(by C. Nealon, DailyPress.com) – In terms of elite military forces, it’s hard to beat the Naval Special Warfare Development Group.

The Virginia Beach-based outfit, more commonly known as SEAL Team Six, or DevGru, draws its ranks from select company: other U.S. Navy SEALs. Its missions are so secretive that not even the president talks about what the team does.

It appears an exception was made Sunday when President Barack Obama announced that U.S. special forces swarmed a mansion in Pakistan and killed Osama bin Laden.

Senior defense and intelligence officials declined to say if Team Six, which is based at Dam Neck Annex at Naval Air Station Oceana, was responsible. But multiple media outlets and one former member of the group said it was their work.

Ryan Zinke, a former Team Six mission commander who is now a Montana state senator, told the Daily Press the assault was led by his former unit. He said the team is comprised of top hand-selected operatives from other SEAL units who are considered the best of the best.

“SEAL Team Six, along with the Army’s Delta Force, both are extraordinarily well-trained, superbly led and well-funded as far as equipment and resources,” he said. “By and large, those two groups represent the nation’s best force.”

After being identified as top performers in their SEAL units, Team Six members are subjected to an additional, rigorous qualification process, Zinke said. Little is publicly known about the group’s movements, its training and its capabilities, let alone the identities or number of its members.

Indeed, other retired SEALs, some of whom served in Team Six, declined to speak about the group.

“I’m sorry – I really can’t talk about that,” said Albert M. Calland III, a retired SEAL who commanded Team Six from June 1997 to June 1999, according to his Navy biography. A former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Calland chairs the Virginia Beach-based Navy SEAL Foundation.

Zinke, who spent 23 years in the Navy – roughly half of that with Team Six – said the small group of operatives is shrouded in secrecy by necessity.

“I think it’s appropriate that those things are held at the secret level and beyond,” said Zinke, 49, who retired in 2008 as a commander. “If you openly publicize its capability, (enemy forces) can formulate a challenge to that capability.”

He said he was out of the country between 200 and 320 days a year.

“You basically spend all of your off hours with your family or with your comrades – that’s who your closest friends are. They’re the only people who know really what you do,” Zinke said.

Copyright ©2011, Newport News, Va., Daily Press.  Reprinted here for educational purposes only.  May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from DailyPress.com. Visit the website at DailyPress.com.


1. What is SEAL Team Six? Be specific.

2. Why did President Obama refer to Team Six publicly on Sunday?

3. Why do you think retired SEALs (including former Team Six members) declined to speak about the group?

4. Why must the military be so secretive about Team Six, according to Ryan Zinke?

5. Re-read paragraph 12, then read “Background” below the questions. What two or three adjectives would you use to describe Team Six members? Explain your answer.



  • The U.S. Navy SEa, Air and Land (SEAL) Teams, commonly known as Navy SEALs, are the U.S. Navy’s principal special operations force and is a part of the Naval Special Warfare Command as well as the maritime component of the U.S. Special Operations Command.
  • The unit’s acronym (“SEAL”) is derived from their capacity to operate at sea, in the air, and on land – but it is their ability to work underwater that separates SEALs from most other military units in the world.
  • The experience gained from operating in the ocean and freshwater battlefields has shaped their identity and, as a result, they are regarded as being amongst the most highly skilled and trained amphibious units in the world.
  • Navy SEALs are trained and have been deployed in a wide variety of missions, including direct action and special reconnaissance operations, unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, hostage rescue, counter-terrorism, and other missions.
  • Without exception, all SEALs are male members of either the United States Navy or the United States Marine Corps. (from wikipedia)



  • The U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group, [formed in 1980] commonly known as DEVGRU and informally by its former name SEAL Team Six, is one of the United States’ two secretive Tier One counter-terrorism and Special Mission Units (SMUs); the other such group is Delta Force.
  • [Members of DEVGRU are chosen from current Navy SEALs]
  • The vast majority of information surrounding DEVGRU is highly classified and details of its activities are not commented on by either the White House or the Department of Defense.
  • Criteria for recruiting applicants [includes] combat experience [to demonstrate that] they could perform under fire; language skills,… as the unit would have a worldwide mandate to be able to communicate with the local population if needed; union skills, in order to be able to blend in as civilians during an operation; and finally SEAL skills.
  • Each member of SEAL Team Six [is] selected in part because of the different specialty skills each man [brings] with him to the unit.
  • [Training] emphasizes shooting skills, range firing, close-quarters battle, and stress shooting in a variety of conditions.
  • As with most aspects of the unit being highly classified, information regarding the process of recruitment and selection for DEVGRU is also scarce, but what is speculated and is known is that the selection and training for the unit hasn’t changed dramatically since its creation. All applicants come from the “regular” SEAL teams and the Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal units, unless applying for support positions (in which there have been open advertisements on the web for support personnel).
  • It can be inferred from the quality of their pool of applicants that those considered are in peak physical condition, maintain an excellent reputation as an operator within the Naval Special Warfare community, and have done operational deployments with a SEAL Team where an operator will have picked up invaluable experience. As a result, the candidate will usually be in his 30s. …
  • Those who pass the stringent recruitment and selection process will be selected to attend a six- to seven-month Operators Training Course. Candidates will join the unit’s training wing known as “Green Team.” The training course attrition rate is extremely high; at least half the class will fail the course. … All candidates are watched closely by DEVGRU instructors and evaluated on whether they were suitable to join the individual squadrons.
  • Like all Special Operations Forces units that have an extremely intensive and high-risk training schedule, serious injuries or death among operators can result. SEAL Team Six/DEVGRU has lost several operators during training, including parachute accidents and close-quarters battle training accidents, but this is necessary in order to make training realistic.
  • 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 training.
  • Candidates will be put through a variety of advanced training courses that can include courses led by civilian instructors. These can include free-climbing, advanced unarmed combat techniques, defensive and offensive driving, advanced diving, and “survival, evasion, resistance, and escape” training. All candidates must perform at the top level during selection, and the unit instructors evaluate the candidate during the training process. Any candidate not performing to the highest level will be returned to his previous unit. (from wikipedia)
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