SEAL Team Six

"Team 6" redirects here. For the news organization in Miami, see WTVJ.
For the multinational police force, see Special Team Six.
Naval Special Warfare Development Group
Active November 1980 – present
Country  United States of America
Branch United States Navy
Type Special operations force
Role Special operations

1,787 personnel authorized:[1]

  • 1,342 military personnel
  • 445 civilian personnel
estimated but exact amount is classified
Part of United States Special Operations Command
Joint Special Operations Command
United States Naval Special Warfare Command
Headquarters Dam Neck Annex
NAS Oceana, Virginia Beach, Virginia, U.S.
Nickname(s) DEVGRU, Devgru, SEAL Team Six, Seal Team 6

The United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (NSWDG), commonly known as DEVGRU or Devgru,[2] is a U.S. Navy component of Joint Special Operations Command. It is often referred to as SEAL Team Six, the name of its predecessor, which was officially disbanded in 1987. DEVGRU is administratively supported by Naval Special Warfare Command and operationally commanded by the Joint Special Operations Command. Most information concerning DEVGRU is classified and details of its activities are not usually commented on by either the White House or the Department of Defense.[3] Despite the official name changes, "SEAL Team Six" remains the unit's widely recognized moniker. It is sometimes referred to in the U.S. media as a Special Mission Unit.[4]

DEVGRU and its Army counterpart, Delta Force, are the United States military's premier counterterrorism units. Although DEVGRU was created as a maritime counterterrorism unit, it has become a multifunctional special operations unit with several roles that include high-risk personnel/hostage extractions and other specialized missions.

The Central Intelligence Agency's highly secretive Special Activities Division (SAD) and more specifically its elite Special Operations Group (SOG) often works with—and recruits—operators from DEVGRU.[5] The combination of these units led ultimately to the killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Operation Neptune Spear.[6][7]



The origins of DEVGRU are in SEAL Team Six, a unit created in the aftermath of Operation Eagle Claw.[8][9][10] During the Iran hostage crisis in 1979, Richard Marcinko was one of two U.S. Navy representatives for a Joint Chiefs of Staff task force known as the TAT (Terrorist Action Team). The purpose of the TAT was to develop a plan to free the American hostages held in Iran. In the wake of the disaster at the Desert One base in Iran, the Navy saw the need for a full-time counter-terrorist unit, and tasked Marcinko with its design and development.

SEAL Team Six Patch

Marcinko was the first commanding officer of this new unit. At the time there were two SEAL teams. Marcinko named the unit SEAL Team Six in order to confuse Soviet intelligence as to the number of actual SEAL teams in existence.[10][11][12] The unit's plankowners (founding members) were hand-picked by Marcinko from throughout the UDT/SEAL community. SEAL Team Six became the U.S. Navy's premier counter-terrorist unit. It has been compared to the U.S. Army's Delta Force.[3][9] Marcinko held the command of SEAL Team Six for three years, from 1980 to 1983, instead of the typical two-year command in the Navy at the time.[10] SEAL Team Six was formally created in October 1980, and an intense, progressive work-up training program made the unit mission-ready just six months later.[12] SEAL Team Six started with 75 shooters. According to Marcinko, the annual ammunition training allowance for the command was larger than that of the entire U.S. Marine Corps. The unit has virtually unlimited resources at its disposal.[13]

In 1987 SEAL Team Six was dissolved. A new unit named the "Naval Special Warfare Development Group" was formed, essentially as SEAL Team Six's successor.[2][14][15] Reasons for the disbanding are varied,[10] but the name SEAL Team Six is often used in reference to DEVGRU.

Operational deployments

Recruitment, selection and training

NSWDG recruiting support personnel,[16] 2007.

In the early stages of creating SEAL Team Six, Marcinko was given six months to get ST6 up and running, or the whole project would come to an end. This meant that there was a timing issue and Marcinko had little time to create a proper selection course, similar to that of Delta Force, and as a result hand-picked the first plankowners of the unit after assessing their Navy records and interviewing each man. It has been said that Marcinko regretted not having enough time to set up a proper selection process and course. Originally applicants only came from the east and west coast SEAL teams and the (UDTs) or under water demolition teams, before the UDTs were disbanded in 1987. Although much of the ST6/DEVGRU training pipeline is classified there are some requirements and training exercises that are public knowledge. The requirements to apply for DEVGRU states that applicants must be male and come from the SDV teams, the Navy explosive ordnance disposal teams or EODs and East and West Coast SEAL teams, be 21 years old or older, and have at least served 2 combat tours on their previous assignments. Although due to combat experience it isn't uncommon for a candidate to be in his early 30s even Marcinko's criteria for recruiting applicants was combat experience so he would know they could perform under fire; language skills were vital, as the unit would have a worldwide mandate to communicate with the local population if needed; union skills, to be able to blend in as civilians during an operation; and finally SEAL skills. Members of SEAL Team Six were selected in part because of the different specialist skills of each man.

Candidates must pass three-days of physical and psychological testing that includes a Physical Screening Test (PST) where candidates must exceed the minimum requirements and perform at their highest level possible. Candidates are then interviewed by an oral review board to deem whether the candidate is suitable to undertake the selection phase.[17] Those who pass the stringent recruitment and selection process will be selected to attend a six- to eight-month Operators Training Course. Candidates will screen with the unit's training wing known as "Green Team". The training course attrition rate is high, usually around 50 percent; during one selection course, out of the original 20 candidates, 12 completed the course.[18] All candidates are watched closely by DEVGRU instructors and evaluated on whether they are suitable to join the individual squadrons. Howard E. Wasdin, a former member of SEAL Team Six said in a recent interview that 16 applied for SEAL Team Six selection course and two were accepted.[19] Those who do not pass the selection phase are returned to their previous assignments and are able to try again in the future.[20]

Like all Special Operations Forces units that have an extremely intensive and high-risk training schedule, there can be serious injuries and deaths. SEAL Team Six/DEVGRU has lost several operators during training, including parachute accidents and close-quarters battle training accidents. It is presumed that the unit's assessment process for potential new recruits is different from what a SEAL operator experienced in his previous career, and much of the training tests the candidate's mental capacity rather than his physical condition, as he will have already completed Basic Underwater Demolitions/SEAL or the Navy EOD training pipeline.

Candidates are put through a variety of advanced training courses led by civilian or military instructors. These can include free-climbing, land warfare, communications, advanced unarmed combat techniques, defensive and offensive advanced driving, advanced diving, and Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) training. All candidates must perform at the top level during selection, and the unit instructors evaluate the candidate during the training process. Selected candidates are assigned to one of the Tactical Development and Evaluation Squadrons; the others are returned to their previous units. Unlike the other regular SEAL Teams, SEAL Team Six operators were able to go to almost any of the best schools anywhere and train in whatever they wanted depending on the unit's requirements.

Like Delta Force live fire marksmanship drills with live ammunition in both long range and close quarter battle drills is also done with hostage roles being played by other students to help build the candidates trust between each other.


DEVGRU is divided into color-coded line squadrons: [21]

Each assault squadron is divided into three troops (commanded by lieutenant commanders) and these troops are divided into smaller teams of SEALs, often called assaulters.[22] Each line squadron also has a specific nickname. Examples include Gold Squadron's Knights, Red Squadron's Indians, Blue Squadron's Pirates, Gray Squadron's Vikings and etc. [21][23][24]


The Department of Defense tightly controls information about DEVGRU/ST6 and refuses to comment publicly on the highly secretive unit and its activities. DEVGRU/ST6 operators are granted an enormous amount of flexibility and autonomy. To conceal their identities, they rarely wear a uniform and usually wear civilian clothing both on and off duty. When military uniforms are worn, they lack markings, surnames, or branch names. Civilian hair styles and facial hair are allowed to enable the members to blend in and avoid recognition as military personnel.

Commanding officers

Command of DEVGRU is a Captain's billet. Ranks listed are the most recent if the officer is still on active duty.

Roles and responsibilities

Secretary of the Navy, Dr. Donald C. Winter is briefed on the Sentry HP UAV at Dam Neck, 2007.

When SEAL Team Six was first created it was devoted exclusively to counter-terrorism with a worldwide maritime responsibility; its objectives typically included targets such as ships, oil rigs, naval bases, coastal embassies, and other civilian or military bases that were accessible from the sea or inland waterways.

On certain operations small teams from SEAL Team Six were tasked with covertly infiltrating international high risk areas in order to carry out reconnaissance or security assessments of U.S. military facilities and embassies; and to give advice on improvements in order to prevent casualties in an event of a terrorist attack.

Although the unit was created as a maritime counter-terrorism unit, it has become a multi-functional special operations unit with multiple roles that include high-risk personnel/hostage extractions. Such operations include the successful rescue of Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted, the attempted rescue of Linda Norgrove, the successful rescue of American doctor Dilip Joseph[36] and in 1991 the successful recovery of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his family during a coup that deposed him.

After SEAL Team Six was disbanded and renamed, the official mission of the currently operating Naval Special Warfare Development Group mission is "to provide centralized management for the test, evaluation, and development of equipment technology and TTP for NSW." [37]

DEVGRU's full mission is classified but is thought to include pre-emptive, pro-active counter-terrorist operations, counter-proliferation (efforts to prevent the spread of both conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction), as well as the elimination or recovery of high-value targets (HVTs) from unfriendly nations.[38][39] DEVGRU is one of a handful of U.S. Special Mission Units authorized to use pre-emptive actions against terrorists and their facilities.[40]

DEVGRU and the Army's Delta Force train and deploy together on counter-terrorist missions usually as part of a joint special operations task force (JSOTF).[3][12][41][42]

See also


  2. 1 2 von Rosenbach, Alexander (May 4, 2011). "Devgru: Bin Laden's ultimate nemesis". IHS Jane's Defense & Security Intelligence & Analysis. Archived from the original on May 9, 2011. Retrieved June 18, 2013. Devgru was established in 1987 as the successor to SEAL Team 6 (although it is still colloquially known by this name). The unit serves as the US Navy's dedicated counter-terrorism unit and is believed to consist of about 200 personnel.
  3. 1 2 3 Emerson, Steven (13 November 1988). "Stymied Warriors". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 March 2008.
  4. "In high demand, Air Force commandos must find new ways to cope with stress of duty". The Gaffney Ledger. Gaffney, South Carolina. Associated Press. Retrieved 2013-05-04.
  5. Waller, Douglas (3 February 2003). "The CIA's Secret Army". Time.,9171,1004145-1,00.html
  6. "Osama bin Laden killed in CIA operation". The Washington Post. 8 May 2011. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  7. Naylor, Mark Mazzetti, Nicholas Kulish, Christopher Drew, Serge F. Kovaleski, Sean D.; Ismay, John (2015-06-06). "The Secret History of SEAL Team 6: Quiet Killings and Blurred Lines". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
  8. Fallows, James (13 December 1981). "Iran from five American viewpoints". The New York Times.
  9. 1 2 Halloran, Richard (26 November 1986). "U.S. moving to expand unconventional forces". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  10. 1 2 3 4 Marcinko, Richard (1992). Rogue Warrior. New York: Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-79593-7.
  11. Pfarrer, Chuck (2011). SEAL Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama Bin Laden. Macmillan. p. 178. ISBN 978-1-4299-6025-0.
  12. 1 2 3 Gerth, Jeff; Philip Taubman (8 June 1984). "U.S. military creates secret units for use in sensitive tasks abroad". The New York Times.
  13. Wasdin, Howard (9 May 2011). "'SEAL Team Six' And Other Elite Squads Expanding". NPR. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  14. "Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU)". Global Security. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  15. Ambiner, Marc (10 October 2012). "Delta Force Gets a Name Change". The Atlantic. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  16. Abhan, Courtney Messman (30 July 2010). "Special Warfare Development Group seeks Sailors" (PDF). Naval Station Everett Public Affairs. Northwest Navigator. p. 3. Retrieved 14 September 2012. NSWDG is located in Virginia Beach, and is a type two sea duty cno priority one major command. The command is an elite counter terrorism unit that conducts research, and develops, tests, and evaluates current and emerging technology. This technology is related to special operations tactics and joint warfare to improve Special Forces war fighting capabilities. ... While at NSWDG, support personnel could have opportunities to earn many special qualifications, their expeditionary warfare specialist (EXW) pin, and Combat Service Support and Combat Support Naval Education Codes (NEC). Special qualifications include parachuting and fast roping, among many others. NSWDG support personnel receive special duty pay, and have some of the highest promotion rates in the Navy.
  17. Anderson Cooper (3 May 2011). "'This is their type of op,' ex-SEAL says". CNN.
  18. Pfarrer, Chuck. Warrior Soul: The Memoir of a Navy Seal. New York: Random House. pp. 325–326. ISBN 0-89141-863-6. In one year, the operators of SEAL Six fire more bullets than entire USMC.
  19. "The iron will of Seal Team 6". CBS News. 6 May 2011. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  20. "LCV Cities Tour: Interview with Howard Wasdin "Seal Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy Seal Sniper"". 22 June 2011. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  21. 1 2 3 Pfarrer, Chuck. Warrior Soul: The Memoir of a Navy Seal. New York: Random House. pp. 325–326. ISBN 0-89141-863-6.
  22. Owen, Mark (2012). No Easy Day. Dutton Adult. p. 37. ISBN 9780525953722.
  23. Combs, Cindy C; Slann, Martin W. Encyclopedia of Terrorism. Infobase Publishing. p. 289. ISBN 978-0-8160-6277-5.
  24. Blehm, Eric (2013). Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team SIX Operator Adam Brown. WaterBrook Press. ISBN 9780307730701.
  25. Marcinko, Richard (1993). Rogue Warrior. Pocket Books. ISBN 978-0671795931.
  26. 1 2 Mann, Don (2011). Inside SEAL Team Six: My Life and Missions with America's Elite Warriors. Little, Brown and Company. p. 142. ISBN 978-0-316-20431-6.
  27. Arostegui, Martin C. (1997). "Get Noriega". Twilight Warriors: Inside the World's Special Forces. Macmillan. p. 290. ISBN 978-0-312-30471-3.
  28. Marquis, Susan Lynn (1997). Unconventional warfare: rebuilding U.S. special operations forces. Brookings Institution Press. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-8157-5476-3.
  29. Committee on Risk-Based Approaches for Securing the DOE Nuclear Weapons Complex, National Research Council (2011). Understanding and Managing Risk in Security Systems for the DOE Nuclear Weapons Complex. National Academies Press. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-309-20884-0.
  30. Butler, Frank K.; John H. Hagmann; David T. Richards (2009). Tactical Management of Urban Warfare Casualties in Special Operations. Parabellum Concepts. p. 6.
  31. 1 2 Naylor, Sean (2006). Not a Good Day to Die: The Untold Story of Operation Anaconda. Penguin. p. 253. ISBN 978-0-425-20787-1.
  32. "Rear Admiral Edward G. Winters, III". United States Navy. 30 June 2011. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  33. "Rear Admiral Brian L. Losey". United States Navy. 2014-11-18. Retrieved 2015-10-11.
  34. Associated Press (15 September 2008). "2 SEALs killed in Afghanistan fighting". Navy Times. Retrieved 2015-10-11. (subscription required (help)). "The deaths of SOCS Marcum and SOC Freiwald are tremendous losses for Naval Special Warfare and the United States," Capt. DeAaron Vankeuren, commanding officer of Naval Special Warfare Development Group, said in a statement.
  35. "Leader in Residence Program". Virginia Military Institute. Retrieved 2015-10-11.
  36. Qadir Sediqi,"U.S. Navy SEAL killed in operation to rescue American doctor in Afghanistan". CNN. 10 December 2012
  38. Shanker, Thom; Risen, James (12 August 2002). "Rumsfeld weighs new covert acts by military units". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  39. "Frequently Asked Questions". LT Michael P. Murphy USN. United States Navy. Retrieved 20 May 2008.
  40. U.S. Special Ops: America's Elite Forces in the 21st Century, Fred J. Pushies, MBI Publishing Company, 2003.
  41. Couch, Dick (2005). The Finishing School: Earning the Navy SEAL Trident. Three Rivers Press. ISBN 0-609-81046-4.
  42. Bowden, Mark (2001). Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War. Signet. ISBN 0-451-20393-3.


  • Marcinko, Richard (1993). Rogue Warrior. Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-79593-7. 
  • Gormly, Robert A. (1999). Combat Swimmer: Memoirs of a Navy SEAL. New York: Penguin Group. ISBN 0-451-19302-4. 
  • MacPherson, Malcolm (2006). Roberts Ridge: A Story of Courage and Sacrifice on Takur Ghar Mountain, Afghanistan. New York: Bantam Dell. ISBN 0-553-58680-7. 
  • Shipler, David K.; Halloran, Richard (26 November 1985). "Terror: Americans as targets". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 May 2011. 
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