The United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group; otherwise known as NAVSPECWARDEVGRU, the NSWDG, or simply as DEVGRU; is the United States Navy’s premier Counter-Terrorism unit. It is officially stated to have been formed after United States Navy SEAL Team SIX was disbanded and SEAL Team 8 was tasked with maritime deployments and take-downs. Unofficial accounts say that DEVGRU is simply SEAL Team SIX and MARESFAC restructured and renamed, but officers deny this to this day; these rumors are supported by DEVGRU being under the command of NAVSOC and also a component of JSOC along with such units as the U.S. Army’s 1st SFOD-D and and other Counter-Terrorism units.
DEVGRU is a naval counterpart to the Army’s Combat Applications Group (CAG), commonly known as Delta Force. It is considered to be one of the world’s premier Maritime Counter-Terrorism units. Its operators are drawn from the current SEAL and EOD ranks. Navy EOD technicians assigned to DEVGRU are rumored to operate during counter-proliferation missions.
The DEVGRU compound, located on Fleet Training Center Dam Neck, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, is similar to Delta Force’s at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with a focus on operations at sea. It has firing ranges and shooting houses, a section of aircraft fuselage, and other likel
y hostage rescue locations. DEVGRU uses some unusual weapons because of their maritime environment, and the shooting ability of a DEVGRU operator is naturally among the best in the world.
DEVGRU’s mission is to provide intelligence and Counter-Terrorism services for the Department of the Navy and the overall U.S. Special Operations Command, and to create, test, and evaluate new tactics, weapons, and equipment for use by Naval Special Warfare forces such as SEALs. These responsibilities make it obvious that DEVGRU is the Naval equivalent of the Army’s elite Delta Force. Both units train together from time to time and deploy together when the need arises. The unit is currently based in Naval Air Station Oceana Dam Neck Annex, Virginia and administrative control is under Naval Special Warfare Command.
The US government has described the Naval Special Warfare Development Group as having been established to oversee development of NSW tactics, equipment, and techniques. This, of course, is only partly true. The unit is under the direct command of NAVSPECWARGRU, however it is also a component of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC – Pope AFB, North Carolina), along with other CT units such as Delta Force. It is believed that DEVGRU maintains its own helicopter support unit (2 Sqns. with 18 HH-60H for SEAL transport and support), but trains frequently with the 160th SOAR, especially in support of ship assaults, which frequently make use of the small MH-6 Little Bird, operated exclusively by the 160th.
Organization and manpower of the Group is secret, and can only be guessed at. It is estimated that NSWDG now has about 200 operators, broken down by teams, much like the British SAS and Delta Force. Most recently, it has been reported that there are currently three such teams within the group, assault units Red, Blue, Gold; with Gold being the premier assault team. There is also a special boat unit, Gray, the transportation unit containing the SDVs and boats used to transport the assault teams. Green Team consists of the new operators who have just joined DEVGRU and are in training. Each operator inside the Teams has a specialty, but all are experts in underwater and HALO insertion. The missions of these units are, again, a cause for speculation, however it is logical that they are specialized amongst themselves, perhaps along the lines of the SAS; Mountain, Mobility, Boat, and Air (HALO) troops (within a single Squadron). It is also possible that these units may have a focus 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 the Group to be current and proficient if a large scale operation arises).
What weapons and equipment DEVGRU uses has not been revealed. Given their tactical development goal and SEAL background, the HK MP5 submachine gun, the M4 Carbine, SOPMOD accessory kit, and the H&K USP probably figure highly in their weapons menu. Traditionally, units such as DEVGRU are allowed wide latitude in their choice of weapons, and often select weapons as appropriate for the specific mission or task. It is also common for information about issue weapons to be closely held.
There is also an administrative and testing section, which has about 300 personnel. These individuals are responsible for the testing and development of new NAVSPECWAR equipment, including weapons.
It has been reported that DEVGRU is one of only a handful of US units authorized to conduct pre-emptive actions against terrorists and terrorist facilities (NOTE: Red Cell once shared this charter, although it was never put into practice before the unit was apparently disbanded). DEVGRU operators reportedly fire an average of 2,500 to 3,000 rounds per week in training, amounting to more than the entire US Marines per year according to creator Dick Marcinko.
In 1997, per 5 USC §7103(b) President Clinton signed Executive Order 13039 excluding NSWDG from the Federal Labor Management Relations Program.
- (In or before 1980): The existing SEAL teams, including all 12 platoons in SEAL Team One on the West Coast, began Counter-Terrorism training.
- On the East Coast, elements of the SEAL Team Two went a step further and anticipated a scenario at sea needing a Counter-Terrorism response and formed a dedicated two-platoon group known as “MOB Six” (Mobility Six) and began training to that end.
- 1980: The failed 1980 attempt to rescue American hostages at the American Embassy in Iran (Operation Eagle Claw). During an assignment to the National Military Command Center during Operation Eagle Claw, Richard Marcinko saw the need for a unit focused exclusively on Maritime Counter-Terrorism.
- October 1980: SEAL Team 6 was created as part of the Joint Special Operations Command. An accelerated training program made the unit mission-ready 6 months later. At the time there were only two SEAL Teams; popular knowledge and SEAL claims say the name was chosen to confuse Soviet intelligence as to the number of SEAL Teams in operation.
- 1981: SEAL team 6 became officially operational.
- (later): Marcinko retired, and afterwards revealed much about SEAL methods in his autobiography Rogue Warrior and in its fictional sequels, causing public exposure which the Navy was not thankful for.
- 1987: The Navy renamed SEAL Team SIX as ‘Naval Special Warfare Development Group’ (NAVSPECWARDEVGRU, or simply DEVGRU), to drop the unit out of the public eye. This effort has been surprisingly successful, with most people unaware that SEAL Team Six no longer exists within the Navy under that name, although most military servicemen and many civilians still call them SEAL Team Six.
- 1991: In the Persian Gulf DEVGRU men raided and occupied oil rigs to defend against Iraqi forces.
- 1996: DEVGRU men were active in Bosnia, where they helped hunt down PIFWC’s (Personnel Indicted For War Crimes: pronounced “piff wic”); see war criminals.
- 2003: DEVGRU men are believed to have participated in Task Force 121, the secretive group of elite troops charged with the capture of high-ranking Iraqi personalities. Similarly, many believe that DEVGRU was the primary assault force involved in the rescue of Army PFC Jessica Lynch.