The Naval Special Warfare Development Group, known as DEVGRU, Task Force Blue, Seal Team 6, or TACDEVRON, has been the tips of the proverbial trident for US Special Operations. From their inception to its contemporary operations, DEVGRU has evolved into one of the most formidable special forces in the world.
1. DEVGRU History
Seal Team 6’s formation is defined in large part by its forming members, known as Plank Owners, and its founder Richard Marcinko.
The Plank Owners were the 76 founding members who were at the forefront of SEAL Team 6’s initial operations. Though this initial team is no longer active, they were instrumental in establishing the teams’ tactics, doctrine and purpose. Marcinko was chosen to form the new SEAL after the failure of Operation Eagle Claw. Marcinko loved to drink and many of the team’s initial members were selected through bar room interviews with copious amounts of alcohol. (Source) Eventually, Marcinko left command of the team and moved on to form Red Cell, a unit tasked with testing the security of military installations. Red Cell would covertly infiltrate the US military’s most secure facilities and give recommendations on how to secure them. Eventually, Marcinko would be indicted on a variety of criminal charges and was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the government in 1990 and served 21 months in prison. (Source)
DEVGRU formed out of necessity, built in reaction to a new world requiring novel capabilities and functions in the warzone. For DEVGRU, this necessity began to take form in the wake of Operation Eagle Claw in 1979.
1.1. Operation Eagle Claw
When 53 staff members were taken hostage in the US embassy in Tehran, the US attempted every possible solution. The Carter administration would struggle for months upon months to no avail. Eventually, a military solution was planned to carefully free and extract the hostages. The mission, however, was plagued by a myriad of tactical and strategic errors, as well as failures in communication.
The original plan was complex in every facet, relying on a range of helicopters, aircraft and task forces from Delta Force and US Army Rangers as well as logistical support from the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy. Three of the eight helicopters failed to reach their destination. A helicopter crashed into a transport aircraft, resulting in the deaths of eight servicemen. (Source) In the end, the mission was aborted, the Carter administration was shamed and none of the hostages was rescued.
1.1.1. Looking forward
In the aftermath of this failure, the subsequent evaluations of US military operations, command structure and inter-agency cooperation, all lead to the eventual creation of SOCOM (Special Operations Command) and JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command). SOCOM and JSOC would begin restructuring special operations organizations, seeking increased coordination between the various special operation forces of the US military branches. In the same year of the failed hostage rescue, the Special Operations Review Group would personally recommend the creation of a Counterterrorist Joint Task Force, or CTJTF. Out of this necessity for a new dedicated counter-terrorist group, DEVGRU’s inception began.
1.2. Out of the darkness, into the shadows
DEVGRU would not become a publicly known entity for quite a while, nor would it even be known by the name DEVGRU. (Source) At the time of its inception, it was known under its more legendary name, SEAL Team 6. Despite its callsign, SEAL Team 6 was not the sixth team. The teams’ number was picked to deliberately deceive Soviet intelligence by overinflating the teams’ numbers.
Some of the first indications of the teams’ existence, or teams like it, was in 1984 when the New York Times published an article espousing evidence of the US military making “..Secret Units for Use in Sensitive Tasks Abroad”. (Source) Indeed, new teams were being formed, as military needs for specialized teams designed to handle high-risk tasks became greater and greater. It would later be revealed that SEAL teams, including SEAL Team 6, had begun operating on a number of important operations, with one of their first major deployments being during Operation Urgent Fury, the 1983 U.S. invasion of Grenada.
1.3. Operation Urgent Fury
In response to increased tensions between Grenada and the U.S, and seeking to protect the safety of Americans within Grenada, the U.S. launched a formal invasion of the small island nation. During this invasion, elements of the SEALs, including SEAL Team 6, participated in a number of tactical operations. In addition to recon operations following beach approaches, the team also successfully evacuated Governor Sir Paul Scoon and held off high numbers of attackers at the Governor’s mansion until they were relieved by Marine Force Recon. (Source)
Only a few years later in 1987, SEAL Team 6 would officially lose its name, and a number of its tasks were delegated to other SEAL teams. DEVGRU would emerge, still practising the counter-terrorist operations of its previous name, without much of its maritime boarding activities. Though officially changed to DEVGRU, the title of SEAL Team 6 remains to this day one of the unit’s most well-known names, maintained both through their known activities and the legend surrounding the team itself. DEVGRU would continue to be used with increased frequency, and as the nature of war changed dramatically towards more lean, adaptable and specialized forces, their task force would become increasingly essential to the modern American war doctrine.
2. The War on Terror and beyond
The 21st century would see the evolution of warfare into a state where smaller, more elite task forces took the place of larger conventional armies, in what some refer to as “new wars” where the non-state actor is of increasing importance. (Source) This evolution, paired with the events of the 9/11 terror attacks and the subsequent War on Terror, would create a global threat environment where teams such as DEVGRU were not just important, but essential.
Since their inception as SEAL Team 6 in the 1980s, DEVGRU would be used in ever-increasing frequency. In the modern day, DEVGRU responds to the most delicate and/or extreme terrorist threats. In addition to their constant service in Iraq and Afghanistan during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, some of their more publicly known operations would solidify their place as not just a Tier 1 special operations unit, but as a legendary fighting force. Among these known operations were their rescue of Captain Phillips and the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
2.1. Captain Phillips Rescue
Though the hostage situation involving Captain Phillips in 2009 may not have been the most dangerous or daring operation DEVGRU undertook, its actions during the operation gave the public a new look at the elite team and its capabilities. DEVGRU’s Red Squadron, operating on a US destroyer, killed the three of the pirates who were holding Captain Phillips hostage with sniper fire. (Source) These events captured the American public and media alike, increased attention to the issue of modern piracy, and brought DEVGRU into a new spotlight.
2.2. Neptune’s Spear
The notoriety of DEVGRU would reach an entirely new level following Operation Neptune Spear, or as it has become known in popular culture, the killing of Osama Bin Laden. On May 2nd, 2011, DEVGRU’s Red Squadron, flying low through Pakistani airspace in stealth configured Black Hawk helicopters, stormed Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound in the dead of the night. (Source) Despite a helicopter crash throwing a wrench into the operation, an hour later, the compound was secured, Bin Laden was dead, and the team was uninjured.
The operation resulted in the death of Al-Qaeda’s leader at the time, and in the subsequent books and movies, DEVGRU would ascend beyond its already highly respected role as Tier 1 operators. The team would become the face of America’s unrelenting and specialized pursuit to fight terrorism, for better or worse.
3. Contemporary Operations
Beyond Neptune’s Spear, Gothic Serpent, Enduring Freedom and a myriad of other operations, DEVGRU has participated in operations in essentially any theatre that the American military operates. Aside from infrequent publicly disclosed operations, the actual usage of DEVGRU in a contemporary sense is very hard to know. As with all Tier 1 Special Forces, their actual deployments are rarely disclosed, even years after their deployments are complete.
Among the more recent operations involving DEVGRU are the 2017 Al Hathla and 2018 Yakla raids in Yemen and in 2020, the rescue of an American citizen from insurgents in Niger. (Source) Beyond this, the modern operations of DEVGRU are cloaked, like the team itself, in shadow.
4. Squadrons of DEVGRU
While the operations of DEVGRU are largely unknown, the composition of the team itself is something that is (for the most part) well known. As of 2015, DEVGRU includes 1,787 personnel, including 1,342 military and 445 civilian team members. (Source) It is likely these numbers have increased in recent years. Within this expansive team, there exist four assault squadrons (Red, Blue, Gold and Silver), one intelligence squadron (Black), one transport/ QRF squadron (Gray) and one training squadron (Green). The squadrons are also known as TACDEVRON 1 through 5.
- TACDEVRON 1 = Red Squadron
- TACDEVRON 2 = Blue Squadron
- TACDEVRON 3 = Gold Squadron
- TACDEVRON 4 = Silver Squadron
- TACDEVRON 5 = Black Squadron
4.1. DEVGRU Force Organisation
- Squadron A (Red Squadron) (Assault)
- Commander (O-5) (HQ element)
- Troop A:
- Lieutenant Commander (O-4) (Troop HQ element)
- Troop Chief (E-9)
- Squad Composition:
- Senior Chief Petty Officer (E-8 or E-7)
- Additional command elements include Chief Petty Officers (E-7), Petty Officers First Class (E-6) and Petty Officers Second Class (E-5)
- Operator composition may vary depending on mission and deployment.
- Troop B:
- Same composition as Troop A
- Troop C:
- Same composition as Troop A
- Squadron B (Blue Squadron) (Assault)
- Same composition as Squadron A.
- Squadron C (Gold Squadron) (Assault)
- Same composition as Squadron A.
- Squadron D (Silver Squadron) (Assault)
- Same composition as Squadron A.
- Squadron E (Black Squadron) (Intelligence)
- Estimated to be composed of roughly 100 personnel in total.
- The exact composition is unknown. The composition may change if Black Squadron is operating entirely independent of other squadrons or if it is an attached component.
- Squadron F (Gray Squadron) (Transport)
- Estimated size and composition are unknown.
- Squad sizes very likely change according to mission requirements, dependent on the vehicles used, including the Mark V SOC, SEAL Delivery Vehicle and Special Operations Craft – Riverine.
- Mark V SOC Composition:
- Two x Mark V special operations craft.
- Special warfare boat operator (SB) x 5
- SEAL Delivery Vehicle Composition:
- SEALs x 6 per SDV
- Special Operations Craft – Riverine:
- Helmsman x 1
- Gunner x 3
- Accompanying SEALs x 8
4.2. DEVGRU Red Squadron
Red Squadron or “Red Men” is more well known, having conducted Operation Neptune’s Spear and tactical team during the Maersk Alabama Hijacking. Their insignia is of a Native American and a hatchet with a red backdrop. The symbolism of the hatchet has been particularly prevalent, with each team member being given 14-inch Native American-style hatchets. The hatchets are reportedly used in combat on a number of missions. (Source) Additionally, Red Squadron members are known to wear morale patches of Red Man Chewing Tobacco, for obvious reasons.
4.3. DEVGRU Blue Squadron
Also known as the “Pirates” due to their use of the Jolly Rogers symbol as their squadron insignia. Blue Squadron is one of the primary two teams that have existed within DEVGRU since its inception, alongside Gold Squadron.
Blue Squadron’s most notable deployment was with Red Squadron during the Battle of Takur Ghar, also known as “Roberts Ridge”. The battle, part of Operation Anaconda, was a costly engagement that resulted in the loss of seven American lives. Among the fallen was DEVGRU member Petty Officer Roberts. (Source)
4.4. DEVGRU Gold Squadron
The Gold Squadron, also known as the “Crusaders” or “Knights”, features either a Golden Lion with a trident tail on its own, or the lion with a red Crusader Cross in the background as its insignia. Gold Squadron, like Blue Squadron, is one of the two founding assault forces of DEVGRU.
Gold Squadron had its most visible operations in the early 2000s, where the team operated alongside CIA teams as part of the Omega Program. This joint effort would feature a number of international operations, often being involved in HVT capture or kill missions. (Source)
4.5. DEVGRU Silver Squadron
The Silver Squadron is the youngest of the four assault teams, formed around 2008. The team features a cumulative insignia, using the imagery of the other three teams. (Source) Silver Squadrons insignia is a skull (Blue Squadron), two hatchets (Red Squadron) and a sword (Gold Squadron).
Silver Squadron is more infamously known for its involvement in the rescue of Scottish aid worker Linda Norgrove. The rescue operation, which resulted in the death of all the aid worker’s captors, unfortunately also resulted in the death of Linda, from a grenade thrown by one of Silver Squadron’s operators. Following her death, members of Silver Squadron failed to initially report their responsibility, resulting in reprimands and military investigations. (Source)
4.6. DEVGRU Black Squadron
Black Squadron is one of the two non-assault teams of DEVGRU. Though it used to be a dedicated sniper unit, it now primarily fulfils the purpose of operational intelligence. (Source) The squadron is perhaps the most secretive of all the squadrons, as one would expect given their profession. Additionally, Black Squadron is known to have women within the unit, not as SEALs but to aid in intelligence collection and exploitation.
Black Squadron’s insignia, though rarely seen, features a horse head, trident and lightning bolt.
4.7. DEVGRU Gray Squadron
Gray Squadron, like Black Squadron, operates to support the primary four assault teams. Given DEVGRU being a subdivision of the Navy SEALs and their experience with amphibious operations, they require a dedicated vehicle and boat team. Gray Squadron, also known as “Vikings”, fulfil this role. Their insignia is seen as either a side-facing Viking, or a front-facing Viking with two axes behind it.
Gray Squadron operates alongside all other squadrons during maritime operations. They are most known as the team that physically retrieved Captain Phillips during the Maersk Alabama hijacking. (Source) They conducted this operation as a component of the Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCC).
4.8. DEVGRU Green Squadron (TEAM)
Green Squadron aka Green Team is not an actual operating squadron. Instead, it is the entry-level and training section of DEVGRU. Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, or BUD/S, is one of the first tests of new DEVGRU members. The standard SEAL training course gives great insight into the secretive design of DEVGRU’s training program.
The standard training includes combat diving, standard land warfare and physical conditioning to parachute jump school, advanced speciality training and the highly advanced Task Group Level training. (Source) SEAL training is one of the most rigorous training programs of any military division. The training itself has a substantially higher failure rate in comparison to other military branches and teams.
5. Selection and Training
As one of America’s most elite forces, the process of becoming a member of DEVGRU is no small task. The requirements for selection, and the selection process itself will result in only the highest calibre trainees making it through. There are a number of prerequisites to begin selection:
- Be at least 21.
- Already be an active member of a SEAL team or SEAL Delivery Vehicle team.
- Have been on a SEAL team for at least 5 years.
- Must have served at least two deployments.
Once the selection prerequisites have been met, a trainee begins the training process. Though the actual exercises and processes of training are unknown, the selection process has only a 25% pass rate. The two known components are among the most infamous, BUD/S and Hell Week. All SEAL members will conduct these two portions of the training. (Source)
BUD/S, also known as Basic Underwater Demolition/ SEAL, is a training school that DEVGRU shares with all SEALs. This school has its own physical requirements:
- 1000 meter swim in 20 minutes or under.
- At least 70 pushups in 2 minutes.
- 10 pull ups with no time limit.
- At least 60 situps in 2 minutes.
- A four-mile run in 31 minutes or under.
BUD/S includes a myriad of conditions designed to break down all but the most determined. SEAL trainees are drilled in diving skills, combat diving, extreme physical conditioning, land warfare training, swimming tests and mental conditioning. (Source) BUD/S reaches its highest intensity in its infamous Hell Week.
5.1.1. Hell Week
The third week of BUD/S heavily tests the physical and mental toughness of SEAL candidates. Trainees can expect roughly 4 hours of sleep for the entirety of the 5 ½ days, all the while being in a constantly cold and wet environment. Demanding and vigilant officers will have all trainees in motion at almost all times, never allowing them to rest. They will confront hypothermia, extreme sleep deprivation and even hallucination. (Source)
Following the completion of BUD/S and surviving Hell Week, SEALs become active members. They will then, after a period of service, be ready to apply to DEVGRU.
5.2. DEVGU Selection
Initially, SEALs trying out for DEVGRU will be required to undergo a physical fitness test, likely with much higher standards than the typical SEAL teams. Then candidates must attend a board akin to a promotion board where senior leaders grill the candidate and review their records. Upon selection, the SEAL will be sent to Green Team aka Green Squadron where they will continue to be tested, educated, and evaluated for around six months. It’s speculated that less than 50% of applicants make it through Green Team. (Source) Additionally, upon completion of DEVGRU selections, candidates are allegedly drafted to their squadrons rather than assigned at random.
6. Weapons of DEVGRU
DEVGRU also serves its name in a very literal sense, by being a development team for new gear and systems. The arsenal of DEVGRU is hard to fully know. However, what components are known paints the picture of a highly developed array of advanced gear.
6.1. Assault Rifles
- Mk 18
- HK 416
- SR 16
- Noveske rifles
Over the years DEVGRU has used a multitude of rifles and carbines depending on their specific mission requirements. Historically, their primary weapons were variants of M16/M4 pattern rifles. One of the most well-known carbines used by DEVGRU and the SEAL teams as a whole was the Close Quarter Battle Receiver (CQBR) aka the Mk 18.
6.1.1. Mk 18 / CQBR
The CQBR was developed by Naval Surface Warfare – Crane Division as a short barrel upper receiver group to be used on M4 pattern lower receivers. The original government contractor of the M16, Colt Manufacturing, had attempted to make a short barrel variant of the M16 known as the XM177. The XM177 saw use with US special operations teams during the Vietnam War, however, the carbine’s short barrel required a moderator muzzle device to increase back pressure and ensure reliable cycling. This additional moderator added significant length to the platform. While still shorter than an M16 the XM177 was more comparable in size to the M4.
Crane Division was able to fix many of the problems that plagued the XM177 with the CQBR. The CQBR no longer required the use of a moderator to cycle reliably. However, it came at the cost of significant wear on internal components. The CQBR began to phase out the MP5 as the weapon of choice for room clearing and Visit Board Search and Seizure (VBSS) missions. The CQBR provided better range and terminal ballistics in a comparable package to the MP5. Additionally, the small and fast-moving 5.56x45mm round was less likely to ricochet inside the metal interiors of ships than the slow and heavy 9x19mm round of the MP5.
Eventually, the CQBR would change from just an upper receiver replacement for the M4 into its own platform known as the MK 18 mod 0. The MK 18 would see use by numerous units throughout SOCOM and would continue to be upgraded alongside the SOPMOD M4 upgrades. The most current iteration in common use is the MK 18 mod 1, however, there is speculation of an MK 18 utilizing the same rail upgrade as the M4A1-URGI.
6.1.2. HK 416
For most of the Global War on Terror DEVGRU has used the iconic HK 416 carbine. The HK 416 has its origins within Delta Force despite not seeing widespread use within the Unit. However, DEVGRU took a shine to the platform due to its increased reliability and performance when suppressed compared to the Mk 18. Additionally, the 416 performs exceptionally in “Over The Beach” (OTB) operations. The 416’s internal operating system is robust and allows it to drain water quickly, preventing catastrophic failures if there is water in the system. Obviously, this is pretty important to a maritime raid force. The 416 has seen use by DEVGRU for the better part of two decades. Most famously the 416 was used during Operation Neptune Spear and was the weapon used to kill Usama Bin Laden.
6.1.3. Commercially Procured Rifles
As DEVGRU’s name suggests, they also serve a role as a developmental unit. DEVGRU will test new equipment and weapons to see how useful they actually are. Operators conducting T&E on a wide variety of rifles procured from the commercial market. Companies like Knights Armament Company and Noveske Rifle Works have produced rifles for DEVGRU to try out.
6.2. Submachine Guns and PDWs
- HK MP7
- SIG LVAW
Submachine guns are weapons of a bygone era. For many years assaulters would use the antiquated MP5 submachine gun, particularly during VBSS missions. Nowadays, submachine guns have been made obsolescent by small arms improvements. The Mk 18 and HK 416 offer operators significantly more firepower in a package comparable to the MP5. However, some submachine guns do occasionally see used today.
Most assaulters stick to their HK 416s due to the lethality and accuracy of the larger intermediate cartridge. However, DEVGRU assault teams are composed of more than just assaulters. There are also a multitude of enablers working alongside the assaulters to complete the mission. Enablers may carry older weapons like the Mk 18 rather than the HK 416. However, certain enablers like dog handlers have different requirements for their primary weapon. When being able to effectively command and control the dog takes precedence over firepower, then a submachine gun like the MP7 is used.
6.2.1. HK MP7
The MP7 is made by the same company that produced the MP5 as well as the 416. The MP7 fills the role of a personal defence weapon due to its incredibly compact design. This makes it more suitable for members of a team who are not responsible for leading the assault.
The MP7 gives these members the ability to protect themselves should the mission go south. The round that the MP7 fires is not terribly effective even at close quarters. It is an incredibly small bullet moving very quickly. Meaning that it tends to poke holes in people and pass straight through, rather than creating the wound cavitation required for lethal shots. However, the MP7 makes up for this by utilizing 40-round magazines and having very little felt recoil. This allows the user to dump up to 40 rounds into a target within a few seconds, likely providing at least one debilitating shot. Members of Red Squadron reportedly used the MP7 during the Bin Laden raid.
DEVGRU has also been known to use variants of the SIG MCX platform. Originally DEVGRU had experimented with the SIG Rattler variant of the MCX until SOCOM settled on the Low Visibility Assault Weapon (LVAW) to fufil the role of a quiet and compact personal defence weapon (PDW). The LVAW is chamber in 7.62x35mm aka .300 Blackout. The .300 Blackout round is designed to use the same magazines as standard M4/Mk 18/ HK 416s. However the round performs exceptionally well out of extremely short barrels and maintains lethality even when using subsonic rounds. The whole platform is intended to be used suppressed in order to reduce the user’s signature. This in conjunction with the LVAW’s ability to have a folding stock, provides the user an extremely compact, quiet, and lethal close-quarters weapon.
6.3. Precision Rifles
Among DEVGRUs long-range weapons, a number of specialized rifles come into play, including:
- SEAL Recce Rifle
- Mk12 Special Purpose Rifle
- Mk 13
- SR 25/Mk 11
Prior to their restructuring as an intelligence squadron, Black Squadron members were the primary users of long-range precision weapons.
6.3.1. SEAL Recce Rifle
The SEAL Recce Rifle dates back to the early 1990s when operators were looking for a rifle that was more accurate than the M16 or M4 but could still share ammo and be pushed into the role of an assault rifle if needed. Typically Recce rifles used a 40.5cm (16in) barrel. However, there is no true standard spec because they were assembled by armourers using commercially sourced barrels, handguards, and scopes. They would then install the parts onto a mil-spec M4, resulting in an accurized platform that shared ammo and magazines with every assault and conventional element operating in theatre. Eventually, Crane Division would begin to refine the idea into the Mk 12 Special Purpose Rifle.
6.3.2. Mk 12 SPR
Much like the Mk 18, the Mk 12 was originally intended to just be an upper receiver group that operators could swap around on the M4s based on mission requirements. However, the program eventually evolved into a standalone weapon system. Alongside the Mk 12 Crane Division was developing a special ammo that could match the accuracy of the system. The new ammo was known as Black Hills Mk 262. The Mk 262 ammunition featured a 77-grain match-grade bullet. Compared to the 55 grain or 62 grain ammo that was the NATO standard for 5.56x45mm, the Mk 262 allowed the Mk 12 to reach much longer ranges while maintaining lethality.
188.8.131.52. Mk 12 mod 0 & 1
Anecdotally, some SEALs did not like the transition from their Recce Rifles to the Mk 12. When Crane gets involved in a program that means SOCOM as a whole gets involved too which can lead to the bureaucratic good idea fairy messing things up. The original Mk 12 is known as the Mk 12 mod 0. It featured a carbon fiber handguard and an integrated front sight/gas block. THe carbon fiber handguard had small rail segments at the end to attach a bipod and lights or lasers. The Mk 12 Mod 0 saw much more use by Army Special Forces than any other unit in SOCOM.
The next iteration was the Mk 12 mod 1 which featured a MIL STD 1913 quad rail system but chose a low profile gas block rather than one with an integrated sight. The Mk 12 mod 1 saw much more use throughout the entire Department of the Navy, even seeing use with conventional Marine forces. Both the Mk 12 mod 0 and mod 1 used 45.7cm (18in) barrels. However, Master Sergeant Holland from the US Army’s 5th Special Forces Group created a semi official mod of the Mk 12 SPR known as the mod H.
184.108.40.206. Mk 12 mod H
The mod H was a return to the original Recce RIfle in many ways. It utilized a 40.5cm (16in) barrel and shed much of the weight that had been added to the Mk 12. Although the original Recce Rifle and the Mk 12 mod 1 share a rail system, the mod 0 and the mod H share a rail system too. Outwardly, the mod H looks like a combination of the Recce Rifle and the mod 0.
All four of these platforms all shared a common suppressor known as the Ops Inc. model 12 suppressor. The Ops Inc. suppressor was a reflex design, meaning it slides over the barrel about 5cm (2in) and interfaces with an alignment collar. Although this system is heavier than a typical suppressor it minimizes the shift in the point of aim/point of impact that is typical for suppressors.
6.3. Machine Guns
- Mk 46
- Mk 48
Belt-fed machine guns are a crucial element in any raid force. When DEVGRU assaults an objective there are more operators than just the ones assaulting. Light machine gun teams help to establish and provide fire superiority on the objective. They allow the assault element to manoeuvre onto the objective if they take contact during infill. Additionally, they can hold off counterattacks while the raiding party is still on the objective or during exfil. Machine guns play a crucial role in DEVGRU’s ability to manoeuvre on the objective.
6.3.1. Mk 46
In the 1980s the US military adopted a variant of the FN Minimi known as the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW). The SAW was used by conventional forces as well as special operations forces under SOCOM for decades. The SAW shares the 5.56x45mm cartridge with the standard infantryman’s M4 and it could even be fed from M4 magazines. However, in the early 2000s SOCOM wanted the SAW to be lighter and to have the provisions to mount lights and lasers. Thus the Mk 46 was born. The Mk 46 is essentially just a streamlined variant of the SAW, having had some frivolous features removed. The Mk 46 does not have a quick change barrel, vehicle mounting points, or the ability to feed from M4 magazines. Additionally, it was given a lightweight barrel as well as a quad rail system for mounting lights, lasers, and grips.
6.3.2. Mk 48
At the same time that the MK 46 was coming online, Naval Special Warfare was still adamant about keeping their M60 machine guns. SEALs had been using the M60 since Vietnam despite the M240 being a far more reliable machine gun, due to the M60 being lighter and smaller. Both guns fired the 7.62x51mm cartridge, significantly heavier than the 5.56 cartridge, with improved range and terminal ballistics. SOCOM’s solution to NSW’s reluctance was the Mk 48. The Mk 48 is essentially a beefed-up MK 46 chambered in 7.62x51mm. The platform was lighter and more compact than the M60 while also being significantly more reliable.
Like many other Navy SEAL teams, DEVGRU uses primarily:
- Sig Sauer P226R
- Glock 19
Each of these sidearms may vary between all the squadrons based on preference.
6.5. Special Weapons
Special weapons used by the SEALs and Seal Team 6 include rocket launchers, grenade launchers and anti-material rifles:
- Carl Gustav M3 and M4 Recoilless Rifles
- M72 Law
Among DEVGRU’s most notable grenade launchers is the break action, single shot M79 grenade launcher, aka the “Pirate Gun”. A relic from the Vietnam War, this launcher remains a practical and enduring tool for the DEVGRU squadrons. (Source)
Hatchets are by no means a new battlefield implement, American soldiers have been carrying them off and on since the American revolution. However, the archaic implement found its home once again in the Native American-inspired Red Squadron of SEAL team 6. In the early days of the war in Afghanistan, Red Squadron found itself under the command of Rear Admiral Hugh Wyman Howard III. Howard solicited a number of hatchets from a famous North Carolina knife maker Daniel Winkler.
The Winkler hatchets used by DEVGRU are roughly 35.5cm (14in) long. The original intent for the hatchets was to be symbolic and act as a morale booster. However, operators began to use the hatchets for a wide variety of tasks such as breaching, hand-to-hand combat, and mutilating corpses. Red Team operators began to steer hard into the pseudo-Native American culture they had given themselves and took fingers and scalp from their slain enemies. Before missions, Howard was known to often tell his operators to “bloody the hatchet” as a rallying cry and command. (Source)
While their use by DEVGRU’s Red Squadron is indicative of larger issues, the hatchet’s popularity began to spread. Hatchets are sometimes carried by members of other squadrons as well as regular SEAL teams. Members of the US Army’s Delta Force are also known to carry hatchets made by Winkler.
7. Equipment of DEVGRU
Throughout the years DEVGRU operators have used a multitude of kits in the course of their duties. During the early years of the GWOT, operators could be seen in Desert Camo Utility (DCU) style uniforms. However, Naval Special Warfare quickly adopted two unique camos known as AOR 1 and AOR 2. AOR stands for Area of Responsibility and the two camos are used depending on the climate of the region they are operating in.
AOR 1 is the most easily recognizable of the two camos due to its widespread use by DEVGRU and regular SEAL teams during the GWOT. However, AOR 2 has seen widespread adoption by the Navy, replacing their old blue digital camo uniforms. In recent years DEVGRU has been seen sporting Multicam more often. Allegedly, the new standard issue plate carrier for DEVGRU is a Multicam pattern carrier produced by Eagle Industries, replacing the suite of Crye Precision-made carriers that had been used for decades.
- MICH TC 2001
- Ops-Core Fast SF
- Ops-Core Fast XP
- Ops-Core Fast Maritime
7.2. Plate Carriers
- Crye Precision NJPC
- Crye Precision JPC 2.0
- Crye Precision AVS
- Crye Precision SPC
- Crye Precision CPC
- London Bridge Trading 6094
- S&S Precision Plate Frame
- Eagle Industries MMAC
- Eagle Industries MMAC-R 2019
8. Beyond the warzone
Seal Team 6 has arisen as a symbol for American military might on the edges of the world, the elite of the elite. Their actions in many operations have been conflict-defining at times, and borderline legendary at others. The team has at times become larger than itself, entering the realm of myth in their deeds and purpose, pushed both by the teams themselves, and the nation that they serve.
Though the vast array of what DEVGRU actually does year to year is unknown, the operations that are made public are often portrayed in a way that makes their actions truly honourable, and even ones to be celebrated. At the same time, media retelling of events like the Maersk Alabama hijacking or the raid on Bin Laden has already encountered a number of backlashes and controversies. Despite its legendary reputation, DEVGRU has a record of deviations from military standards and even brutality against enemy combatants.
9. Shrouded in darkness
Out of all the special mission units within JSOC, DEVGRU is by far the most well-known publicly. This also extends to their failures and missteps. Lack of authorization, blunders and potential war crimes have been alleged against DEVGRU. It is unlikely that this cowboy culture only exists within DEVGRU. However, they are the most well-known and publicized, so their shortcomings are the most well-known. Perhaps it isn’t the men shaping the culture, but the culture shaping the men.
Are these behaviours indicative of soldiers that believe they are untouchable? When operating at the level that many DEVGRU operators do, perhaps they are in a sense. DEVGRU will remain an elite force shrouded in mystery, operating at the highest level of efficiency in the most dangerous of places, but always just out of view.