The new movie Act of Valor comes out this weekend. Like Topgun, this movie is intended to be a propaganda piece that will increase enlistment in the Navy. (If you don’t believe it, click the link and read the article.) The Navy likes to make it appear as though everyone in the Navy is either a SEAL, an Electronics Technician, or an Officer. They try to gloss over the less glamorous facets like hull technicians, engineering department, and all of the dirty, nasty jobs that the majority of the crew has to perform in order to keep the ships running.
Go see the movie. I will. Just remember that the Naval Special Warfare Community is even smaller than the fighter pilot community, and both are very difficult to enter and have extremely high washout rates. The Navy gets you to enlist to be a pilot or a SEAL, and then makes sure that washout rates are near or over 90%. After all, very few people go into a recruiter’s office and sign up to chip and paint a ship for 4 years, but the job still needs to get done. The people who wash out of these programs are the ones who get stuck in these jobs, and they sometimes wash people out for the most minor reasons that they can think of.
In the early 80s, just before Top Gun came out, the Navy had a hard time getting the smart kids to join, because the Air Force was getting them all. (That is why Top Gun came out) When I was in boot camp, fully half of the recruits were there because of that movie (I was not) and stated that they wanted to become officers and eventually, pilots. Less than 1 in 1000 made officer, and less than 1 in 500 became pilots, and of those, the majority were helicopter and cargo plane pilots. Less than 1 in 100,000 enlisted recruits became fighter pilots.
So the Navy’s tool for getting the smart kids when I signed up was Nuclear Power School. A promise of E4 within months, E5 in less than 2 years, bonuses after the first year, and technical training were the draws. Of course, they glossed over the 70% washout rate. People were washed out for getting traffic tickets off base, being caught in the Enlisted Club after 10 pm, and drinking under age. They did all that they could to meet that 70% washout rate.
Four years later, the program was passing 75% of candidates, because the Navy had better ways to populate those crappy jobs.
So to sum it up, remember it is just a movie. Don’t sign up for the wrong reasons. Think about what you are getting yourself into.