As a major component of the U.S Special Operations Command (SOCOM) the SEAL Teams entered to bring the demanding and highly skilled discipline of “combat swimming.”
Early in World War II the Italians and British demonstrated the incredible utility of underwater operations. From there the U.S saw not only the combative value, but also saw the strategic in regards to inshore reconnaissance and beach clearing in support of landing forces.
The name SEAL is actually an acronym standing for: Sea, Air and Land. These small elite teams of men work on our nations most important and secret missions. With nothing less than a global responsibility SEAL Teams are constantly deployed covering all reaches of the planet.
Intelligence operatives, commandos, demolition experts and teachers describe the men who make up the operational arm of Naval Special Warfare.
Now the largest combatant force of swimmers the SEALs have become Legendary in their status. With a training attrition rate as high as 80% SEAL training has become known as the toughest in the world.
To become a Navy SEAL requires incredible amounts of discipline, sacrifice and mental management. With SEAL Instructors standing guard there is no way to fake your way into this community. They accept nothing less than 100% commitment.
Some of the toughest men on the planet attempt to become a SEALs and find that they can’t. The extreme conditions, cold temperatures and mental fatigue catch many great men by surprise. To date there has been no way to determine who will make it or not. Study after study has been conducted and so far there has never been a way to measure someone’s level of commitment. No way besides putting them in BUD/S.
Graduating BUD/S does not make anyone a SEAL
To become a SEAL means that you will need to endure indefinitely and BUD/S is just the entry fee. After BUD/S there is another course, also ran by the center, called SEAL Qualification Training (SQT).
The training conducted during SQT is like a mini SEAL Platoon deployment work up. It includes Land warfare, Air Operations, Diving and Maritime operations phases. Tactics taught include survival, special weapons, parachuting, emergency medicine, diving and more.
It is after the successful completion of this course that a SEAL candidate earns the coveted “Trident” and becomes a designated 5326. From here he is assigned to his SEAL Team and that is where the real training begins.
As a command
The “Hub” of Naval Special Warfare is located on an Island just off of San Diego called Coronado.
In total there are about 9,000 personnel that make up the command structure of Naval Special Warfare. Out of the 9,000 only about 2,500 of them are actual SEALs. The rest are made up of support personnel ranging from administrators, armorers, intelligence analysis, and boat operators. Out of the roughly 6,000 support personnel about 1,200 of them are civilians.
As a command Naval Special Warfare is considered a “Flagged” command meaning that it is lead by an Admiral. Currently Rear Adm. Sean A. Pybus is at the helm. By his side is Rear Adm. Garry Bonelli and leading the enlisted personnel is Master Chief Steven D. Studdard. All SEALs, all experienced and all dedicated to leading and overseeing the largest and most effective Special Operation force that the planet has ever seen.
At their disposal there are several other subcommands as follows.
Naval Special Warfare WARCOM
Responsible for all of the training and logistics required to support every member of Naval Special Warfare. This organization has been expanding as quickly as the role and accomplishments of NSW has.
This subcommand overseas the contracting and doctrine development and institution throughout all of Naval Special Warfare.
Naval Special Warfare Groups 1 – 11
Naval Special Warfare Group One (NSWG-1)
Located in Coronado California, Naval Special Warfare Group One (NSWG-1) includes all of the odd numbered SEAL Teams: One, Three, Five, Seven and Nine. In addition to the SEAL Teams Group One also includes Logistical Support Unit One (LOGSU-1) who is responsible for the supply and logistics of all West coast teams and supporting units.
Within any Naval Special Warfare Group there are also forward deployed command components tasked with supporting deployed SEAL teams and platoons while deployed. Group One has two such “Units”. One in Guam and the other in Bahrain. Between the two units they support operational areas in the Pacific as well as Asia supporting both the U.S Pacific Command (PACOM) as well as U.S Central Command (CENTCOM).
Forward deployed “Units” are essential to the movement and operational capabilities of NSW. When you arrive in country it is the Unit that has everything sorted and coordinated for you allowing you to stay focused on operational concerns.
Naval Special Warfare Group Two (NSWG-2)
Located in Little Creek Virginia, NSW Group Two includes all of the even numbered SEAL Teams: Two, Four, Eight and Ten. You’ll notice the SEAL Team Six is not represented here. I’ll let you guess why.
Group Two has the same supporting elements as Group One. Group Two is also responsible for supporting forward deployed units Two and Ten which are both located in Stuttgart, Germany. These units support the European Command (EUCOM) as well as the U.S Africa Command (AFRICOM).
In 2008, I remember arriving in Kenya and being greeted by several local drivers with their vans. They quickly picked us up from the airport and had us checked in and unpacked at our hotel in a matter of minutes.
Shooting ranges, food, dropzones, local connections, and more. The men and women who support the forward deployed units make all things possible. A famous General once said that war is more about logistics than strategy. These guys make things happen.
Naval Special Warfare Group Three (NSWG-3)
Located in Coronado California along side Group One. Group three commands NSW’s undersea assets known as SEAL Delivery Vehicles or SDVs. There are two SDV detachments. SDV Team 1 is located in Hawaii and SDV Detachment one is located out of Virginia.
Naval Special Warfare Group Four (NSWG-4)
Located in Virginia Group 4 overseas the Special Boat Units of known as SWCCs- Special Warfare Combat Crewman. This includes Boat teams 12 – 20 and 22.
The Special Boat Teams of Naval Special Warfare are an essential part of this fighting package. From high speed boats to Yachts these guys can drive it, sail it or even parachute it in.
Naval Special Warfare Group Ten (NSWG-10)
Located in Virginia Group 10 is made up of a new type of warfighter which falls under the name “Support Activity”. With a heavy emphasis on
Intelligence and strategy Support Activity One and Two enable all of the warfighting groups of Naval Special Warfare to function with high levels of efficiency and secrecy.
Little is known about the missions of Support Activity One or Two, but we can speculate that they are operating on the pointy tip of the spear.
Naval Special Warfare Group Eleven (NSWG-11)
Operating out of Coronado Naval Special Warfare Group Eleven makes up the Reserve aspect of the SEAL Teams. I’ve often heard that there is no such thing as a SEAL Reservist. While you can’t enter the SEAL teams through the reserves a SEAL, if he chooses to stay connected, can do so by entering the Naval Reserves.
SEAL Team Seventeen is located on the West Coast and Eighteen on the East. SEAL reserves can activate at anytime and join the fight seamlessly alongside their active duty brothers.
Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU)
Located in Virginia DEVGRU, formerly known as SEAL Team Six, is officially tasked with the testing and evaluation of all technology, tactics, procedures and strategies used by Naval Special Warfare.
Founded by Richard Marcinko in the 80’s DEVGRU has risen to legendary status as the unit has successfully executed some of the most famous missions in Special Operations history.
Naval Special Warfare Center (NSWC)
NSWC also referred to as “The Center” is located in Coronado California. Named after Phil Bucklew, the center oversees an incredible variety of training across the globe.
It is here, a seemingly innocuous place that basic SEAL training called BUD/S, Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL training occurs. A simple 8 mile strip of the cold Pacific, an obstacle course and a rough, skin destroying, piece of cement known as the “Grinder” is about all there is to it. Add in a highly motivated and imaginative instructor staff and SEALs are created.
Besides BUD/S the center is also responsible for many other courses of instruction (COIs) around the world.
The Naval Special Warfare community is continuously growing as its role in the Global War On Terror (GWOT) increasingly grows in relevance. The world has changed a lot since our UDT forefathers fought for our country during World War II and Naval Special Warfare has been out in front of the fight the entire time.