The Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), previously identified as Mobility 6 (MOB Six), Seal Team 6 (SEAL Team Six), and Marine Research Facility (MARESFAC), is based in Dam Neck, Virginia. DEVGRU is responsible for US counter-terrorist operations, primarily in the maritime environment. The DEVGRU has as a primary function intelligence, counter-intelligence, investigative, and national security work, and the provisions of Chapter 71 of Title 5 of the United States Code cannot be applied to this organization in a manner consistent with national security requirements and considerations.
Training for SEAL Team Six was conducted throughout the United States and abroad, both on military and civilian facilities. Exchange programs and joint training were expanded with the more experienced international teams such as Germany's GSG-9, Great Britain's Special Boat Squadrons (SBS), and France's combat divers. In all cases, emphasis was placed on realism in training, in accordance with the "Train as you Fight, Fight as you Train" philosophy popular amongst most of the world's leading special operations and counter-terrorism units.
SEAL Team Six participated in a number of operations, both overt and covert, throughout the 1980's before being revamped and renamed. The reasons for these transformations were vague. However the primary factor cited has often been the need for the unit to evolve out of a poor reputation of the group within the Navy. SEAL Team Six was subsequently renamed as the Marine Research Facility (MARESFAC), and then Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU).
The origins of DEVGRU and its predecessor organizations can be traced to the aftermath of the failed 1980 attempted to rescue American hostages at the Iranian Embassy as part of Operation Eagle Claw/Operation Evening Light. Prior to that operation, the SEALs had already begun counter-terrorism training. All 12 platoons in SEAL Team One on the West Coast had completed this training prior to the hostage rescue attempt.
On the East Coast, however, elements of the SEAL Team Two had taken the issue one step father. They had formed a dedicated 2-platoon group known as MOB Six (short for Mobility Six) in anticipation of a maritime scenario requiring a counter-terrorism response, and had subsequently begun training to that end. This included the development of advanced tactics such as fast roping.
Yet, as was the case with the US Army's initial counter-terrorism unit, Blue Light, and the activation of Delta Force, only one group was needed and could be recognized as official. With the formal activation of SEAL Team Six (a name selected primarily to confuse Soviet intelligence as to the number of SEAL Teams in operation) in October 1980, MOB Six was demobilized. A large number of members, however, including the former MOB Six commander, were asked to join the fledgling group. With prior experience from these operators, aggressive leadership, and an accelerated training program, SEAL Team Six was declared mission-ready just 6 months later.
During the 1980s, SEAL Team Six participated in a number of operations. SEAL Team Six members were responsible for the rescue and evacuation of Governor Sir Paul Scoon from Grenada during Operation Urgent Fury. Four SEALs were lost to drowning during helicopter insertion offshore. Other aspect of the operation included the securing of a radio transmitter which resulted in heavy contact with Grenadian forces. Six deployed to the site of the Achille Lauro hijacking in anticipation of a possible assault on the vessel in 1985. The unit also took part in Operation Just Cause in 1989 as part of Task Force White, which included SEAL Team Two. Their primary task, along with Delta Force, was the location and securing of Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega.
A great deal of controversy was also generated in the 1980s, due to charges of misappropriation of funds and equipment by team members, as well as the conviction of unit founder Commander Richard Marcinko on charges of conspiracy, conflict of interest, making false claims against the government, and bribery. He was sentenced to nearly 2 years in a Federal penitentiary in addition to being forced to pay a $10,000 fine. Despite this turn of events, Marcinko was still revered in some SEAL circles as an almost mythical figure. This status was attained, in no small part, to a best selling-book series, which centered on fictional maritime special operations and counter-terrorism.
The unit was also active during the 1990s. The unit again operated in Panama as part of a secret operation code-named "Pokeweed," which had as its goal the apprehension of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. The mission was unsuccessful due to poor pre-assault intelligence. By some accounts, the unit was deployed from the US aircraft carrier USS Forrestal offshore, although other sources dispute this claim (the ship's summary history discloses no operations in Panamanian waters during 1990). In 1991, SEAL Team Six reportedly recovered Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide under cover of darkness following the coup that deposed him. Later in 1991, the unit was also part of contingency planning for the shooting down Saddam Hussein's personal helicopter with Stinger missiles, although this operation never got beyond the planning stage. The unit reportedly deployed to Atlanta, Georgia as part of a large US counter-terrorist contingency plan for the 1996 Summer Olympics. Whatever the case, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) is generally responsible for domestic counter-terrorism and was the primary response unit for the event.
By 2000, the US government described DEVGRU as having been established to oversee development of naval special warfare tactics, equipment, and techniques. This, of course, was only partly true. While the unit was under the direct command of Naval Special Warfare Command, however it was also a component of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) at Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina). JSOC served as a joint command for other counter-terrorism units as well, such as the Army's Delta Force and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR). It was believed that DEVGRU maintained its own helicopter support unit (possibly 2 squadrons with 18 HH-60H Seahawks for SEAL transport and support), but that the unit trained frequently with the 160th SOAR, especially in support of ship assaults, which frequently made use of the small MH-6 "Little Bird" type helicopters, operated exclusively by the 160th SOAR.
Organization and manpower of DEVGRU was a classified, and could only be guessed at. It was estimated that DEVGRU numbered approximately 200 operators, broken down by teams, much like the British SAS and Delta Force. It had been reported that there were 4 such teams within the group, assault units Red, Blue, Gold, and a special boat unit, Gray. The missions of these units were, again, a cause for speculation, however it was logical that they were specialized amongst themselves, perhaps along the lines of the SAS: Mountain, Mobility, Boat, and HALO troops (within a single Squadron). It was also possible that these units might have focused on specific target types instead, such as shipping, oil rigs, and structures, (although this scenario seems less likely due to the obvious need for all members of DEVGRU to be current and proficient should a large scale operation arise).
There was also an administrative and testing section, which numbered approximately 300 personnel. These individuals were responsible for the actual testing and development of new NAVSPECWAR equipment, including weapons.
It has been reported that DEVGRU was one of only a handful of US military units authorized to conduct preemptive actions against terrorists and terrorist facilities (NOTE: Red Cell once shared this charter, although it was never put into practice before the unit was disbanded). DEVGRU operators reportedly fire an average of 2,500 to 3,000 rounds per week in training.