SEAL Team 7, a unit that was established only a few months after the terrorist attacks of September 11, recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.
The unit has come to personify the sacrifices the U.S. military and the special operations community have made over the past 20 years of near-constant warfare.
Naval Special Warfare
Naval Special Warfare Command (WARCOM) is the maritime component of the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM).
WARCOM is comprised of eight “regular” or “vanilla” SEAL teams and two reserve teams evenly divided between the West and East coasts. SEAL Teams 1, 3, 5, 7 (active duty), and 17 (reserves) are headquartered in Coronado, California; while SEAL Teams 2, 4, 8, 10 (active duty), and 18 (reserves) are based in Little Creek, Virginia.
The Naval Special Warfare Development Group — formerly known as SEAL Team 6 — is also part of WARCOM but operationally it falls under the secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). Alongside the Army’s Delta Force, the Naval Special Warfare Development Group makes up the U.S. military’s direct action special missions units and is the nation’s 911 when it comes to hostage and counterterrorism contingencies.
The Naval Special Warfare Development Group draws its operators almost entirely from the “regular” SEAL teams.
In addition to these “regular” SEAL teams, there are the two SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) Teams that specialize in underwater special operations. SDV Team 1 and SDV Team 2 are respectively located at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and Little Creek, Virginia.
There are also two Special Reconnaissance Teams that specialize in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and operational preparation of the battlefield missions: Special Reconnaissance Team-1 is based in San Diego, California, and Special Reconnaissance Team-2 headquartered in Little Creek, Virginia.
But WARCOM isn’t just about Navy SEALs. They are also the Special Boat Teams with their Navy Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCC) operators.
Divided into three Special Boat Teams (Special Boat Team 12, Special Boat Team 20, and Special Boat Team 22), the SWCC community is comprised of less than 1,000 operators, making it one of the smallest in the U.S. special operations community. (The SEAL Teams have approximately 3,000 operators while the entire U.S. military has around 70,000.)
Special Boat Teams specialize in maritime direct-action, special reconnaissance, and infiltration/exfiltration of other special-operations units. ST 12 and ST 20 focus on blue-water, or ocean/sea, operations, while ST 22 specializes in brown-water, or riverine, operations.
The Special Boat Teams operate mainly four special-operations platforms: the Combatant Craft Assault (CCA), Combatant Craft Medium (CCM), Combatant Craft Heavy (CCH), which are designed for blue-water operations and the Special Operations Craft-Riverine (SOC-R), which is designed for riverine operations.
SEAL Team 7
SEAL Team 7 was activated on March 17, 2002, just over six months after al-Qaida attacked America. Within 18 months, SEAL Team 7 was in the Middle East supporting the Global War on Terror.
One of the first tasks of the unit was to establish and lead Naval Special Warfare Task Group Arabian Peninsula, which commanded three SEAL task forces, approximately six platoons of Navy SEALs, or close to 100 operators. SEAL Team 7 oversaw over 255 combat operations in Iraq.
“These were three region with really different approaches to operations. And the incredible thing, in each case, SEAL Team 7 made up the tactics, techniques and procedures to get those [operations] and figure [out] how to do it and they were just amazingly innovative, and it was something to be proud of,” Rear Admiral Alex Krongard, SEAL Team 7’s first commanding officer, said during a ceremony.
SEAL Team 7 went on to deploy numerous times in Central Command and the Indo-Pacific Command area of operations.
Normally, a SEAL Team is commanded by a commander (O-5) and is comprised of a headquarters element and eight SEAL platoons of 16 operators. The platoons can be further broken down into two eight-man squads, four four-man fire teams, and eight two-man sniper/reconnaissance teams. However, Naval Special Warfare has been doing some restructuring on its platoons, aiming to have fewer platoons with more operators.
Usually, a SEAL platoon is comprised of two officers and 14 enlisted SEALs, but sometimes it has an additional junior officer who is tagging along.
“SEAL Team 7 has accomplished so much over the last two decades. We never stop innovating. Team 7 is taking the lessons we’ve learned on land – the way we mission plan, rehearse and integrate with the joint force – back into the maritime domain to support the fleet and joint force, in ways we haven’t previously thought of, for integrated deterrence,” Captain David Abernathy, the commander of Naval Special Warfare Group 1 and former commanding officer of SEAL Team 7 from 2014 to 2015 said at the same ceremony.
“I toast you guys for all the hard work and where you guys have taken SEAL Team 7. It’s way beyond where I ever thought it would be,” Rear Admiral Krongard added.