Navy Warrior Challenge Testimonials

Novice gunman in the woods


I have been in the NRD Miami NSW Program for about 5 months, coming into the program after about two years self training, for the SEAL pipeline, and believe I was well prepared to enter the program. The instructor cadre training has been greatly beneficial to my physical and mental strength, and has helped me to gain and increase my knowledge of the community that I am training for and integrating into.

Mr. Knowles has given me an equal opportunity, along with everyone else, to give a reason for being here and to perform. When someone has a problem, he addresses it and gives constructive criticism. From my time here under his command, I know that he truly wants every good candidate to succeed and has devoted himself to prepare each one in this program for his pipeline. Mr. Knowles can be hard on me, as I would expect him to be because of my position; he is, however, a very nice and kind guy who has spoken not only with me but also my wife, giving us good advice for the future, as I am in my pipeline. Petty Officer Pappas and Petty Officer Darling have also been helpful by giving us useful information and advice. As a young couple starting our life together, with me going into the Navy, I am thankful for this.

Petty Officer Pappas and Petty Officer Darling are both professionals who are motivated and set on making warriors. They are good instructors and give good coaching in the workouts.

The homework papers that were assigned for me to do, forced me to do useful research on topics that have helped me to gain a deeper perspective and knowledge related to my approach to starting this pipeline. The first paper I wrote here was on motivation vs. discipline. This made me realize that motivation is temporary and that I need to be committed to discipline to succeed. The life mission statement caused me to think about for me to become a SEAL is not for my own gain; but it is my calling to serve my country, family and the world in the fight against terrorism. From the perception paper, I was challenged to think deeper into how the difficulty of what is before me is only in my head. These are just some of the completed assignments that have furthered my growth.

Though I passed my first PST, the continuous training I have done here and on my own, has put me in the best shape of my life and I have improved my PST scores every single test. In terms of numbers, my overall PST number has improved from about a 750 to a 620 while in this program. The cross fit workouts at the cage have been beneficial to my strength and endurance. The workouts have greatly improved my calisthenics. When I first learned the combat sidestroke on my own, I had bad form, mainly in my scissor kick. The swimming coach Mr. Knowles had come teach us for a couple of days, taught me the correct form and I am now faster and more efficient in the water. I have been a runner for just about my whole life. In the time I’ve been in this program, I have lowered a number of my run times- 4:45 mile run (15 seconds faster than my previous personal record), 22:41 4 mi. run (32 seconds faster than my previous personal record). Other than my hard work training, these faster times are also the result of my competitive teammates pushing me.

Here I have learned a number of things such as being a team player. I have gotten used to training with the group both competitively such as with “pays to be a winner sprints” and other timed workouts, and have been pushed and motivated to meet and exceed standards and to be in the front of the pack.

I know that the only way for me to get my trident is to earn it, and that I must gain respect from this community by my performance as I enter into the next program in my pipeline. It is highly encouraging to hear about the success of others who were once in this program as I have been, and I am extremely excited as I start my pipeline.

close up of SEALS infamous ring out bel


Throughout my 4 months in this program we have had a couple different guys join us from other programs in the country; I have also spent time talking to guys who have gone through other NSW programs in the state and country both past and present. I would always ask them about training schedules, their NSW mentor, and what was expected of them in their program, and I did this because I was personally curious to see how our programs stacked up because I found it hard to believe that anyone else was being held to as high of a standard as what is expected of us. I was right.

The time, experience, hard work, and standard set in this program by Mr. Kory Knowles and the training cadre is what separates this program from others around the country. You can get into good shape on your own, and in fact that is expected in any program including this one. You will be exposed very quickly if you are relying on others to get you where you need to be.

That being said, it is nearly impossible to duplicate the type of real pressure to perform, and the intensity of training that you receive in a group setting. It’s one thing to be able to show up once a week and pass a PST, and put out hard for a couple hours, but the mental resilience required for the pipeline is built when you choose to wake up early everyday and drive an hour and half to come get beat down. The day to day grind is what makes these pipelines so difficult.

I have heard it from previous candidates who have been successful, and come back to speak with us about their experience, and I can see it in my own feeling of preparedness and eagerness to attack the process; Mr. Knowles goes far and beyond what is expected from a mentor; his desire to truly see us be successful, and to ensure we are ready is what separates this program from the others I have learned of, and it is why he truly breeds warriors.

Through this program I have had to genuinely take real looks at my reasons for doing this, and think through my mindset at a level that I may not have on my own. I can recognize in my feeling of preparedness for what’s to come, that this program is something special. Every guy in my shipping class has been provided the tools for success, and I can see every one of them crushing their respective pipelines, and that is a testament to the job done by Mr. Knowles and the training cadre.

Going forth from this program; there is absolutely no excuse. We have been fully provided with everything we need to be successful. We have the knowledge of what we face, we have the physical preparedness to face it, and we have thoroughly delved into the mindset it takes to conquer it. I cannot begin to express the gratitude and how lucky I feel to have been under the instruction and guidance of Mr. Knowles. He has done his job, and now it’s time for us to go do ours, and I am looking forward to repaying him for the work and attention he has paid us.


This program under the instruction of Mr. Kory Knowles and the recruiters has prepared me immeasurably not only physically, but mentally as well. Mr. Knowles’s used his personal experience in the Teams to create a training environment that would minimize the culture shock of our NSO/NSW pipelines. In addition to intense workouts, we have written papers that have helped us focus on why we chose our current career and what we can do to better prepare ourselves outside of training.

The instructors are very invested in us, the candidates. They answer our questions, give advice, and spend over 16 hours a week with us for training. They have created a team oriented environment for us so we quickly learn how to work and operate as a team. They delegate to senior candidates and expect all the contracts to lead and teach the uncontracted. Without this specific leadership from Mr. Knowles and the fellow Spec War Recruiters, I cannot imagine that I would be anywhere near prepared enough to be successful.

Steam of 6 students carrying inflatable boat over their heads


This program is absolutely amazing and operated very well. Because of this program I feel not only did I increase my chance of becoming a SEAL but I have become a better man. With that being said the reason that I feel my chances have increased of becoming a SEAL is because the instructors have a tremendous amount of knowledge about my pipeline. For instance instructor Knowles has so much knowledge on how to prepare and what to do to become a SEAL because he is one. Plus he was on SEAL team five for 5 years and then was a first phase instructor for 3 years.

The moment I came in to this program I knew it was going to better me. Kory Knowles is very good at making you comfortable with the uncomfortable. The first day I was there he put me on the spot in front of the whole program and asked me why I was here and why I wanted to become a SEAL.

That day no matter what answer I had was wrong. Also, according him my answer was too text book at the time. After that I didn’t want to be too textbook, so the deeper thinking of why I wanted to become a SEAL began.

After a week or two I finally came up with a great reason why and it wasn’t just great for him it was great for me. That is because I have noticed that when the training got tuff and felt like it never was going to end.  I would revert back to the why I wanted to be here and then I would keep driving on.

I have come to notice through this program that it isn’t how physically strong you are but it is more so how mentally strong you are. Instructor Knowles really knows how to make you dig deep and figure out your mental strength.

That is not only done by Instructor Knowles putting us through tremendous physical test but he would make us write weekly paper about our program and other things that require deep thought. For instance the last paper I had to write was “Motivation VS. Discipline” and which one we would think that would help us the most through our pipeline.

Nothing through this program was ever given to me or anyone else. We had to earn our spot every day and that is the mentality you have to have in order to become a SEAL.

One of the best things I have taken from this program was how open Instructor Knowles was about his life or just life in general. I was very fortunate that for my pick up for training I was able to ride with Kory. So we were able to have personal talks with him and gain a huge amount of insight about becoming a SEAL and even how to prepare on the teams and after the teams.

Talking to Kory on these car rides, I heard many amazing stories about being a SEAL that inspire me more to become one. Along with that I have taken so much from Kory that I hope we will be lifetime friends because even though I have known him for a short period of time he has had a huge impact on me.

Moreover, Petty Officer Pappas works very well with Instructor Knowles. He runs the Navy side of this program very well. He is always on top of everything, making sure we are staying focused and getting everything that needs to done completed. He is also an amazing guy who is very caring but is still hard on you, so you don’t take advantage of his kindness. He is a great counterpart for instructor Knowles. I was very blessed and fortunate to be part of this program. I feel it definitely has increased my chances of becoming a SEAL.

The knowledge and experience I have gained in the months I have trained with Mr. Knowles and the other instructors have been invaluable. When I first started all I had was a goal and needed guidance. Mr. Knowles and the other instructors showed me key areas I needed to improve on in order to obtain an SO contract. The amount of progress I have made since starting is immense.

Mr. Knowles challenged me physically and mentally at every training session and because of that my physical performance has improved greatly and I am now better mentally prepared to face the challenges that lie ahead. Having Mr. Knowles and the other instructors mentoring has been one of the greatest gifts. I’m leaving much better prepared than the other NSW candidates who were not as fortunate as I have been to have Mr. Knowles and the other instructors. Thank you.
— Austin

Austin W.

Typing this testimonial is a bittersweet moment for myself. I have been blessed to be a part of Instructor Knowles mentoring tutelage for 13 months as of today. I can unequivocally say that it has been the best year and change of my life. I’m not exactly sure what I had expected this program to be when I first joined in February of last year, what it turned out to be is something truly special for me. I could spend all the time in the world writing about how amazing the training has been physically, how much it has helped to progress and prepare me for my pipeline. All of which is true and after speaking to other Future Sailors from around the country, their “mentoring” programs, if they even deserve that title, can’t hold a candle to the mentoring of Instructor Knowles. The majority of the programs around the country are not ran by a former Special Warfare Operator, they only offer training every so often and allow PST’s to be administered once per month. They offer the minimum required of them and don’t do the greatest job of preparing a young man or woman for their pipeline. Instructor Knowles on the other hand, has continually went above and beyond the minimum, offering training multiple times per week in different locations to accommodate candidates from within the recruiting district. His physical trainings are tough and sometimes a real shock for new candidates but are intelligently planned, thought out and exactly what a young man or woman needs to see success within their pipeline.

All of the physical training has been amazing, without it I can honestly say that I wouldn't have earned a contract and been more than confident that I will go on to do something great within my future. The mental hardening and training that has been instilled within myself in the program over the past year is the most impressive and useful of all. Mentalities are contagious, you see that in a wide variety of professions. From professional sports, to billion-dollar businesses and parenting. The mental toughness and self-introspection that a candidate, who is committed will undergo within Instructor Knowles program, has been for myself at least, life changing. I do believe that I was already a mentally tough and introspective person before I joined the program. However, Instructor Knowles was able to take that to another level for me. Obviously, the demanding physical training had a hand in that but the introspective homework and evaluations we underwent contributed to it the most. The mental training is something I will forever be able to work on and continue to develop, thanks to Instructor Knowles and I realize that I always have the ability to improve my mentality regardless of the situation I’m in.

I’d like to take this last paragraph to speak specifically as to who Instructor Knowles, Petty Officer Pappas and Petty Officer Darling are as men. Instructor Knowles is one of, if not the most genuine and honest men I have ever had the gratefulness to be around. He cares, truly, he cares about these candidates he mentors more than anyone could imagine. He is completely honest and straightforward. He doesn’t sugar coat a situation and can always be reached when you truly need him. The amount of time and effort he invests in to your success is more than impressive. His attitude towards life, mentality and hard working demeanor is contagious. He never tells you to do something without an explanation or reason as to how it can better you and is willing to use his own failures as examples and learning lessons for the candidates in the program. Something only a true leader and mentor has the ability to do. I have had the fortune to have mentors outside of this program in prior professions, none of which come close to Instructor Knowles. He is a man that I aspire to be like and hope to make proud someday in the near future. All of the aforementioned above can be said for Petty Officer Pappas and Petty Officer Darling as well. Their true care for the candidates, attitudes and personalities are amazing to be around. I will forever stay in touch with them, words cannot express the gratitude that I have for those two men. The amount of time and effort they put in to each individual candidate is something special. I have never had a time where I wasn’t able to get in touch with them or lean on them for advice and information. The Navy is truly lucky to have had their service as SEAL Scouts and I have been blessed to have the opportunity to train under them.

In closing, I would like to take a moment to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to Instructor Knowles, Petty Officer Pappas and Petty Officer Darling. Regardless of the outcome of my future and where life takes me, you three men have forever changed my life. My mentality and sense of who I am as a man has never been stronger. This past year has been the best maturity and personal growth experience of my life. Thank you all so much, I can’t wait to take what you’ve given me and get after it.


Throughout this experience, I have gained many valuable lessons in my training. This training was by far the most beneficial training I have ever been through. I have always thought of myself as being a hard worker and training hard but have never been pushed on a daily basis both physically and mentally as this group have pushed me.

All of the instructors have helped me to identify my strengths and weaknesses and find out how to push past and develop both. They have been excellent in finding new ways to change training and always keep you on your toes and not knowing what to expect each day of training as well as being very creative in ways to train all different body parts.

Most importantly this group has helped to develop our minds to know how to push past where we think we can’t go. I truly believe the more I was able to come to training on a daily basis the more my mind and body developed quicker than I thought it could. I originally thought I was training hard before joining this program but quickly realized I was just scratching the surface as far as training goes.

I fully believe being at this training the past few months have fully prepared me physically and mentally for what lies ahead of me at BUD/S and put me in the best possible position to be successful.