Navy SEAL Counterterrorism Missions
While we may hear about some amazing SEAL missions, most of what they do is off the radar. The few missions that do make the evening news, however, show us just how hard -- and how important -- the SEALs' jobs are.
On January 6, 2002, during Operation Enduring Freedom (2001-2003), SEALs were sent to the landlocked country of Afghanistan in search of Osama Bin Laden and other terrorists hiding in the caves of Zawar Kili. What was supposed to be a 12-hour mission turned into an eight-day mission.
SEALs and other SOCOM (Special Operations Command) operators searched more than 70 caves over a 3-mile-long ravine near the Pakistani border. Their search turned up caches of weapons, ammunition, supplies, and a wealth of intelligence information. They survived the unexpectedly extended mission on supplies they found in the al-Qaeda camps.
According to Naval Special Warfare Command:
During Operation Enduring Freedom, Naval Special Warfare (NSW) forces carried out more than 75 special reconnaissance and direct-action missions, destroying more than 500,000 pounds of explosives and weapons; positively identifying enemy personnel and conducting Leadership Interdiction Operations in the search for terrorists trying to escape by sea-going vessels. NSW forces continue to operate in Afghanistan, routing out Taliban and other terrorist forces.
In the book Warrior Soul: The Memoir of a Navy SEAL, former SEAL Chuck Pfarrer describes how a mission to protect a U.S. Navy amphibious ship (at an undisclosed location) turned into the capture of would be-terrorists. As leader of his SEAL detachment, Pfarrer was responsible for securing the ship in port while its cargo of ammunition was unloaded.
After searching many fishing boats in the vicinity of the harbor, Pfarrer noticed a fishing boat coming into the area that didn't look like the others. He became suspicious and jumped into a Zodiac boat with two other SEALs, intending to search the slowly approaching boat. Maneuvering to prevent the boat from having access to the ship, they turned to face the boat head-on in order to force it to stop. Confirming their suspicions, the boat began increasing its speed.
The Zodiac was running side by side with the fishing boat, and Pfarrer was yelling "Halt!" -- but the boat's driver wouldn't stop. As the Zodiac got closer, one of the men in the boat began reaching under a fishing net for what looked like an AK-47. The Zodiac driver sharply turned and rammed the Zodiac into the fishing boat. Pfarrer pulled out his gun to fire a warning shot across the hull of the boat, but his gun jammed. He jumped into the fishing boat with the men, followed by the other two SEALs.
After a brief struggle, they tied up the men on the fishing boat. Looking beneath the nets, they found two large bundles of Yugoslavian-made TNT taped together with fuses ready, along with two AK-47s. Explosives of this type are designed to punch holes in a ship's steel hull. The men in the fishing boat were combat swimmers preparing to attach these explosives to the anchored U.S. Navy ship.
2002: SEALs explore the entrance to a cave used by al-Qaeda and Taliban forces.
SEALs discovered a large cache of munitions in one of more than 70 caves explored in the Zhawar Kili area of Afghanistan.
Navy SEAL Unconventional Warfare
During the Persian Gulf War (a.k.a. Operation Desert Storm, 1991), after a month of air attacks against Iraq, Allied forces were ready to move into Iraq-occupied Kuwait and begin the ground war. With 17,000 Marines in ships off the coast of Kuwait City, the Foxtrot platoon from SEAL Team One had the mission of creating a diversion. The plan was to make the Iraqis believe that Allied forces were planning an amphibious attack.
In the dark of night, the SEAL team approached the Kuwaiti shore in landing boats, stopping about 500 yards out and swimming the rest of the way in. Each SEAL towed a 20-pound case of explosives. Right under enemy noses, they planted the explosives on the Kuwaiti beach and swam back to their boats. The explosives were set to go off at 1 a.m.
As the land explosives went off, the SEALs fired automatic weapons and launched grenades, creating a huge amount of noise that caught the attention of the Iraqis. The noise, combined with the force of Marines seen off the coast, convinced the Iraqis that the attack was coming from the sea. They pulled two divisions from the front line and moved them to the coast, only to find the SEALs and the Marine diversion gone. The ground war began against a much weakened Iraqi force.
Navy SEAL Special Reconnaissance and Direct Action
In Somalia, on December 2, 1992, during Operation Restore Hope, Navy SEALs were needed to clear the path for a Marine landing to secure the Mogadishu airport. SEALs from Team One swam to shore, measuring water depth, shore gradient, and beach composition to create maps and secure the landing. A few days later, they explored the Mogadishu Harbor to determine if an adequate port for supply ships could be found. Unexpected problems came when they found that the water in the harbor was contaminated with raw sewage and other wastes. The SEALs completed their jobs, but some became sick from the mission.
The following day, when the Marine landing was taking place, SEALs, along with Marine Recon Units, swam ahead of the landing forces as scouts. What they found was media representatives, bright lights, and television cameras in their faces as they emerged from the water and walked onto the beach. The Marine landing went on, televised for all the world to see.
Also in Somalia, a SEAL sniper prevented a group of marines from being shot at by a Somali gunman.
It was reported that a SEAL sniper with an M88 .50 caliber sniper rifle spotted a Somali gunman ducking behind a rock wall. He believed that the gunman was getting his weapon ready to fire at approaching Marines, who were under orders to capture the Somali faction leader, Hussein Mohammed Aideed. The SEAL knew that he could not warn the Marines in time to avoid becoming targets. He fired his rifle, sending the bullet through the rock wall and taking down the gunman behind it.
SEAL expertise is useful for civilian perposes, as well. In 1996, on Easter night, the Joint Rescue Coordination Center contacted the Navy SEALs to request assistance in the rescue of an injured man who was stranded on his boat off Fanning Island, about 800 miles south of Hawaii.
Since Fanning Island is 200 miles from the nearest landing strip, it would require a rescue team that could parachute in, have medical training to treat the injured man, and be able to operate his small boat. Four Navy SEALs were selected and flown to the site. Each SEAL carried 50 pounds of medical supplies and provisions when they parachuted to the lagoon where the boat was anchored.
The SEAL with medical training treated the man's wound, which was a result of a fish hook puncture and had become badly infected. Since the island was too short to land a plane on and too far out to fly by helicopter to Hawaii, they had to sail the man's boat to Christmas Island, 200 miles away.
After 36 hours of treatment, the infection was still spreading in the man's leg. With his condition getting worse, the SEALs contacted the Coast Guard for additional medical supplies to be air dropped to them before they reached Christmas Island. Army doctors flew in to Christmas Island to be ready to treat the man when the SEALs arrived. Strong winds and heavy seas slowed their progress, but finally the SEALs made it. The Army doctors were able to treat the wound, and the mission was reported a huge success. If the SEALs hadn't been able to reach the man so quickly, there would have been a very different outcome.
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