79 years after the first submarine-launched commando raid, Navy SEALs say it hasn’t gotten any easier

August marked the 79th anniversary of the first special-operations raid directly supported by submarines.

Decades later, submarine special-operations have become a staple of the Navy SEAL Teams and one of the US military’s most valuable capabilities. To prepare for submarine operations, Navy SEALs and other commandos with a maritime specialty conduct realistic training exercises, such as escape trunk drills in pools or reservoirs and dockside training on moored submarines.

Escape trunk drills are very important. Combat divers and submariners are placed in a spherical trunk about 6 feet tall that is flooded with water almost to the nose level. The trunk is placed at the bottom of the pool or reservoir. The person inside can breathe but can’t do much more.

Then the trunk’s hatch is opened to flood the last few inches, immersing the person inside and forcing him to swim 30 feet or 40 feet to the surface. This drill is used to simulate escaping from a sunk submarine.

“Submarine operations are always tricky and dangerous. You can’t get complacent regardless how many platoons you have under your belt. But they are also very useful for several contingencies,” a former Navy SEAL officer said.

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