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The United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (NSWDG), commonly known as DEVGRU or SEAL Team Six (ST6), is the United Statesmarker Navy's secretive tier-one Counter-Terrorism and Special Mission Unit (SMU). DEVGRU are the former SEAL Team Six. The vast majority of information surrounding DEVGRU is highly classified and details of its activities are not commented on by either the White House or the Department of Defense.

History

The origins of ST6 can be traced to the aftermath of Operation Eagle Clawmarker, the failed 1980 attempt to rescue American hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Iranmarker.

During the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1979, Richard Marcinko was one of two Navy representatives for a Joint Chiefs of Staff task force known as the TAT (Terrorist Action Team). The purpose of the TAT was to develop a plan to free the American hostages held in Iran which culminated in Operation Eagle Claw. In the wake of the operation's disaster at Desert One, the Navy saw the need for a full-time dedicated Counter-Terrorist Team and tasked Marcinko with its design and development.

Marcinko was the first commanding officer of this new unit which he named SEAL Team Six (at the time, the US Navy had only two SEAL teams. Marcinko purportedly named the unit Team Six in order to confuse the Soviet intelligence as to the number of SEAL Teams in operation). It became officially operational in 1981.
The men in the unit were handpicked by Marcinko himself from across the US Navy's Special Operations personnel. SEAL Team Six would be known as the US Navy's premier counter-terrorist unit. It has also been compared favorably to the US Army's Delta Forcemarker. Marcinko held the command of SEAL Team Six for three years from 1980-1983 instead of what was typically a two-year command in the Navy at the time.
SEAL Team Six was formally created in October 1980, and an intense, progressive work-up training program made the unit mission-ready six months later. Prior to this, the existing SEAL teams had already begun counter-terrorism training, including 12 platoons in SEAL Team One on the West Coast. On the East Coast, however, elements of the SEAL Team Two had taken the issue one step farther. They formed a dedicated two platoon group known as "MOB Six" (Mobility Six) in anticipation of a maritime scenario requiring a counter-terrorism response and had begun training to that end.
In 1987, a new unit was formed, given the official title of 'Naval Special Warfare Development Group' (NAVSPECWARDEVGRU, or DEVGRU) after SEAL Team Six was dissolved. Reasons for the disbanding are varied, ranging from operational security that Marcinko divulged in his Autobiography, the team's reputation surrounding the mis-appropriation of unit funds by unit members that resulted in charges leveled at Marcinko and other members of the unit. Whatever the truth behind these, the name "SEAL Team Six" is often used in reference to DEVGRU because of their similarities as a maritime counter-terrorism unit.

Recruitment, Selection & Training

In the early stages of creating SEAL Team Six, Marcinko had been given only six months to get ST6 up and running. This meant that there was a timing issue and Marcinko had little time to create a proper selection course, similar to that of Delta Force and as a result hand-picked the first plankowners of the unit himself after assessing their Navy records and personally interviewing each man. It has been said that Marcinko regretted not having enough time to set up a proper selection process/course. All applicants came from the UDTs and east and west coast SEAL teams. Marcinko's criteria for recruiting applicants was combat experience due to the fact that he would know they could perform under fire, Language skills were vital as the unit would have a worldwide mandate to be able to communicate with the local population if needed, union skills in order to be able to blend in as civilians during an operation and finally SEAL skills. Each member of SEAL Team Six was selected in part because of the different specialty skills each man brought with him to the unit.

The training schedule was intense. The SEAL Team Six ammunition allowance was more than the entire US Marine Corps. The emphasis was on shooting skills, range firing, CQB and stress shooting in a variety of conditions.

As with most aspects of the unit being highly classified, information regarding the process of recruitment and selection for the NSWDG is also scarce but what is speculated and is known is that the selection and training for the unit hasn't changed dramatically since its creation. All applicants come from the regular SEAL teams and the Navy's Explosive Ordnance Disposal units, unless applying for support positions (in which there have been open advertisements on the web for support personnel).

It can be inferred from the quality of their pool of applicants that those considered are in peak physical condition, maintain an excellent reputation as an operator within the Naval Special Warfare community, and have done operational deployments with a SEAL Team where an operator will have picked up invaluable experience. As a result the candidate will usually be in his 30s. As ST6 was recruiting the best and brightest SEALs/UDTs from the regular teams, this created animosity between the unit and the "regular" teams that their best SEALs were being poached for the unit.

Those who pass the stringent recruitment process will be selected to attend a seven month Operators Training Course. Candidates will join the units training wing known as “Green Team”. The training course attrition rate is extremely high; at least half the class will fail the course. During one selection course, out of the original 20 candidates, only 12 completed the course. Like all Special Operations Forces units that have an extremely intensive and high-risk training schedule, serious injuries or death among operators can result. SEAL Team Six/DevGRU have lost several operators during training, including parachute accidents and CQB training accidents, but this is necessary in order to make training realistic. It is said that an extremely good SEAL operator in a regular SEAL team can fail to get into the Development Group. It is presumed that the unit's assessment process for potential new recruits will be completely different than what a SEAL operator has come across in his career and will test the candidate's mental capacity rather than his physical condition, as he will have already completed Basic Underwater Demolitions/SEAL training.

Candidates will be put through a variety of advanced training courses, that can include courses led by civilian instructors. These can include Free-climbing, Advanced Unarmed Combat techniques, defensive and offensive driving, Advanced Diving, and Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape. All candidates must perform at the top level during selection and the unit instructors evaluate the candidate during the training process. Any candidate not performing to the highest level will be returned to his previous unit.

The CIA's highly secretive Special Activities Division (SAD) and more specifically its elite Special Operations Group (SOG) recruits operators from SEAL Team Six. Joint Navy SEALs and CIA operations go back to the famed MACV-SOG group during the Vietnam War. This cooperation still exists today and is seen in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Roles & Responsibilities

When SEAL Team Six was first created it would be devoted exclusively to counter-terrorism with a worldwide maritime responsibility. Its objectives would include targets such as ships, oil-rigs, naval bases or other civilian or military bases that were accessible from the sea or inland waterways. SEAL Team Six would also be tasked in covertly infiltrating a hot spot somewhere in the world to carry out out reconnaissance or security assessments on US military bases and US Embassies. Although the unit was created as a maritime counter-terrorism unit, it has become a multi-functional Special Operations unit with multiple roles.After SEAL Team Six was disbanded and renamed, the official mission of the NSWDG is to test, evaluate and develop technology and maritime, ground and airborne tactics applicable to Naval Special Warfare forces such as Navy SEALs. DEVGRU is one of only a handful of U.S. special mission units authorized to use preemptive actions against terrorists and their facilities.

DEVGRU and the Army's Delta Forcemarker train together and deploy together on counter-terrorist missions usually a part of a joint special operations task force (JSOTF).

Operational Deployments

The majority of the operations assigned to the NSWDG are classified and may never be known to the public. However, there are some operations in which the unit has been involved where certain details have been made public.

Operation Urgent Fury

Main article : Operation Urgent Fury

On October 13, 1983, the Grenadian Army, controlled by former Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard, overthrew the government of Grenadamarker in a bloody coup d'état, creating a Communist regime. The severity of the violence, coupled with Coard's hard-line Marxism, caused deep concern among neighboring Caribbean nations, as well as in Washington, D.C. Adding to the US's concern was the presence of nearly 1,000 American medical students in Grenada.

The new leader of the Grenadian government, Maurice Bishop, aligned Grenada with Cubans, Soviets, and communist organizations. The Reagan administration reviled the leftist government for being too closely allied to Cubamarker and the Soviet Unionmarker. On October 25, Reagan decided to act and United States invaded the small island of Grenada.

SEAL Team Six's Assault Group Three was to conduct a static line drop with boats a few miles away from the Grenadian coast. One of two C-130 cargo planes transporting the SEALs to their drop point veered far off course. A rain squall accompanied by high winds broke out just before the SEALs conducted the drop. Four out of the eight SEALs that made the drop drowned and were never seen again.After the disastrous insertion, Assault Group Three was told to stand-by and began preparing for the next mission. The next mission was to go the governor's mansion and secure Governor-General Paul Scoon, protect him and his family and move them out of the combat area. A second mission was to capture and secure Grenada's only radio station so that it couldn't be used by the local military to incite the population or coordinate military actions. There was almost no intelligence for either of these operations.

Governor-General's Mansion

To reach the governor-general's mansion, the SEALs were flown in on Blackhawk helicopters at night, and fast-roped to the ground. As they approached from the back of the mansion, the team found Scoon hiding. The SEALs then continued to clear the rest of the house and began to set up a perimeter to ensure security.Soon the mansion started to take fire from men armed with AK-47s and RPG. As the incoming fire started to increase, Governor-General Scoon and his family were moved to a safer location in the house. After the incoming fire had decreased, three men wearing Cuban uniforms approached the mansion, all of them carrying AK-47s. The SEALs shouted for the three men to stop where they were. When the three men heard the yells, they raised their weapons. The SEALs opened fire on the Cubans and killed them almost instantly.

Soon afterward, two BTR-60PB rolled up to the mansion's gates. One of the BTRs at the mansion's front gate opened fire. Just as the SEALs were about to fire a LAW anti-tank rocket, the BTR backed off and left with the other BTR. When the SEALs had inserted on to the compound, they left behind their long-range SATCOM radio on a helicopter. The only communications the team had were through MX-360 radios. The team used the radios to communicate with a SEAL command post on the island to call in air strikes. As the radios started to die, communications with the SEAL command post became weak. Once all the radios had finally died and the SEALs urgently needed air support, the SEALs used a regular house phone to call JSOC. JSOC was able to get a AC-130 Spectre gunship hovering over the SEALs' position to provide air support.

When morning came, a group of Force Recon Marines arrived to extract the SEALs, Governor-General Scoon, and his family to a helicopter extraction point. As the team left the compound, they noticed splattered blood and discarded weapons all around. The helicopter finally arrived and extracted everyone to safety.

Radio Station

Assault Group Three and another squad from SEAL Team Six flew to the radio station on a Pavehawk helicopter. The helicopter took small-arms fire on the insertion. Once the team unloaded it overran the radio station compound. The SEALs were told to hold the station until Governor Scoon and a broadcast team could be brought in. After the team took control of the compound, it was not able to make radio contact with the SEAL command post. The SEALs set up a perimeter while they continued to try to make radio contact. As this was happening, a BTR-60 rolled up to the compound and 20 Grenadian soldiers disguised as the station workers piled out. The soldiers carried weapons even in disguise. The SEALs ordered the soldiers to drop the weapons. The soldiers opened fire but were shot down almost instantly. Afterwards the SEALs continued laboring to make radio contact when another BTR and three trucks were spotted coming towards the station.

The trucks carried a dozen soldiers each. The SEALs quickly conducted a defensive maneuver as the soldiers flanked the building. The BTR covered the front entrance with its 14.5 mm KPV heavy machine gun. The incoming fire on the SEALs position was becoming devastatingly heavy and the SEALs were running out of ammunition. The SEAL team knew that their only option was to change their original plan of holding the radio station and instead destroy the radio transmitter, and head to the water following their pre-planned escape route out behind the station across a broad meadow that led to a path that cut between cliffs and a beach. The meadow was terribly exposed to Grenadian fire. The team leapfrogged across the exposed ground and took heavy fire. The team finally reached the end of the field, cut through a chain-link fence and ran into dense brush. The SEALs quickly followed the path to the beach. One SEAL had been wounded in the arm. The Grenadians were still in pursuit, so the SEALs waded into the water and began swimming parallel to the shore until they found cliff ledges to conceal themselves. The SEALs remained hidden until long after the Grenadians had given up the search. Once the SEALs were convinced that the Grenadians had given up, the team jumped back into the water and swam out to sea. The SEALs were in the water close to six hours before a rescue plane spotted them and vectored a Navy ship to pick them up.

Operation Restore Hope

During Operation Restore Hope and Operation Gothic Serpent in Somalia, DEVGRU was a part of Task Force Rangermarker. TF Ranger was made up of operators from Delta Forcemarker, the 75th Ranger Regiment, the 160th SOAR, the 24th Special Tactics Squadron, and four SEALs from DEVGRU. John Gay, Howard Wasdin, Homer Nearpass, and Richard Kaiser were the four SEALs that fought in the Battle of the Black Seamarker during the last mission of Operation Gothic Serpent to capture the warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid.

Hunting War Criminals, Bosnia

The NSWDG operated alongside other members of NATOmarker's Implementation Force, such as its Army counterpart Delta Forcemarker and the British SASmarker. These units were tasked by The Haguemarker with finding and apprehending persons indicted for war crimes (PIFWC) and returning them to The Hague to stand trial. Some of DEVGRU's PIFWC operations including apprehending Goran Jelisić, Simo Zaric, Milan Simic and Miroslav Tadic.

Operation Enduring Freedom

In Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) U.S. Special Operations forces have led the fighting. During the crucial Battle of Takur Ghar Navy SEALs from DEVGRU participated in one of the most violent battles of Operation Anaconda. Late at night on March 2 2002 a MH-47 Chinook helicopter piloted by the 160th SOAR was carrying a team of Navy SEALs over the mountain of Takur Ghar. As the helicopter was nearing its landing zone both the pilots and the men in the back observed fresh tracks in the snow, goatskins, and other signs of recent human activity. Immediately, the pilots and team discussed a mission abort, but it was too late. An RPG struck the side of the aircraft, wounding one crewman, while machine gun bullets ripped through the fuselage, cutting hydraulic and oil lines. Fluid spewed about the ramp area of the helicopter. The pilot struggled to get the helicopter off the landing zone and away from the enemy fire. Neil C. Roberts, a SEAL DEVGRU operator, was poised to exit the ramp when the aircraft was hit and he slipped on the oil as the helicopter took off. He was thrown from the helicopter dropping about to the snowy ground below. Roberts immediately engaged Al-Qaeda forces with a pistol and two grenades. He survived at least 30 minutes before he was shot and killed at close range.

Operation Iraqi Freedom

DevGru's contingent (Task Force Blue) part of TF 145, TF 6-26 and TF 121 have conducted controversial operations in Iraq that led to the capture of the late Saddam Hussein and the death of the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Rescue of Captain Richard Phillips

On the morning of April 8, 2009, a group of Somali Pirates attempted to board the American cargo ship, Maersk Alabama off the Somali coast in search of a million-dollar ransom. The ship's crew fought back, surprising the African pirates who are accustomed to ships obeying their orders. The pirates took the ship's Captain, Richard Phillips, hostage in a small lifeboat.

The USS Bainbridge responded to the scene from over away, but pirates refused to cooperate.

A SEAL Team parachuted from an unknown high altitude into the ocean near the scene and rendezvoused with the USS Bainbridge unnoticed by the pirates holding Phillips hostage.

The lifeboat had run out of fuel, and seas were rough. The pirates agreed to allow the USS Bainbridge to tow it into calmer waters, using an towrope. While towing the boat through rough seas, one of the pirates was seen leveling his AK-47 assault rifle at Phillip's back. The on-scene commander became concerned for Phillips' safety. In an unexpectedly inexperienced fashion (U.S. Navy staff on scene noted that the pirates were quite well versed in their tactics), the other two pirates on board the lifeboat showed their heads above deck. The commander gave orders to shoot.

The shots were fired at 12:19am E.T. (7:19pm local time), Sunday, April 12, 2009. Three snipers each fired a single shot simultaneously, each hitting their target in the head, and instantly killing the three pirates aboard the lifeboat, the shots having been taken in the dark, close to away, from a ship pitching and rolling in heavy seas to another boat facing similar conditions.

See also



Notes

  1. Waller, Douglas (2003-02-03). "The CIA Secret Army". TIME (Time Inc). http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101030203/
  2. SOG: The Secret Wars of America's Commandos in Vietnam by John L. Plaster
  3. Haney, Eric L. (2002). Inside Delta Force. New York: Delacorte Press
  4. Efran, Shawn (producer), "Army Officer Recalls Hunt For Bin Laden", 60 Minutes, CBS News, October 5, 2008.
  5. , it is presumed this is only a small part of its tasking. Its full mission tasking is classified but is thought to include preemptive, pro-active counter-terrorist operations as well as assassination or recovery of high value targets (HVTs)from unfriendly nations and counter-proliferation.
  6. U.S. Special Ops: America's elite forces in the 21st century, Fred J. Pushies, MBI Publishing Company, 2003.


References



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