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Submarine communication in the Navy

Submarine Communication Overview 

The U.S. Navy operates two extremely low frequency (ELF) radio transmitters to communicate with its deep diving submarines. The sites at Clam Lake, Wisconsin and Republic, Michigan are operated by the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station – Atlantic. The Clam Lake site, located in the Chequamegon National Forest in Northern Wisconsin, is the site where testing began for ELF communications more than 30 years ago. The submarine communication site has more than 28 miles of over-head signal transmission line that form part of the “electrical” antenna to radiate the ELF signal from the two-acre transmitting facility.

The Clam Lake ELF radio station broadcasts messages to the fleet as required by the Navy Submarine Broadcast Control Authority in Norfolk, Virginia or Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. For the U.S. submarine fleet to perform its mission, it must remain silent and be undetectable.

The Navy’s ELF submarine communication system is the only operational communications system that can penetrate seawater to great depths and is virtually jam proof from both natural and man-made interference. It is a critical part of America’s national security in that it allows the submarine fleet to remain at depth and speed and maintain its stealth while remaining in communication with the national command authority.

With other submarine communication systems, continuous communication is possible only when submarines deploy a receiving antenna while operating at or near the surface. This requirement imposes an enormous restriction upon the submarine's operating depth and its speed, as well as increasing its exposure to detection.

ELF Submarine Communication

The ELF submarine communication system permits submarines to receive communications without reducing speed or operating at the surface. Thus, the ELF system represents a critical safeguard against a scientific breakthrough in submarine detection by another nation using aircraft or satellite systems that exploit non-acoustic phenomena such as kelvin wakes and internal waves near the surface.

ELF submarine communication systems make use of a principle in physics where the attenuation of radio signals (electromagnetic waves) from seawater increases with the frequency of the signal. This means that the lower the frequency a radio transmission, the deeper into the ocean a useable signal will travel.

Radio waves in the Very Low Frequency (VLF) band at frequencies of about 20,000 Hertz (Hz) penetrate seawater to depths of only tens of feet. The Navy’s ELF system operates at about 76 Hz, approximately two orders of magnitude lower than VLF. The result is that ELF waves penetrate seawater to depths of hundreds of feet, permitting submarine communication while maintaining stealth.

Each ELF antenna works as an independent horizontal electric dipole. The two ELF transmitting sites synchronize their transmissions to provide greater coverage to most of the earth’s oceans in which United States submarines operate. They are located geographically to take advantage of the bedrock layer (Precambrian metamorphic) and overlying rocks (Paleozoic) of the Superior Upland shield. This geological formation channels ELF currents deep into the ground and effectively increases the size of the antenna for more efficient signal transmission. The conductivity of the bedrock layer helps to improve the efficiency of the antenna system (that is, the lower the conductivity, the more improvement in effective transmitted power).

The areas chosen for the ELF system have low conductivity rock (rock that does not conduct electricity well) that produce the best results for creating an ELF antenna. In these areas, electrical current flows deep into the ground (hundreds of meters) before returning to the opposite antenna terminal ground.

The eight-watt ELF signal radiates from the dual-site system and travels around the world through the atmospheric layer between the earth's surface and a zone of charged air particles known as the ionosphere. As these electromagnetic waves pass over the ocean’s surface, some of their energy passes into the ocean. This energy, or signal, reaches submarines almost worldwide at depths of hundreds of feet and traveling at operational speeds.

All Navy submarines are equipped with ELF receivers that can decode ELF transmissions. ELF broadcast signals provide a one-way message system to submarines that is slow, but reliable. The submarines can receive ELF messages but they cannot transmit ELF signals because of the large power requirements, the large transmitter size, and the large antenna required to transmit ELF. Submarine communications can occur on or near the ocean’s surface with higher data rate systems such as satellite communications systems.

Submarine Communication in Wisconsin and Michigan

The Northern Wisconsin area was selected as a location for the Navy’s ELF facility because of its geology. The low conductivity bedrock is important because the ELF wave uses the bedrock to help complete the signal path for the antennas. The Navy selected the Clam Lake site for submarine communications because of these geological conditions and the opportunity to conduct the early research work on federal land and minimize or eliminate the need to disturb landowners, homeowners, and communities.

The ELF antenna’s layout in the Chequamegon National Forest uses techniques such as “screening” (using trees, changes in geography, and changes in antenna direction) to improve the visual appearance of the system in the forest. The creation of the antenna right-of-way also played an important role in the in the State of Wisconsin's successful reintroduction of elk into Northern Wisconsin.

The antenna right-of-way is about 75 feet wide, allowing elk and deer to move freely and quickly through the Chequamegon National Forest in the area near the 28 miles of antenna lines. Additionally, the Navy’s maintenance cycle of clearing brush in the right-of-way continually renews young plants that are important to elk, deer and other wildlife. The rights-of-way for the antenna and the grounding array are open to the public.

During the late 1950s, researchers and scientists theorized that submarine communication ELF radio waves could deeply penetrate the oceans and would permit communications with deep-diving nuclear powered submarines. This theory suggested the potential for a unique capability not available with other radio frequencies, and the U.S. Navy began testing in the ELF radio spectrum.

The Navy needed to determine the feasibility of building such a submarine communication system for sending messages to submerged submarines such as the Polaris missile boats. If ELF transmissions worked as hoped, Navy submarines would not have to rise to or near the surface to receive messages from the national command authority. This would allow the submarines to remain hidden at depth, be more difficult to detect, and improve operational safety while maintaining a link to the national command authority.

The ELF system of today — a two-transmitter site submarine communication system with the transmitter facilities and antenna system above ground — was evaluated over other submarine communication systems and ultimately chosen for implementation. Initially, the ELF transmitter and antenna system was envisioned to be very large and capable of transmitting control orders to the submarine fleet.

Submarine Communication 1970s and 1980s

During the mid-to-late 1970s, the Wisconsin Test Facility was used to send messages during a number of tests conducted on submarines in both Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and under the Arctic ice cap to assess the utility of the system. The Environmental Impact Statement was prepared and supplemented as required by changes in the system’s concept. After analyzing the results of the research and the various systems that might be employed, the current ELF communications system was selected because it was the smallest and most cost-effective system meeting the Navy’s mission requirements.

In the mid-1980s, the Wisconsin Test Facility was upgraded and redesignated as the Wisconsin Transmitter Facility, and construction of a second transmitter facility 148 miles away in Republic, Michigan was proposed. In 1985, the Clam Lake site attained an initial operating capability. In the Fall of 1989, when the Michigan site became fully operational, the Wisconsin site was renamed the Naval Radio Transmitter Facility Clam Lake.

The entire ELF submarine communication system became fully operational Oct.1, 1989 when the two transmitter sites began synchronized transmitting of an ELF broadcast to the submarine fleet 24-hours a day, 7-days a week.

An Antenna Well Grounds System was introduced in the mid-1980s, as part of a transmitter facility upgrade at the end of several of the ELF antenna lines, with a resulting improvement in safety. Well Grounding Arrays require less maintenance, reduce ground surface electrical potentials and minimize potential impacts to local habitat.

Based on the success of this previous ground terminal upgrade work, the Navy anticipates replacing the other existing grounds for the antenna at the Clam Lake site in the next several years. In conjunction with these upgrades, the Navy will work with the U.S. Forest Service – the manager of the Chequamegon National Forest – to ensure the required ecological, environmental, cultural and historic requirements are met.

Dealing with Deployment: 5 Ways to Stay Connected

 

Even the strongest of relationships can be pushed to their limits during the stressors of deployment. However, while dealing with deployment can be a challenge, with a little preparation and some communication, a relationship can come out stronger on the tail end of a deployment.

Many experts state that the key to dealing with deployment is being honest, open and to communicate. Today, unlike in wars past, communication is for the most part fairly quick and it is much easier to stay in touch with loved ones during a deployment.

Over the years one of the many lessons learned by the U.S. military is that a happy service member is more likely to effectively execute his or her mission if morale is high. A key to good morale is ensuring that service members have a line of communication to the home front and to their loved ones back home.

During World War II, according to the Smithsonian Institute, “For members of the armed forces the importance of mail during World War II was second only to food. The emotional power of letters was heightened by the fear of loss and the need for communication during times of separation. Messages from a husband, father, or brother, killed in battle might provide the only surviving connection between him and his family. The imminence of danger and the uncertainty of war placed an added emphasis on letter writing. Emotions and feelings that were normally only expressed on special occasions were written regularly to ensure devotion and support.”

On average, it could take almost a month for mail to come from overseas to the United States, and even longer to reach service members fighting on the frontlines when coming from the United States. Much depended on what type of assignment a service member had and his or her access to the logistical chain. Today’s modern networks keep our men and women connected to their loved ones like never before and it is why the military ensures that its service members have connectivity.

There are several ways of dealing with deployment, but this post will focus on the best five ways to stay connected, presented in no particular order. Keep in mind, not all military personnel will have the ability to stay connected using some of these methods. Some service members serve in austere conditions and might only have connectivity to their higher headquarters or they may share a satellite phone and might only have “morale call” access to the phone for only a couple of minutes per month. The key is to be flexible and use whatever resources are available to make the best out of the situation.

Dealing with deployment using e-mail

E-mail is certainly the easiest way to keep in touch with loved ones because it does not require any type of coordination. Trying to coordinate a phone call with someone who is 12,000 miles away can be a challenge especially when operational and domestic requirements are factored into the mix. Life keeps moving and a deployment is an added challenge.

E-mail is great because you just need connectivity. Remember, if you’re a forward deployed service member, consider your OPSEC training and be careful with what you are sending. Also consider OPSEC if you are attaching photos and ask yourself if they show anything that bad guys can use against you or your fellow service personnel.

Letters

If electronic mail is out of the question because the service member is at an outpost or location that lacks a network to connect them to the outside world then maybe snail mail is a better option. OPSEC rules still apply because mail has to traverse land, air and maybe even sea in order to get to where it is going, so service members should ensure that nothing that is vital to operational security is included in the letter.

And if a service member is short on stationery, they can simply cut a piece of cardboard, address it, and write on it like a postcard. True story, to test this, a USAMM employee who was deployed to Iraq in 2004 cut out a part of an MRE box, addressed it like a postcard and wrote his wife a message as he was at a remote combat outpost. She got it about 10 days later in the United States.

Letters work and are especially touching when written by hand. They don’t need to be long, but pouring yourself into a handwritten letter is one of the more favorite ways to communicate for families and a great way of dealing with deployment.

Chats

While most would prefer to hear the voice of a loved one, chats are a great way of dealing with deployment because it enables those separated by deployment to have a prolonged digital “conversation” with a loved one. Remember, the situation on the ground gets a vote.

For example, in 2004, a USAMM employee who is a veteran and was deployed to Iraq, knew a captain who volunteered to be a battle captain on the night shift. He did not have access to a phone to call home regularly, but by being a battle captain it gave him access to a desktop computer. He was not only able to e-mail his family from his government account weekly (something allowed by his command), but he was also able to chat with his wife almost nightly.

The battle captain would login in the overnight hours and his wife would login as she was starting her day at work. Both would get to interact with each other as they performed their duties. Granted, not everyone will be this fortunate to have this kind of access, but if they do, chats are a great way to keep in touch because it provides an instantaneous manner in which to communicate and a great way of dealing with deployment.

Phone Calls

For the most part, most service members will have the opportunity to call home during a deployment unless they are operationally bound to cut all communications with their loved ones until the mission is complete. Most don’t serve in that type of capacity, so odds are great that military families can hear the voice of their loved ones during their deployments.

In some cases, some folks are lucky and get to talk to their loved ones regularly thanks to liberal command communications policies. Many forward areas have phone banks and internet cafes where service members can call home or write regularly at any hour of the day.

Dealing with deployment becomes much easier when you are able to talk to loved ones more frequently. Remember OPSEC. Do not discuss operationally sensitive information on the phone. Even veiled comments like “You won’t be hearing from me for the next couple of weeks” can tip the hand of your unit and give the enemy advanced notice of a potential operation, if a call is somehow intercepted.

Dealing with deployment using video calls

Family members who are fortunate to have the ability to video call have hit the mother lode. This gives separated loved ones not only the chance to hear their loved ones voices, but also the opportunity to see them.

Advances in video call technology in the past few years has made this a preferred way of dealing with deployment and keeping in touch. Many units have video call capability set up at camps so service members can call home and see their families.

How often and how long the conversations last is at the mercy of the command and what they have available to service members.

Remember OPSEC and if you have video calling to help in dealing with deployment, consider yourself lucky.

Three Military Flags That Civilians Display & What They Mean

 

Drive by any veteran’s house and odds are you will see the U.S. flag and likely a military service flag waving proudly from a porch. Since 9/11 there has been a resurgence amongst everyday Americans and they too fly their Old Glory, seemingly in defiance to those who attacked the nation on 9/11.

But there are also those homes that fly military flags that are unique. They are military flags that have special meaning for those who fly them and it is important to know what they mean in order to provide the proper level of respect.

Military flags for those at war

The Blue Star Banner is a small flag with a blue star that normally hangs on the interior of a window. Uniquely American, it doesn’t matter if you’re in Texas, New York, or California, the banners are all the same and they hang quietly, solemnly in house windows.

The Blue Star Banners can have one star or up to five and each blue star represents a loved one serving in the military during time of war. A home with a Blue Star Banner means that family is a Blue Star Family.

A Blue Star Family is the immediate family of a U.S. military member who is serving during war. They are authorized by the U.S. government to hang the Blue Star Banner from their residence for others to see.

The Blue Star Banner, also known as the Blue Star Service Flag, was designed in 1917 by businessman and National Guard officer Capt. Robert L. Queisser. He had two sons serving in World War I and Queisser wanted to show his pride and support.

His original and patented design for the military flags included a solitary blue star to indicate one family member was in military service and in conflict.

According to a U.S. Congressional resolution from 2013, the “…Blue Star Service Flag is the official banner authorized by the Department of Defense for display by families who have members serving in the United States Armed Forces during any period of war or armed hostilities the Nation may be engaged in for the duration of such hostilities.”

Immediate family members are permitted to hang the Blue Star Banner prominently in support of their loved ones. Those people include:

  • Spouses
  • Parents
  • Children
  • Siblings
  • Stepparents
  • Stepchildren, stepsiblings, half-siblings
  • Adopted parents
  • Adopted children and adopted siblings of a U.S. service member.

The Blue Star Banner must have an 8.5-inches by 14 inches white field with at least one blue star, and no more than five, sewn onto a red banner. Some families flew the Blue Star Banner during the Global War on Terror even though their loved ones were not deployed. There is no stipulation that a service member must be deployed in order for a family to display the Blue Star Banner.

Military flags for families who have lost a loved one in war

The Gold Star Banner is displayed by a Gold Star Family. Gold Star Families are a military family which has lost a loved one during war. If a Blue Star Family has a loved one that dies while at war, that blue star becomes a gold star to show that the family’s loved one was killed.

If the family has multiple service members in the ranks, and one dies, then the highest star on the banner becomes gold and the remaining blue stars are aligned underneath the gold star.

The gold star was approved by President Woodrow Wilson in 1918 at the urging of mothers who had family members killed in war. The approval meant that mothers who lost a child in the war could wear a gold star on the traditional black mourning armband. That eventually led to placing a Gold Star on the Blue Star Banner indicating that the service member had died.

POW/MIA

In 1971, Mrs. Michael Hoff, the wife of a U.S. military officer listed as missing in action during the Vietnam War, developed the idea for a national flag to remind every American of the U.S. servicemembers whose fates were never accounted for during the war. The black and white image of a gaunt silhouette, a strand of barbed wire and an ominous watchtower was designed by Newt Heisley, a former World War II pilot. This is one of those military flags sometimes also flown at government facilities.

By the end of the Vietnam War, more than 2,500 servicemembers were listed by the Department of Defense as Prisoner of War (POW) or Missing in Action (MIA). In 1979, as families of the missing pressed for full accountability, Congress and the president proclaimed the first National POW/MIA Recognition Day to acknowledge the families’ concerns and symbolize the steadfast resolve of the American people to never forget the men and women who gave up their freedom protecting ours.

Three years later, in 1982, the POW/MIA flag became the only of all other military flags to fly over the White House in Washington, D.C. On Aug. 10, 1990, Congress passed U.S. Public Law 101-355, designating the POW/MIA flag: “The symbol of our Nation’s concern and commitment to resolving as fully as possible the fates of Americans still prisoner, missing and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia.”

 

Congress designated the third Friday of September as National POW/MIA Recognition Day and ordered prominent display of the POW/MIA flag on this day and several other national observances, including Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day.

The 1998 Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 105- 85) mandates that on these national observances, POW/MIA military flags be flown over the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Korean and Vietnam Veterans War Memorials, the offices of the Secretaries of State, Defense and Veterans Affairs, offices of the Director of the Selective Service System, every major military installation (as directed by the Secretary of Defense), every post office and all Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers and national cemeteries.

The act also directs VA medical centers to fly the POW/MIA flag on any day on which the flag of the United States is displayed. When displayed from a single flag pole, the POW/MIA flag should fly directly below, and be no larger than, the U.S. flag. If on separate poles, the U.S. flag should always be placed to the right of other flags.

On the six national observances for which Congress has ordered display of POW/ MIA military flags, the flags are flown immediately below or adjacent to the U.S. flag as second in order of precedence.

Combat Service Identification Badge: A Deep Dive

 

If you’ve spent time in the Army for a hot minute, you’ve likely been through a few uniform changes. The Army is like a fickle teenager on a Saturday night, unable to figure out what to wear, except the Army rummages through mountains of uniform options every few years. In the past 20 years there have been at least two physical training uniforms, three service uniforms, and at least five combat uniforms.

With every new uniform comes a plethora of new devices, badges or patches and instructions on how to wear them. Directives are also issued advising soldiers when to implement wear of the new uniforms and when to stop wearing the old items. It is enough to make a soldier’s head spin, and the Army goes rolling along.

Combat Service Identification Badge Intro

In 2008, the Army introduced the concept of the Combat Service Identification Badge to its formations and then a little more than 10 years ago, the U.S. Army officially introduced the Combat Service Identification Badge with little fanfare. In fact, in an Aug. 8, 2012, All-Army Activities (ALARACT) message (#202/2008 to be exact) they mentioned it when talking about the new blue Army Service Uniform (ASU).

“The wear policy for the blue ASU is intended to give soldiers what they have asked for in a service uniform while maintaining the traditions of our service. These changes include authorization of a Combat Service Identification Badge (CSIB) to recognize combat service…to honor the heritage and traditions of combat service, the CSIB is authorized for wear on the ASU and replicates wear of the Shoulder Sleeve Insignia-Former Wartime Service (SSIFWTS) patch.... Combat Service Identification Badge (new item to be worn when available) will be worn when available in place of the SSI-FWTS on the ASU. The CSIB will be worn center on the wearers right breast pocket of the ASU coat for male soldiers; female soldiers wear the CSIB on the right side parallel to the waistline on the ASU coat. The CSIB is ranked fifth in order of precedence below the Presidential, Vice Presidential, Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff identification badges. The CSIB can also be worn on the shirt when wearing the Class B versions of the ASU.”

It should be noted that the ASU will become an optional uniform in the near future, replaced by another uniform we will mention shortly. As mentioned earlier, the Army loves to make uniform changes.

Combat Service Identification Badge and the AGSU

Like all Army badges, the Combat Service Identification Badge was approved by the U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry. When soldiers wore the green service uniform, the green Class A uniforms that were a part of the Army for more than 60 years, they showed their wartime service by wearing the SSI-FWTS patch sewn on the right sleeve of the green service uniform. It was a full-color patch worn on the green Class As.

With the introduction of the ASU, the Army created the Combat Service Identification Badge and did away with the SSI-FWTS patch. Soldiers who have deployed multiple times with multiple units have a choice of which Combat Service Identification Badge they wear. Given the amount of multiple deployments many soldiers have endured in the past 20 years, that likely makes many soldiers eligible to wear many different Combat Service Identification Badges.

The Combat Service Identification Badge cannot be worn on the Army Combat Uniform (ACU) or the discontinued Army green uniform. Today, soldiers continue to wear the subdued SSI-FWTS on the right sleeve of the ACU blouse to denote combat service. However, it should be noted that SSI-FWTS is an obsolete term. It has been replaced with Should Sleeve Insignia Military Operations in Hostile Conditions (SSI-MOHC). SSI-FWTS has gone the way of the dinosaurs.

The Combat Service Identification Badge is metal and enamel and they are roughly two inches in height. The Combat Service Identification Badge should not be confused with the previously mentioned shoulder sleeve insignia (SSI-MOHC) which is a patch worn on the right sleeve of Army uniforms like the ACU or the Army Green Service Uniform (AGSU). Referred to informally as “combat patches,” these are worn on the ACU and on the AGSU but are not worn on the ASU. Clear as mud? 

Similarly, the AGSU is not to be confused with the old green Class As which were phased out in 2015. To make it more confusing, the new AGSU is sometimes referred to as Army “Pinks and Greens,” a nickname reputationally branded on the uniform pants which sometimes had a pink hue when they were issued in the 1940s. The AGSU is a retro-style uniform brought back by the U.S. Army for many of the same reasons the blue ASUs were introduced—to honor the Army’s past and its heritage.

Combat Service Identification Badge Conclusion

Shoulder sleeve insignia (SSI) are most commonly worn on the upper left sleeve of the ACU and the AGSU and they represent the soldier’s higher headquarters. They represent what unit or higher level formation the soldier currently belongs to. However, SSIs can be placed on other locations like on the side of a helmet. SSI are often designed using multiple colors. This is why the SSI on the ACU is subdued for use when a soldier is in combat conditions. Full color SSIs are used on the AGSU.

The AGSU will replace the ASU in a few years, but rest assured, and history supports this point, more uniform changes will likely come down. More information about current Army uniforms can be found on the Army’s uniform website.

Navy SEALs Gear No SEAL Leaves Behind

 

The U.S. Navy Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) Teams have experienced an extraordinary rise to fame and while the public might not know many of their individual names, their reputation as warriors precedes them around the world. Descendants of underwater demolition teams, they evolved from what the Navy once called “frogmen” into the special warfare bad asses they are today.

SEALs are almost synonymous with the Global War on Terror, they are, after all, the men who killed Osama Bin Laden the leader of Al Qaeda and one of the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks. They’ve got a lot of clout, and their seal of approval, pun intended, is valuable. Given the nature of their missions, if a SEAL is using certain tactical gear, it is definitely going to be sought after by other warriors, including the occasional geardo. Navy SEAL gear is something many are interested in.

Of course, each SEAL will have different preferences for the various types of equipment they use, including their weapons. That said, we’ve created a list of Navy SEAL gear not based on name brands, but based on what we’ve learned SEALs consider a must-have when they deploy.

Backpacks

Navy SEAL gear can’t be brought on deployment unless it is carried in something. Backpacks are essential Navy SEAL gear because backpacks enable a SEAL to transport gear into the area of operations.

Backpacks these days are often compartmentalized and customizable, so they can not only be used as a duffel bag, but they can be modified for operations. This is a far cry from the Alice packs that everyone knows and loves. Those are still awesome, but when the landscape requires versatility, the gear that is carried needs to be adaptable to the environment.

Uniforms

Ever seen pictures of SEALs during an operation? What they are wearing varies greatly depending on the mission. In some cases, they are wearing military uniforms, in other instances, they are wearing tactical clothing.

Given the physical nature of SEAL duty, comfort and ruggedness are important traits when it comes to Navy SEAL gear. Tactical clothing must be flexible, but durable, and it must have the ability to allow SEALs to stay cool or warm, depending on the climate.

Boots

Look at old SEAL pictures from the Vietnam War era and you will see SEALs sporting, what was considered then, state-of-the-art jungle boots. Regardless of its canvas-like ankle support, jungle boots weren’t ideal for the jungle and in fact many infantry soldiers experienced jungle rot and issues with their feet because the leather boots lacked breathability and would not dry quickly once wet.

In the late 1980s and heading into the 1990s, the U.S. military began experimenting with sneaker-like boots that enabled operators like the SEALs to move more quickly and comfortably during operations.

Today, the price tag on some of those tactical boots are well beyond what a name brand basketball shoe will cost you, but they are so worth it when you spend most of your day jumping, climbing, running, and moving to contact. Most of the boots on the market right now are breathable, fit properly (to avoid those blisters), have protective soles, and are durable. Taking care of your feet is critical.

Navy SEAL gear gloves

Anyone who has ever served a day in the field with a military unit knows that gloves are invaluable. Whether you are carrying or setting up equipment, using tools, or repairing something, gloves are an essential component of any kit. Gloves are also great for keeping your hands warm.

As a Navy SEAL, gloves are even more important than they are to a conventional troop. An operator’s gloves must protect the skin when a special warfare member rappels or fast ropes, but the gloves must also be agile enough to allow that same operator to use a weapon when needed. There is no time to pause, remove gloves, and then engage.

Navy SEAL gear must include gloves designed to protect the hand, but also allow for actions that require a lot of dexterity. Many of the gloves used by SEALs provide protection in case they are used in hand-to-hand combat and they have layers in the palms enabling them to grip knife blades with reduced risk of getting cut.

Knife

Speaking of cutting, what is a frogman without a knife? But gone are the days of a long knife strapped to the ankle of a diver. Today’s knives included in the Navy SEALs gear kit are multi-use and adaptable to a variety of functions.

Many of these knives enable SEALs not just to cut things, but they can saw, tighten, measure, adjust and perform a variety of functions as well. Of course, they can also be used as a weapon.

Knee and elbow pads in Navy SEAL gear

If you’ve done a hot minute in the infantry, you can appreciate that knee pads are an essential part of your kit. Rushing, assaulting, climbing all take a toll on your knees and elbows. Solid, impact-resistant, durable elbow and knee pads are essential Navy SEAL gear.

The biggest complaint from operators is that their knee pads are cumbersome and heavy. A primary complaint is that they do not stay in place, so when you are looking for pads, ensure you buy something that stays in place as you scoot and shoot.

Flashlight

No surprise here, but SEAL teams operate at night a lot of times so needless to say, a flashlight is a major part of any Navy SEAL gear kit. Like much of their other gear, the flashlights must be ultra-durable, lightweight, and provide a lot of illumination. They should also be attachable to vests and belts.

The old green, L-shaped flashlights of the military won’t work here, although they did back in the day. Special warfare operators need lightweight lights that are adaptable and can be used in tactical situations.

Today, there are a variety of flashlights that have adjustable illumination settings and some have varied functionality, like a strobe or signaling setting.

Hydration systems

All that bad assery makes a SEAL thirsty. Naturally after free falling behind enemy lines and hiking several miles to conduct an op, a Navy SEAL will reach for their old school canteens (which are still awesome for camping) that are a part of their Navy SEAL gear, right? Wrong.

Not long ago, U.S. military personnel lugged canteens on their web belts, extending their body’s profile by several inches on each hip and making traversing obstacles and terrain noisy and clunky. Enter the era of the hydration system.

Modern hydration systems are stand alone meaning a SEAL can just put them on their back and carry their water with them. However, a lot of these hydration systems can now be incorporated into modular backpack systems, making them a seamless and valuable component of Navy SEAL gear.

Tactical gear

Navy SEALs are a part of one of the most fluid and best choreographed tactical teams to ever walk the earth. They are individuals, but operate in teams as one.

At their heart, the spirit and commitment of each member of the SEAL team is critical to the overall success and survivability of the team. Because they are individuals, they will all have personal preferences and prefer varying Navy SEAL gear. Nonetheless, the diversity of the equipment Navy SEALs use does not impact their interoperability within the team and beyond.

Like any other person, SEALs will have a brand preference for whatever personal reason. However, this list we’ve compiled is more to state that the SEALs have a basic kit that they carry with them and regardless of the name brand, each of them feels these items are important if not mandatory as they prepare to deploy.

Naturally, the climate and mission will dictate much of what they pack and don’t pack. Watch caps, for example, might not be needed if they are deploying to an arid, hot, jungle climate. Similarly, cold weather clothing or jackets are not going to be needed in a hot weather environment.

This list is not all inclusive, but more of a baseline of basic Navy SEAL gear that is required for SEALs to perform their missions, regardless of where they are. Things like clothing and footwear are going to be required, but other items like pads, knives, and hydration systems are going to make rough missions, not easier, but at the very least manageable because they contribute to achieving the Navy SEAL mission no matter where they are located.

How Long is Navy Boot Camp? What to Expect

 

In 1994, Recruit Training Command (RTC) Great Lakes became the U.S. Navy’s only recruit training facility. Better known as “boot camp,” recruit training involves a change in the mental and physical capacity of the new recruit. From the first day at RTC through graduation day when new sailors depart, recruits find themselves in a whirl of activity.

How long is Navy boot camp? Within the past year the length of U.S. Navy basic military training (BMT) has been extended from eight weeks to ten.

“We’ve added more leadership and professional development to the basic training toolkit, which sailors can rely on throughout their careers,” said Rear Adm. Jennifer Couture, commander, Naval Service Training Command in a 2022 press release. “This additional training reinforces character development with a warfighting spirit so our Navy is strong, lethal and ready.”

“Sailor for Life,” a new training phase in the additional two weeks, provides recruits with more training in mentorship, small-unit leadership, advanced warrior toughness training, and professional and personal development through the Navy’s MyNavy Coaching initiative.

“The additions were the result of fleet feedback and the hard work of all the staff here at RTC and throughout the Navy,” said Lt. Cmdr. Katy Bock, military training director, Recruit Training Command in a 2022 Navy press release. “Every recruit now graduates with more tools and skills to make them more effective and combat ready Sailors.”

Recruit Training Command continually builds on what it means to be a basically trained sailor. The 10-week BMT program enhances RTC’s ability to supply the Navy with basically trained, engaged and connected warfighters.

When the young men and women arrive at RTC, they know the answer to the question, how long is Navy boot camp? Their recruiters have prepared them.

The recruits are formed into divisions and assigned Recruit Division Commanders (RDCs). During the first week, known as in-processing days, forms are filled out, medical and dental exams given, inoculations administered and haircuts received. During their stay at RTC, the RDCs work together to mold the new recruits into sailors. RDCs are chief petty officers or senior petty officers specially selected for their leadership and teaching abilities. They represent and teach Navy tradition, customs and discipline.

Recruit training is not an endeavor to be taken lightly. The workload is heavy and the recruits must adjust to a completely new way of life. Classroom and skills instruction give recruits information on how to adjust to and succeed within the Navy. In addition to classroom instruction, recruits spend time learning the fundamentals of small arms marksmanship, seamanship, water survival, line handling, and firefighting. Long days and intensive training leave recruits little free time.



During the first training week, divisions enter into the competitive aspects of training. Excellence in academic achievement, military drill, cleanliness and athletics all count toward earning recognition flags. Competition encourages teamwork and develops pride in achievement. The climax of the competitive series is the pass-in-review practice where the best divisions can earn Battle “E,” CNO or Hall of Fame honors. At this point in the training, few are likely asking how long is Navy boot camp?

Toward the end of training, recruits undergo a final evaluation called Battle Stations 21. This 12-hour event culminates in the award of a Navy ball cap to replace the recruit ball cap that each recruit wears during training. The symbolic change of hats indicates their status as sailors in the Navy.

Each week, the commanding officer of RTC hosts an impressive pass-in-review ceremony that attracts more than 175,000 visitors annually. The pass-in-review ceremony marks a recruit’s public recognition as an American sailor.

Through the 1920s and early 1930s, Great Lakes had only an air base and a radio school. Recruit training slowed to a crawl, and was even halted for a time.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese Imperial Fleet. At the time, there were just about 6,000 sailors training at Great Lakes. Six months later, there were 68,000. By September 1942, more than 100,000 Great Lakes sailors were in training. Back then, it is likely nobody was asking how long is Navy boot camp? And if they were, it was because they wanted to get into the fight.

Between the attack on Pearl Harbor and the surrender of Japan Aug. 14, 1945, more than one million sailors were trained at Great Lakes.

By 1950, the Cold War was under way. Very quickly, Great Lakes was as busy as it had ever been. In one week in 1951 the base graduated 98 companies of recruits, matching its record in World War II.

New RTC barracks, mess halls, classrooms, and staff offices, costing upwards of $8 million were built over the next decade. Those buildings served for nearly half a century before the current RTC rebuilding began in the late 1990s.

Navy SEALs began finding new people at RTC. The first experimental company of 37 recruits graduated in December 1967. They were chosen from 250 volunteers and given special recruit training to prepare them for the more rigorous SEAL training to come at Coronado and beyond. Many served in combat in Vietnam.

In 1987, RTC cut the ribbon for the Golden 13 Recruit In-processing Center which now greets every new recruit who joins the Navy.

In 1993, in the wake of the drawdown after Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the Base Realignment and Closure commission decided to shut down Naval Training Center Orlando and NTC San Diego. As a result, in 1998 began the RTC Recapitalization Program, the most ambitious building program at Great Lakes since its founding in 1905.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Great Lakes, RTC continued to do what it did in WWI, in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, training new sailors with a sense of purpose. Supplying the fleet with top-quality, basically-trained sailors ready for follow-on training.

If you ask most sailors about their memories of RTC, the likely won’t reply that they often asked themselves how long is Navy boot camp because these days they likely miss the time they spent at Great Lakes and their time in the Navy.

U.S. Navy Core Values: Honor, Courage, & Commitment

 

Navy Core Values Roots

When U.S. Navy sailors recite the Sailor’s Creed, they attest that they will serve with honor, courage, and commitment. Those three words are known as the Navy core values.

It is important to note though that the Navy core values of today have only been a part of the U.S. Navy culture since 1992 when the current Navy core values replaced the Navy core values of professionalism, integrity, and tradition that had been used as behavioral guideposts since the 1950s.

Throughout its history, the U.S. Navy has successfully managed its challenges. America’s naval service began during the American Revolution, when on Oct. 13, 1775, the Continental Congress authorized a few small ships. Esek Hopkins was appointed commander in chief and 22 officers were commissioned, including John Paul Jones.

From those early days of naval service, certain bedrock principles or Navy core values have carried on to today. Those three basic principles which were previously mentioned as honor, courage, and commitment, build the foundation of trust and leadership upon which the Navy’s strength is based.

The Navy believes that these principles on which the U.S. Navy were founded continue to guide sailors today. Every member of the Naval Service – active, reserve, and civilian, must understand and live by the Navy core values.

For more than 200 years, members of the naval service have stood ready to protect the nation and freedom. The Navy is ready to carry out any mission, deter conflict around the globe, and if called upon to fight, be victorious.  

Honor as one of the Navy core values

The Navy believes that sailors should be accountable for their professional and personal behavior. They should be mindful of the privilege they have to serve their fellow Americans. They are expected to abide by an uncompromising code of integrity, taking full responsibility for their actions and keep their word.

Sailors will conduct themselves in the highest ethical manner in relationships with seniors, peers and subordinates. They will be honest and truthful in their dealings within and outside the Department of the Navy.

Sailors are expected to make honest recommendations to their seniors and peers and seek honest recommendations from junior personnel. They will encourage new ideas and deliver bad news forthrightly. This will enable them to fulfill their legal and ethical responsibilities in their public and personal life.

It is important to note, that in the oath of enlistment/commission, the use of the phrase “I will bear true faith and allegiance ....” Accordingly, sailors are expected to conduct themselves with honor in the highest ethical manner in all relationships and abide by an uncompromising code of integrity.

Courage as one of the Navy core values

Courage is one of the Navy core values that gives sailors the moral and mental strength to do what is right, with confidence and resolution, even in the face of temptation or adversity. Sailors are expected to have the courage to meet the demands of their profession.

Sailors must make decisions and act in the best interest of the Department of the Navy and the nation, without regard to personal consequences. They are expected to overcome all challenges while adhering to the highest standards of personal conduct and decency. They must be loyal to the nation by ensuring the resources entrusted to them are used in an honest, careful and efficient way.

As previously mentioned, in the enlistment or commissioning oath, the phrase “I will support and defend ...” is used. Accordingly, sailors are expected to exhibit courage to meet the demands of their profession and the mission when it is hazardous, demanding, or otherwise difficult.  

Commitment as one of the Navy core values

In the oath of enlistment/commissioning, the phrase “I will obey the orders ….” Is used to swear in persons who plan to serve in the U.S. Navy. Accordingly, sailors are then expected to demand respect up and down the chain of command and care for the safety, professional, personal and spiritual well-being of naval personnel.

Sailors are expected to show respect toward all people without regard to race, religion, or gender and treat each individual with human dignity. Sailors must be committed to positive change and constant improvement exhibiting the highest degree of moral character, technical excellence, quality and competence. The day-to-day duty of every Navy man and woman is to work together as a team to improve the quality of their work, their people and themselves.

Navy core values in the Sailor’s Creed

The Sailor’s Creed is:

I am a United States Sailor. I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and I will obey the orders of those appointed over me. I represent the fighting spirit of the Navy and those who have gone before me to defend freedom and democracy around the world. I proudly serve my country's Navy combat team with Honor, Courage and Commitment. I am committed to excellence and the fair treatment of all.

Navy core values in the oath of enlistment

“I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

Navy core values in the officers’ oath

“I, _____ , having been appointed an officer in the _____ (Military Branch) of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.” 

U.S. Navy Uniform Regulations You Don't Want to Forget

Policy of US Navy uniform regulations

The purpose of the US Navy Uniform Regulations is to provide descriptions of all autho­rized U.S. Navy uniforms and components, and to provide guidance for all Navy activities prescribing uniform wear in order to present a uniform image worldwide. It is issued by direction of the Chief of Naval Operations and carries the force of a general order. Any procedures or components, regarding uniforms or grooming, not discussed in these regulations are prohibited.

Applicability of US Navy uniform regulations

The provisions of the US Navy uniform regulations apply to all personnel who are authorized to wear the U.S. Navy uniform. U.S. Navy Uniform Regulation NAVPERS 15665J is issued for information and guidance, and requires compliance when wearing naval uniforms. The US Navy uniform regulations are the sole source for dictating how to correctly wear U.S. Navy uniforms and uniform components. It supersedes US Navy uniform regulation, NAVPERS 15665I dated August 25, 1995, and all other existing directives on navy uniforms. After January 1, 1996, Navy Uniform Regulations are distributed quarterly via BUPERS Directives and will contain revisions and updates to the 1995 manual. 

Changes to the US Navy uniform regulations

Sailors may make uniform or uniform regulation change recommendations via their chain of command to the Navy Uniform Matters Office. Recommendations are to be submitted in letter format with subject line REQUEST FOR UNIFORM BOARD POLICY CHANGE. Recommendations should reflect navy-wide application with an eye towards standardization and uniform policy reduction. Uniform change proposals are to be endorsed via cover letter by each endorsing echelon. The final endorsement should include proposal Subject Matter Expert contact information. Uniform proposals which are not endorsed favorably at any level will not be accepted by the office. Proposals favorably endorsed shall be submitted to Navy Uniform Matters Office, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (N13X), 701 S. Courthouse Road, Arlington, VA 22204-2164.  More information is available in the US Navy uniform regulations.

Enforcement of the US Navy uniform regulations

The US Navy uniform regulations define the composition of authorized uniforms. Navy uniforms are distinctive visual evidence of the authority and responsibility vested in their wearer by the United States. The prescribing authority determines when and where the uniforms in the manual are appropriate for wear. Uniforms and components shall be worn as described in these US Navy uniform regulations. Navy personnel must present a proud and professional military appearance that will reflect positively on the individual, the Navy and the United States. While in uniform, it is inappropriate and detracts from a professional military appearance for personnel to have their hands in their pockets. Additionally, when walking from point to point while in uniform, it is inappropriate and detracts from a professional military appearance for personnel to be smoking or using tobacco products, or to be eating and/or drinking. All personnel shall comply with these regulations and be available to teach others the correct wear of navy uniforms. Exemplary military appearance should be the norm for uniformed personnel. These US Navy uniform regulations describe all authorized U.S. Navy uniforms and the proper manner for their wear.

US Navy uniform regulations concerning headgear

The cap/hat is an integral part of the uniform. Uniform headgear is not required to be worn when ships are at sea outside harbor limits, except on specific watches or on ceremonial occasions specified by the commanding officer or higher authority. Uniform headgear is required in port, unless safety prohibits wear, i.e., foreign object damage (FOD).

Outdoors, personnel remain covered at all times unless ordered to uncover, or during religious services not associated with a military ceremony. Personnel remain covered during invocations or other religious military ceremonies such as changes of command, ships’ commissioning and launchings, and military burials, etc. The chaplain conducting the religious ceremony will guide participants following the customs of his church.

Indoors, personnel shall remain uncovered at all times unless directed otherwise by higher authority for a special situation/event. Those service members in a duty status and wearing side arms or a pistol belt may only remove headgear indoors when entering dining, medical or FOD hazard areas or where religious services are being conducted.

A military cover may be removed when entering, departing, or while riding or driving on and off base in a privately owned vehicle (POV) or bicycle. As a military courtesy, covers should be worn by the driver of a POV when entering a military installation if required to return a salute. When riding a bicycle on or off base, wearing a safety helmet may be required by local safety instruction. 

Male and female sailors undergoing medically prescribed health treatment or care that results in a drastic loss of hair, or the scalp becomes too sensitive to wear wigs/hair pieces, military covers, protective head gear or equipment are authorized to wear fabric head coverings (solid colors of black, khaki/tan, navy blue or white). Medically prescribed head coverings will match the color of the military cover prescribed for wear with the uniform being worn. The need to wear fabric head coverings must be medically documented and prescribed by appropriate military healthcare providers.

US Navy uniform regulations and shipboard restrictions

Sailors will not wear 100 percent polyester uniforms (certified navy twill) in any operating fire room. Wear only flame-retardant clothing when engaged in hot work such as welding or brazing, and when exposed to open flame, such as during boiler light‑off operations, or spark producing work such as grinding.
Females will not wear skirts or dress shoes (pumps/heels) aboard ship. The wearing of skirts or dress shoes (pumps/heels) is not prescribed or optional aboard ship. These items may be stored aboard ship optionally at the discretion of the service member and worn when immediately departing or returning to the ship.

Sailors cannot wear poromeric (also known as corfam) shoes aboard ship for normal daily operations. Poromeric shoes may be worn when immediately departing or returning to the ship, or when specifically authorized by the commanding officer.

Sailors may not wear V-neck/sleeveless undershirts aboard ship for normal daily operations. V-neck/sleeveless undershirts may be worn when immediately departing or returning to the ship, or when specifically authorized by the commanding officer.

Sailors will not wear acrylic V-neck sweater aboard ship as an outer garment during daily operations. Acrylic V-neck sweater may be worn when immediately departing or returning to the ship, or when specifically authorized by the commanding officer.

For men, earrings are not authorized while in uniform or in civilian attire when in a duty status. Earrings may be worn with civilian clothing while in a leave or liberty status on or off military installation and when travelling in a government vehicle, or while participating in any organized military recreational activities ashore unless otherwise prohibited by prescribing authority.

For the latest US Navy uniform regulations updates, visit this page.

10 Facts About the U.S. Coast Guard You Didn't Know

1. Medal of Honor facts about the Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast Guard has one Medal of Honor recipient. U.S. Coast Guard Signalman First Class Douglas A. Munro died heroically on Guadalcanal on Sept. 27, 1942 after he volunteered to evacuate a detachment of Marines who were facing annihilation by a large enemy force. He succeeded in safely extricating them, saving at least 500 Marines, and in doing so was mortally wounded.

In the engagement in which he gave his life, Munro had been in charge of the original detachment of ten boats that had landed Marines on a beach. Having successfully landed them, Munro led his small boat force to a previously assigned rally position. Almost immediately upon his return, he was advised that Marines were under attack from a larger Japanese force at the insertion point and that they needed to be extracted immediately. Munro volunteered to lead the boats back to beach for the evacuation.

Commanding the rescue expedition, he brought the boats in-shore under heavy enemy fire and proceeded to evacuate the Marines still on the beach. Though the majority of the Marines had been loaded into the boats, the last remaining elements of the rear guard were having difficulty embarking. Munro maneuvered himself and his boats into a position to cover the last groups of men as they headed to the boats. In doing so, he exposed himself to greater enemy fire and suffered his fatal wound. At the time it was reported that he had remained conscious long enough to utter his final words: “Did they get off?”

Munro was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

2. Facts about the Coast Guard Pulitzer Prize Winner

Alex Haley enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard in 1939 after attending college. Haley enlisted as a mess attendant third class since the mess attendant and steward’s mate ratings were the only ratings in the Coast Guard open to minorities at that time, according to the Coast Guard. He saw service in the Pacific Theater in 1944 and he made money with a side hustle penning love letters for his shipmates. He also freelanced and submitted articles about war duty and sea service for Coast Guard publications.

At one point, Haley became the only chief journalist in the Coast Guard, serving as the assistant public affairs officer at the Coast Guard’s New York City headquarters. In 1959, he retired from the Coast Guard after 20 years of service to pursue his dream of becoming a full-time writer. Seventeen years after his retirement, he published the international best-seller, Roots: The Saga of an American Family in 1976. The book was later made into a television mini-series. Haley died in 1992. He is the only uniformed public affairs officer to have a ship named after him.

3. Military facts about the Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast Guard is not an organization in the Department of Defense, in fact, it used to be a part of the Department of Transportation until it was realigned under the Department of Homeland Security in 2003. It is considered, however, one of the U.S. Armed Forces and when federally mobilized for war, it falls under the Department of the Navy.

4. World War II facts about the Coast Guard

In 1942, a German U-boat surfaced off the coast of New York and deployed a  team whose aim was to sabotage U.S. industries. They would have succeeded if it wasn’t for Coast Guardsman John C. Cullen who was on beach patrol the day they came ashore.

Cullen found the men changing and accepted a bribe from them (to win their trust). He promptly reported the incident to the FBI. The men were all captured and this collar led to the foiling of a similar plot in Florida where another team of Germans was arrested.

5. Facts about the Coast Guard and floating weather stations

During World War II, the U.S. Coast Guard manned floating weather stations in the Atlantic. While this doesn’t sound like a precarious act, it was especially dangerous during the Battle of the Atlantic.

The Coast Guard deployed barely-armed ships on weather monitoring missions. The ships, for the most part, would float in one general area, collecting atmospheric data for use in operations.  This made them vulnerable to attack. In Sept. 1942, the Coast Guard Cutter Muckeget disappeared. It was later determined that the ship was sunk by a German torpedo. More than 100 Coast Guardsmen were killed.

6. Facts about the Coast Guard and their busiest rescue day

While most American military forces were trying to kill Germans on June 6, 1941, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter “Homing Pigeon,” rescued 126 drowning Allied fighters from the waters off the Normandy coast. Part of the Coast Guard’s mission that day, in addition to operating the landing craft, was to patrol the waters and rescue stranded service personnel in the water. In all, the rescue flotilla saved more than 400 men.

7. Facts about the Coast Guard on D-Day

Even though it has been covered extensively by history books, many still do not know that the U.S. Coast Guard led the operating, maintaining, and salvaging of landing craft during World War II. It was Coast Guardsmen who drove the landing craft onto the beaches of Normandy.

8. The Dude knows some facts about the Coast Guard

The Dude, the now famous character played by actor Jeff Bridges was once in the U.S. Coast Guard. Okay, that’s not true, but it wouldn’t have been too much of a stretch if that were written into the script given Jeff Bridges served as a boatswain’s mate from 1967-1975 and left the Coast Guard Reserve as a petty officer second class.

Bridges has made more than 70 movies, including Iron Man and True Grit, but he achieved a cult-like following as the White Russian-drinking, pot smoking, bowler in the 1998 movie, The Big Lebowski. Bridges’ father and brother, also actors, both served in the Coast Guard Reserve and Coast Guard Auxiliary.

9. Historical facts about the Coast Guard

Anthony Christy was 105 years old when he died in Sept. 1862. He was the keeper of the Christiana Lighthouse in Delaware making him the oldest active serving Coast Guard member.

10. Nautical facts about the Coast Guard

The Vigilant was the first ship ever launched by the Coast Guard. The service’s first cutter took to the water in 1791.

What is a Navy SEAL? A Brief Overview

 

What is a Navy SEAL team’s mission?

U.S. Navy SEALs (Sea, Air, Land) provide maritime special operations forces to conduct full spectrum operations unilaterally or with partners, to support national objectives. That is a broad definition for a group of warriors who work with incredible precision. A lot of people think they know the Navy SEALs, but here is an overview of who they are and what they've done.

What is a Navy SEAL team’s history in World War II?

Today’s Naval Special Warfare operators can trace their origins to the scouts and raiders, naval combat demolition units, Office of Strategic Services operational swimmers, underwater demolition teams, and motor torpedo boat squadrons of World War II. While none of those early organizations have survived to present, their pioneering efforts in unconventional warfare are mirrored in the missions and professionalism of the present naval special warfare warriors.

To meet the need for a beach reconnaissance force, selected Army and Navy personnel assembled at Amphibious Training Base, Little Creek, in August 1942 to begin Amphibious Scouts and Raiders (Joint) training. The Scouts and Raiders mission was to identify and reconnoiter the objective beach, maintain a position on the designated beach prior to a landing and guide the assault waves to the landing beach.

The first group included Phil H. Bucklew, the “Father of Naval Special Warfare,” after whom the Naval Special Warfare Center building is named. Commissioned in October 1942, this group saw combat in November 1942 during Operation Torch, the first allied landings in the European theater, on the North African coast. Scouts and Raiders also supported landings in Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, Normandy, and southern France.



A second group of Scouts and Raiders, code-named Special Service Unit 1, was established in July 1943, as a joint and combined operations force. The first mission, in September 1943, was in New Guinea. However, conflicts arose over operational matters, and all non-Navy personnel were reassigned. The unit was renamed the 7th Amphibious Scouts and received new missions. They would, for example, go ashore with the assault boats, but also erect markers for incoming craft, handle casualties, take offshore soundings, blow up beach obstacles and maintain voice communications linking the troops ashore, incoming boats and nearby ships. The 7th Amphibious Scouts conducted operations in the Pacific for the duration of the conflict, participating in more than 40 landings.

The third Scout and Raiders organization operated in China. Scouts and Raiders were deployed to fight with the Sino-American Cooperation Organization, or SACO. To help bolster the work of SACO, Adm. Ernest J. King ordered 120 officers and 900 men be trained for “Amphibious Roger” at the Scout and Ranger school in Florida. They formed the core of what was envisioned as a “guerrilla amphibious organization of Americans and Chinese operating from coastal waters, lakes and rivers employing small steamers and sampans.”

Plans for a massive Allied invasion of Europe had begun and intelligence indicated that the Germans were placing extensive underwater obstacles on the beaches at Normandy. In May 1943, Lt. Cdr. Draper L. Kauffman, “The Father of Naval Combat Demolition,” was directed to set up a school and train people to eliminate obstacles on an enemy-held beach prior to an invasion. By April 1944, a total of 34 demolition units were deployed to England in preparation for Operation Overlord, the amphibious landing at Normandy.

On D-Day, Naval Combat Demolition Units at Omaha Beach managed to blow eight complete gaps and two partial gaps in the German defenses. The demolition units suffered 31 killed and 60 wounded, a casualty rate of 52 percent. Meanwhile, the demo units at Utah Beach met less intense enemy fire. They cleared 700 yards of beach in two hours, another 900 yards by the afternoon. Casualties at Utah Beach were significantly lighter with six killed and 11 wounded. Demolition units also operated in the Pacific theater.

Some of the earliest World War II predecessors of the SEALs were the operational swimmers of the Office of Strategic Services, or OSS. Many current SEAL missions were first assigned to them.

Their training started in November 1943 at Camp Pendleton. Within the U.S. military, they pioneered flexible swim fins and facemasks, closed-circuit diving equipment, the use of swimmer submersibles, and combat swimming and limpet mine attacks.

In Nov. 1943, the U. S. Marine landing on Tarawa Atoll emphasized the need for hydrographic reconnaissance and underwater demolition of obstacles prior to any amphibious landing. After Tarawa, 30 officers and 150 enlisted men were moved to Waimanalo Amphibious Training Base to form the nucleus of a demolition training program. The teams saw their first combat in Jan. 1944 in the Marshall Islands.

What is a Navy SEAL team’s history in the Korean War?

The Korean War began on June 25, 1950 when the North Korean army invaded South Korea. Beginning with a detachment of 11 personnel from an underwater demolition team (UDT), UDT participation expanded to three teams with a combined strength of 300 men.

As part of the Special Operations Group, UDTs successfully conducted demolition raids on railroad tunnels and bridges along the Korean coast. On Sept. 15, 1950, UDTs supported Operation Chromite, the amphibious landing at Inchon. UDT 1 and 3 provided personnel who went in ahead of the landing craft, scouting mud flats, marking low points in the channel, clearing fouled propellers, and searching for mines.

What is a Navy SEAL team’s history in Vietnam?

Responding to President John F. Kennedy’s desire for the services to develop an unconventional warfare capability, the U.S. Navy established SEAL Teams One and Two in Jan. 1962. Formed entirely with personnel from UDTs, the SEALs mission was to conduct counter guerilla warfare and clandestine operations in maritime and riverine environments.

SEAL involvement in Vietnam began immediately and was advisory in nature. SEAL advisers instructed the Vietnamese in clandestine maritime operations. SEALs also began a UDT style training course for the Biet Hai Commandos, the Junk Force Commando platoons in Danang.

In Feb. 1966, a small SEAL Team One detachment arrived in Vietnam to conduct direct-action missions. Operating out of Nha Be, in the Rung Sat Special Zone, this detachment signaled the beginning of a SEAL presence that would eventually include eight SEAL platoons in country on a continuing basis. Additionally, SEALs served as advisers for Provincial Reconnaissance Units and the Lien Doc Nguoi Nhia, the Vietnamese SEALs. The SEALs were also involved in the Phoenix Program.

What is a Navy SEAL team’s history post-Vietnam War?

Post-Vietnam War SEAL operations include Urgent Fury in Grenada (1983); Earnest Will in the Persian Gulf (1987-1990); Just Cause in Panama (1989-1990); and Desert Shield/Storm in the Persian Gulf (1990-1991). SEALs also operated in Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, and Liberia.

What is a Navy SEAL team’s involvement in response to 9/11?

The SEALs have been heavily engaged in what became known as the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Most notably, the SEALs killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011.

What is a Navy SEAL today?

As the operational tempo and deployments for the GWOT have slowed, the Navy SEALs are evolving and likely training to face their next adversary.