Skip to comments.Burning Up SEALs, Misuing special-warfare assets
Posted on 08/31/2006 6:51:35 AM PDT by slowhand520
Burning Up SEALs Misuing special-warfare assets.
By W. Thomas Smith Jr.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Marc Alan Lee was one of the worlds most highly skilled unconventional warriors a U.S. Navy SEAL. But on the morning of August 2, the 28-year-old Oregon native was detached to a conventional U.S. Army force tasked with hunting-down guerrillas in a Ramadi neighborhood where four U.S. Marines had been killed the previous week.
When a firefight erupted between the Americans (and an accompanying Iraqi force) and a band of guerrillas, one SEAL was wounded, shot in the cheek by an enemy sniper.
In the ensuing hour-long fight, stretching over several city blocks, another SEAL was struck in the shoulder.
Lee, who positioned himself between the two men, provided covering fire as they were evacuated. But he was later killed by a blast of machinegun fire.
Lee was the first SEAL to die in Iraq. His actions during the fight have been reported as heroic, and he has been posthumously awarded the Silver Star to go along with his Bronze Star medal (with Combat V), Purple Heart, and a Combat Action Ribbon.
But some members of the Naval Special Warfare community are telling me he did not have to die, with one officer contending, theyre burning up SEALs.
The problem lies in the manner in which SEALs and other special operators are being deployed and for what kinds of missions.
Special Operations warriors are not dispensable assets, says Reserve SEAL Commander Mark Divine, who has been to Iraq several times and was tasked with evaluating the performance of a new Marine Corps special operations force during its developmental stages in 2004. It will take two years to replace Lee with another combat-ready SEAL. The SEAL community is undermanned as it is, and it is the Navys number-one recruiting priority.
Divines concerns are based on the fact that the U.S. Defense Department is looking to boost its numbers of special operators, currently totaling about 40,000, by 15 percent over the next four years. SEALs, less than 2,500 men, must increase by about 20 percent, and without reducing standards.
The Global War on Terror with all of its backdoors and shadows and high-tech, asymmetrical, rapidly changing battlespaces has placed an enormous demand on U.S. special-warfare units. After all, these are the guys tasked with operating in the darkest environs. Consequently, taking a smart, committed young man with an athletic bent (Lee himself was a star soccer player in high school) and transforming him into a Navy SEAL is neither cheap about $350,000 a copy nor easy. Most SEAL hopefuls are unable to pass the entry physical fitness test. And most who do pass the PFT simply dont have what it takes to become a SEAL.
The attrition rate is extremely high for SEALs: A staggering 80 percent fail to complete the hellish six-months of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training (BUD/S). Those who do survive BUD/S must again prove themselves in an equally demanding post-graduate period with an active SEAL Team before officially becoming SEALs.
Special-operations teams like SEALs including the super-secret Naval Special Warfare Development Group (formerly SEAL Team Six) the Armys special-operations forces (from Rangers to Green Berets to Delta), Air Force special-tactics teams, and the Marine Corps Force Recon and the brand-new Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC) teams, are responsible for conducting special missions, including counterterrorism, hostage rescues, prisoner snatches, foreign military training, special reconnaissance, sabotage, direct action, and the targeting of enemy leaders, among other highly sensitive operations. And many of those operations though unknown thus never reported have tremendous strategic relevance.
In the context of Iraq, SEALs, who comprise a fraction of the Navys total force, are trained to handle those kinds of missions, Divine tells National Review Online. Every man is a critical asset in the war on terror. So to squander a life in support of a general cordon and search operation is just wrong.
Divine says he first witnessed such misuse of SEALs back in 2004.
The conventional commanders would send a formal or informal request to the JSOTF [Joint Special Operations Task Force] for some sniper team support, and if the guys [special operators] were not employed they would usually say, okay, Divine says. The [SEAL] Team guys did not mind because they wanted action.
But a 24-year-olds motivation, and then the sound battlefield judgment on the part of the special-operations force leaders are two different things altogether. SEALs will always run toward the sound of the guns. Its up to the leaders to protect them so that they can perform the high-value missions the taxpayers put them through training for.
Former SEAL John Chalus, who had one combat tour in Vietnam and whose two sons would later serve in the Navy (one of whom was a SEAL), tells NRO, SEALs should not be combined with regular units unless the regular unit is used to support the special operation.
Conventional units often provide security for special operators, setting up a perimeter around the operation and keeping the bad guys at bay, says Chalus. And of course, special operators often conduct reconnaissance and gather intelligence for conventional operations.
Richard Marcinko, the founder and first commander of SEAL Team Six, as well as the best-selling author of the Rogue Warrior book series, compares employing SEALs in a conventional capacity to driving a Ferrari across the desert like a dune-buggy.
It is a waste of training, Marcinko tells NRO. The conventional force commanders use them for conventional missions for two primary reasons. First, they know they have a mature warrior [in a SEAL]. Hes been to a lot of schools, and hes not some 19-year-old kid with limited training. Second, using SEALs or other highly trained Spec Ops guys protects whoever is in charge of the conventional operation. Its kind of a political cover youre a** thing to say, hey, I sent in the teams that wouldnt embarrass me.
Conventional commanders know SEALs will almost always kill or capture any bad guys encountered. Commanders also have an appreciation for the war-fighting skills special operators like SEALs might impart to conventional soldiers and sailors. And the SEALs themselves are always willing to pitch in on missions outside of their traditional roles.
Particularly the young kids who have just come out of BUD/S, says Marcinko. Theyve never been in combat, and they want to test what theyre made of.
Some SEALs have told me that actual operations seem not nearly as tough as their training. But unlike a gun battle, almost no one dies in training, even training as high-speed and dangerous as that of the SEALs.
A former U.S. Marine infantry leader, W. Thomas Smith Jr. writes about military issues and has covered conflict in the Balkans and on the West Bank. He is the author of five books, and his articles appear in a variety of publications.
Makes about as much sense as having a gunship pilot haul MRE's and toilet paper. The Air Force doesn't do it.
WTF???? Training spec ops soldiers is about as dangerous as it gets. I know many killed in training accidents and I can point to long walls with pictures of dead SF soldiers - nearly all killed in training accidents.
Apparently they are.
'Some SEALs have told me that actual operations seem not nearly as tough as their training."
Wow....nothing but the most respect for these guys. They sound like a seriously tough bunch.
I didn't know that fighting terrorist guerrillas in deadly combat is an equivalent assignment to carrying around food and asswipe.
Thanks for the clarification.
No, what he is saying is that SEALs are specially trained for certain missions, and simple search and destroy missions like the one described are a misuse of that resource. There are thousands of soldiers capable of performing under those circumstances but can't do the kind of work SEALs are routinely assigned.
I didn't get that (SEALS too good for combat). I would suggest the analogy of using your field-goal kicker as an offensive lineman...
My point and I did have one was that it makes no sense to waste highly-trained assets like SEALS or AC-130 pilots on routine missions like encirclement of the enemy or hauling "asswipe" as you so crudely put it.
From talking to people who have actually been on such missions recently, I know they aren't exactly "simple" and plenty of missions can require skills that special forces servicemen like SEALs can provide.
I see a lot of people, including retirees and veterans who are fighting the last war in their heads, sniping in the media at the command decisions made by people who are in the thick of the war.
My presumption, as every American's should be, is that the line officers in the field who are fighting this war are given the authority to make tactical decisions for a reason - that reason being that they are there on the ground and they know what they are doing.
I'm tired of armchair quaterbacks like the egomaniacal Marcinko badmouthing people who are fighting our enemies instead of writing bestsellers.
Fighting guerrillas in urban terrain like Ramadi is hardly routine.
SEALs have a lot to offer is such environments that other people on the scene may not be able to.
This is not exactly encircling a column of uniformed enemy elements on open ground.
Stopped reading right there. This drip is lost.
ALL military personnel are dispensable assets. SEALs are no different.
And quite possibly a...
"FUTURE LIBERAL PRESIDENTIAL APPOINTEE ALERT"
(2) Marcinko is a jailbird with a federal fraud conviction.
(3) Marcinko works as a motivational speaker.
Upshot of all this: anyone who takes this self-promoting lunatic as an authority on anything other than his own opinions and prejudices is making a big mistake.
Well there's no draft and some full time and reserve Army\Marine units have done 2 or 3 tours in Iraq and others have had their time there extended considerably.Moral of the story the cupboards kinda thin !!!
"So he's arguing that SEALs are too good for combat. Interesting perspective."
This is an old story where Special Forces soldiers are thrown into battle by short thinking commands, what happens is they fight as regular infantry and die as regular infantry, but then when their special training is needed they aren't available.
Look at all the ground combat troops that die to save pilots, it is simply because it takes so long, and costs so much to replace the pilot.
Would you use your linguists interchangeably with your other troops in a combat situation?
As in all aspects of life you have to use your assets in a wise way, like the article said, it will take two years to supply a replacement for that SEAL.
The article itself was written by a marine infantryman.
If you read the aricle he was fighting as infantry, none of his special skills were needed, the skills that it takes two years to instill, and the rare, unique qualities of the individual were wasted on that mission.
If the commanders had it to do again, do you think they would not have replaced the special operator with a line infantryman?
If you were a trained sniper, how many troops would you let pass to get a special operator, or a pilot, or a linguist, or an officer, or a doctor?
In warfare not all deaths are equal, and the soldiers know it, they know that the efforts to save six fighter pilots will be greater than the efforts to save six artillerymen, not because of a class difference but because of the investment in the individuals, and the difficulty in replacing them.
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