Of the 18 ROTC students chosen to train as U.S. Navy SEALs this year, four are from the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets and the university’s Naval ROTC. Another six Hokies are among the 53 men and women nationwide to begin the rigorous SEAL selection process.

In fact, in the past two years, no ROTC program in the country has had more students selected for SEAL training than Virginia Tech.

A seventh student was accepted as a candidate for the Navy’s specialized Explosive Ordinance Disposal program. Successful technicians are trained to disarm improvised explosive devices, neutralize chemical threats, and render safe nuclear weapons.

The students’ success is a testament to their character and dedication to training and to a program that is growing stronger every year, said Capt. Michael Fisher, commanding officer of Virginia Tech’s Naval ROTC.

SEALs (Sea, Air, and Land teams) are the Navy’s most elite special operations force. Candidates come from the Navy’s Officer Candidate School, the U.S. Naval Academy, the Navy’s ROTC programs at 166 colleges and universities across the country, and from applicants already serving with naval units.

Between 40 and 50 ROTC applicants are selected for SEAL Officer Assessment Selection each summer. From those candidates, only half will continue to the next year’s Basic Underwater Demolition School — 21 weeks of basic SEAL training followed by 26 weeks of qualification training.

The 11 Virginia Tech cadets selected for training are members of the Naval Special Preparatory Team, a small specialty group within the corps and the Naval ROTC. They volunteer for 12-plus hours of extra training a week, including 10-mile runs, 22-mile marches carrying a 55-pound backpack, 90-minute pool sessions, and circuits on the Corps of Cadets Obstacle Course.

This year, the Naval Special Preparatory Team has found additional support from Capt. Peter Phillips, the new deputy commandant for the corps’ 1st Battalion and a retired Navy SEAL. Phillips graduated from Virginia Tech and the Corps of Cadets in 1989 with a degree in history.

Phillips reached out to the SEAL community and connected the team’s juniors and seniors with active-duty mentors. He designs their training to make it even more realistic.

“I do a lot of mentoring and coaching on the mental aspects” of the Basic Underwater Demolition School, Phillips said. “Most people quit because of the mental side. That’s what we’re working on.”

Virginia Tech is one of the nation’s six senior military colleges, a Congressional designation for a college that combines higher education with military instruction through a corps of cadets. Virginia Tech is one of two such programs at a large, public research university.

Written by Shay Barnhart