Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Iraq, Afghanistan further hone SEALs

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Special operations forces such as the Navy SEALs have become increasingly important to the kind of irregular warfare seen in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dick Couch, a former SEAL commander in Vietnam who served as maritime operations officer for the CIA, says such forces have become extremely proficient after nearly 10 years of combat. "The enemy has forced us to be very good at these things," he says.

The killing of Osama bin Laden by Navy SEALS is the most significant mission conducted by U.S. commandos since the U.S. Special Operations Command was formed in 1987, retired Army general Doug Brown told the Associated Press.

Special operations forces in Iraq and Afghanistan conduct raids daily to capture insurgent leaders, and the SEALS are trained especially for "urban assaults" such as the raid on bin Laden's compound in Pakistan.

Finding recruits capable of surviving the punishing training to become a SEAL and keeping them in the military has been a struggle for the Navy.

In 2010, the Navy graduated 277 SEALs, an all-time high. Last year, 1,141 recruits signed up to try to be SEALs. Two hundred sailors already in the Navy volunteered for training, as did 70 officers.

The Navy targets young athletes and has developed a profile of candidates likely to succeed, says Capt. Adam Curtis, director of Naval Special Warfare recruiting. Swimmers and water polo players make good SEAL stock.

Before recruits even enter SEAL training, the Navy matches them with mentors and offers nearly a year of strength and conditioning training courses.

"We have definitely ramped up production mentoring and prepping physically and mentally the guy in a way that has only been done for a few years, and I think we're seeing benefits from that," Curtis says.

Last year, retention dipped below 80% for the first time in five years.

The Navy dangles significant bonuses to keep SEALs. Qualified SEALs with up to 14 years of service can earn bonuses from $75,000 to $90,000. A SEAL with 19 to 25 years of experience can qualify for $150,000.

The work of special operations forces is difficult and risky.

A failed effort in 1980 to rescue 52 American hostages in Iran led to the deaths of eight U.S. servicemen. An effort in 1993 to capture warlords in Somalia turned into a bloody street fight in which 18 servicemembers were killed.

One of the most recent high-profile successes was the rescue of American ship captain Richard Phillips, held hostage by pirates off Somalia. SEALs shot dead three pirates from the rocking stern of a naval ship.

Posted | Updated

Powered By | Full Text RSS Feed | Amazon Plugin | Hud Settlement Statement


Post a Comment