authentic. You are now a member of an incredible community of warriors and leaders, a community that was built on the shoulders of those who came before us – past teammates whose courage, grit and integrity formed our standard,” said the event’s presiding officer Rear Adm. H. W. Howard III, commander, Naval Special Warfare Command. “It is critical to reflect on who we are and who the nation needs us to be.”

To earn a Trident, candidates must first complete Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S), known for its crucible event, “Hell Week.” Upon completion of the 21-week BUD/S, remaining candidates move on to SQT, where they learn additional warfighting skills of their craft including land warfare, maritime operations and parachuting. The assessment, selection and training pathway lasts 59 weeks, with an additional five weeks for officers.

The Medal of Honor is the United States’ highest award for military valor in action, awarded for exceptional display of bravery, courage, sacrifice and integrity in the moments that matter, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. There are currently 68 living Medal of Honor recipients. Seven Medal of Honor recipients hail from NSW.

Class 342 graduates will now go on to join the SEAL teams or to follow-on training as they prepare for careers as NSW operators.

Naval Special Warfare Center, located on Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, provides initial assessment and selection and subsequent advanced training to the Sailors who make up the Navy’s SEAL and Special Boat communities, a key asset of NSW. The NSW mission is to provide maritime special operations forces to conduct full-spectrum operations, unilaterally or with partners, to support national objectives. For more information on the NSW assessment, selection and training pathway, visit https://www.sealswcc.com/.

 

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