To Professional(s)

Despite having been embroiled in controversy from its earliest existence some three decades earlier — and suffering a rocky start when finally put into play at the dawn of the ‘Global War on Terror’ (GWOT) ten years back — SEAL Team Six had long since come into its own by May of 2011.

Rather than being called out, the operators of DEVGRU’s Red Squadron were now being called “the finest fighting force in the history of the world”i by their commander-in-chief.

Six, and JSOC as a whole, made astonishing improvements in the years following 9/11. If they hadn’t, they never would have been called upon to go face-to-face with the al-Qaeda emir.

In late 2010, the CIA was growing confident that the Abbottabad compound housed bin Laden. At the time, the Agency expected that if any raid were to be conducted, the assignment would fall to its shadowy in-house paramilitary unit: the Special Operations Group of the National Clandestine Service’s Special Activities Division.

However, as the boots-on-the-ground option began to look increasingly plausible, CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell reconsidered that assumption. Swallowing more than a small amount of Agency pride, he informed then-CIA Director Leon Panetta that is was “time to call in the pros.”ii

In this case “the pros” meant JSOC, which in turn meant SEAL Team Six.

There are a number of interrelated reasons that help to explain exactly how ST6 ascended to the position of being selected for such a vitally important tasking. Not the least of which is the exceptionally strong run of commanders who rose up through the ranks to claim unprecedented positions for SEALs, lifting the profile of DEVGRU first by their leadership and later by their authority.iii