HISTORY

Today's Naval Special Warfare operators can trace their origins to the Scouts and Raiders, Naval Combat Demolition Units, Office of Strategic Services Operational Swimmers, Underwater Demolition Teams, and Motor Torpedo Boat Squadrons of World War II.

While none of those early organizations have survived to present, their pioneering efforts in unconventional warfare are mirrored in the missions and professionalism of the present Naval Special Warfare warriors. 

 

UNITED STATES SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND ESTABLISHED

To ensure that special operations forces maintain a high state of readiness and to correct deficiencies accentuated by the failed attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran in April 1980, a comprehensive program of SOF revitalization began in 1981. Congress authorized significant budget increases between 1981 and 1986, but the slow pace of the revitalization, lack of attention to special operations from the parent Services, limited career opportunity for SOF personnel, difficulties in satisfying SOF-unique material requirements, and the absence of any high-level spokesmen for special operations within the Department of Defense (DOD) prompted additional congressional action.

The culmination of bipartisan congressional efforts to improve DOD special operations and low-intensity conflict capability was the Cohen-Nunn Amendment to the 1987 Defense Authorization Act. This law directed establishment of a new unified combatant commander (CCDR) in the commander, United States Special Operations Command (CDRUSSOCOM), and the civilian post of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-intensity Conflict within the Office of the Secretary of Defense. This legislation also created Major Force Program 11 of the Future Years Defense Program, which consolidated all SOF resourcing under one DOD Major Force Program budget account.

United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) was formally established April 16, 1987, by Congress as a unified command to provide special operations forces the funding and organizational relationships necessary to field a professional U.S. special operations capability. CDRUSSOCOM exercises combatant command (command authority) (COCOM) over all U.S.-based SOF. Operational control (OPCON) and administrative control (ADCON) is exercised primarily through USSOCOM’s Service components. The naval component, also established April 16, 1987, is NAVSPECWARCOM. Prior to that time, east and west coast NSW forces had been assigned to their respective naval surface force commanders.

The establishment of USSOCOM gave NSW a dual higher headquarters (HQ) relationship. NSW was assigned to USSOCOM as its naval component but retained strong ties to the Navy as its special operations component. On Service-specific issues, such as personnel, administration, logistics, equipment, and individual training, Commander, United States Special Warfare Command (COMNAVSPECWARCOM) communicates directly with the CNO, keeping CDRUSSOCOM informed.

 

NAVAL SPECIAL WARFARE FORCE REALIGNMENT

In 2001, COMNAVSPECWARCOM initiated a realignment/reorganization with the following objectives:

1. Deploy a force with improved capability for C2 of geographically dispersed operations

2. Deploy senior NSW leadership (e.g., SEAL team COs) forward to lead the forces they train and equip

3. Reduce administrative and logistics burdens on SEAL team commanders to allow them to better focus on operations and training.

 

The strategy consolidated unit training under training detachments (TRADETs), consolidated logistics under LOGSU, and consolidated qualification training under the Naval Special Warfare Center (NSWC). These improvements helped standardize fundamental training and equipping functions. They also consolidated resources, which enabled more rapid adaptations in advanced training such as tactical ground mobility and tactical unmanned aircraft systems (UASs).

This realignment was accomplished over a period of several years. In 2001, NSWGs 1 and 2 and their respective SEAL teams were realigned. Six SEAL teams were reorganized into eight SEAL teams with the establishment of SEAL Team SEVEN, March 17, 2002; and SEAL Team TEN, April 19, 2002. The majority of the old SEAL team administrative and CSS personnel were transferred to the new NSW LOGSUs; the majority of personnel dedicated to training SEAL platoons were transferred to two TRADETs under NSWGs 1 and 2. To ensure common training standards across the force, NSWC took responsibility for providing most individual training courses for NSW.

Six months prior to deployment, a SEAL team is augmented with a Navy special operations forces (NAVSOF) explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) platoon, a combat service support team from a LOGSU, a mobile communications team (MCT), a cross-functional team (intelligence support), and other attachments as required by the anticipated mission taskings. These SEAL teams with CS and CSS personnel are designated as a naval special warfare task group (NSWTG). Deployed NSWTGs support the operational requirements of geographic combatant commanders (GCCs).

To complete the reorganization, October 1, 2002 SBR–1 was redesignated as Naval Special Warfare Group THREE and SBR–2 was redesignated as Naval Special Warfare Group FOUR. The three SBUs were redesignated as special boat teams (SBTs), and SDVTs 1 and 2 were transferred to NSWGs 3 and 4. Two years later, October 1, 2004, subsurface and surface craft responsibilities were split. Commander, Naval Special Warfare Group (CNSWG) THREE (CNSWG–3) was designated the immediate superior in command of both SEAL delivery vehicle teams (consolidated into one team, SDVT–1, in 2008) and CNSWG–4 was designated the immediate superior in command of the three SBTs. (Chapter 2 shows the current organization.)

 

AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ

Immediately following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, NSW forces deployed to Afghanistan for Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. Commander, Naval Special Warfare Group ONE (CNSWG–1), serving as Commander, Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force K–BAR, led a SOF task force (TF) of more than 2,500 personnel, including SOF from several coalition countries. In the first 6 months of ENDURING FREEDOM, SEALs participated in 75 special reconnaissance (SR) and DA missions, including leadership interdiction operations, and destroyed more than 500,000 pounds of captured explosives and weapons.

As the war in Afghanistan progressed, NSW continued operations to interdict Taliban networks with increasing emphasis on combined operations with Afghan National Security Force partners. Starting in 2009, NSW forces from Task Unit Trident in southern Afghanistan conducted village stability operations to provide a persistent presence within the local population and support to the Afghan Local Police.

From March 2003 thru September 2010, SEAL and SWCC forces participated in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. In March 2003, NAVSOF captured the southern oil facilities of the Al-Faw Peninsula, including off-shore gas and oil terminals. NSW SEAL and SWCC forces cleared the Khor Al Abdullah and Khor Az Zubayar waterways, enabling humanitarian aid delivery to the vital port city of Umm Qasr. SEALs also conducted the first successful U.S. prisoner of war rescue since WWII. As the war progressed, NSW forces conducted many COIN/terrorism operations in Iraq, including DA, SR, foreign internal defense (FID)/combat advisor, and personal security detachment operations for Iraqi civilian government senior leadership.

NSW forces remained in Iraq through 2011, advising and assisting Iraqi security forces during Operation NEW DAWN.

 

GROWTH OF NAVAL SPECIAL WARFARE

The end of the Cold War in 1989 and the terrorist attacks on the United States September 11, 2001, prompted growth in all special operations forces and resulted in a more-than-50-percent growth in the size of the NSW force. Between 2001 and 2011, four new captain (O–6)-level commands—NSWGs 10 and 11, NSWU–10, and the Center for SEAL Team and Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (CENSEALSWCC)—and 11 new commander (O–5)-level NSW commands were established: SEAL Teams SEVEN and TEN, Reserve SEAL Teams SEVENTEEN and EIGHTEEN, Support Activity ONE (SUPPACT–1) and TWO (SUPPACT–2), the Basic Training Command (BTC) and the Advanced Training Command (ATC), and three new LOGSUs. These changes significantly improved NSW’s ability to support commanders overseas.

In 2001, LOGSUs ONE (LOGSU–1) and TWO (LOGSU–2) were created as subordinate commands to NSWGs 1 and 2 to provide logistics support for training and to deploy combat service support teams to support NSW forces overseas. TRADET–3 and LOGSU THREE (LOGSU–3), both subordinate to NSWG–3, were commissioned in January 2010 and 2011, respectively. LOGSU–3 specializes in undersea combat service support (UCSS).

SUPPACTs 1 and 2, established in December 2006 and July 2007, respectively, are tasked to increase the “find and fix” capabilities of the force by conducting preparation of the environment (PE) and ISR. NSWG–10 was commissioned May 25, 2011 to consolidate command of the support activities. NSWG–10 also took command of the NSW mission support center (MSC) and the NSW cultural engagement unit (CEU). The MSC provides a central reachback capability for time-sensitive intelligence analysis to support forward-deployed NSW forces and also serves as a repository of intelligence information for mission planning. The CEU deploys native-born and female enablers to support forward-deployed NSW forces.

Operation IRAQI FREEDOM was a catalyst for refinement of the find, fix, finish, exploit, and analyze (F3EA) targeting methodology. At the beginning of the Iraq War, rudimentary techniques yielded sporadic results.

Refinement and professionalization of intelligence synthesis by the support activities during the war improved performance so that a “jackpot” (successful capture or kill of a high-value individual (HVI)) became routine.

In October 2005, CENSEALSWCC was established to support career management, warrior development, and professional military education.

NSWG–11 and its two subordinate commands, SEAL Teams SEVENTEEN and EIGHTEEN, were established August 22, 2008. NSWG–11 commands NSW Reserves.

NSWU–10 was reestablished April 8, 2011 and supports United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM). NSWUs 1, 2, and 3 had been previously established providing forward-based, persistent NSW presence in United States Pacific Command (USPACOM), United States European Command (USEUCOM), and United States Central Command (USCENTCOM).

NSWU–4 was reestablished in 2011 as an officer in charge (OIC) reporting to NSWG–2 and supports United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM).

SCOUTS & RAIDERS

Given the increasingly amphibious nature of operations in both the Pacific and European theaters, there was recognition amongst the Allied Forces of the necessity to develop teams of men that could handle a complex and daring mission set. When U.S. Marine forces were restructured, the European, African, and Middle East (EAM) Theater was left without any pre-landing reconnaissance ability.
 
To meet the need for a beach reconnaissance force, the Amphibious Scout and Raider School (Joint) was established at Little Creek, VA on 25 August 1942 by the Commander, Amphibious Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet.  Less than three months later, Amphibious Scout and Raider (S&R) men participated in the Allied invasion of French North Africa, also known as Operation Torch (November 8-16, 1942).  Their mission was to identify and reconnoiter the beaches.  Before an amphibious landing, S&R  personnel would locate the correct landing beaches to deliver reconnaissance crews and then serve as guides during the operation.
 
Under the Army 1st LT. Lloyd E. Peddicord and Navy Ensign John Bell, the first group of graduates, which included Phil H. Bucklew, performed remarkably well despite unexpected heavy resistance and bad weather.  Mistakes were made but lessons learned from Operation Torch contributed to the importance of specially trained personnel and reconnaissance in amphibious operations.  All boat officers from the Scout and Raider School were awarded the Navy Cross for their bravery and accomplishments. 

Florida’s warmer weather, excellent beach and surf were ideal for amphibious training. The decision was made to relocate the school to Fort Pierce, Fl.  With the move in January 1943, the school became an all-Navy program later that year.

A second group of Scouts and Raiders, designated Special Service Unit 1, was established on July 7, 1943, as a joint and combined operations force. The first mission, in September 1943, was at Finschhafen in New Guinea. Later operations were at Gasmata, Arawe, Cape Gloucester, and the East and South coast of New Britain. Conflicts arose over operational matters, and all non-Navy personnel were reassigned in December 1943.

Many Scout and Raider personnel returning from Europe were given special assignment with the U.S. Naval Group in China, the third group was headed by Captain (later Admiral) Milton “Mary” Miles. With the approval of Chinese president, Chiang Kai-shek, Miles was authorized to establish the Sino-American Cooperative Organization (S.A.C.O) to train, equip, and direct Chinese guerrilla forces against the Japanese occupation of China. To help bolster the work of S.A.C.O, the Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Ernest J. King ordered 120 officers and 900 men trained for “Amphibious Roger” at the Scout and Raider School at Ft. Pierce.  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 steamers and sampans."

NAVAL COMBAT DEMOLITION UNITS

In September 1942, 17 Navy salvage personnel arrived at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, VA, for a 1-week course on demolitions, explosive cable cutting, and commando raiding techniques. November 10, 1942, this first combat demolition unit succeeded in cutting a cable and net barrier across the Wadi Sebou River during Operation TORCH in north Africa. The unit’s actions enabled the USS Dallas (DD 199) to traverse the river and insert United States Army Rangers to capture the Port Lyautey airdrome. During the same period at Little Creek, the amphibious S&R (joint) were formed to participate in Operation TORCH to lead amphibious assault forces to the beaches of north Africa. One of the S&R operators was Chief Petty Officer (later Captain) Phil Bucklew (for whom the Naval Special Warfare Training Center is named).

May 14, 1943, the first phase of an NCDU project was established at Solomons, MD, to train six officers and 18 enlisted volunteers to participate in Operation HUSKY, the invasion of southern Italy. The second phase of the project began with planning for a massive cross-channel invasion of Europe after intelligence indicated German forces were arraying a barrier to invasion of underwater obstacles on the beaches at Normandy.

June 6, 1943, Lieutenant Commander Draper L. Kauffman, “the father of naval combat demolition”, established the Naval Combat Demolition Unit Training School at Fort Pierce, FL, to train personnel specifically for Europe, although others were deployed to the Pacific. The NCDUs, composed of six-man teams, were formed with volunteers acquired from the Navy Construction Battalion (Seabee) training school at Camp Peary, Williamsburg, VA. During November 1943, NCDU–2, under Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG) Frank Kaine (for whom the Naval Special Warfare Command (NAVSPECWARCOM) building is named), and NCDU–3, under LTJG Lloyd Anderson, formed the nucleus of six NCDUs that served with the Seventh Amphibious Force from Biak to Borneo, clearing boat channels after amphibious landings.

By April 1944, 34 NCDUs were deployed to England in preparation for Operation OVERLORD, the Allied invasion of France on the beaches of Normandy. June 6, 1944, in the face of great adversity the NCDUs at Omaha Beach managed to open eight complete and two partial gaps in the German defenses. The NCDUs suffered 31 dead and 60 wounded-a casualty rate of 52 percent. The NCDUs at Utah Beach met less intense enemy fire, clearing 700 yards of beach in 2 hours and clearing another 900 yards by the end of the day. Casualties at Utah Beach totaled six dead and 11 wounded. Not a single demolitioneer was lost to the improper handling of explosives during OVERLORD.

In August 1944, the NCDUs that operated at Utah Beach participated in the amphibious landings in southern France, the last amphibious operation in the European Theater of Operations. The majority of NCDUs were then transferred to the Pacific Theater of Operations and eventually absorbed into the UDTs.

The NCDUs at Omaha Beach were presented one of only three Presidential Unit Citations awarded for the Normandy invasion, and the NCDUs at Utah Beach were presented the only Navy Unit Commendation awarded for D-day.

UNDERWATER DEMOLITION TEAMS

 

Admiral Chester Nimitz’s “Granite Plan” for central Pacific Theater operations required a robust amphibious force. Many of the targeted islands were formed of coral atolls with reefs that served as an obstacle to amphibious< assaults. November 23, 1943, problems with the United States Marine Corps (USMC) landing on Tarawa Atoll made clear the need for hydrographic reconnaissance and underwater demolition of obstacles prior to the conduct of amphibious landings. In response to this need, 30 officers and 150 enlisted volunteers were moved to Waimanalo Amphibious Training Base, Oahu, HI, to form the nucleus of what later became UDT–1 and UDT–2.

UDTs first saw combat January 31, 1944, during Operation FLINTLOCK in the Marshall Islands. FLINTLOCK was the catalyst for the formal establishment of a UDT training program in the Pacific Theater. In February 1944, the Naval Combat Demolition Training and Experimental Base was established next to the Amphibious Base at Kamaole at Kihei, Maui, HI.

A total of 34 UDTs were eventually established. Wearing swimsuits, fins, and face masks during combat operations, these “naked warriors” saw action across the Pacific Theater in every major amphibious assault, including Eniwetok, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, Angaur, Ulithi, Pelilui, Leyte, Lingayen Gulf, Zambales, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Labuan, Brunei Bay, and the July 4, 1945 operation in Balikpapan, Borneo, which was the last major UDT operation of the war.

During the post-war period, the number of active duty UDTs was reduced to two on each coast with a complement of seven officers and 45 enlisted men each. The senior UDT commanding officer (CO) on each coast was also designated as commander, underwater demolition unit (COMUDU), or COMUDU ONE (COMUDO–1) (Coronado, CA) and COMUDU TWO (COMUDO–2) (Little Creek, VA). COMUDU would be the single voice addressing the respective Atlantic and Pacific amphibious force commanders. During the post-war period, COMUDO–1 included UDT–1 and UDT–3; UDT–5 was established in 1952 to provide rotational relief to the other teams rotating through Korea. COMUDO–2 included UDT–2 and UDT–4.

The Korean War began June 25, 1950. Initially, a detachment of 11 personnel from UDT–3 was committed into action in Korea and later expanded to three teams of approximately 100 men each rotating into the Korean Theater of Operations. UDTs, operating under the special operations group, conducted demolition raids against railroad tunnels, bridges, and other targets along the Korean coast.

September 15, 1950, UDTs supported Operation CHROMITE, the amphibious landing at Inchon, Korea. UDT–1 and UDT–3 preceded the amphibious assault, scouting mud flats, marking low points in the channel, clearing fouled assault craft propellers, and searching for mines. Four UDT personnel then acted as wave guides for the subsequent Navy-Marine amphibious assault.

In October, 1950, UDTs supported mine-clearing operations in Wonsan Harbor, Korea, locating and marking mines for clearance by minesweepers. October 12, 1950, UDTs rescued 25 sailors after two U.S. minesweepers struck mines and sank. The next day, UDT operator William Giannotti conducted the first U.S. combat operation using an aqualung when he dove to the sunken minesweeper USS Pledge to recover material. Additionally, UDTs conducted beach and river reconnaissance, mine-sweeping operations, infiltrated guerrillas into enemy-held territory from the sea, and participated in Operation FISHNET to cripple the North Korean fishing fleet.

After Korea, UDT–2 and UDT–4 on the east coast were redesignated UDT–21 and UDT–22. The west coast teams became UDT–11, UDT–12, and UDT–13. UDT–13 was disestablished in 1954 and UDT–22 in 1957. UDT–22 would be reestablished when the SEAL teams were authorized in 1961.

The UDTs again saw combat in Vietnam supporting amphibious ready groups and, when attached to riverine patrol groups, they conducted beach and river reconnaissance, destroyed Viet Cong bunkers, accomplished numerous canal clearance operations, and conducted counterinsurgency (COIN) operations working from U.S. and Vietnamese patrol boats. UDT personnel also served as advisors to the South Vietnamese navy. In a series of 1970’s reorganizations, UDT–22 and UDT–13 were established and eliminated again.

SEA-AIR-LAND TEAMS

A June 5, 1961 letter from the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) to the commanders of the United States Atlantic Fleet and United States Pacific Fleet outlined “concepts for naval operations in restricted waters, rivers, and estuaries…[and] with particular reference to the conduct and support of paramilitary operations, it is desirable to establish special operations teams as a separate component within Underwater Demolition Units ONE and TWO. An appropriate cover name for such units is ‘SEAL’ units, being a contraction of SEA, AIR, and LAND.”

A CNO letter of October 31 read: “As a first step in improving naval unconventional warfare (UW) capabilities, efforts are being exerted to obtain personnel and funds to activate the two SEAL Units for participation in the water-borne aspects of unconventional warfare.”2 An interesting aspect of this letter is that the narrative used the term “naval special warfare”; this may have been the first, if not one of the earliest, use of the phrase.

SEAL teams were officially authorized in a December 11, 1961 CNO letter, the same letter that reestablished> UDT–22. SEAL Teams ONE and TWO, established in January, 1962, were formed entirely of personnel transferred from UDTs.

The SEAL or NSW breast insignia was approved October 16, 1970. When first established, there were separate
UDT and SEAL insignia in both silver (enlisted) and gold (officer) versions; however, within several years it was reduced to the existing and enduring gold trident. SEAL enlisted men were authorized to wear a gold insignia because of the equality of warfare area qualification training found only in naval special warfare, gold insignia are generally reserved only for naval officers.

Naval Operation Support Groups Atlantic and Pacific were established in the Atlantic and Pacific October 10, 1963, and were the predecessor of today’s naval special warfare groups (NSWGs). They supplanted COMUDU as senior in the chain of command.

SEAL involvement in Vietnam began initially as advisors to the Vietnamese in the conduct of clandestine maritime operations. SEALs also began a UDT-style training course for the Biet Hai (sea commandos) based in Danang, Vietnam.

In February 1966, a small SEAL Team ONE detachment arrived in Vietnam to conduct direct-action missions out of Nha Be in the Rung Sat Special Zone. This deployment would evolve into a steady state presence of eight SEAL platoons for a number of years. Additionally, SEALs served as advisors for provincial reconnaissance units and the Lien Doc Nguoi Nhia, the Vietnamese SEALs. Although small in size, SEALs were among the most highly decorated units in the Vietnam War. Decorations included three Medals of Honor and five Navy Crosses. The last SEAL platoon left Vietnam December, 7, 1971, and the last SEAL advisor left in March 1973.

NSW was reorganized several times during the 1970s, the size of the SEAL teams was dramatically reduced, and the NSWGs were briefly replaced by other organizations.

From 1982 thru 1993, NSW personnel served as trainers and advisors in El Salvador and maintained a small advisor base in La Union, El Salvador.

May 1, 1983, UDT–11 was redesignated as SEAL Team FIVE, UDT–21 was redesignated as SEAL Team FOUR, UDT–12 was redesignated as SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team ONE (SDVT–1), and UDT–22 was redesignated as SDVT–2. A new team, SEAL Team THREE, was established October 1, 1983 in Coronado, CA.

In 1983, SEALs participated in Operation URGENT FURY, the invasion of Grenada. NSW forces conducted a night beach reconnaissance in preparation for an amphibious assault, conducted a direct action against an enemy controlled radio station, and fought off a large enemy force in a mission to protect the governor general and his family.

SEALs participated in Operation EARNEST WILL in the Persian Gulf from 1987 to 1989. Two oil-servicing barges, the Hercules and the Wimbrown VII, were converted into mobile sea bases from which NSW forces conducted patrol and interdiction operations in the northern Persian Gulf to maintain the security of sea lines of communication. Missions included interdiction of Iranian mine-laying operations, small-boat harassments, and attacks on shipping, including the capture of the Iran Ajr, an Iranian minelayer.

SEAL Team EIGHT was established on October 1, 1988 at Naval Amphibious Base, Little Creek, VA.
In 1989, SEALs participated in Operation JUST CAUSE, the invasion of Panama to topple the Noriega dictatorship. Operating out of Rodman Naval Station, Panama, NSW forces secured the Atlantic and Pacific entrances to the Panama Canal, denied Noriega the use of his aircraft located at Paitilla Airfield, sank the Panamanian patrol boat Presidente Poras, and conducted numerous reconnaissance and DA search and seizure missions.

From August 1990 thru March 1991, SEALs participated in Operation DESERT SHIELD and Operation DESERT STORM. They conducted beach and land border reconnaissance missions, 118 combat search and rescue (CSAR) missions, and 92 mine countermeasures missions. SEALs liberated the first Kuwaiti territory, captured the first enemy prisoners of war, and conducted a maritime CSAR operation. SEALs also conducted a maritime deception mission, a feint that successfully drew Iraqi forces away from the point of the U.S. assault into Kuwait.

From December 1992 thru March 1995, NSW forces participated in Operation RESTORE HOPE in Somalia. They supported amphibious operations by performing amphibious and other special reconnaissance, riverine operations, harbor and port surveys, convoy and personnel protection, and sniper operations.

From May thru September 1994, NSW forces (Naval Special Warfare Task Unit (NSWTU)-Wasp) conducted amphibious reconnaissance and other special operations as part of Operation SUPPORT DEMOCRACY and Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY in Haiti. In addition to supporting amphibious reconnaissance, NSW patrol coastal ships participated in the enforcement of the United Nations embargo against Haiti by conducting maritime interdiction operations.

From December 1995 thru June 1998, as part of Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR and Operation JOINT GUARD in Bosnia, NSW forces conducted reconnaissance and served as a quick reaction force for the Sava River bridging operations. They also served as joint commission observers in Bosnia, six-man elements that facilitated communications between formerly warring factions and the United Nations Stabilization Force commanders.
From April 7–20, 1996, personnel from Naval Special Warfare Unit TWO (NSWU–2) participated in Operation ASSURED RESPONSE, during which they conducted a noncombatant evacuation operation (NEO) of more than 2,000 people from the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia.

From September 21 thru October 10, 1998, NSWU–2 and NSWU–10 forces participated in Operation SHADOW EXPRESS, a noncombatant evacuation operation in Monrovia, Liberia. A political settlement ended the requirement for a full evacuation.

SPECIAL BOAT TEAMS

Today’s special warfare combatant-craft crewmen trace their roots to the motor torpedo boat squadrons of WWII and especially from the Vietnam-era mobile support teams (MSTs) of the NSW boat support units (BSUs). In< February 1964, Boat Support Unit ONE (BSU–1) was established under Naval Operations Support Group, Pacific, to operate patrol torpedo fasts (naval attack craft) (PTFs) and other high-speed craft conducting special operations and coastal patrol and interdiction (CP&I). Late in 1964, the first PTFs arrived in Danang, Vietnam. In 1965, BSU–1 began training Vietnamese patrol craft fast (Swift Boat) crews to conduct CP&I. As the Vietnam mission expanded, additional NSW craft, tactics, and training evolved, including insertion, extraction, and fire support for SEAL operations. BSU–1 crews formed into MSTs deployed with and supported every SEAL platoon engaged in Vietnam.

NSW combatant craft units were reorganized twice in the 1970s and again in 1994. In 1994, the organizational structure included Special Boat Units (SBUs) ELEVEN (SBU–11) and TWELVE (SBU–12) under Special Boat Squadron ONE (SBR–1) (west coast), and Special Boat Units TWENTY (SBU–20) and TWENTY TWO (SBU–22) (east coast) under Special Boat Squadron TWO (SBR–2) (east coast). SBU–11 was disestablished in September 1997.

During Operation EARNEST WILL in the Persian Gulf from 1987 thru 1989, SBUs operated 65-foot patrol boat (PB) MK III craft from the Hercules and Wimbrown VII. The PBs conducted extensive patrol and interdiction operations in the northern Persian Gulf.

April 1, 1994, the SWCC enlisted warfare specialty was established allowing the NSW force to retain highly trained boat crews rather than have them return to the fleet after one tour. In 2001, the SWCC breast insignia was approved, and in October 2006, the Navy established the special warfare boat operator (USN) rating allowing boat crewman to stay in NSW for their entire career.

SEAL DELIVERY VEHICLE TEAMS

The SDVTs trace their roots to Office of Strategic Services maritime unit swimmer groups and their use of the British submersible canoe, “Sleeping Beauty,” introduced to the post-war UDTs in 1947 at St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The UDTs aggressively pursued development of swimmer propulsion units and free-flooding SEAL delivery vehicle (SDV) capabilities throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s with the fielding of the MK 7 Mod 0 SDV, the first reliable and deployable combatant submersible in the NSW inventory; MK 8 and 9 SDVs were introduced in the late 1970s. Today, the MK 8 Mod 1 SDV represents the state of the art in special operations underwater mobility.

May 1, 1983, UDT–12 was redesignated as SDVT–1, and UDT–22 was redesignated as SDVT–2. August 8, 2008, SDVT–2 was disestablished, leaving SDVT–1 as the only remaining SDV team. SDVT–1 moved from Coronado, CA, to Pearl Harbor, HI, in 1994.

UNITED STATES SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND ESTABLISHED

To ensure that special operations forces maintain a high state of readiness and to correct deficiencies accentuated by the failed attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran in April 1980, a comprehensive program of SOF revitalization began in 1981. Congress authorized significant budget increases between 1981 and 1986, but the slow pace of the revitalization, lack of attention to special operations from the parent Services, limited career opportunity for SOF personnel, difficulties in satisfying SOF-unique material requirements, and the absence of any high-level spokesmen for special operations within the Department of Defense (DOD) prompted additional congressional action.

The culmination of bipartisan congressional efforts to improve DOD special operations and low-intensity conflict capability was the Cohen-Nunn Amendment to the 1987 Defense Authorization Act. This law directed establishment of a new unified combatant commander (CCDR) in the commander, United States Special Operations Command (CDRUSSOCOM), and the civilian post of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-intensity Conflict within the Office of the Secretary of Defense. This legislation also created Major Force Program 11 of the Future Years Defense Program, which consolidated all SOF resourcing under one DOD Major Force Program budget account.

United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) was formally established April 16, 1987, by Congress as a unified command to provide special operations forces the funding and organizational relationships necessary to field a professional U.S. special operations capability. CDRUSSOCOM exercises combatant command (command authority) (COCOM) over all U.S.-based SOF. Operational control (OPCON) and administrative control (ADCON) is exercised primarily through USSOCOM’s Service components. The naval component, also established April 16, 1987, is NAVSPECWARCOM. Prior to that time, east and west coast NSW forces had been assigned to their respective naval surface force commanders.

The establishment of USSOCOM gave NSW a dual higher headquarters (HQ) relationship. NSW was assigned to USSOCOM as its naval component but retained strong ties to the Navy as its special operations component. On Service-specific issues, such as personnel, administration, logistics, equipment, and individual training, Commander, United States Special Warfare Command (COMNAVSPECWARCOM) communicates directly with the CNO, keeping CDRUSSOCOM informed.

 

NAVAL SPECIAL WARFARE FORCE REALIGNMENT

In 2001, COMNAVSPECWARCOM initiated a realignment/reorganization with the following objectives:

1. Deploy a force with improved capability for C2 of geographically dispersed operations

2. Deploy senior NSW leadership (e.g., SEAL team COs) forward to lead the forces they train and equip

3. Reduce administrative and logistics burdens on SEAL team commanders to allow them to better focus on operations and training.

 

The strategy consolidated unit training under training detachments (TRADETs), consolidated logistics under LOGSU, and consolidated qualification training under the Naval Special Warfare Center (NSWC). These improvements helped standardize fundamental training and equipping functions. They also consolidated resources, which enabled more rapid adaptations in advanced training such as tactical ground mobility and tactical unmanned aircraft systems (UASs).

This realignment was accomplished over a period of several years. In 2001, NSWGs 1 and 2 and their respective SEAL teams were realigned. Six SEAL teams were reorganized into eight SEAL teams with the establishment of SEAL Team SEVEN, March 17, 2002; and SEAL Team TEN, April 19, 2002. The majority of the old SEAL team administrative and CSS personnel were transferred to the new NSW LOGSUs; the majority of personnel dedicated to training SEAL platoons were transferred to two TRADETs under NSWGs 1 and 2. To ensure common training standards across the force, NSWC took responsibility for providing most individual training courses for NSW.

Six months prior to deployment, a SEAL team is augmented with a Navy special operations forces (NAVSOF) explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) platoon, a combat service support team from a LOGSU, a mobile communications team (MCT), a cross-functional team (intelligence support), and other attachments as required by the anticipated mission taskings. These SEAL teams with CS and CSS personnel are designated as a naval special warfare task group (NSWTG). Deployed NSWTGs support the operational requirements of geographic combatant commanders (GCCs).

To complete the reorganization, October 1, 2002 SBR–1 was redesignated as Naval Special Warfare Group THREE and SBR–2 was redesignated as Naval Special Warfare Group FOUR. The three SBUs were redesignated as special boat teams (SBTs), and SDVTs 1 and 2 were transferred to NSWGs 3 and 4. Two years later, October 1, 2004, subsurface and surface craft responsibilities were split. Commander, Naval Special Warfare Group (CNSWG) THREE (CNSWG–3) was designated the immediate superior in command of both SEAL delivery vehicle teams (consolidated into one team, SDVT–1, in 2008) and CNSWG–4 was designated the immediate superior in command of the three SBTs. (Chapter 2 shows the current organization.)

 

AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ

Immediately following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, NSW forces deployed to Afghanistan for Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. Commander, Naval Special Warfare Group ONE (CNSWG–1), serving as Commander, Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force K–BAR, led a SOF task force (TF) of more than 2,500 personnel, including SOF from several coalition countries. In the first 6 months of ENDURING FREEDOM, SEALs participated in 75 special reconnaissance (SR) and DA missions, including leadership interdiction operations, and destroyed more than 500,000 pounds of captured explosives and weapons.

As the war in Afghanistan progressed, NSW continued operations to interdict Taliban networks with increasing emphasis on combined operations with Afghan National Security Force partners. Starting in 2009, NSW forces from Task Unit Trident in southern Afghanistan conducted village stability operations to provide a persistent presence within the local population and support to the Afghan Local Police.

From March 2003 thru September 2010, SEAL and SWCC forces participated in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. In March 2003, NAVSOF captured the southern oil facilities of the Al-Faw Peninsula, including off-shore gas and oil terminals. NSW SEAL and SWCC forces cleared the Khor Al Abdullah and Khor Az Zubayar waterways, enabling humanitarian aid delivery to the vital port city of Umm Qasr. SEALs also conducted the first successful U.S. prisoner of war rescue since WWII. As the war progressed, NSW forces conducted many COIN/terrorism operations in Iraq, including DA, SR, foreign internal defense (FID)/combat advisor, and personal security detachment operations for Iraqi civilian government senior leadership.

NSW forces remained in Iraq through 2011, advising and assisting Iraqi security forces during Operation NEW DAWN.

 

GROWTH OF NAVAL SPECIAL WARFARE

The end of the Cold War in 1989 and the terrorist attacks on the United States September 11, 2001, prompted growth in all special operations forces and resulted in a more-than-50-percent growth in the size of the NSW force. Between 2001 and 2011, four new captain (O–6)-level commands—NSWGs 10 and 11, NSWU–10, and the Center for SEAL Team and Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (CENSEALSWCC)—and 11 new commander (O–5)-level NSW commands were established: SEAL Teams SEVEN and TEN, Reserve SEAL Teams SEVENTEEN and EIGHTEEN, Support Activity ONE (SUPPACT–1) and TWO (SUPPACT–2), the Basic Training Command (BTC) and the Advanced Training Command (ATC), and three new LOGSUs. These changes significantly improved NSW’s ability to support commanders overseas.

In 2001, LOGSUs ONE (LOGSU–1) and TWO (LOGSU–2) were created as subordinate commands to NSWGs 1 and 2 to provide logistics support for training and to deploy combat service support teams to support NSW forces overseas. TRADET–3 and LOGSU THREE (LOGSU–3), both subordinate to NSWG–3, were commissioned in January 2010 and 2011, respectively. LOGSU–3 specializes in undersea combat service support (UCSS).

SUPPACTs 1 and 2, established in December 2006 and July 2007, respectively, are tasked to increase the “find and fix” capabilities of the force by conducting preparation of the environment (PE) and ISR. NSWG–10 was commissioned May 25, 2011 to consolidate command of the support activities. NSWG–10 also took command of the NSW mission support center (MSC) and the NSW cultural engagement unit (CEU). The MSC provides a central reachback capability for time-sensitive intelligence analysis to support forward-deployed NSW forces and also serves as a repository of intelligence information for mission planning. The CEU deploys native-born and female enablers to support forward-deployed NSW forces.

Operation IRAQI FREEDOM was a catalyst for refinement of the find, fix, finish, exploit, and analyze (F3EA) targeting methodology. At the beginning of the Iraq War, rudimentary techniques yielded sporadic results.

Refinement and professionalization of intelligence synthesis by the support activities during the war improved performance so that a “jackpot” (successful capture or kill of a high-value individual (HVI)) became routine.

In October 2005, CENSEALSWCC was established to support career management, warrior development, and professional military education.

NSWG–11 and its two subordinate commands, SEAL Teams SEVENTEEN and EIGHTEEN, were established August 22, 2008. NSWG–11 commands NSW Reserves.

NSWU–10 was reestablished April 8, 2011 and supports United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM). NSWUs 1, 2, and 3 had been previously established providing forward-based, persistent NSW presence in United States Pacific Command (USPACOM), United States European Command (USEUCOM), and United States Central Command (USCENTCOM).

NSWU–4 was reestablished in 2011 as an officer in charge (OIC) reporting to NSWG–2 and supports United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM).


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