SEAL TEAM SIX
Also known as the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group – usually shortened to DEVGRU – SEAL Team Six is an elite counterterrorism unit, seen as possessing a skill and experience set that is equaled only by the Army’s Delta Force (aka, SFOD-D; aka, Combat Applications Group); both of these secretive groups are Tier One assets of the United States Special Operations Command, and as such their chain of command is more elegant than, say, Tier Two assets like the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, Special Forces (aka Green Berets), Navy SEALs, or the Marine Special Operations Regiment; Tier One assets receive deployment orders from the Defense Secretary, Joint Chiefs, or the President; intelligence for operations carried out by Tier One assets is provided by the Army’s Intelligence Support Activity (aka The Activity, aka Centra Spike, aka Cemetery Wind, aka Gray Wolf, aka Torn Victor; the group frequently changes its name based on specific operations, whether that be during Operation Gothic Serpent in Somalia in 1993, or, say, providing signals intelligence (SIGINT) to locate Pablo Escobar) and often, in the case of SEAL Team Six, the CIA; in the wake of Operation Desert Claw – a mission on April 24th, 1980 to rescue American hostages in Iran, resulting in the death of eight military casualties and no hostages rescued – SEAL Team Six was formed; boiling down all the aforementioned jargon: SEAL Team Six and Delta Force are the best operators in the arsenal of the United States military at precision counterterrorism work, which includes direct action and hostage recovery; while the existence of SEAL Team Six is officially denied, it is generally believed (but impossible to verify) that they’re based in Dam Neck, Virginia; when I lived on the coast of Virginia – and had occasion to visit Virginia Beach – some of my friends in the military would make jokes, hypothesizing, for instance, which miniature golf course was the preferred course for SEAL Team Six; that mystery was never solved; while I don’t personally know any operators with SEAL Team Six – and even if I did, I wouldn’t actually “know” – I do have a couple friends who are retired from the Special Forces; I cringed during the news of Osama bin Laden’s death as TV news reporters frequently referred to all elite soldiers as “Special Forces,” when in fact the correct, more general umbrella nomenclature is “Special Operations,” and “Special Forces” refers specifically to the Army’s Special Forces – colloquially known as “Green Berets”; my friends who were in the Special Forces – and were frequently deployed throughout the 2000s to Iraq and Afghanistan – would be quick to point out that they “earn” the Green Beret, or “wear” the Green Beret, but that they don’t prefer to be called Green Berets; another common mistake by reporters is to refer to SEALs or Special Forces as “operatives,” when in fact they’re “operators”; “operative” would suggest, for instance, a CIA agent; it is worth noting, however, that within the Special Activities Division (SAD) of the CIA, there is the Special Operations Group (SOG), which carries out the paramilitary operations of the CIA; the SOG would include many operatives who were formerly operators in organizations like the SEALs or Delta; there is quite a bit of competition – of the typical male bravado sort – between elite Navy SEAL and Army units; an Army Ranger or Special Forces soldiers might claim that Delta Force possesses the best-trained soldiers on Earth, and while they might express admiration for SEALs and SEAL Team Six, saying something like, “They own the water, for sure,” they may have a subtle critique of the SEAL stereotype (as a cocky showboat), whereas, they would say, Delta and Special Forces operators are much more humble; SEALs, however, might be quick to counter: “SEAL stands for Sea, Air, and Land,” suggesting they can handle ground operations with equal skill to their Delta counterparts; to someone like myself, a civilian with no military background, this can seem a bit silly and confusing; silly, because these soldiers are all badasses who’ve proven themselves repeatedly in combat operations; confusing, because their stories can be a maze of acronyms; last week, as the story broke of Osama bin Laden’s death at the hands of approximately 80 SEAL Team Six operators who worked with CIA intelligence, I thought quite a bit about the disconnect in the United States between civilians and soldiers; the story is less than two weeks old, and it has already been recounted, re-recounted, mythologized, examined, critiqued, and in some corners, condemned; it is, of course, troubling that initial official reports from the White House didn’t simply report the death (some linguists would assert it was an “assassination” of the very-planned variety), but felt it necessary to falsify details of Bin Laden’s death; the White House now finds itself in a quagmire; was Bin Laden bravely defending himself, or a simpering coward intent on using female shields?; nobody wants a martyr; “probable cause” and “innocent until proven guilty” are defining features of the United States justice system, but what do the true details of bin Laden’s death – slowly, steadily leaking out – reveal?; that we’re remarkably efficient at eliminating enemy targets with glorious precision?; that we value justice?; in the decade since 2001, has our notion of justice remained constant, or is it possible that is has degraded?; nobody is debating whether or not Osama Bin Laden was a “bad man,” but when a targeted assassination of the man – which has been in the works for well over a decade (remember: President Clinton called bin Laden “Public Enemy Number One” in 1998) – generates joyous hysteria in the streets, can we truly claim to live in a nation that values fair and due process?; somehow, sadly, as images of parties at Ground Zero were broadcast to the world, I was reminded of the image of Nazis burning to death in “Inglourious Basterds,” and the cartoonish, cinematic glee the image sought to induce (or yes, perhaps it was commentary on our collective bloodlust, or our disconnect between reality and film-reality, or some other vaguely post-modern turn, all of which feels a bit like a self-reflexive and autofellating Möbius strip); if we’ve come to expect, through cynicism or matter-of-fact pragmatism, that our reality is not one of truth – but of the truth we choose to report, whatever its validity – well, then perhaps we do live in a truly cinematic age; who better to quote, in that case, than Werner Herzog – a filmmaker who hopscotches between fiction and documentary film, trying to capture “ecstatic truth” – who has said, many times in many iterations: “Give us adequate images”; as of yet, the image of bin Laden’s corpse has been withheld from the public, but the mythological story of his death grows greater with each day; each culture – Pakistani or American, Taliban or Chomskyite – will find their own truth in the forest of facts (and misinformation) that have been disseminated; will May 2nd, the day of Bin Laden’s death, be celebrated in a year, or five years, or 50 years?; will May 2nd become inextricably linked to September 11th, twin holidays of mourning and celebration?; will the truth of Osama bin Laden’s life and death affect the meaning of those days?; does the truth even matter anymore?; Osama bin Laden is dead; it has been reported that he was killed with double-tap shots to the chest and head from the gun of a member of SEAL Team Six; SEAL Team Six was transported into and out of Pakistan by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, aka Night Stalkers; the unofficial motto of the Night Stalkers is: “Death Waits in the Dark”; perhaps this motto is an apt analogy in discussions of news reporting and truth; whose death waits in the dark?; all our deaths?; the deaths of our enemies?; who are our enemies?; do you know?; How do you know?; because your preferred media outlet has named them for you?; it has been widely reported that on May 2nd, 2011, Osama bin Laden was killed; we can all agree on one thing: Bin Laden was an enemy of America; the rest is just speculation; the true-truth waits in the dark.