- United States Navy SEALs
U.S. Navy SEALs
The Special Warfare insignia, or "SEAL Trident."
Active 1 January 1962 – present Country United States of America Branch United States Navy Type Maritime Special Operations Force
Sea, Air, Land
Role Primary tasks:
- Special reconnaissance
- Direct action
- Foreign internal defense
- Unconventional warfare
- Counter-drug operations
- Personnel recovery
- Hydrographic reconnaissance
Size ~2400  Part of United States Naval Special Warfare Command
United States Special Operations Command
Garrison/HQ Coronado, California
Little Creek, Virginia
Nickname Team Guys, Frogmen, The Teams, The Green Faces Motto "The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday"
"It Pays to be a Winner"
Engagements Vietnam War
Multinational Force in Lebanon
Operation Urgent Fury
Achille Lauro hijacking
Operation Just Cause
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Restore Hope
Battle of Mogadishu
Operation United Shield
Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Red Wings
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Maersk Alabama hijacking
Death of Osama bin Laden
The United States Navy's Sea, Air and Land Teams, commonly known as Navy SEALs, are the U.S. Navy's principal special operations force and a part of the Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC) as well as the maritime component of the United States Special Operations Command.
The acronym is derived from their capacity to operate at sea, in the air, and on land. In the War on Terror, SEALs have been utilized almost exclusively for land-based operations, including Direct Action, Hostage Rescue, Counter Terrorism, Special Reconnaissance, unconventional warfare and foreign internal defense operations. Without exception, all SEALs are male members of either the United States Navy or the United States Coast Guard.
The CIA's highly secretive Special Activities Division (SAD) and more specifically its elite Special Operations Group (SOG) recruits operators from the SEAL Teams. Joint Navy SEALs and CIA operations go back to the famed MACV-SOG during the Vietnam War. This cooperation still exists today and is seen in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more recently in the finding and killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
Navy SEALs can trace their roots to the Second World War. The United States Navy recognized the need for the covert reconnaissance of landing beaches and coastal defenses. As a result the Amphibious Scout and Raider School was established in 1942 at Fort Pierce, Florida. The Scouts and Raiders were formed in September of that year, just nine months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, from the Observer Group, a joint Army-USMC-Navy unit.
Scouts & Raiders
The first group included Phil H. Bucklew, the "Father of Naval Special Warfare," after whom the Naval Special Warfare Center building is named. Commissioned in October 1942, this group saw combat in November 1942 during Operation Torch, the first allied landings in Europe, on the North African coast. Scouts and Raiders also supported landings in Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, Normandy, and southern France.
A second group of Scouts and Raiders, code-named Special Service Unit #1, was established on 7 July 1943, as a joint and combined operations force. The first mission, in September 1943, was at Finschafen on New Guinea. Later operations were at Gasmata, Arawe, Cape Gloucester, and the East and South coast of New Britain, all without any loss of personnel. Conflicts arose over operational matters, and all non-Navy personnel were reassigned. The unit, renamed 7th Amphibious Scouts, received a new mission, to go ashore with the assault boats, buoy channels, erect markers for the incoming craft, handle casualties, take offshore soundings, blow up beach obstacles and maintain voice communications linking the troops ashore, incoming boats and nearby ships. The 7th Amphibious Scouts conducted operations in the Pacific for the duration of the conflict, participating in more than 40 landings
The third Scout and Raiders organization operated in China. Scouts and Raiders were deployed to fight with the Sino-American Cooperative Organization, or SACO. To help bolster the work of SACO, Admiral Ernest J. King ordered that 120 officers and 900 men be trained for "Amphibious Raider" at the Scout and Raider school at Fort Pierce, Florida. They formed the core of what was envisioned as a "guerrilla amphibious organization of Americans and Chinese operating from coastal waters, lakes and rivers employing small steamboats and sampans." While most Amphibious Raider forces remained at Camp Knox in Calcutta, three of the groups saw active service. They conducted a survey of the upper Yangtze River in the spring of 1945 and, disguised as coolies, conducted a detailed three-month survey of the Chinese coast from Shanghai to Kitchioh Wan, near Hong Kong.
Along with the Scouts and Raiders were the Naval Combat Demolition Units. They specialized in demolitions, explosive cable cutting, and commando raiding techniques. On May 7, 1943, Lieutenant Commander Draper L. Kauffman, "The Father of Naval Combat Demolition," was directed to set up a school and train people to eliminate obstacles on an enemy-held beach prior to an invasion. On June 6, 1943, LCDR Kaufmann established Naval Combat Demolition Unit training at Fort Pierce. By April 1944, a total of 34 NCDUs were deployed to England in preparation for Operation OVERLORD, the amphibious landing at Normandy. On June 6, 1944, in the face of great adversity, the NCDUs at Omaha Beach managed to blow eight complete gaps and two partial gaps in the German defenses. The NCDUs suffered 31 killed and 60 wounded, a casualty rate of 52%. Meanwhile, the NCDUs at Utah Beach met less intense enemy fire. They cleared 700 yards (640 m) of beach in two hours, another 900 yards (820 m) by the afternoon. Casualties at Utah Beach were significantly lighter with six killed and eleven wounded. During Operation OVERLORD, not a single demolitioneer was lost to improper handling of explosives. In August 1944, NCDUs from Utah Beach participated in the landings in southern France, the last amphibious operation in the European Theater of Operations. NCDUs also operated in the Pacific theater. NCDU 2, under LTjg Frank Kaine, after whom the Naval Special Warfare Command building is named, and NCDU 3 under LTjg Lloyd Anderson, formed the nucleus of six NCDUs that served with the Seventh Amphibious Force tasked with clearing boat channels after the landings from Biak to Borneo.
OSS Operational Swimmers
Some of the earliest World War II predecessors of the SEALs were the Operational Swimmers of the Office of Strategic Services, or OSS. Many current SEAL missions were first assigned to them. OSS specialized in special operations, dropping operatives behind enemy lines to engage in organized guerrilla warfare as well as to gather information on such things as enemy resources and troop movements.  British Combined Operations veteran LCDR Wooley, of the Royal Navy, was placed in charge of the OSS Maritime Unit in June 1943. Their training started in November 1943 at Camp Pendleton, California, moved to Santa Catalina Island, California in January 1944, and finally moved to the warmer waters of The Bahamas in March 1944. Within the U.S. military, they pioneered flexible swimfins and diving masks, closed-circuit diving equipment (under the direction of Dr. Chris Lambertsen), the use of Swimmer Delivery Vehicles (a type of submersible), and combat swimming and limpet mine attacks. In May 1944, General Donovan, the head of the OSS, divided the unit into groups. He loaned Group 1, under Lieutenant Choate, to Admiral Nimitz, as a way to introduce the OSS into the Pacific theater. They became part of UDT-10 in July 1944. Five OSS men participated in the very first UDT submarine operation with the USS Burrfish (SS-312) in the Caroline Islands in August 1944.
Underwater Demolition Teams
On November 23, 1943, the U.S. Marine landing on Tarawa Atoll emphasized the need for hydrographic reconnaissance and underwater demolition of obstacles prior to any amphibious landing. Offshore coral reefs and other obstacles in the surf had resulted in many of the Marines drowning or being hit by enemy fire because their landing craft could not reach the beach. After the Tarawa, Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner directed the formation of nine Underwater Demolition Teams. 30 officers and 150 enlisted men were moved to the Waimānalo Amphibious Training Base to form the nucleus of a demolition training program. This group became Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) ONE and TWO.
The UDTs saw their first combat on January 31, 1944, during Operation Flintlock in the Marshall Islands. FLINTLOCK became the real catalyst for the UDT training program in the Pacific Theater. In February 1944, the Naval Combat Demolition Training and Experimental Base was established at Kīhei, Maui, next to the Amphibious Base at Kamaole. Eventually, 34 UDT teams were established. Wearing swim suits, fins, and dive masks on combat operations, these "Naked Warriors" saw action across the Pacific in every major amphibious landing including: Eniwetok, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, Angaur, Ulithi, Peleliu, Leyte, Lingayen Gulf, Zambales, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Labuan, Brunei Bay, and on July 4, 1945 at Balikpapan on Borneo, which was the last UDT demolition operation of the war. The rapid demobilization at the conclusion of the war reduced the number of active duty UDTs to two on each coast with a complement of seven officers and 45 enlisted men each.
The Korean War began on June 25, 1950, when the North Korean army invaded South Korea. Beginning with a detachment of 11 personnel from UDT 3, UDT participation expanded to three teams with a combined strength of 300 men. As part of the Special Operations Group, or SOG, UDTs successfully conducted demolition raids on railroad tunnels and bridges along the Korean coast. On September 15, 1950, UDTs supported Operation Chromite, the amphibious landing at Incheon. UDT 1 and 3 provided personnel who went in ahead of the landing craft, scouting mud flats, marking low points in the channel, clearing fouled propellers, and searching for mines. Four UDT personnel acted as wave-guides for the Marine landing. In October 1950, UDTs supported mine-clearing operations in Wonsan Harbor where frogmen would locate and mark mines for minesweepers. On October 12, 1950, two U.S. minesweepers hit mines and sank. UDTs rescued 25 sailors. The next day, William Giannotti conducted the first U.S. combat operation using an "aqualung" when he dove on the USS Pledge (AM-277). For the remainder of the war, UDTs conducted beach and river reconnaissance, infiltrated guerrillas behind the lines from sea, continued mine sweeping operations, and participated in Operation Fishnet, which severely damaged the North Korean's fishing capability.
President John F. Kennedy, aware of the situations in Southeast Asia, recognized the need for unconventional warfare and special operations as a measure against guerrilla warfare. In a speech to Congress on 25 May 1961, Kennedy spoke of his deep respect for the United States Army Special Forces. While his announcement of the government's plan to put a man on the moon drew all of the attention, in the same speech he announced his intention to spend over $100 million to strengthen U.S. special operations forces and expand American capabilities in unconventional warfare.
The Navy needed to determine its role within the special operations arena. In March 1961, Arleigh Burke, Chief of Naval Operations, recommended the establishment of guerrilla and counter-guerrilla units. These units would be able to operate from sea, air or land. This was the beginning of the Navy SEALs. Most SEALs came from the Navy's Underwater Demolition Teams, who had already gained extensive experience in commando warfare in Korea; however, the Underwater Demolition Teams were still necessary to the Navy's amphibious force.
The first two teams were on both US coasts: Team One at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, in San Diego, California and Team Two at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Men of the newly formed SEAL Teams were trained in such unconventional areas as hand-to-hand combat, high-altitude parachuting, demolitions, and foreign languages. The SEALs attended Underwater Demolition Team replacement training and they spent some time training in UDTs. Upon making it to a SEAL team, they would undergo a SEAL Basic Indoctrination (SBI) training class at Camp Kerry in the Cuyamaca Mountains. After SBI training class, they would enter a platoon and conduct platoon training.
The Pacific Command recognized Vietnam as a potential hot spot for unconventional forces. At the beginning of 1962, the UDTs started hydrographic surveys and along with other branches of the US Military, the Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) was formed. In March 1962, SEALs were deployed to South Vietnam as advisors for the purpose of training Army of the Republic of Vietnam commandos in the same methods they were trained themselves.
The Central Intelligence Agency began using SEALs in covert operations in early 1963. The SEALs were involved in the CIA sponsored Phoenix Program where it targeted key North Vietnamese Army personnel and Vietcong sympathizers for capture and assassination.
The SEALs were initially deployed in and around Da Nang, training the South Vietnamese in combat diving, demolitions, and guerrilla/anti-guerrilla tactics. As the war continued, the SEALs found themselves positioned in the Rung Sat Special Zone where they were to disrupt the enemy supply and troop movements and in the Mekong Delta to fulfill riverine operations, fighting on the inland waterways.
Combat with the Viet Cong was direct. Unlike the conventional warfare methods of firing artillery into a coordinate location, the SEALs operated within inches of their targets. Into the late 1960s, the SEALs were successful in a new style of warfare, effective in anti-guerrilla and guerrilla actions. SEALs brought a personal war to the enemy in a previously safe area. The Viet Cong referred to them as "the men with green faces," due to the camouflage face paint the SEALs wore during combat missions.
SEALs continued to make forays into North Vietnam and Laos, and covertly into Cambodia, controlled by the Studies and Observations Group. The SEALs from Team Two started a unique deployment of SEAL team members working alone with South Vietnamese Commandos (ARVN). In 1967, a SEAL unit named Detachment Bravo (Det Bravo) was formed to operate these mixed US and ARVN units, which were called South Vietnamese Provincial Reconnaissance Units (PRUs).
At the beginning of 1968, the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong orchestrated a major offensive against South Vietnam: the "Tet Offensive". The North hoped it would prove to be America's Dien Bien Phu, attempting to break the American public's desire to continue the war. As propaganda, the Tet Offensive was successful in adding to the American protest of the Vietnam war. However, North Vietnam suffered tremendous casualties, and from a purely military standpoint, the Tet Offensive was a major disaster for the Communists.
By 1970, President Richard Nixon initiated a Plan of Vietnamization, which would remove the US from the Vietnam War and return the responsibility of defense back to the South Vietnamese. Conventional forces were being withdrawn; the last SEAL advisor left Vietnam in March 1973 and Vietnam fell to the communists in 1975. The SEALs were among the highest decorated units for their size in the war. SEALs were awarded 2 Navy Crosses, 42 Silver stars, 402 Bronze Stars, 2 Legions of Merit, 352 Commendation Medals, 3 Presidential Unit Citations and 3 Medals of Honor.
Both SEAL Team 4 and SEAL Team 6, the predecessor to DEVGRU, participated in the US invasion of Grenada. The SEALs' two primary missions were the extraction of Grenada's Governor-General and the capture of Grenada's only radio tower. Neither mission was well briefed or sufficiently supported with timely intelligence and the SEALs ran into trouble from the very beginning. One of their two transport planes missed its drop zone, and four SEALs drowned in a rain squall while making an airborne insertion with their boats off the island's coast. Their bodies were never recovered.
After regrouping from their initial insertion the SEALs split into two teams and proceeded to their objectives. After digging in at the Governor's mansion, the SEALs realized they had forgotten their SATCOM gear on the helicopter. As Grenadian and Cuban troops surrounded the team, the SEALs' only radio ran out of battery power, and they used the mansion's land line telephone to call in AC-130 fire support. The SEALs were pinned in the mansion overnight and were relieved and extracted by a group of Force Recon Marines the following morning.
The team sent to the radio station also ran into communication problems. As soon as the SEALs reached the radio facility they found themselves unable to raise their command post. After beating back several waves of Grenadian and Cuban troops supported by BTR-60s, the SEALs decided that their position at the radio tower was untenable. They destroyed the station and fought their way to the water where they hid from patrolling enemy forces. After the enemy had given up their search the SEALs, some wounded, swam into the open sea where they were extracted several hours later after being spotted by a reconnaissance plane.
During the closing stages of the Iran-Iraq War the United States Navy began conducting operations in the Persian Gulf to protect US flagged ships from attack by Iranian naval forces. A secret plan was put in place and dubbed Operation Prime Chance. Navy SEAL Teams 1 and 2 along with several Special Boat Units and Navy EOD teams were deployed on mobile command barges and transported by helicopters from the Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. Over the course of the operation SEALs conducted VBSS (Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure) missions to counter Iranian mine laying boats. The only loss of life occurred during the take down of the Iran Ajr. Evidence gathered on the Iran Ajr by SEALs and EOD techs later allowed the US Navy to trace the mines that struck the USS Samuel B. Roberts. This chain of events lead to Operation Praying Mantis, the largest US Naval surface engagement since the Second World War. During Operation Desert Shield and Storm, Navy SEALs trained Kuwaiti Special Forces. They set up naval special operations groups in Kuwait, working with the Kuwaiti Navy in exile. Using these new diving, swimming, and combat skills, these foreign SEALs took part in combat operations such as the liberation of the capital city.
The United States Navy contributed extensive special operations assets to the invasion of Panama, code named Operation Just Cause. This included SEAL Teams 2 and 4, Naval Special Warfare Unit 8, and Special Boat Unit 26, all falling under Naval Special Warfare Group 2; and the separate Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DevGru). DevGru fell under Task Force Blue, while Naval Special Warfare Group 2 composed the entirety of Task Force White. Task Force White was tasked with three principal objectives: the destruction of Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF) naval assets in Balboa Harbor and the destruction of Manuel Noriega's private jet at Paitilla Airport (collectively known as Operation Nifty Package), as well as isolating PDF forces on Flamenco Island.
The strike on Balboa Harbor by Task Unit Whiskey is notably marked in SEAL history as the first publicly acknowledged combat swimmer mission since the Second World War. Prior to the commencement of the invasion four Navy SEALs, Lt Edward S. Coughlin, EN-3 Timothy K. Eppley, ET-1 Randy L. Beausoleil, and PH-2 Chris Dye, swam underwater into the harbor on Draeger LAR-V rebreathers and attached C4 explosives to and destroyed Noriega's personal gunboat the Presidente Porras.
Task Unit Papa was tasked with the seizure of Paitilla airfield and the destruction of Noriega's plane there. Several SEALs were concerned about the nature of the mission assigned to them being that airfield seizure was usually the domain of the Army Rangers. Despite these misgivings and a loss of operational surprise, the SEALs of TU Papa proceeded with their mission. Almost immediately upon landing, the 48 SEALs came under withering fire from the PDF stationed at the airfield. Although Noriega's plane was eventually destroyed, the SEALs suffered four dead and thirteen wounded. Killed were Lt. John Connors, Chief Petty Officer Donald McFaul, Torpedoman's Mate 2nd Class Issac Rodriguez, and Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Chris Tilghman.
In the immediate aftermath of the 11 September attacks, Navy SEALs quickly dispatched to Camp Doha, and those already aboard US Naval vessels in the Persian Gulf and surrounding waters began conducting VBSS operations against ships suspected of having ties to or even carrying al Qaeda operatives. SEAL Teams 3 and 8 also began rotating into Oman from the United States and staging on the island of Masirah for operations in Afghanistan. One of the SEALs' immediate concerns was their lack of suitable vehicles to conduct special reconnaissance (SR) missions in the rough, landlocked terrain of Afghanistan. After borrowing and retrofitting Humvees from the Army Rangers also staging on Masirah, the SEALs inserted into Afghanistan to conduct the SR of what would become Camp Rhino, as part of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). These early stages of OEF were commanded by a fellow SEAL, Rear Admiral Albert Calland.
The SR mission in the region of Camp Rhino lasted for four days, after which two United States Air Force Combat Control Teams made a nighttime HALO jump to assist the SEALs in guiding in Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit who seized control of the area and established a Forward operating base. While at Camp Rhino, the CIA passed on intelligence from a predator drone operating in the Paktia province that Taliban Mullah Khirullah Said Wali Khairkhwa was spotted leaving a building by vehicle convoy. SEALs and Danish Jægerkorpset commandos boarded Air Force Pave Low helicopters and seized Khairkhwa on the road less than two hours later. The SEALs continued to perform reconnaissance operations for the Marines until leaving after having spent 45 days on the ground.
Subsequent SEAL operations during the invasion of Afghanistan were conducted within Task Force K-Bar, a joint special operations unit of Army Special Forces, United States Air Force Special Tactics Teams, and special operations forces from Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Denmark, Norway, and Turkey, under the command of Navy SEAL Captain Robert Harward. Task Force K-Bar conducted combat operations in the massive cave complexes at Zhawar Kili, the city of Kandahar and surrounding territory, the town of Prata Ghar and hundreds of miles of rough terrain in southern and eastern Afghanistan. Over the course of six months Task Force K-Bar killed or captured over 200 Taliban and al Qaeda fighters, and destroyed tens of thousands of pounds of weapons and ordnance.
Navy SEALs participated extensively in Operation Anaconda. During insertion, AB1 Neil Roberts was thrown from his helicopter when it took fire from entrenched al Qaeda fighters. Roberts was eventually killed after engaging and fighting dozens of enemies for almost an hour. Several SEALs were wounded in a rescue attempt and their Air Force Combat Controller, Technical Sergeant John Chapman, was killed. Attempts to rescue the stranded SEAL also led to the deaths of several US Army Rangers and an Air Force Pararescueman acting as a Quick Reaction Force.
SEALs were present at the Battle of Qala-i-Jangi alongside their counterparts from the British Special Boat Service. Chief Petty Officer Stephen Bass was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions during the battle.
The SEALs are also known for executing the notorious mission that assasinated Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in April 2011.
Al Faw and Iraqi oil infrastructure
Several days before the beginning of the invasion of Iraq two SDV teams were launched from Mark V Special Operations Craft in the Persian Gulf. Their objectives were the hydrographic reconnaissance of the Al Basrah (MABOT) and Khawr Al Amaya (KAAOT) Oil Terminals. After swimming under the terminals and securing their Mark 8 mod 1s the SDV SEALs spent several hours taking pictures and surveying Iraqi activity on both platforms before returning to their boats.
On 20 March 2003 the Navy SEALs launched what is the largest single SEAL operation in history from US Naval vessels, Ras al-Qulayah Naval Base and Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait as part of a mixed force of US Navy SEALs, Polish GROM and British Royal Marines. Their targets were not only the ABOT and KAAOT platforms but their respective onshore petroleum pumping locks and the Al Faw port and refinery. Each force was to be inserted via helicopter or boat on the perimeter of the targets and then assault the main facilities. The first attacks occurred at the pumping locks for each offshore terminal. At MABOT's pumping lock the team's landing zone was covered in concertina wire that was unreported by their intelligence and so the SEALs and Royal Marines were forced to hover several feet off the ground. The Royal Marines, led by a Provost Sergeant, were the first off the helicopter followed by the SEALs and all immediately became entangled in the obstacles. In this exposed position the SEALs and Marines began taking fire from the platform's garrison. The landing at the KAAOT pumping lock ran into similar problems with their landing zone but both teams at both locations regrouped and successfully assaulted the pumping locks taking the main buildings and several occupied bunkers. After securing the facility an Iraqi armored vehicle approached the SEALs' position. Their embedded Air Force Combat Controller coordinated with an Air Force A-10 and destroyed the vehicle. In total five Iraqis were killed and sixteen captured.
The assault on the offshore platforms were carried out by SWCC manned rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIB) carrying the SEALs and SWCC manned Mk Vs carrying the GROM. The SEALs were assigned MABOT and GROM the KAAOT. Two days before the launch of the operation the Iraqis replaced the MABOT garrison with elite Republican Guard troops. With this last minute change in opposition in mind, and the added fear of the Republican Guard blowing up the platforms upon attack, the SEALs decided to change their plan to quickly take out all opposition before physically securing MABOT. Once the SEALs assaulted MABOT via RHIB the Republican Guard forces immediately began to surrender. The GROM on KAAOT encountered the same unwillingness by the Iraqis to fight allowing both platforms to be taken with no deaths. Subsequent inspection on MABOT showed that the Iraqi forces had not primed their explosives having been unwilling to destroy the facility. The assault on the Iraqi positions on the Al Faw peninsula consisted of a DPV mounted SEAL force at the refinery and port with a larger force of US Marines from the 5th Regimental Combat Team of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force attacking Iraqi positions farther north in the Rumaila oil fields. Before the operation the SEALs raised objections that the ground looked unsuitable for DPV use but the faulty intelligence was assured by their attached intelligence liaison that the land on Al Faw would be hardpack. The teams went ahead and landed with their DPVs straight off the helicopters but their fears were confirmed when the oil soaked and muddy ground on the peninsula rendered their underpowered, rear wheel drive vehicles useless. Now on foot and surrounded by approximately 300 entrenched Iraqi soldiers and armored vehicles the SEALs relied on their Combat Controller to call in air strikes. In coordination with close air support the SEALs swept the entire facility on foot fighting through enemy positions until day break when they were relieved by the 42 Commando of the British Royal Marines. In total several hundred Iraqis were killed, 100 captured and all the armored vehicles destroyed.
Coalition military planners were concerned that retreating Iraqi forces would destroy the Mukatayin hydroelectric dam northeast of Baghdad in an attempt to slow advancing US troops. In addition to restricting the maneuver of Coalition forces, the destruction of the dam would deny critical power needs to the surrounding area as well as cause massive flooding and loss of Iraqi civilian life. A mixed SEAL/GROM force was called in to seize the dam. This force was flown several hours by US Air Force MH-53 Pave Lows to the dam. The SEALs employed DPVs into blocking positions to defend against counter-attack and roving bands of Iranian bandits that had been crossing the border and raiding Iraqi towns. As in Al Faw the SEALs found their DPVs to be ineffective and this marked the last time they would employ them in Iraq.
The SEALs and GROM on foot fast-roped out of their helicopters and immediately stormed the dam. The minimal Iraqi security forces on site surrendered, and with the exception of a GROM operator who broke an ankle during the insertion, the operation went off with no casualties. After several hours of searching the dam for remaining hostile forces or any explosives, the SEALs fully secured the dam and were later relieved by advancing elements of the US Army.
On 12 April 2009, in response to a hostage-taking incident off of the coast of Somalia by Somalian pirates, three Navy SEALs from DEVGRU simultaneously engaged and killed the three pirates who were closely holding the hostage, Captain Richard Phillips, of the freighter ship, the Maersk Alabama. The pirates and their hostage were being towed in a lifeboat approximately 100 yards behind the USS Bainbridge (DDG-96), when the three pirates were killed by three DEVGRU snipers with single shots to each of their heads.
Abbottabad, Pakistan (Death of Osama bin Laden)
In the early morning of 2 May 2011 local time, a team of 40 CIA-led Navy SEALs from DEVGRU, 24 on the ground, successfully completed an operation to kill Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan about 35 miles (56 km) from Islamabad, the country's capital. The Navy SEALs were part of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, previously called "Team 6". President Barack Obama later confirmed the death of bin Laden, but did not directly mention the involvement of DEVGRU, saying only that a "small team" of Americans undertook the operation to bring down bin Laden. The unprecedented media coverage raised the public profile of the SEAL community, particularly the counter-terrorism specialists commonly known as SEAL Team 6. The Walt Disney Company tried unsuccessfully to trademark the name "SEAL Team 6" the day after the raid.
Wardak Province Helicopter Crash
On 6 August 2011, 17 Navy SEALs, were killed when their CH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down by an RPG fired by Taliban Soldiers. The SEALs were en route to support Army Rangers who were taking fire while attempting to capture a senior Taliban leader in the Tangi Valley. Fifteen were SEALs belonging to the Naval Special Warfare Development Group. Two others were SEALs assigned to a regular naval special warfare unit. Eight other Americans and eight Afghans were also killed in the crash.
SEAL training is very rigorous, having a reputation as some of the toughest anywhere in the world. The drop out rate for BUDs classes are sometimes over 90 percent. The average Navy SEAL spends over a year in a series of formal training environments before being awarded the Special Warfare Operator Naval Rating and the Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC) 5326 Combatant Swimmer (SEAL) or, in the case of commissioned naval officers, the designation Naval Special Warfare (SEAL) Officer.
All Navy SEALs must attend and graduate from their rating's 24-week "A" United States Navy SEAL selection and training course known as Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) school and then the 28-week SEAL Qualification Training (SQT) program. SQT qualifies all BUD/S graduates in basic SEAL skillsets in MAROPS, Combat Swimmer, Communications, TCCC, Close Quarters Combat, Land Warfare, Staticline/Freefall Parachute Operations, SERE and Combatives. All sailors entering the SEAL training pipeline with the Navy Hospital Corpsman rating or those chosen by Naval Special Warfare Command must also attend the 26 week Special Operations Combat Medic course and subsequently earn the NEC SO-5392 Naval Special Warfare Medic before joining an operational Team. Once outside the formal schooling environment SEALs entering a new Team at the beginning of an operational rotation can expect 18 months of Professional Development/Schools (PRODEV) and Troop unit level training (ULT) before each 6-month deployment. In total, from the time a prospective SEAL enters military service to the time he finishes his first predeployment training cycle, it can take as much as 30 months to completely train a Navy SEAL for his first deployment.
Naval Special Warfare Command is organized into the following configuration:
- Naval Special Warfare Group 1: SEAL Teams 1, 3, 5, 7
- Naval Special Warfare Group 2: SEAL Teams 2, 4, 8, 10
- Naval Special Warfare Group 3: SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1
- Naval Special Warfare Group 4: Special Boat Teams 12, 20, 22
- Naval Special Warfare Group 11: SEAL Teams 17, 18 (formerly Operational Support Teams 1, 2)
The total number of Navy SEALs assigned to Naval Special Warfare Command is approximately 2,000 out of a total staffing of 6,500. About half of the SEAL contingent are based at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base and Dam Neck Annex in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Most of the remainder are headquartered at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, California or with SDVT-1 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
SEAL Teams are organized into two groups: Naval Special Warfare Group One (West Coast), and Naval Special Warfare Group Two (East Coast), which come under the command of Naval Special Warfare Command, stationed at NAB Coronado, California. As of 2006, there are eight confirmed Navy SEAL Teams. The original SEAL Teams in the Vietnam War were separated between West Coast (Team ONE) and East Coast (Team TWO) SEALs. The current SEAL Team deployments include Teams 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, and 10.
The Teams deploy as Naval Special Warfare Squadrons or Special Operations Task Forces and can deploy anywhere in the world. Squadrons will normally be deployed and fall under a Joint Task Force (JTF) or a Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force (CJSOTF) as a Special Operations Task Force (SOTF).
Each SEAL Team is commanded by a Navy Commander (O-5), and has a number of operational SEAL platoons and a headquarters element.
A SEAL Team has a Staff Headquarters element and three 40-man Troops. Each Troop consist of a Headquarters element consisting of a Troop Commander (O-4), a Troop Senior Enlisted (E-8), a Targeting/Operations Officer (O-2/3) and a Targeting/Operations Leading/Chief Petty Officer (E-6/7). Under the HQ element are two SEAL platoons of 16–20 men (two officers, 14–16 enlisted SEALs and sometimes two enlisted EOD Operators making a platoon of 18–20); a company-sized Combat Service Support (CSS) and/or Combat Support (CS) consisting of staff N-codes (the Army and Marine Corps use S-codes); N1 Administrative support, N2 Intelligence, N3 Operations, N4 Logistics, N5 Plans and Targeting, N6 Communications, N7 Training, and N8 Air/Medical.
Each Troop can be easily task organized into four squads or eight 4–5 man fire teams for operational purposes. The size of each SEAL “Team” with Troops and support staff is approximately 300 personnel. The typical SEAL platoon has an OIC (Officer in Charge, usually an O-3), an AOIC (Assistant Officer in Charge, usually an O-2), a platoon chief (E-7), an Operations NCO/LPO (Leading Petty Officer, E-6) and other operators E-4 to E-6. The core leadership in the Troop and Platoon are the Commander/OIC and the Senior Enlisted NCO (Senior Chief/Chief).
Troop core skills consist of: Sniper, Breacher, Communicator, Maritime/Engineering, Close Air Support, Corpsman, Point-man/Navigator, Primary Driver/Navigator (Rural/Urban/Protective Security), Heavy Weapons Operator, Sensitive Site Exploitation, Air Operations Master, Lead Climber, Lead Diver/Navigator, Interrogator, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Technical Surveillance, and Advanced Special Operations.
Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, a naval base in Virginia Beach, Virginia, is home to SEAL Teams 2, 4, 8, and 10. Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, a naval base in Coronado, California, is home to SEAL Teams 1, 3, 5, and 7. There is also a SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) unit, SDVT-1, located in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. SDVT-2 was based in Virginia; it was disestablished and merged into SDVT-1. SDV Teams are SEAL teams with an added underwater delivery capability. An SDV platoon consists of 12–15 SEALs.
Insignia Team Deployment Number of Platoons HQ Notes SEAL Team 1 Worldwide 6 Platoons Coronado, California SEAL Team 2 Worldwide 6 Platoons Little Creek, Virginia SEAL Team 2 is the only SEAL Team that has arctic warfare capabilities SEAL Team 3 Worldwide 6 Platoons Coronado, California SEAL Team 4 Worldwide 6 Platoons Little Creek, Virginia SEAL Team 4 is the only SEAL Team with a viable standing language capability, which is Spanish. SEAL Team 5 Worldwide 6 Platoons Coronado, California United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group Worldwide Classified Dam Neck, Virginia SEAL Team 6 was dissolved in 1987. The operators of SEAL Team Six established the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group, also known as DEVGRU. While DEVGRU is administratively supported by Naval Special Warfare Command, they are operationally under the command of the Joint Special Operations Command. SEAL Team 7 Worldwide 6 Platoons Coronado, California SEAL Team 8 Worldwide 6 Platoons Little Creek, Virginia SEAL Team 10 Worldwide 6 Platoons Little Creek, Virginia SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team One Worldwide 4 Platoons Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
Little Creek, Virginia
San Diego, California
SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team Two Worldwide 4 Platoons Little Creek, Virginia Merged with SDVT-1
The primary mission of the Navy Parachute Team (NPT) is to support Naval Special Warfare recruiting by gaining access and exposure to appropriate candidates through aerial parachuting demonstrations.
The U.S. Navy Parachute Team is a fifteen-man team comprised entirely of U.S. Navy SEAL and SWCC commandos. Each member comes to the team for a three-year tour from one of the two Naval Special Warfare Groups located on the east and west coasts. On completion of the tour, members return to operational units. The parachute team began in 1969 when Navy SEALs and Frogmen volunteered to perform at weekend air shows. The team was officially commissioned as the U.S. Navy Parachute Team in 1974 by the Chief of Naval Operations and assigned the mission of demonstrating Navy excellence throughout the United States.
A typical Leap Frogs performance consists of fourteen jumpers leaping out of an aircraft at an altitude of 12,500 feet. After freefalling sometimes using smoke or streamers, the Leap Frogs fly their canopies together to build canopy-relative work formations. After performances, the Leap Frogs make themselves available to the public to answer questions about the Navy and the Naval Special Warfare community, as well as to sign autographs.
Women are not currently allowed to become Navy SEALs; this is the only Navy position closed to women. However, Admiral Eric T. Olson, a former SEAL and then-commander of United States Special Operations Command, suggested in July 2011 that he believes women should serve as SEALs in combat roles, noting that physical strength was not the sole quality important in a SEAL; Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus also did not rule out the idea of a woman becoming a SEAL, observing that while women cannot serve in combat roles, many work in auxiliary roles with Special Ops forces. Such roles include Cultural Support Teams, teams of two to four women troops which can gain access to and information from local women in conservative societies.
The National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum, in Fort Pierce, Florida, was recognized as a National Museum by an act of Congress and is dedicated to preserving the history of the Navy SEALs and their predecessors. The SEAL Museum stands on the training site of the first Navy frogmen. There through World War II, thousands of service members were trained as members of Naval Combat Demolition Units and Underwater Demolition Teams. The Museum houses rare historic artifacts from the founding of the UDT to present day, including weapons, vehicles, equipment, and most recently added, the Alabama Maersk lifeboat aboard which Somali pirates held Captain Richard Phillips hostage.
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- Bahmanyar, Mir. US Navy SEALs. Osprey Publishing, 2005. (ISBN 1-84176-807-3)
- Bahmanyar, Mir with Chris Osman. SEALs The US Navy's Elite Fighting Force. Osprey Publishing, 2008. (ISBN 1-84603-226-1)
- Couch, Dick. The Sheriff of Ramadi: Navy SEALs and the Winning of al-Anba. U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2008. (ISBN 1591141389)
- Couch, Dick. The Warrior Elite. The Forging of SEAL Class 228. Three Rivers Press, 2003. (ISBN 1400046955)
- Couch, Dick. The Finishing School. Earning the Navy SEAL Trident. Three Rivers Press, 2004. (ISBN 0-609-81046-4)
- Couch, Dick. Down Range. Navy SEALs in the War on Terrorism. Three Rivers Press, 2005. (ISBN 1-4000-8101-7)
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- Luttrell, Marcus. Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10. Little, Brown and Company, 2009. (ISBN 0316044695)
United States Army
USASOCSpecial Forces · U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School · 75th Ranger Regiment · 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment
United States Marine Corps
MARSOCPart of SOCOM: Marine Special Operations Regiment
United States Navy
NAVSPECWARCOMNavy SEALs · Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen
United States Air Force
Special Mission Units
JSOCSource: SOCOM Fact Book
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