|Naval Special Warfare Development Group|
|Active||November 1980 – Present|
|Branch||United States Navy|
|Type||Special operations force|
United States Special Operations Command|
Joint Special Operations Command
United States Naval Special Warfare Command
Dam Neck Annex|
NAS Oceana, Virginia Beach, Virginia, U.S.
|Nickname(s)||DEVGRU, SEAL Team Six|
The United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (NSWDG), or DEVGRU, is a U.S. Navy component of Joint Special Operations Command. It is often referred to as SEAL Team Six, the name of its predecessor which was officially disbanded in 1987. DEVGRU is administratively supported by Naval Special Warfare Command and operationally commanded by the Joint Special Operations Command. Most information concerning DEVGRU is classified and details of its activities are not usually commented on by either the White House or the Department of Defense. In 2010 it was reported DEVGRU's designation was changed by the Defense Department. Despite the official name changes, "SEAL Team Six" remains the unit's widely recognized moniker. It is sometimes referred to in the U.S. media as a Special Mission Unit.
DEVGRU and its Army counterpart, Delta Force, are the United States military's primary counter-terrorism units. Although DEVGRU was created as a maritime counter-terrorism unit, it has become a multi-functional special operations unit with several roles that include high-risk personnel/hostage extractions and other specialized missions.
The Central Intelligence Agency's highly secretive Special Activities Division (SAD) and more specifically its elite Special Operations Group (SOG) often works with—and recruits—operators from DEVGRU. The combination of these units led to the most significant special operations success in the Global War On Terror.
The origins of DEVGRU are in SEAL Team Six, a unit created in the aftermath of Operation Eagle Claw. During the Iran hostage crisis in 1979, Richard Marcinko was one of two U.S. 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. In the wake of the disaster at the Desert One base in Iran, the Navy saw the need for a full-time counter-terrorist unit, and tasked Marcinko with its design and development.
Marcinko was the first commanding officer of this new unit, which was first called MOB 6 (Mobility 6) and Sixth Platoon. Eventually the unit was dubbed SEAL Team Six. At the time there were only two SEAL teams. Marcinko named the unit SEAL Team Six in order to confuse Soviet intelligence as to the number of actual SEAL teams in existence. The unit's plankowners were hand-picked by Marcinko from throughout the UDT/SEAL community. SEAL Team Six became the U.S. Navy's premier counter-terrorist unit. It has been compared to the U.S. Army's Delta Force. Marcinko held the command of SEAL Team Six for three years, from 1980 to 1983, instead of the typical 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 just six months later. SEAL Team Six started with 75 shooters. According to Dick Marcinko, the annual training allowance for the command was larger than that of the entire U.S. Marine Corps. The unit has virtually unlimited resources at its disposal.
In 1987 SEAL Team Six was dissolved. A new unit named the "Naval Special Warfare Development Group" was formed, essentially as SEAL Team Six's successor. Reasons for the disbanding are varied, but the name SEAL Team Six is often used in reference to DEVGRU.
Recruitment, selection and training
In the early stages of creating SEAL Team Six, Marcinko was given only six months to get ST6 up and running or the whole project would come to an end. 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 after assessing their Navy records and interviewing each man. It has been said that Marcinko regretted not having enough time to set up a proper selection process and course. All applicants came from the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs) and East and West Coast SEAL teams. Marcinko's criteria for recruiting applicants was combat experience so he would know they could perform under fire; language skills were vital, as the unit would have a worldwide mandate to communicate with the local population if needed; union skills, to be able to blend in as civilians during an operation; and finally SEAL skills. Members of SEAL Team Six were selected in part because of the different specialist skills of each man.
Candidates are interviewed by a review board to deem whether the candidate is suitable to undertake the selection phase. Those who pass the stringent recruitment and selection process will be selected to attend a six- to eight-month Operators Training Course. Candidates will screen with the unit's training wing known as "Green Team". The training course attrition rate is high; during one selection course, out of the original 20 candidates, 12 completed the course. All candidates are watched closely by DEVGRU instructors and evaluated on whether they are suitable to join the individual squadrons. Howard E. Wasdin, a former member of SEAL Team Six said in a recent interview that 16 applied for SEAL Team Six selection course and only two were accepted. Those who do not pass the selection phase are returned to their previous assignments and unlikely to be able to try again in the future.
Like all Special Operations Forces units that have an extremely intensive and high-risk training schedule, there can be serious injuries and deaths. SEAL Team Six/DEVGRU has lost several operators during training, including parachute accidents and close-quarters battle training accidents. It is presumed that the unit's assessment process for potential new recruits is different from what a SEAL operator experienced in his previous career, and much of the training tests the candidate's mental capacity rather than his physical condition, as he will have already completed Basic Underwater Demolitions/SEAL or the Navy EOD training pipeline.
Candidates are put through a variety of advanced training courses led by civilian or military instructors. These can include free-climbing, advanced unarmed combat techniques, defensive and offensive driving, advanced diving, and Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) training. All candidates must perform at the top level during selection, and the unit instructors evaluate the candidate during the training process. Selected candidates are assigned to one of the Tactical Development and Evaluation Squadrons; the others are returned to their previous units. Unlike the other regular SEAL Teams, SEAL Team Six operators were able to go to almost any of the best schools anywhere and train in whatever they wanted depending on the unit's requirements.
DEVGRU members are granted significant freedom to tailor their weapons to their preferences. As such, barrel lengths, rifle furniture, optics and other accessories can vary between individual rifles. It is also not abnormal for one DEVGRU member to have duplicates of one type of rifle, each configured for a different mission role.
The following is also a general list. DEVGRU has a large number of weapons in its armories, some of which are not officially adopted by the US military in any significant numbers.
- Heckler & Koch HK416 – The primary rifle used by DEVGRU, used during Operation Neptune Spear.
- Colt M4A1 – Former primary arm of DEVGRU, replaced by the HK416. Still in use with other SEAL teams as well as some DEVGRU support personnel.
- FN SCAR-L – Designated as Mk 16 Mod 0, used in unknown numbers. Procurement cancelled in favor of the HK416.
- FN SCAR-H – Designated as Mk 17 Mod 0, used in unknown numbers.
- Mk 14 EBR – 7.62mm Highly modified variants of the M14 Rifle, with both Mod. 0 and Mod. 1 variants being fielded. Select fire capability is retained.
- Heckler & Koch MP7A1 – A personal defense weapon (PDW) known to be used by DEVGRU operators when missions require a very compact and potent weapon.
- Heckler & Koch MP5 – Only MP5N (Navy) variants are used, with the Navy models being developed specifically for the SEALs by H&K. Has been phased out in favor of lighter, more powerful weapons.
- SIG-Sauer P226 – Chosen over the M9 by the SEALs as their sidearm. Navy models are made of all stainless steel as opposed to normal SIG pistols which have alloy frames. Navy models have been produced both with and without rails, and with both stamped and milled slides. Currently designated the Mk. 25 by the US Navy.
- Heckler & Koch Mark 23 Mod 0 – Developed by Heckler & Koch in response to a request for an "Offensive" handgun, the weapon was determined to be too heavy and awkward to be useful to the SEALs, despite its exceptional accuracy. Retained in armories, but rarely fielded if at all.
- Heckler & Koch HK45CT - The HK45 Compact Tactical is being procured as a replacement for the Mk. 23 Mod 0 as of 2010, appropriately designated Mk. 24 Mod 0. The Mk. 24 Mod. 0 is to be issued with a suppressor like the Mk. 23.
- Benelli M4 Super 90 – designated as the M1014 Joint Combat Shotgun, used in unknown numbers.
Machine guns/Support weapons:
- M60E4 Mk 43 – Mod 0/1, a modified and updated version of the M60 GPMG. No longer used in widespread use.
- Mark 48 Mod 1 – 7.62mm belt-fedmachine gun based on the Mk. 46 Mod. 0
- Mark 46 Mod 1 – A lighter weight, modified version of the M249 SAW.
Designated marksman/sniper/anti-materiel rifles:
- McMillan TAC-50 – a .50 BMG (12.7×99mm NATO) bolt-action rifle.
- KAC SR-25 – Designated as Mk.11 Mod. 0. Notably used by DEVGRU in the Maersk Alabama incident.
- M79 – Used by DEVGRU for special applications, sometimes cut down to have a very short barrel and no shoulder stock.
- M203 – a single-shot 40mm underbarrel grenade launcher.
- M72 LAW – a 66mm anti-armor/tank weapon.
- Saab M136 AT4 – a 84mm anti-armor/tank weapon.
- M3 MAAWS - an 84mm anti-armor/tank weapon,
DEVGRU is divided into color-coded line squadrons, which are commanded by Commanders:
- Gold Squadron (Assault Team)
- Blue Squadron (Assault Team)
- Silver Squadron (Assault Team)
- Red Squadron (Assault Team)
- Black Squadron (Reconnaissance & Surveillance Team)
- Gray Squadron (Divers)
Each assault squadron is divided into three troops (commanded by lieutenant commanders) and troops are divided into smaller teams. Each line squadron has a specific nickname. Examples being Gold-Knights, Red-Indians, Black-Pirates.
Command of DEVGRU is a Captain's billet:
- Commander Richard Marcinko – Nov 1980 to July 1983
- Captain Robert A. Gormly – 1983 to 1986
- Captain Thomas E. Murphy – 1986 to 1987
- Captain Richard T.P. Woolard – 1987 to 1990
- Captain Ronald E. Yeaw – 1990 to 1992
- Captain Thomas G. Moser – 1992 to 1994
- Admiral Eric T. Olson – 1994 to 1997
- Vice Admiral Albert M. Calland III – June 1997 to June 1999
- Vice Admiral Joseph D. Kernan – 1999 to 2002
- Rear Admiral Edward G. Winters, III – 2002 to 2004
- Captain Scott P. Moore – 2004 to 2008
- Rear Admiral Brian L. Losey – 2008 to 2010
Roles and responsibilities
When SEAL Team Six was first created it was devoted exclusively to counter-terrorism with a worldwide maritime responsibility; its objectives typically included targets such as ships, oil rigs, naval bases, coastal embassies, and other civilian or military bases that were accessible from the sea or inland waterways.
On certain operations small teams from SEAL Team Six were tasked with covertly infiltrating international high risk areas in order to carry out reconnaissance or security assessments of U.S. military facilities and embassies; and to give advice on improvements in order to prevent casualties in an event of a terrorist attack.
Although the unit was created as a maritime counter-terrorism unit, it has become a multi-functional special operations unit with multiple roles that include high-risk personnel/hostage extractions. Such operations include the successful rescue of Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted, the attempted rescue of Linda Norgrove, the successful rescue of American doctor Dilip Joseph and in 1991 the successful recovery of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his family during a coup that deposed him.
After SEAL Team Six was disbanded and renamed, the official mission of the currently operating Naval Special Warfare Development Group is to test, evaluate, and develop technology and maritime, ground, and airborne tactics applicable to Naval Special Warfare forces such as Navy SEALs; however, it is presumed this is only a small part of the group's work assignment and more of a cover.
DEVGRU's full mission is classified but is thought to include pre-emptive, pro-active counter-terrorist operations, counter-proliferation (efforts to prevent the spread of both conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction), as well as the elimination or recovery of high-value targets (HVTs) from unfriendly nations. DEVGRU is one of only a handful of U.S. Special Mission Units authorized to use pre-emptive actions against terrorists and their facilities.
Operations and covert actions
The majority of the operations assigned to DEVGRU 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
On 13 March 1979 the People's Revolutionary Army, led by Maurice Bishop, overthrew the newly independent government of the small island of Grenada and established a new regime based on socialist principles. This brought it into continuing conflict with the United States, as the administration of U.S. President Reagan considered the leftist government to be too closely allied to Cuba and the Soviet Union.
On 12 October 1983 a hard-line faction of the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Government of Grenada, controlled by former Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard, took control of the government from Bishop and placed him under house arrest. Within days, Bishop and many of his supporters were dead, and the nation had been placed under martial law. 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 U.S.' concern was the presence of nearly 1,000 American medical students in Grenada. On 25 October, the United States invaded Grenada, an operation codenamed Operation Urgent Fury.
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 to the governor general'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.
To reach the governor-general's mansion, the SEALs were flown in on Black Hawk helicopters that morning, and fast-roped to the ground while under fire. 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 RPGs. 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-60PBs 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 been inserted into 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' batteries started to fade, communications with the SEAL command post became weak. Once all the radios had died, when the SEALs urgently needed air support, they used a regular house phone to call JSOC, which was able to get an AC-130 Spectre gunship to hold station over the SEALs' position to provide air support.
Assault Group Three and another squad from SEAL Team Six flew to the radio station on a Black Hawk 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 armored personnel carrier arrived, and 20 Grenadian soldiers disguised as station workers got 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.
The SEALs continued trying to make radio contact, then another BTR and three trucks, carrying a dozen soldiers each, were spotted coming towards the station; the soldiers flanked the building and 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 they were running out of ammunition: the team knew that their only option was to change their original plan of holding the radio station, and instead destroy the radio transmitter, then 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 very exposed to Grenadian fire. The team leapfrogged across the exposed ground and took heavy fire, finally reaching the end of the field, cut through a chain-link fence, ran into dense brush, and 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 in which to hide; once the Grenadians had given up the search they swam out to sea, where they were in the water for nearly six hours until a rescue plane spotted them and vectored a US Navy ship to pick them up.
Operation Gothic Serpent
During Operation Gothic Serpent in Somalia, DEVGRU was a part of Task Force Ranger. TF Ranger was made up of operators from Delta Force, the 75th Ranger Regiment, the 160th SOAR, the 24th Special Tactics Squadron, and SEALs from DEVGRU. Eric T. Olson, William Waddell, Howard Wasdin, Homer Nearpass, and Richard Kaiser were the five SEALs that fought in the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu during the last mission of Operation Gothic Serpent to capture the warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. Olson would receive the Silver Star for his actions which were cited as "... during combat actions in Mogadishu, Somalia, in October 1993. While under withering enemy fire during actions in support of UNOSOM II operations, Captain Olson demonstrated a complete disregard for his own personal safety in the accomplishment of his mission". Olson became commander of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group one year later.
NATO intervention in Bosnia, 1992–95
During NATO's intervention in the Bosnian War, the NSWDG operated alongside other members of NATO's Implementation Force, such as its Army counterpart Delta Force and the British SAS. These units were tasked 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 under team leader William Waddell included apprehending Goran Jelisić, Simo Zaric, Milan Simic, Miroslav Tadic, and Radislav Krstić.
Operation Enduring Freedom
In Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), U.S. Special Operations forces played a central role in the fighting. It was also here they began to specialize in counter-terrorist tactics and information.
During the crucial Battle of Takur Ghar part of Operation Anaconda a small team of DEVGRU assigned to an Advanced Force Operations task force were tasked with establishing observation positions (OPs) on the high ground above the proposed landing zones of U.S. conventional forces. It was one of the most violent battles of Operation Anaconda. Late at night on 2 March 2002 a MH-47 Chinook helicopter piloted by the 160th SOAR was carrying a team from DEVGRU. The original plan was that DEVGRU would be inserted at a point 4,300 feet (1,300 m) east of the peak, but circumstances led the SEALs to choose the summit of Takur Ghar itself as the insertion point. 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. As the pilots and team discussed a mission abort, an RPG struck the side of the aircraft, wounding one crewman as machine gun bullets ripped through the fuselage, cutting hydraulic and oil lines. Fluid spewed about the ramp area of the helicopter. As the pilot struggled to get the helicopter away Neil C. Roberts, a DEVGRU SEAL in the ramp area of the aircraft, was hit and slipped on the oil as the helicopter took off. He fell approximately 5 to 10 feet (1.5 to 3.0 m) to the snowy ground below. Roberts immediately engaged enemy forces with his weapons including an M249 light machine gun, SIG Sauer 9mm pistol and grenades. He survived at least 30 minutes before he was shot and killed at close range.
Maersk Alabama hijacking and rescue, 12 April 2009
MV Maersk Alabama, a 508 foot long cargo ship carrying 17,000 tons of humanitarian aid supplies, was seized by pirates 240 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia, in waters notorious for piracy. After a confrontation with the crew, four of the hi-jackers fled in the ship's lifeboat, taking Captain Richard Phillips with them as hostage and resulting in a stand-off with a group US Navy warships including, USS Bainbridge, USS Halyburton and USS Boxer. DEVGRU operators flew non-stop from Virginia to the Horn of Africa, then parachuted into the water, before finally arriving aboard the Bainbridge. Three of the operators, one for each pirate, took up sniper positions on the fantail of the ship, with presidential authorization to use lethal force, if it was required. At one point, following a struggle between the pirates and Capt. Phillips where shots were fired, the SEALs felt the hostage's life was in imminent danger. When the first opportunity appeared and the heads of all three captors were visible at the same time, all three snipers fired simultaneously, killing all three pirates at once with head-shots. Phillips was then successfully rescued, bringing the stand-off to an end.
Death of Linda Norgrove, 8 October 2010
Linda Norgrove, a Scottish aid worker, and three Afghan colleagues were kidnapped by members of the Taliban in Kunar Province, eastern Afghanistan, on 26 September 2010. The three Afghan aid workers were released on 3 October 2010 while negotiations over Norgrove's release were ongoing. As a result of concerns that Norgrove might be killed or moved by her captors, 20 operators from NSWDG and 24 Rangers conducted a pre-dawn rescue attempt on a Taliban mountain hideout on 8 October 2010 during which she was killed.
A joint official investigation by United Kingdom and United States concluded that Norgrove had died from a grenade thrown by one of the SEAL rescuers. A coroner's narrative verdict was recorded in February 2011 that stated Norgrove had died during a failed rescue attempt.
Operation Neptune Spear
On 1–2 May 2011 DEVGRU's Red Squadron undertook the covert operation codenamed Operation Neptune Spear, under the CIA's authority, and killed Osama bin Laden, leader of the terrorist organization Al Qaeda, at his compound in the city of Abbottabad, 113 kilometers from Islamabad, the Federal capital of Pakistan. The attack itself lasted 38 minutes. Bin Laden's adult son, a woman, and two couriers were also killed. There were no casualties to the team. They had practiced the mission "on both American coasts" and in a segregated section of Camp Alpha at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan in early April 2011, using a one-acre replica of bin Laden's compound. Modified MH-60 helicopters from the U.S. Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment carried DEVGRU operators and paramilitary operatives from the CIA's Special Activities Division. Other personnel supported with tactical signals, intelligence collectors, and navigators using highly classified hyperspectral imagers from Ghazi Air Base in Pakistan.
Because of its covert nature, the raid was a CIA operation with DEVGRU being transferred under CIA authority for its duration. A 1 May memo from CIA Director Leon Panetta thanked the National Security Agency and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, whose mapping and pattern-recognition software was likely used to determine that there was "high probability" that Bin Laden lived in the compound. Members of these agencies were paired with JSOC units in forward-deployed fusion cells to "exploit and analyze" battlefield data instantly using biometrics, facial recognition systems, voice print databases, and predictive models of insurgent behavior based on surveillance and computer-based pattern analysis. The operation was a result of years of intelligence work that included the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the tracking of the courier to the Abbottabad compound by CIA paramilitary operatives, and the establishing of a CIA safe house that provided critical ground intelligence. On the first anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden the Combatting Terrorism Center released documents seized from Osama bin Laden's Abbottabad home. The Associated Press reported that the troops had been trained to search for documents, computer files and "pocket litter" "that might produce leads to other terrorists".
In popular culture, several books have tried to capture the events of the mission. The first of which was the 2011 graphic novel published by IDW Publishing, Code Word: Geronimo, written by retired Marine Corps Captain Dale Dye and Julia Dye, and illustrated by former U.S. Army combat medic Gerry Kissell. Later, the controversial book Seal Target Geronimo, by Chuck Pfarrer, a former Navy SEAL, that disputed the accounts by the DoD of how the events occurred the night of the raid on the compound. Finally, in 2012, the book No Easy Day was released. The book was written by a DEVGRU Red Squadron operator writing under the pseudonym "Mark Owen", who was part of Operation Neptune Spear and claimed to be one of the two operators who engaged Bin Laden. Then, in 2012, a film directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal was released called Zero Dark Thirty. The film portrayed the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and the raid performed by DEVGRU. Another film, Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden, depicting the events of Operation Neptune Spear, was also released in 2012 The events in the film have neither been "confirmed nor denied" by White House officials.
Afghanistan helicopter crash, 6 August 2011
Fifteen members of DEVGRU's Gold Squadron were among the 38 killed on Saturday, 6 August 2011 in Maidan Wardak province, Afghanistan, when a Chinook helicopter flown by B Company, 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, was shot down by a Taliban-fired rocket-propelled grenade; the crash wiped out an entire troop. The personnel killed in the helicopter crash are said to have belonged to an "immediate reaction force" that were en route to intercept a group of Taliban who were escaping the area following an operation by United States Army Rangers. It was the largest single loss of U.S. life since the beginning of the 2001 Afghan War, and is the largest single loss ever suffered by the SEALs.
Rescue of Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted
In a mission codenamed Octave Fusion, on 24 January 2012, DEVGRU operators successfully rescued American Jessica Buchanan, 32, and Dane Poul Hagen Thisted, 60, who had been detained by Somali bandits in north-central Somalia. The pair had been abducted around the area of Galkayo three months earlier while working as aid workers helping to remove land mines. Officials stated plans for a rescue operation had been under development for weeks, but acted after discovering that Buchanan's health was deteriorating due to an undisclosed illness. DEVGRU was prepared to capture the hostage takers but this proved unfeasible and nine "heavily armed" kidnappers were killed. The SEALs were parachuted in at night before advancing two miles to the enemy compound on foot. After securing the safety of Buchanan and Thisted, the team, who suffered no injuries, were extracted by helicopter.
Rescue of British-Afghan Aid Workers, 28 May 2012
On Tuesday 28 May 2012, a joint British SAS and DEVGRU operation rescued British aid worker Helen Johnston and three colleagues held captive by the Taliban in Badakhshan, Eastern Afghanistan. The hostages had been held in separate caves in a forest in a mountainous valley in Badakhshan, north-east Afghanistan. After concern for the aid worker's safety intelligence assets managed to locate the hostages and a rescue operation was initiated. The Joint Special Operations team flew to a pre-arranged rendezvous about two miles from where the hostages were being held and patrolled two miles through thick forest, moving into assault positions around the caves. The SAS team and SEALs assaulted the locations simultaneously rescuing all hostages successfully and killed a number of Taliban insurgents. There were no casualties amongst the rescue team.
Rescue of Dr. Dilip Joseph, 8 December 2012
On 8 December 2012, DEVGRU rescued Dilip Joseph, an American doctor held captive by the Taliban in Eastern Afghanistan. Dr. Joseph, who was working for an aid organization, was kidnapped along with two Afghan colleagues at a road block by armed men and were moved to a compound in Laghma Province. The two Afghans were later released after negotiations. When intelligence indicated Dr. Joseph was in imminent danger a rescue operation was mounted. During the operation at least six of his Taliban captors were killed and two Taliban captured. A DEVGRU member involved in the rescue, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas Checque, was also killed. Checque was a highly decorated combat veteran awarded with the Bronze Star Medal with Valor and the Purple Heart, among many others.
Operation against Al-Shabaab in Barawa, 5 October 2013
On October 5, 2013, United States Navy SEAL Team Six launched a raid against a beachside house to capture (to gain intelligence) a key member of Al-Shabaab, called Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir but known as "Ikrima". The SEALs approached the beach from several small boats. 20 SEALs then moved inland, roughly 200 metres towards a two story building which was confirmed the location of the Al Shabaab commander. The SEALs split into two teams, six SEALs then entered the house while the rest stayed outside to provide a security perimeter. During this time, an Al Shabaab fighter walked out for a cigarette and spotted them and a firefight broke out. SEALs inside the house killed one fighter but chose to withdrawal without capturing Ikrima due to an increased number of women and children in the immediate area.
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