a group of people on a boat in the water
Military special operations competitors enter the water for a grueling underwater challenge on day three of the Special Operations Command Best Combat Diver Competition in Key West last year. 3rd POB, 1st SFC/Contributed

Which elite military team has the best combat divers in the country? 

We can find out June 10-12, when the Combat Diver Competition returns to Key West and to the U.S. Army’s Special Warfare Center and School on Fleming Key. 

Special Forces Green Berets. Army Rangers. Navy SEALs. Air Force Special Operations. 

Marine Special Operations. All will compete in pairs, and civilians are invited to watch the grueling challenges on the military base on Tuesday, June 11.

“We want to increase the level of civilian attendance and accessibility this year, so starting at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, June 11, we’ll have shuttles running from Key West High School to the base, taking civilians with a valid driver’s license who are not foreign nationals to the contest,” said Major Brandon Schwartz, who wraps up his tour as Commander of Special Forces Underwater Operations this week. 

“The first event is the opening ceremony at 8:30 a.m., then we’ll have the shuttles running continuously until lunchtime, and then for people who want to stay all day, they’ll get a shuttle back to the high school around 4 p.m.”

Schwartz added that the contest events will be visible from the shoreline at the military base, or will take place at the pool on base. 

The competitors are the U.S. military’s elite (badass) special operations units — the ones movies are made about — whose training, qualifications and missions make us glad they’re on our side. 

They all spent part of their excruciating maritime training in and around Key West, at the U.S. Army’s Special Warfare Center and School on Fleming Key. 

But which branch is the best? Are Navy SEALS better combat divers than the Army’s Special Forces Green Berets? Are Marine Special Operations soldiers better than the Army Rangers?

The competition determines the best two-person “dive buddy” team while promoting the Army Special Operations Forces core attributes of integrity, courage, perseverance, personal responsibility, professionalism, adaptability, team player and capability, according to a military press release.

“The competition tests academic rigor, physical toughness, mental agility and adaptability while planning for and executing high-risk waterborne operations,” said Schwartz. “Competitors from Special Forces Green Berets, Army Rangers, Navy SEALs, Air Force Special Operations, and Marine Special Operations will compete in 10 events, putting their advanced-skill capabilities to the test.”

Mandy Miles
Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.