|Branch United States Navy||Size Classified|
|Active November 1980 – present|
Country United States of America
Type Special operations force
Role Maritime counter-terrorism, direct action, hostage rescue, special reconnaissance
The United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (NSWDG), commonly known as DEVGRU or SEAL Team Six is the U.S. Navy component of the Joint Special Operations Command. DEVGRU is administratively supported by Naval Special Warfare Command and operationally commanded by the Joint Special Operations Command. Most information concerning DEVGRU is classified and details of its activities are not usually commented on by either the White House or the Department of Defense. Despite the official name changes, "SEAL Team Six" remains the unit's widely recognized moniker. It is sometimes referred to in the U.S. media as a Special Mission Unit.
- Recruitment, selection and training
- Commanding officers
- Roles and responsibilities
DEVGRU and its Army counterpart, Delta Force, are the United States military's premier counterterrorism units. Although DEVGRU was created as a maritime counterterrorism unit, it has become a multifunctional special operations unit with several roles that include high-risk personnel/hostage extractions and other specialized missions.
The Central Intelligence Agency's highly secretive Special Activities Division (SAD) and more specifically its elite Special Operations Group (SOG) often works with—and recruits—operators from DEVGRU. The combination of these units led ultimately to the killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Operation Neptune Spear.
The origins of DEVGRU are in SEAL Team Six, a unit created in the aftermath of Operation Eagle Claw. During the Iran hostage crisis in 1979, Richard Marcinko was one of two U.S. Navy representatives for a Joint Chiefs of Staff task force known as the TAT (Terrorist Action Team). The purpose of the TAT was to develop a plan to free the American hostages held in Iran. In the wake of the disaster at the Desert One base in Iran, the Navy saw the need for a full-time counter-terrorist unit, and tasked Marcinko with its design and development.
Marcinko was the first commanding officer of this new unit. At the time there were two SEAL teams. Marcinko named the unit SEAL Team Six in order to confuse Soviet intelligence as to the number of actual SEAL teams in existence. The unit's plankowners (founding members) were hand-picked by Marcinko from throughout the UDT/SEAL community. SEAL Team Six became the U.S. Navy's premier counter-terrorist unit. It has been compared to the U.S. Army's Delta Force. Marcinko held the command of SEAL Team Six for three years, from 1980 to 1983, instead of the typical two-year command in the Navy at the time. SEAL Team Six was formally created in October 1980, and an intense, progressive work-up training program made the unit mission-ready just six months later. SEAL Team Six started with 75 shooters. According to Marcinko, the annual ammunition training allowance for the command was larger than that of the entire U.S. Marine Corps. The unit has virtually unlimited resources at its disposal.
In 1987 SEAL Team Six was dissolved. A new unit named the "Naval Special Warfare Development Group" was formed, essentially as SEAL Team Six's successor. Reasons for the disbanding are varied, but the name SEAL Team Six is often used in reference to DEVGRU.
Recruitment, selection and training
In the early stages of creating SEAL Team Six, Marcinko was given six months to get ST6 up and running, or the whole project would come to an end. This meant that there was a timing issue and Marcinko had little time to create a proper selection course, similar to that of Delta Force, and as a result hand-picked the first plankowners of the unit after assessing their Navy records and interviewing each man. It has been said that Marcinko regretted not having enough time to set up a proper selection process and course. Originally applicants only came from the east and west coast SEAL teams and the (UDTs) or under water demolition teams, before the UDTs were disbanded in 1987. Although much of the ST6/DEVGRU training pipeline is classified there are some requirements and training exercises that are public knowledge. The requirements to apply for DEVGRU states that applicants must be male and come from the SDV teams, the Navy explosive ordnance disposal teams or EODs and East and West Coast SEAL teams, be 21 years old or older, and have at least served 2 combat tours on their previous assignments. Although due to the combat experience requirement it isn't uncommon for a candidate to be in his early 30s Marcinko's criteria for recruiting applicants was combat experience so he would know they could perform under fire; language skills were vital, as the unit would have a worldwide mandate to communicate with the local population if needed; union skills, to be able to blend in as civilians during an operation; and finally SEAL skills. Members of SEAL Team Six were selected in part because of the different specialist skills of each man.
Candidates must pass three days of physical and psychological testing that includes a Physical Screening Test (PST) where candidates must exceed the minimum requirements and perform at their highest level possible. Candidates are then interviewed by an oral review board to deem whether the candidate is suitable to undertake the selection phase. Those who pass the stringent recruitment and selection process will be selected to attend a six- to eight-month Operators Training Course. Candidates will screen with the unit's training wing known as "Green Team". The training course attrition rate is high, usually around 50 percent; during one selection course, out of the original 20 candidates, 12 completed the course. All candidates are watched closely by DEVGRU instructors and evaluated on whether they are suitable to join the individual squadrons. Howard E. Wasdin, a former member of SEAL Team Six said in a recent interview that 16 applied for SEAL Team Six selection course and two were accepted. Those who do not pass the selection phase are returned to their previous assignments and are able to try again in the future.
Like all Special Operations Forces units that have an extremely intensive and high-risk training schedule, there can be serious injuries and deaths. SEAL Team Six/DEVGRU has lost several operators during training, including parachute accidents and close-quarters battle training accidents. It is presumed that the unit's assessment process for potential new recruits is different from what a SEAL operator experienced in his previous career, and much of the training tests the candidate's mental capacity rather than his physical condition, as he will have already completed Basic Underwater Demolitions/SEAL or the Navy EOD training pipeline.
Candidates are put through a variety of advanced training courses led by civilian or military instructors. These can include free-climbing, land warfare, communications, advanced unarmed combat techniques, defensive and offensive advanced driving, advanced diving, and Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) training. Candidates are also taught how to pick locks on cars, doors, and safes. All candidates must perform at the top level during selection, and the unit instructors evaluate the candidate during the training process. Selected candidates are assigned to one of the Tactical Development and Evaluation Squadrons; the others are returned to their previous units. Unlike the other regular SEAL Teams, SEAL Team Six operators are able to go on to attend almost any other military course to receive further training depending on the unit's requirements.
Like Delta Force live fire marksmanship drills with live ammunition in both long range and close quarter battle drills is also done with hostage roles being played by other students to help build the candidates trust between each other.
DEVGRU is divided into color-coded line squadrons:
Each assault squadron is divided into three troops (commanded by lieutenant commanders) and these troops are divided into smaller teams of SEALs, often called assaulters. Each assault squadron also has a specific nickname. Examples include Gold Squadron's Knights, Red Squadron's Indians, Blue Squadron's Pirates, Gray Squadron's Vikings, etc. The assault squadrons are also supported by a variety of support personnel, including cryptologists, EOD technicians, dog handlers, and sometimes airmen from the United States Air Force 24th Special Tactics Squadron, the Air Force's JSOC element.
The Department of Defense tightly controls information about DEVGRU, and refuses to comment publicly on the highly secretive unit and its activities. DEVGRU operators are granted an enormous amount of flexibility and autonomy. To conceal their identities, members only wear uniforms on combat deployments & extended training, preferring civilian clothing both on and off duty. When military uniforms are worn, they lack markings, surnames, or branch names. Civilian hair styles and facial hair are allowed to enable the members to blend in with different populations, and avoid recognition as military personnel.
Command of DEVGRU is a Captain's billet. Ranks listed are the most recent if the officer is still on active duty.
Roles and responsibilities
When SEAL Team Six was first created it was devoted exclusively to counter-terrorism with a worldwide maritime responsibility; its objectives typically included targets such as ships, oil rigs, naval bases, coastal embassies, and other civilian or military bases that were accessible from the sea or inland waterways.
On certain operations small teams from SEAL Team Six were tasked with covertly infiltrating international high risk areas in order to carry out reconnaissance or security assessments of U.S. military facilities and embassies; and to give advice on improvements in order to prevent casualties in an event of a terrorist attack.
Although the unit was created as a maritime counter-terrorism unit, it has become a multi-functional special operations unit with multiple roles that include high-risk personnel/hostage extractions. Such operations include the successful rescue of Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted, the attempted rescue of Linda Norgrove, the successful rescue of American doctor Dilip Joseph and in 1991 the successful recovery of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his family during a coup that deposed him.
After SEAL Team Six was disbanded and renamed, the official mission of the currently operating Naval Special Warfare Development Group mission is "to provide centralized management for the test, evaluation, and development of equipment technology and TTP for NSW".
DEVGRU's full mission is classified but is thought to include pre-emptive, pro-active counter-terrorist operations, counter-proliferation (efforts to prevent the spread of both conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction), as well as the elimination or recovery of high-value targets (HVTs) from unfriendly nations. DEVGRU is one of a handful of U.S. Special Mission Units authorized to use pre-emptive actions against terrorists and their facilities.
DEVGRU and the Army's Delta Force train and deploy together on counter-terrorist missions usually as part of a joint special operations task force (JSOTF).