Meet The Pirate Killers

April 22nd, 2009 at 10:59 am | 7 Comments |

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How can the Navy SEALs drop three pirates with three precision shots, ask thus saving Captain Richard Phillips? was allowed to visit a SEAL qualification program to see how these men were trained.

For six previous days, with only two periods of rest per day, each rest lasting only two hours, applicants had been pushed to their breaking point both mentally and physically.  They had been immersed in cold water close to hypothermia conditions. They had run up steep hills in soft sand, each team of six hoisting a 200 pound boat above their heads.  They had run relays with the boat above their heads, with rest permitted only to those who won. They had performed diving and swimming drills in deep water – blindfolded.

At any point during this training they can go to a platform, ring a bell and drop out of the program. And most do: Out of the 157 men who had begun the “hell week” whose conclusion I witnessed, exactly 100 had dropped out, leaving 100 helmets lined up behind them. I will never forget watching those who had survived the initiation.  They walked toward their rest area slowly, deliberately; bow legged, grimacing with pain with each step they took. 

The acronym SEAL stands for sea, air, and land forces of the US Navy special warfare unit.

A prospective SEAL can either go to the local Navy recruiter and sign up or request a transfer from another unit once in the Navy.  Most of the recruits are 18 to 24 years of age. They come from every imaginable ethnic background. Interestingly, they are not necessarily the tallest or fastest recruits.  However, as Commander Gregory Geisen, Naval Special Warfare Command Force Public Affairs Officer stated, “One common characteristic you will find in a SEAL is the willingness not to quit.”  A SEAL spokesman stated that this special warfare unit does not want a Rambo type personality.  Instead, they are looking for men (due to a congressional regulation women cannot serve) who are willing to sacrifice their personal life and are excellent team players.  Mental toughness is as much a pre-requisite as physical toughness.  A SEAL pushes his body and mind to succeed.

SEAL applicants undergo a three-year training program based out of Coronado, California, or Norfok, Virginia. Only at the end of this long apprenticeship can they call themselves SEALs.

SEALS are deployed in over thirty countries. They are inserted to a mission by a Mark 5 boat, or a small combat rubber craft, by jumping off the boat and swimming, or by parachute.  They prefer ghost-like operations where their comings and goings are in secret.

A SEAL spokesman wanted the American public to know that most of their missions are never heard about. Yet, “Since 9-11 every single day and night SEALS are coordinating with other agencies to find, kill, and capture terrorists in order to protect their fellow Americans”, the spokesman explained.

The SEALS live and die by their creed, which states in part: “I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission.”  It was a privilege to observe their guts and commitment. They are indeed today’s silent heroes.

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7 Comments so far ↓

  • barker13

    God bless our SEALS.That said, I’d LOVE to know what the SEALS themselves – from the snipers who actually took out the “pirates” to the top brass – thought of how the operation in its totality was carried out from the moment the U.S. Navy first got to the scene till the dramatic and successful rescue.Specifically, I’d like to know what the professionals in the know believe with regard to how the crisis was “handled” by the Obama administration.Did anyone happen to catch O’Reilly last night?'s part of what Col. David Hunt had to say:”…it took too long….It should never have taken four days with the capability this country has against four guys with AK-47s in a boat….The POTUS unfortunately took 17 – my information – calls and meetings about this incident; the problem is that between the POTUS and these great SEAL snipers was about 15 separate headquarters…We had a capability on the Bainbridge that when the Captain jumped – a very brave guy – we didn’t blow that boat out of the water. The rules of engagement changed from that moment till when you had the navy SEAL snipers…The POTUS and these 15 headquarters were in disagreement as to what we’d always called the rules of engagement which authorizes people to kill somebody, the problem is you’ve got too many people in the middle of this…”Anyway, the clip I provide the link for is only 4:01 minutes. Check it out. This is NOT an “attack post” against President Obama. Hunt goes back to LBJ and his micromanagement of the Vietnam War. This post addresses the “what ifs” and “how’bouts” concerning why the hostage situation wasn’t ended when the Captain jumped off the pirates’ boat. It’s a good question. Furthermore, it leads to the question of what the new “rules of engagement” are going forward.Think about it… from the time the Captain jumped out of the pirates’ boat and was temporarily free till his ultimate rescue.. what if during that time the pirates would have killed him? What if they had killed him when we know he could have been saved earlier when he jumped out of the pirates’ boat and was momentarily free? Where would the blame have fallen?BILL

  • Niece

    The washington times has piece with various senior administrative officials disputing that account, barker13. It’s a good article, probably the most authoritative account of the SEAL mission

  • nealjking

    barker13:I read the timeline of events from the Washington Times article referenced by Niece. I believe they point out that there were no SEALs in place at the time of Phillips’ first escape attempt, because they had to be flown in from several thousand miles away.Another important point: Obama’s first priority was the safety of the hostage. At the time of the first escape attempt, the distance between the US and the boat was some 200 yards; whereas at the time of the actual shots, it was only 30 yards. That’s an important difference when you are talking about target and shooter both on rocking water. They were able to approach the boat only later in the game, when the pirates accepted an offer of towing by rope, during the course of the negotiation.So, it’s possible that a Rambo-style approach could have been tried earlier; it’s also quite possible that such an approach could have easily resulted in a dead hostage. Maybe good for the testosterone, good for the movie – but not so great for Phillips and his family.

  • barker13

    Re: Niece; 8:05 PM –Thanks, Niece, give me few minutes to read the article… ok… my reaction:1) “…National Security Adviser James. L. Jones said…”Well, what would you expect him to say, he works for Obama, his job is to make Obama look good and if necessary to fall on his sword to protect Obama.2) “…Jones, a retired Marine Corps four-star general…”On the other hand… we’re talking a marine, a retired four-star. I don’t believe he’d lie for Obama or any politician.3) As soon as the Pentagon took charge on April 10 with its warship the USS Bainbridge on the scene, Mr. Obama first authorized a few Navy SEALs from a base in Africa to deploy to the Bainbridge and take necessary action.So far, no actual conflict with Hunt’s version. Note, Niece, neither Hunt (nor I) are questioning the outstanding job the SEALS did, nor – to the best of my knowledge – is anyone disputing that Obama authorized the SEALS to go in and take action.Where I have questions is not post-SEAL-arrival, but rather, PRIOR to the SEALS arriving on the scene was the Captain of the Bainbridge ordered not to attempt a rescue on his own even if in his judgment such a rescue was feasible and indeed a safer option (risk wise to the hostage) than waiting.I mean… Niece… I’m not Hemingway nor even JK Rowling… (*GRIN*)… but I believe my initial post was fairly direct in terms of my concerns and whom I’d like to hear from. (*SHRUG*)Listen. This is a long article. Let me break up my reactions (in order, as I continue reading) into separate posts. OK?BILL

  • barker13

    * Continuing…4) “I can tell you from a White House and presidential standpoint, there was no conflict, no gnashing of teeth, or excessive influence in trying to manage this thing,” Mr. Jones, a retired Marine Corps four-star general, told The Washington Times in an interview. Hmm. “…from a White House and presidential standpoint…” Fair enough. Still… doesn’t it sound like he’s picking his words VERY carefully? Note that he doesn’t say “…from a military standpoint…” Again – to be clear – I’m not “dissing” the general nor looking for an excuse to bash Obama. Re-read my original post.Obviously neither the SEALs themselves nor the Captain of the Bainbridge nor any serving member of the military will be publicly “second guessing” the command structure, which is why I’d love to hear from the Captain and crew of the Bainbridge as well as the SEALs as to whether what Hunt “heard” is closer to fiction or fact.(BTW… did you watch the YouTube I posted? NeilJKing, how’bout you?)5) “It took awhile to get facts and then to get the military on scene,” said one senior military official, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of discussing special forces operations. “As the picture got more clear and commanders’ requests went back down the chain, the guidance was: ‘We would like a peaceful resolution. However, if Captain Phillips’ life is in danger you can take appropriate action.’ ” See… now THAT’S what I’m talking about. The only problem… I can’t tell whether they’re talking BEFORE or AFTER the SEALs arrived on the scene.6) The arrival of the first SEAL team gave the military an emergency capability if the pirates holding the ship’s captain became violent.See… again my question is… PRIOR to the arrival of the SEAL team did the Captain of the Bainbridge have authorization to act or had he been ordered to stand fast… and if so… at the President’s order or as some sort of standard operating procedure.Look… Niece… what I’m questioning is what Hunt questioned, namely, why didn’t the Bainbridge blow the pirates out of the water the moment Phillips momentarily broke away and was momentarily “safe” in the water? Indeed, why did the Bainbridge not have divers in the water, under the pirate boat round the clock, just waiting for such a chance. Phillips jumps into the water… one diver provides him air via “buddy” regulator, and they swim away to safety with the now former hostage while the Bainbridge acts to either kill or capture the pirates now left all alone on their boat with no hostage?Hey… perhaps there are damn good reasons why such a scenario isn’t realistic or feasible… but I for one would like to hear the reasons coming from an authoritative source, a navy source. BILL

  • barker13

    * Continuing…7) Among the reports disputed by Pentagon officials was a widely circulated Internet critique – purportedly from an anonymous source close to the SEAL community – saying Navy SEALs missed a chance to shoot the pirates on April 10 when Richard Phillips, the captain of the hijacked freighter, jumped out of a lifeboat where he was being held in a failed escape attempt. Again… I’m asking about the timeline and the orders PRIOR to the SEALs arriving on the scene.8) However, military officials at the Pentagon involved in the operation said Navy SEAL snipers had not arrived on board the Bainbridge at that time and therefore could not have fired on the pirates. (*SIGH*) OK. But again… my question concerns the timeline PRIOR to the SEALs arriving. we really being told that this ship didn’t have the capacity to take out the pirate boat cleanly at a moment’s notice? If not… we’re REALLY in trouble. I mean the boat should have been targeted every SECOND of every HOUR during the “confrontation” and it seems to me that literally within seconds of Phillips jumping into the ocean and getting just a few meters clear that the pirates should have been toast and divers should have been there to ensure Phillips’ safety in the water till they could get him aboard ship.9) Contrary to the critical report, the president did not reject two proposed rescue attempts by U.S. forces prior to the sniper attack, Mr. Jones said. OK. I readily accept that. But this isn’t answering my questions…(*SHRUG*)BILL

  • barker13

    * Finishing up…OK. Here seems to be the needle in the haystack:10) At the Pentagon, military officials said the rules of engagement were set by military commanders at Central Command and were more limited than combat rules because the Navy regarded the operation as countering criminal activity, namely piracy. So… this SEEMS to be saying that, yes, the Bainbridge ***ALLOWED*** Captain Phillips to be recaptured after he had momentarily “escaped” the pirates by jumping into the ocean.11) Mr. Jones said the hostage rescue was “a real-world test” for the White House National Security Council crisis system that he heads, as well as a test for the Pentagon. “I think everybody played their part well and there wasn’t any overstepping on anybody’s equities,” he said. “The right questions were asked and the right actions were taken.” And this is exactly where I’m not so sure such policies make sense. Again… imagine… imagine if after “recapturing” Phillips the pirates had killed him, or even “just” cut off a hand or foot or otherwise acted to “punish” Phillips and make the point that his attempted escape had consequences?No, folks… I’m not trying out for a screen writers guild job with Spike TV or anything. I’m simply posing the sort of questions that really should be at the heart of the “learning experience” of this incident.My posts are not an “attack” upon Obama. Again… I’m simply posing the sorts of questions that I believe the media should be posing and military experts should be answering at the TACTICAL level… not the “political” level.Anyway… Niece… NeilJKing… thanks for taking part in the discussion. Again, if you haven’t watched the 4:01 minute clip I originally provided, I urge you to do so.BILL