Ask Stew: Older Guy Wants to Join Special Ops

US Navy BUD/S participate in training
U.S. Navy SEAL candidates participate in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training. (Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt/U.S. Navy)

In the world of special ops selections, specifically the Navy SEAL/Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, the term "older guy" often is used for someone in their late 20s who is nearing the age cutoff for recruits to enter SEAL training.

There are a few exceptions: There may be an age waiver for someone older than the maximum age of 28.

The rule is that you must arrive at boot camp no later than your 29th birthday to be eligible without a waiver. Waivers are few and far between and are handled on a case-by-case basis at a higher level up the chain of command.

Here is an email from a 27-year-old man who is seeking to change careers into something much more challenging:

Stew, I would have joined out of college, but some family deaths and the family business required my attention the past several years. Now, I am ready to pursue a lifelong dream. I recently took the Navy SEAL PST on my own and scores are as follows:

Swim: 10:30

Push-ups: 65

Sit-ups: 90

Pull-ups: 12

1.5-mile run: 10:10

I am aware that these scores are not in the competitive realm; I am reaching out to seek guidance and training to develop my PST scores into competitive scores. What do you recommend? -- Thanks, Adam

Adam, I understand the situation. Setting aside a personal goal or dream for your family is a good trait to have and shows the teamwork and love of family that you will need in the military, no matter what your job is. Your scores are not bad, though.

However, at 27 years old, you don't have much time, and you really need to rock this fitness test sooner than later. This test is your entrance exam into the recruiting side of the community. This will get you to SEAL training, but you have to give yourself time to prepare properly to get through SEAL training. The good news is that you can do both at the same time. Here is what I would do:

Focus on the PST and, when you get these numbers, go to the recruiter:

Swim: sub 9:00 -- Learn the combat swimmer stroke

Push-ups: 80+

Sit-ups: 90+

Pull-ups: 15-20

1.5-mile run: 9:00

Go see a recruiter for enlisting into SEAL training with the Warrior Challenge. You will be handed over to a SEAL mentor in your recruiting district and SCOUT Team administrators who will test you to see if you pass the physical screening test. Crush the PST on your first week of taking PSTs if you want to get expedited help and taken seriously by the recruiters and mentors.

Given your current scores, you should hit these recommended numbers in less than three months if you get on a challenging program. See strategies for improving PST scores article.

After that, your job is to maintain these scores while getting good at other events that will be tested at BUD/S training, such as the following:

2-mile swims with SCUBA fins (weekly)

4-mile timed runs (weekly)

4- to 5-mile rucks (40-50 lbs. backpack) (regularly)

Soft sand running (regularly)

Load-bearing activities like log PT, boat carries and fireman carries (1st phase, regularly)

Grinder PT: Additional exercises to the PST, like flutter kicks, leg levers, dips, squats, lunges, rope climbs, etc.

Pool skills: Treading water, underwater swim, SCUBA, drownproofing, etc.

Check out this video podcast on the topic of an older student preparing for SEAL training.

Program options:

SEAL SWCC Physical Training Guide

Navy SEAL Fitness

The good news is that 27 or 28 years old is not too old to become a SEAL. Your age and maturity are assets in many areas and situations throughout training and within the teams as well. But, you have to start -- really start -- and take it seriously between now and your 29th birthday. This is a wide window to join the military and achieve your dream job, but it is closing sooner than later. You have no time to waste.

Good luck.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

Want to Learn More About Military Life?

Whether you're thinking of joining the military, looking for fitness and basic training tips, or keeping up with military life and benefits, has you covered. Subscribe to to have military news, updates and resources delivered directly to your inbox.

Show Full Article