Thursday, May 05, 2011

Joining SEAL Team 6

Here are a few details about what it takes to join the elites of the elite team that was dispatched to take down Osama bin Laden.
The men, hailed as heroes across the country, will march in no parades. They serve in what is unofficially called Seal Team 6, a unit so secretive that the White House and the Defense Department do not directly acknowledge its existence. Its members have hunted down war criminals in Bosnia, fought in some of the bloodiest battles in Afghanistan and shot three Somali pirates dead on a bobbing lifeboat during the rescue of an American hostage in 2009....

Inside the Navy, there are regular unclassified Seal members, organized into Teams 1 to 5 and 7 to 10. Then there is Seal Team 6, the elite of the elite, or, as Mr. Roberti put it, “the all-star team.”

Former Seal members said this week that the unit — officially renamed the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or Devgru — was chosen for the bloody Bin Laden raid, the most high-profile operation in the history of the Seals, because of the group’s skills in using lethal force intelligently in complex, ambiguous conditions.

All Seal members face years of brutal preparation, including a notorious six months of basic underwater demolition training in Coronado, Calif. During “hell week,” recruits get a total of four hours of sleep during five and a half days of nonstop running, swimming in the cold surf and rolling in mud. About 80 percent of the candidates do not make it; at least one has died.

For those who succeed, more training and then deployments follow. After several years on regular Seal teams, Team 6 candidates are taught to parachute from 30,000 feet with oxygen masks and gain control of a hijacked cruise liner at sea. Of those Seal members, about half make it.
There are thought to be about 300 members of Team 6, but its mere existence is classified and not acknowledged by the Defense Department. There were 79 people on the team that killed Osama. And we'll never know their names or be able to thank them in person. But they certainly burnished their image as the all stars of our special ops forces.

In a side note, my students are preparing for the Advanced Placement Government and Politics test on Tuesday. One of the zillions of little facts they've learned is about the Goldwater-Nichols Act and how it reorganized the command structure of our military. And so I was able to point out to them yesterday, as they reviewed that unit, that the Joint Special Operations Command that dispatched SEAL team 6 was created by Goldwater-Nichols. Talk about an extra connection to current events!