SEALs make the best heroes #8
Monday, November 4th, 2019

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SCUBA

Open-circuit System

An open-circuit system is the typical breathing system, where the diver breathes air from a supply tank and exhales exhaust into the water.

Closed-circuit Oxygen Systems

With this type of system, the diver breaths 100-percent oxygen, and his exhaled breath is recirculated within the apparatus, where it is filtered and turned back into breathable air. This system is useful for working in shallow water.

Oxygen time is reduced as the water gets colder. For diving in extremely cold water, SEALs must wear dry suits and a specially adapted version of the Dragger LarV rebreather — a larger oxygen canister allows the diver to breathe underwater for a longer period of time.

Closed-circuit Mixed Gas System

This system is similar to the closed-circuit oxygen system described above, but the oxygen is mixed with air to maintain a certain “partial pressure of oxygen” (PPO2) level. This increases the depth to which a SEAL can dive and the length of time he can stay there.

 SEAL Jumps

Fast rope
Fast rope
OFFICIAL U.S. NAVY PHOTO

When SEALs arrive from the air, they are often going to extremely difficult-to-reach places. In this case, they may jump from a plane into the ocean with their Zodiac, parachute into the area, or use fast-rope and rappelling techniques.

When parachuting, SEALs use either static-line or free-fall techniques. Free-fall techniques include High Altitude/Low Opening (HALO) jumps and the more difficult High Altitude/High Opening (HAHO) jumps (see Navy SEALs.com: Air Equipment to learn about these types of jumps). High-altitude jumping requires oxygen and special equipment to ensure that the chute opens in the event the jumper blacks out, which is not that uncommon for high-altitude jumps. Goggles can shatter from the cold, and eyes can freeze shut, making the fall even more interesting. A device called an FF2 will automatically activate the jumper’s rip cord if the chute hasn’t opened at a preset altitude.

HAHO jumps, where chutes are deployed just a few seconds after the jump and SEALs form a “stack” to stay together, keep the SEALs in a tight group when they land. This is a difficult maneuver that requires a lot of training as a team. The lowest man in the formation uses a compass and landmarks to steer them to their destination.

Fast-rope and rappelling techniques require helicopters to drop SEALs by way of a rope to their location. Fast roping is a drop technique whereby a 50-to-90-foot (15-to-27-meter) rope is dropped from the helicopter, and SEALs slide down the rope using a Swiss seat harness. To brake, they apply their hands in a towel-wringing motion — using their feet to brake would damage the rope.

Navy SEALs on Land

Once SEALs are on the ground, their equipment, like their clothing, must suit the particular environment. Mountain-climbing gear, snow shoes, land-navigation equipment, and the right vehicles are all critical to their success.

Camouflage netting for desert environments where there is little-to-no natural concealment can keep SEALs from becoming an enemy target. Dust goggles keep them from being blinded by flying sand, and CamelBak water packs allow them to drink while still having use of their hands.

Operations in jungle or wooded areas necessitate machetes to clear dense foliage as well as special netting and hammocks to ward off potentially lethal insect bites.

For all types of environments, SEALs carry a map, a compass and a handheld GPS receiver.

Come back tomorrow for the next installment.

SEALs make the best heroes #7
Sunday, November 3rd, 2019

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SEALs use handguns such as the 9mm SIG Sauer P226 and the MK23 MOD 0 45-caliber offensive handgun with a suppressor and laser-aiming module.

They use rifles such as the carbine automatic M4A1 5.56 mm and the AK-47. They also use shotguns, machine guns (MK43 and M2HB), and the HK MP5 9mm submachine gun series, among others. Add to that list sniper rifles such as the M88 .50 PIP and the M-14 sniper rifle, along with grenade launchers, mortars and AT4 anti-tank rockets, and SEALs can choose a weapon to fit the specific task at hand.

Each vehicle that Navy SEALs use to transport teams and units to their destination has a specific benefit and utility.

One type of vehicle is the SEAL Delivery Vehicle. These are vehicles that operate below the surface of the water to deliver Navy SEALs and their equipment to their mission area. The crew uses underwater breathing apparatus for life support while navigating the submerged SDV to the destination. Remaining completely submerged the entire time, some models of SDVs can deliver several SEALs with their gear to their mission area, remain in the area while they complete the mission, and then return them to their ship.

There are several primary surface watercraft. They include the CRRC, the SOC-R, the 11-meter RHIB, and the MK V.

The MK V Special Operations Craft (SOC) is the most versatile, high-performance combatant craft in the Naval Special Warfare inventory. It is used primarily in medium-range ocean transport of SEAL combat swimmers in environments where the threat is low-to-medium. It is also used for some coastal patrol and maritime interdiction operations, such as destroying an enemy supply line. The MK V can operate from shore facilities or from specially equipped ships.

SEALs leaving an RHIBSEALs leaving an RHIB
SEALs leaving an RHIB
OFFICIAL U.S. NAVY PHOTO

The NSW Rigid-hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) is an 11-meter, high-speed, high-buoyancy, extreme-weather craft used for moving SEAL tactical elements to and from the ship and beaches. It is large enough to transport an entire SEAL squad.

The Special Operations Craft-Riverine (SOC-R) is Naval Special Warfare’s newest surface craft. It is used in river environments and has a top speed of 42 knots. It holds up to 20,500 lbs (9,300 kg) of personnel and cargo and is well-suited to inland waterways. The SOC-R can be transported by U.S. Air Force cargo aircraft and by helicopter.

The Combat Rubber Raiding Craft (CRRC) is a 15-foot, heavily reinforced, inflatable rubber boat that is useful on many missions. This is the one trainees are carrying overhead during BUD/S training (it’s often called a Zodiac — Zodiac manufactures the CRRC). In deployment, it is used for over-the-horizon transportation and dropping and retrieving lightly armed SEALS on beaches and in rivers.

SEALs in a CRRCSEALs in a CRRC
SEALs in a CRRC
OFFICIAL U.S. NAVY PHOTO

This boat is easy for the SEALS to move around and can even be launched from the air as a rubber duck, which is a CRRC bound on top of a wooden platform with a parachute attached.

Come back tomorrow for the nest installment

 

SEALs make the best heroes Part #6
Saturday, November 2nd, 2019

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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.

Come back tomorrow for more.

 

SEAls make the best heroes Part #5
Friday, November 1st, 2019

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New SEALs report immediately to their operational units and begin 12 to 18 months of extensive individual-, platoon-, and squadron-level training in preparation for deployment with their SEAL platoon. This training/deployment cycle is repeated to make sure SEALs are constantly improving and learning new skills that can save lives and help missions succeed.

Let’s take at look at some examples of SEAL 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.

Counterterrorism

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.

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.

SEALs make the best heroes Part #4
Thursday, October 31st, 2019

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BUD/S lasts seven months. The initial indoctrination comprises five weeks of learning the expectations and ways of Navy SEALS. More important, it is a time to prepare physically and mentally for what’s ahead.

Once indoctrination is complete, the remaining time is broken down into eight weeks of basic conditioning, eight weeks of SCUBA training, and nine weeks of land-warfare training. The training takes place at the Naval Amphibious Base at Coronado, CA.

Basic Conditioning is when the going gets rough. This is the phase where most Drops on Request (DOR) happen. For eight weeks, trainees’ days are filled with running, swimming, calisthenics, and learning small-boat operations. One-to-2 mile ocean swims and running the mother of all obstacle courses are daily, and timed, events. A trainee’s time for these exercises must continuously improve.

Another important part of basic conditioning is drown-proofing. In this evolution, trainees must learn to swim with both their hands and their feet bound. To pass drown-proofing, trainees enter a 9-foot-deep pool and complete the following steps with their hands and feet tied.

The fourth week of Basic Conditioning is known as Hell Week. This is when students train for five days and five nights solid with a maximum total of four hours of sleep. Hell Week begins at sundown on Sunday and ends at the end of Friday. During this time, trainees face continuous training evolutions. During Hell Week, trainees get four meals a day — sometimes MREs, but usually hot meals of unlimited quantities. Eating hot food is a substitute for being warm and dry. It gives a needed psychological boost to tired trainees, many of whom are nearly sleeping while they eat.

Pretty much every evolution during Hell Week involves the team (or boat crew) carrying their boat — inflatable rubber Zodiacs — over their heads. Timed exercises, runs, and crawling through mud flats are interspersed throughout the five-and-a-half days. The largest number of trainees drops out during Hell Week. This extreme training is critical, though. SEALs on missions must be able to operate efficiently, oblivious to sub-zero temperatures and their own physical comfort. Their lives, as well as the lives of others, may depend on it.

During land-warfare training, SEALs train for nine weeks in intelligence-gathering and structure penetration, long-range reconnaissance and patrolling, and close-quarters battle. They are also trained to react to sniper attacks and to use “edged” weapons such as knives and other blades. SEALs must be able to drive any vehicle and be skilled in high-speed and evasive driving techniques. Hand-to-hand combat is also taught during this phase of training.

To be prepared for anything, they are taught the tactics small units must use, including handling explosives, infiltrating enemy lines, recovery (snatch-and-grab) techniques, and proper handling of prisoners. SEALs must also be able to survive in extreme environments and provide medical treatment (field medicine).

Come back tomorrow for Part #5