Into the Fire


Despite being forced to wait its turn to enter the fight in the Global War on Terror (Delta was the first special mission unit that JSOC sent to Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11), DEVGRU would play a pivotal role in a number of major actions that took place during the early stages of the war.

Those events would provide a glimpse of both the heroism and tragedy that was to follow for SEAL Team Six in the decade ahead.

On November 25th, 2001, less than three months after the 9/11 attacks, a prison uprising at the massive Qala-i-Jangi fortress near Mazar-e-Sharif claimed the life of CIA Paramilitary Operations Officer Johnny “Mike” Spann.  Spann, a former ANGLICO Marine, became the first American killed in combat during the GWOT when several hundred Taliban detainees turned on their captors.i

What followed was a bloody, week-long engagement involving the prisoners and the Northern Alliance, U.S. Army Special Forces, and the British Special Boat Service that resulted in the death of hundreds of Taliban fighters.ii

Included among the small group of Special Boat Service troopers was a SEAL who had been ‘seconded’ to the UKSF unit as part of an exchange program. Bloody Heroes, a chronicle of the SBS’s role in the conflict penned by war report Damien Lewis, details the remarkable bravery of ‘Sam Brown.’ Brown is described as an experienced and unflappable DEVGRU operator who would become the first SEAL since 1989 to be awarded the Navy Cross.iii

(The author didn’t use the SEAL’s real name, however, it’s easily discovered. This is the source of some confusion as the Navy Cross award citation lists SEAL Team One as the SEAL’s parent outfit. That said, in a seemingly similar situation that took place just months later, a confirmed DEVGRU operator was listed as belonging to a non-classified SEAL team in his Silver Star citation as well.)