Currently known as the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), SEAL Team Six is under the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). It is one of the several publicly disclosed units. It is an elite and highly classified group that coordinates counterterrorism and other security-related missions around the world. (Other groups include the Army’s fabled Delta Force and the Air Force’s 24th Special Tactics Squadron.) This is the Navy’s dedicated counterterrorism, hostage rescue, and direct-action special missions unit. Created in 1980 by Dick Marcinko, a visionary and rule-bending Navy SEAL officer.

What Made the SEAL Team Six Famous?

This special missions unit rose to fame as the team that killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011. As History writes,

The mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden eluded capture for nearly a decade until DevGru carried out its most high-profile mission to date. While details of the operation have yet to be confirmed by officials, it is believed that two dozen SEALs from the unit stormed the terrorist leader’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in the early hours of May 2, 2011. According to reports, a firefight broke out, lasting 40 minutes and resulting in the death or capture of 22 people. Bin Laden was fatally shot and then buried at sea after a meticulous identification process. All of the SEALs survived the assault despite a helicopter malfunction that nearly compromised their mission.”

A few months later, in January of 2012, SEAL Team Six, again made the headlines by rescuing two aid workers that were held captive by Somali pirates.

Osama bin Laden’s portrait. (English: Hamid MirCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Capture

In 2011, Jessica Buchanan was in northern Somalia as an aid worker, helping raise awareness on how to avoid land mines. The northern part of Somalia was the relatively safe section of the country. However, she traveled to the more dangerous southern region for training that October.

U.S. Navy SEALs, in Afghanistan. Behind, a UH-60 Black Hawk dropping off personnel. (Petty Officer 1st Class Martine Cuaron, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Buchanan and a colleague (Poul Thisted, 60) found their convoy surrounded by armed Somalians on their trip back from the training. They had been sold out to the land pirates by the man responsible for protecting them. The land pirates demanded a ransom of up to $45 million. Complicating matters further, Buchanan was suffering from a thyroid condition that required medication, and while in captivity, she started to develop a kidney infection. The kidnappers, however, did not provide her with any medicine. The pirates forced Buchanan and her companion to sleep on mats in the open desert for 93 days.

Scott Pelley of CBS News interviewed Buchanan, who told the story of how they were captured.

We stopped, very abruptly like so abruptly that I felt like everybody just fall forward and then I started to hear all of this pounding on the windows and the windshield and shouting in Somali and there is a man standing there screaming with an AK-47 and he’s shouting and pointing it at us and then he climbs into the car next to me and points an AK into my face and they’re hyped up like they’re on speed and all of the sudden we just take off. The driver just takes off and we just start slamming down these camel tracks.

Imagine the fear, helplessness, and hopelessness she and Thisted must’ve felt at that time. Good thing the Avengers of the real world came to the rescue.

The Rescue

The then-President, Barack Obama, ordered a mission to rescue these two aid workers.

New York Post article on January 25, 2012, mentions how the SEAL Team Six was able to perform the rescue operation,

The raiders came in quickly, catching the guards as they were sleeping after having chewed the narcotic leaf qat for much of the evening, a pirate who gave his name as Bile Hussein told The Associated Press by phone. Hussein said he was not present at the site but had spoken with other pirates who were, and that they told him nine pirates had been killed in the raid and three were ‘taken away.’

Seal Team Six was officially disbanded and renamed in 1987, though despite the official name changes, the name “SEAL Team Six” remains the unit’s widely recognized moniker.

DEVGRU is classified. The details of its activities are not usually commented on by either the White House or the Department of Defense.