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Youth Leaders Join Forces for SEAL Training

Sea Scout advanced leadership training (SEAL for short) is for the best of the best.

A group of Sea Scouts from across the country — all of them leaders in their own ships — come together for 10 days of training at sea.

It is a tough, demanding experience. It’s a challenge physically and mentally.

These Sea Scouts are used to being in charge. The question is: How will they handle being in charge of each other?

“All of us are leaders,” says Madi Ang, a 16-year-old from Ship 993 in Meadows Place, Texas. “It’s different, because we’re taking orders from each other instead of always giving orders.”

SEAL is for Sea Scouts who already know basic seamanship. They don’t learn how to operate a ship; they learn how to operate a ship better.

Over the course of 10 days, they’re tested on their preparation, motivation, communication and implementation of their skills. They have to react quickly and decisively during emergency drills. They have to be open to criticism and willing to admit that there might be areas they need to work on.

When it’s over, they’ll be able to take what they’ve learned back home and teach it to their shipmates.

A Job for Everyone

SEAL training courses are offered once per summer at five locations across the country: Alameda, California; Chesapeake, Maryland; Long Island Sound, New York; Galveston, Texas; and Seattle, Washington. During the Seattle training, the Sea Scouts live aboard the SSS Propeller, a steel-hulled 65-foot-long former Army cargo ship.

For 10 days, they cruise from port to port, spending much of the day running the ship and being tested on a variety of emergency situations.

The Sea Scout who works as boatswain is the youth in charge for the day. (Plenty of adults are there to make sure nothing goes wrong.) The boatswain’s job is to come up with the general plan of the day.

“That job is incredibly important to the ship and how it runs that day, and the Scout in that position needs to do all the work for it,” says Cecilia Schenking, 18, from Ship 1942 in Arlington, Virginia.

There’s also a navigator, who plots the course. And a lookout, who stays on the lookout for other boats. And a helmsman, who steers the boat. And a galley chief, who’s responsible for meals. And so on.

The Sea Scouts rotate through all the positions throughout the cruise. Sometimes they’re in charge. Sometimes they’re being told what to do.

“Everybody has a job, and you have to learn how to do that job,” says Nick Kramer, 17, from Ship 24 in Houston, Texas.

A note on life jackets: The BSA’s life jacket rules state that for vessels more than 20 feet in length, life jackets are not required to be worn when below deck or on deck when the qualified supervisor aboard the vessel determines that it is prudent to abide by less-restrictive state and federal regulations.

Prepared for Anything

When you’re on a boat, lots of things can go wrong. Fire. Man overboard. Flooding. Shipwreck. During those 10 days, there’s time to drill on everything.

The ship stops at a different location every night. Sometimes they have the opportunity to go out to dinner, see the sights or even watch a movie.

This isn’t part of their training. Or … is it?

Funny thing about Scouts: The more time they spend together, the better they seem to get along.

“It was honestly hard to believe that we had been strangers at the beginning of the week,” says Alex Byrley, 18, from Ship 361 in Marriottsville, Maryland. “As soon as we really got rolling, we were familiar enough to communicate well and complete the training activities together.”

Each evening, the group takes part in what they call the boatswain’s roast. They talk honestly about what the boatswain did well that day and what could use some more work.

“It was pretty honest,” Madi says. “As a mature leader, you should be able to take constructive feedback. All of us were able to do that.

“It was bittersweet when we graduated together and had to say our goodbyes. We had so many good memories together. It’s a lot of work, but there’s a lot of fun in it, too.”

Learn more about the SEAL training program at go.boyslife.org/seal


Training for Everyone

SEAL Training is just one option for youth registered in a BSA program. Others include: 

  • Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops (ILST), Crews (ILSC) or Ships (ILSS). The purpose of all three courses is to teach Scouts, crew members or Sea Scouts with leadership positions about their new roles and how to fulfill their responsibilities.
  • Kodiak Challenge. Designed to be an outdoors adventure that encourages you to try things outside of your comfort zone. Open to troops, ships or crews. • National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT). A course offered at the council level that focuses on the concepts of what a leader must be, what they must know and what they must do.
  • National Advanced Youth Leadership Experience (NA YLE). Available at Philmont and the Summit Bechtel Reserve, this course expands on the team-building and decision-making skills learned in NYLT.
  • Powder Horn. Open to adults and youth ages 13 and older, this course is designed to help you conduct a high-adventure program in your troop, crew or ship. For more training opportunities, visit  go.boyslife.org/youthtraining

Boating Safely

The BSA’s Safety Afloat standards apply to the use of canoes, kayaks, rowboats, rafts, floating tubes, sailboats, motorboats (including waterskiing) and other small craft. 

  1. All activity afloat must be supervised by an adult age 21 or older trained in and committed to compliance with the nine points of BSA Safety Afloat.
  2. A complete health history is required of all participants as evidence of fitness for boating activities.
  3. Operation of any boat on a float trip is limited to youth who have completed the BSA swimmer classification test.
  4. Properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets must be worn by all persons engaged in boating activities.
  5. All participants in an activity afloat are paired as buddies who are always aware of each other’s situation.
  6. Everyone in an activity afloat must have sufficient knowledge and skill to participate safely.
  7. Proper planning is necessary to ensure a safe, enjoyable exercise afloat. Learn more at  go.boyslife.org/safetyafloat

2 Comments on Youth Leaders Join Forces for SEAL Training

  1. According to the application for SEAL Training (https://seascout.org/youth-training-and-education/seal/), SEAL stands for “Sea Scout Experience Advanced Leadership”.

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