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Last Updated: 28 March, 2016

1.0     Introduction

This article describes the United States Navy’s Special Operations Forces, better known as the Naval Special Warfare Command.

The article provides a background to the Naval Special Warfare Command, including its mission. It will also describe its organisation, outlining the various elements within the Naval Special Warfare Command.

Finally, the article will provide some useful links, books and references.

2.0     Background

Logo, NAVSPECWARCOM, US Naval Special Warfare Command, US, Special Forces, US NavyThe US Navy’s Naval Special Warfare Command was established on 16 April 1987 and is located in Coronado, California, and is typically abbreviated to NAVSPECWAROM or NSWC, and less typically to NAVSOC or WARCOM; although the US Navy’s public website uses the abbreviation NSW (US Navy, 2015a).

NAVSPECWARCOM is the US Navy’s contribution to the US Special Operations Forces (SOF) community, providing the maritime component – it being one of four service components of the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).

In 2013 (Feickert, 2013) NAVSPECWARCOM numbered approximately 7,000 personnel but this had risen to approximately 10,000 by 2015 (USSOCOM, 2015). Personnel are a mixture of civilian, Regular (or active duty) and Reserves. Broadly, military personnel are divided between:

  • Special Warfare Operators (known as Navy SEALs): The SEAL Team is the heart of the US Navy’s SOF; a multipurpose combat force organised and trained to conduct a variety of Special Operations missions in all environments. SEALs conduct clandestine missions infiltrating their objective areas by fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, Navy surface ships, combatant craft, submarines and ground mobility vehicles.
  • Special Warfare Boat Operators (known Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCC)): Special Boat Teams are manned by SWCC who operate and maintain state-of-the-art surface craft to conduct coastal patrol and interdiction and support Special Operations missions. Focusing on infiltration and exfiltration of SEALs and other SOF, SWCCs provide dedicated rapid mobility in shallow water areas where larger ships cannot operate. They also provide a unique SOF capability: Maritime Combatant Craft Aerial Delivery System, i.e. the ability to deliver combat craft via parachute drop.
  • Enablers: If Navy SEALs and SWCC are considered to be the action arms of NAVSPECWARCOM, then the Enablers are the backbone of the organisation. SEALs rely heavily on the services of technicians such as mobile communications teams, tactical cryptologic support and explosive ordnance disposal specialists. Enablers contribute heavily toward the success of the special warfare operations mission.

US Navy Divers and Aviation Rescue Swimmers are also considered part of the Special Warfare/SOF community by the US Navy (2015b).

NAVSPECWARCOM deploys SEAL Teams, SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams and Special Boat Teams worldwide to meet the training, exercise, contingency, and wartime requirements of theatre commanders. NAVSPECWARCOM personnel operate in small groups and have the ability to quickly deploy from Navy ships, submarines and aircraft, overseas bases, and forward-based units.

2.1     NAVSPECWARCOM Mission

The mission of NAVSPECWARCOM is to man, train, equip, educate, deploy, resource, and sustain forces to conduct direct action and special reconnaissance, support advise-and-assist programmes, and build partner capability, in or out of the maritime environment, by employing tailored capabilities in support of military commanders, Chiefs of Mission, interagency, and foreign partners and allies.

3.0     Organisation of NAVSPECWARCOM

NAVSPECWARCOM, Naval Special Warfare Command, NSWG-4, SBT-20 As an operating force, the NAVSPECWARCOM has a dual chain of command within the US Navy (2015b):

  1. Administrative: Reports to the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) providing, training and equipping naval forces.
  2. Operational: Provides naval forces and reports to the appropriate Unified Combatant Commander.

NAVSPECWARCOM is organised around the SEAL Teams, SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams, Special Boat Teams and support personnel, divided amongst the following operational components/units (USSOCOM, 2015; US Navy, 2015a):

  • Naval Special Warfare Centre;
  • Naval Special Warfare Centre for SEAL and SWCC;
  • Naval Special Warfare Development Group; and
  • Naval Special Warfare Groups One, Two, Three, Four, Ten and Eleven.

In 2013, the Congressional Research Service (Feickert, 2013) stated there were 10 SEAL Teams, each consisting of six SEAL Platoons. Each SEAL Platoon, commanded by a Lieutenant (OF-2), consisted of 2 officers and 16 enlisted (other ranks) personnel. This would suggest that in 2013 there were approximately 108 personnel (12 officers and 96 enlisted) per SEAL Team, suggesting around 1,100 across the Ten declared SEAL Teams. However, it must be noted that personnel fill a variety of roles such as training, recruitment and planning etcetera, so the figure is much higher at just under 3,000 (US Navy, 2015a).

Besides the Navy SEALs, there are approximately 700 Special Warfare Boat Operators (i.e. SWCC), 700 Reserve personnel, 4,000 support personnel and 1,100 civilians (US Navy, 2015a).

3.1     Headquarters NAVSPECWARCOM

Headquarters (HQ) NAVSPECWARCOM is located in Coronado, California and is commanded by a Rear Admiral (OF-7) known as Commander Naval Special Warfare (COMNAVSPECWARCOM or CNSWC).

The CNSWC is an echelon II commander and the Navy’s SOF component commander under, and reporting directly to, the Commander USSOCOM. The CNSWC exercises:

  • Operational Control (OPCON): As delegated by Commander USSOCOM, of all US-based NAVSPECWARCOM forces.
  • Administrative Control (ADCON): Over all NAVSPECWARCOM forces in accordance with Commander USSOCOM and CNO guidance. For Navy-specific administrative and other matters CNSWC reports directly to the CNO.

Another remit of CNSWC is to develop the Programme Objective Memorandum (POM) and Budget Estimate Submission (BES) for Commander USSOCOM (MFP-11) and Navy (MFP-2), and ensuring adherence to CNO special-interest items.

The CNSWC is assisted by the Force Master Chief (FORCM), a Master Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) (OR-9).

3.2     Naval Special Warfare Centre

The Naval Special Warfare Centre (NSWCEN or NAVSPECWARCEN) is located in Coronado, California, and is an echelon III command under the OPCON/ADCON of NAVSPECWARCOM. It is commanded by a Captain (OF-5).

The NSWCEN is the educational and professional training centre for NAVSPECWARCOM and, as such, it is responsible for individual SEAL/SWCC selection, and their basic and advanced training.

NSWCEN has a number of roles, which include:

  1. Exercising OPCON/ADCON of subordinate commanders and assigned forces on behalf of the CNSWC.
  2. To select, train, and qualify men (and women from January 2016 (Pellerin, 2015)) to become SEALs and SWCC.
    1. Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) Course.
    2. Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCC) Course.
  3. To provide advanced individual skills training to the NSW community for the duration of their careers. This is accomplished through two subordinate commands:
    1. The Basic Training Command; and
    2. The Advanced Training Command

Examples of the courses delivered by NSWCEN include:

  • The Platoon Leaders Course;
  • The NSW Lead Petty Officer Preparation course;
  • The Command Leaders Seminar; and
  • The NSW Command Career Counsellor (CCC)/Administration course.

The Basic Training Command is an echelon IV command located at Coronado, California. Its role is to conduct special operations training for US and foreign armed forces and other designated personnel in basic NAVSPECWARCOM tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) and equipment, and to award the SEAL/SWCC Navy enlisted classification to US military personnel.

The Advanced Training Command is also an echelon IV command and is located in Coronado (Imperial Beach), California. Its role is to provide standardised and accredited (and Chief of Naval Education and Training-approved) advanced training and curriculum, including advanced individual skills training, language training and education to support Navy SOF community recognised tasks, conditions and standards.

Training is delivered by subordinate training detachments (TRADET) which are responsible for coordinating, directing, and conducting deployment training and readiness evaluation. TRADET are located throughout the US:

  • DET Great Lakes.
  • DET Panama City.
  • DET Key West (ADCON only)
  • DET Hawaii.
  • DET Little Creek (NSW Unit 2 Detachment, South; SDV Detachment 1).
  • DET Hurlburt (ADCON only).
  • DET Yuma (ADCON only).
  • DET Kodiak, Alaska: is a small training command that specialises in SQT students, SEAL platoons, and special boat team detachments in maritime cold-weather operations. Units train in long-range maritime navigation, across-the-beach operations and other cold-weather operations.

3.3     Naval Special Warfare Centre for SEAL and SWCC

The Naval Special Warfare Centre for SEAL and SWCC (NSWCENSEALSWCC) is located in Coronado, California, and is an echelon III command under the OPCON of the US Naval Education and Training Command (NETC).

The Commander NSWCENSEALSWCC is a Captain (OF-5), who is responsible for the professional development and education of the Navy’s SOF community.

The role of the NSWCENSEALSWCC includes:

  • Career management;
  • Warrior development and selection;
  • Professional military education (PME); and
  • To provide innovative solutions that optimise human capital and war fighting ability.

3.4     Naval Special Warfare Development Group

Logo, JSOC, Joint Special Operations Command, US, Special Forces USSOCOMThe Naval Special Warfare Development Group (NSWDG or DEVGRU) is located at the US Navy’s Fleet Combat Training Centre in Dam Neck, Virginia, and is commanded by a Captain (OF-5).

The role of the NSWDG is to provide centralised management for the test, evaluation, and development of (current and emerging) equipment, technology and TTPs (maritime, ground and airborne) for NAVSPECWARCOM, which exercises ADCON only. The Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) exercises OPCON.

The NSWDG, which changed its name in 1987, was formerly known as SEAL Team Six and raises a certain amount of controversy.

Neither the US Navy nor the Department of Defence comments on either its existence or operations, and, as a result its exact operational remit, therefore, is uncertain. However, its primary focus is believed to be particularly high-risk counterinsurgency, assassination, and counter-weapons-proliferation operations, with natural specialties in coastal or riverine zones, or aquatic installations such as oil rigs. Its members have also been involved in VIP retrieval and hostage-rescue actions.

3.5     Naval Special Warfare Group One

Naval Special Warfare Group One (NSWG-1) is located in Coronado, California, and is commanded by a Captain (OF-5).

  • SEAL Teams: ST-1/3/5/7, each led by a Commander (OF-4).
  • Naval Special Warfare Units: NSWU-1 (Guam) and NSWU-3 ASU (Bahrain) (ADCON only), both typically led by a Commander (OF-4).
  • Logistics and Support Unit 1: LOGSU-1.
  • TRADET.
  • Mobile Communications Team (MCT).

Although NSWG-1 principally supports the US Central and Pacific Commands, in which it acts as a CNSWC executive agent, it will also act in support other combatant commander requirements.

The role of NSWGs is to train, equip, deploy and support assigned NAVSPECWARCOM forces, including OPCON/ADCON of assigned forces. When directed, NSWGs command and control NAVSPECWARCOM and/or other forces in exercises and operations.

An NSWG is an echelon III command under the OPCON/ADCON of NAVSPECWARCOM. NSWG commanders (CNSWGs) exercise OPCON/ADCON of subordinate commanders and assigned forces for the CNSWC. As such, NSWG commanders are accorded the traditional US Navy honorific title of Commodore. There are six NSWGs.

Both NSWG-1 and NSWG-2 (below) exercise OPCON/ADCON of their SEAL Teams, and ADCON of their respective NSWUs and detachments. COCOM of the NSWUs is assigned to USSOCOM and OPCON to SOCAFRICA and SOCCENT for NSWU-1 and NSWU-3 respectively.

The role of the three LOGSU is to organise, man, train, equip and deploy personnel and equipment to provide combat service support (CSS) to NAVSPECWARCOM units, including administrative, maintenance, logistical and medical support. LOGSU are echelon IV commands, and each is commanded by a Commander (OF-4) from the Supply Branch. Each LOGSU is divided into a number of elements, including a HQ, administration and four CSS Troops (each Troop typically containing 17 personnel).

The role of an MCT is to organise, man, train, equip and deploy personnel and communications equipment to operate and maintain communications for NAVSPECWARCOM forces. There are two MCTs which provide combat support (voice and data services, as well as messaging systems) to NSWG-1 and 2 respectively. Each MCT is commanded by a Lieutenant (OF-2) and consists of a HQ, administration and operational elements.

3.6     Naval Special Warfare Group Two

Naval Special Warfare Group Two (NSWG-2) is located in Little Creek, Virginia, and is commanded by a Captain (OF-5).

  • SEAL Teams: ST-2/4/8/10, each typically led by a Commander (OF-4).
  • Naval Special Warfare Units: NSWU-2/10 (Stuttgart, Germany), both typically led bya Commander (OF-4).
  • Naval Special Warfare Unit: NSWU-4 (ADCON only), typically led by a Lieutenant Commander (OF-3).
  • Logistics and Support Unit 2: LOGSU-2.
  • TRADET.
  • MCT.

Although NSWG-2 principally supports the US European and South Commands, in which it acts as a CNSWC executive agent, it will also act in support other combatant commander requirements.

Both NSWG-1 (above) and NSWG-2 exercise OPCON/ADCON of their SEAL Teams, and ADCON of their respective NSWUs and detachments. COCOM of the NSWUs is assigned to USSOCOM and OPCON to SOCEUR for NSWU-2, to SOCAFRICA for NSWU-10 and to SOCSOUTH for NSWU-4 respectively.

3.7     Naval Special Warfare Group Three

Naval Special Warfare Group Three (NSWG-3) is located in Coronado, California.

NSWG-3 provides special operations subsurface mobility capabilities, platforms and personnel, and includes the following:

  • SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team: SDVT-1 (Pearl City, Hawaii), typically led by a Commander (OF-4).
  • Logistics and Support Unit 3: LOGSU-3 (Pearl City, Hawaii).
  • TRADET.

NSWG-3 advises the Commander NAVSPECWARCOM on undersea and other designated combat development areas. It also exercises OPCON/ADCON of the SEAL delivery vehicle team.

3.8     Naval Special Warfare Group Four

NAVSPECWARCOM, Naval Special Warfare Command, NSWG-4,Naval Special Warfare Group Four (NSWG-4) is located in Little Creek, Virginia, and is commanded by a Captain (OF-5).

NSWG-4 provides special operations surface mobility capabilities, platforms and personnel and accordingly contains the Special Boat Teams (i.e. SWCC personnel): SBT-12 (Coronado), 20 (Little Creek) & 22 (Stennis Space Centre, Mississippi), as well as the Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School (NAVSCIATTS) which is also located in Stennis.

The Special Boat Teams and NAVSCIATTS are each commanded by a Commander (OF-4). The Commanding Officer (CO) of NAVSCIATTS is assisted by an Executive Officer, a Lieutenant Commander (OF-3). It is under the supervision of NSWG-4, after transferring from NSWCEN on 01 April 2009 (US Navy, 2015a).

NAVSCIATTS is a Department of Navy school operating under the USSOCOM [LINK]. The School’s role is to train and educate Foreign Security Force and other international students on small craft strategy, operations (riverine and littoral environments), communications, weapons, and maintenance and instructor development. Since 1963, more than 10,000 students from over 100 countries have trained at NAVSCIATTS with, on average, 400-500 students completing (residential or mobile training team delivered) courses each year.

NSWG-4 also advises the Commander NAVSPECWARCOM on combatant craft and other designated combat development areas. It also exercises OPCON/ADCON of the Special Boat Teams and NAVSCIATTS.

3.9     Naval Special Warfare Group Ten

Naval Special Warfare Group Ten (NSWG-10) is located in Little Creek, Virginia.

NSWG-10 is responsible for training, equipping, and deploying combat support (CS) and combat service support (CSS) personnel and capabilities in support of deployed NAVSPECWARCOM forces and other requirements. It also provides support to NSWG-3 and NSWG-4 as required. Units include:

  • Special Reconnaissance Team One (SPECRECON Team-1 or Support Activity 1) (Coronado, California).
  • Special Reconnaissance Team Two (SPECRECON Team-2 or Support Activity 2) (Little Creek, Virginia).
  • Mission Support Centre (MSC) (Coronado, California).

The role of the SPECRECON Teams is to train and deploy specially trained combat elements and personnel, and through these provide special operations intelligence collection, ISR (information, surveillance and reconnaissance) and analytical capabilities.

SPECRECON Teams are commanded by either a Lieutenant (OF-2) or Lieutenant Commander (OF-3).

NSWG-10 exercises OPCON/ADCON of the Special Reconnaissance Teams and the MSC.

3.10     Naval Special Warfare Group Eleven

Naval Special Warfare Group Eleven (NSWG-11) is located in Coronado, California, and composes the Reserve element of NAVSPECWARCOM.

  • SEAL Team: ST-17 (Coronado, California).
  • SEAL Team: ST-18 (Little Creek, Virginia).

NSWG-11 advises the Commander NAVSPECWARCOM on Reserve force matters and also exercises OPCON/ADCON of both SEAL Teams.

4.0     Useful Links

  • MacDill Air Force Base: http://www.macdill.af.mil/
  • US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM): http://www.socom.mil/
  • Naval Special Warfare Command (NAVSPECWARCOM):
    • http://www.navsoc.navy.mil/
    • www.public.navy.mil/nsw
    • www.navy.mil/local/nsw/
    • https://www.facebook.com/NavalSpecialWarfare/
  • NSW Family:
    • New website: https://www.nswwarriorandfamily.org/Pages/default.aspx
    • Former website: https://www.nswfamily.org/
  • Navy SEALs and SWCC: http://www.sealswcc.com/
  • Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School (NAVSCIATTS): http://www.public.navy.mil/nsw/NAVSCIATTS/html/index.html
  • John C Stennis Space Centre (SSC): http://www.nasa.gov/centers/stennis/home/
  • US Navy Careers: http://www.navy.com/careers/special-operations/
  • Navy SEAL Foundation: http://www.navysealfoundation.org/
  • Coronado: http://www.welcometocoronado.com/coronados-navy/navy-seals/
  • Navy SEAL Museum: http://www.navysealmuseum.org/
  • SEAL-NSW Family Foundation: http://www.sealnswff.org/
  • Naval Special Warfare Unit 2: https://www.soceur.eucom.mil/Pages/Nsw2
  • Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC): https://www.cnic.navy.mil/regions/cnrsw/installations/navbase_coronado.html
  • Ethos, An Official Magazine of the Naval Special Warfare Command Public Affairs Office and available from: https://www.dvidshub.net/publication/601/ethos#.Vow-bBV4aM8.
  • Naval Special Warfare Development Group: https://www.facebook.com/Naval-Special-Warfare-Development-Group-DEVGRU-156581861150597/

5.0     Useful Books

Bahmanyar, M. (2005) Elite 115: US Navy SEALs. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd.

Liptak, E. (2009) Elite 173: Office of Strategic Services 1942-45: The World War II Origins of the CIA. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd.

Liptak, E. (2014) Elite 203: World War II US Navy Special Warfare Units. Oxford Publishing Ltd.

McNab, C. (2013) America’s Elite: US Special Forces from the American Revolution to the Present Day. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd.

Special Operations Forces Reference Manual. 4th Edition (2015)

6.0     References

Feickert, A. (2013) U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF): Background and Issues for Congress. CRS Report for Congress. Washington: Congressional Research Service.

Pellerin, C. (2015) SecDef Opens all Military Occupations to Women. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.therecruiterjournal.com/secdef-opens-all-military-occupations-to-women.html. [Accessed: 04 December, 2015].

US Navy (2015a) NSW: Naval Special Warfare Command. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.public.navy.mil/nsw/Pages/Default.aspx. [Accessed: 05 January, 2016].

US Navy (2015b) Special Warfare/Special Operations. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.navy.com/careers/special-operations/. [Accessed: 05 January, 2016].

USSOCOM (US Special Operations Command) (2016) 2016 Fact Book United States Special Operations Command. MacDill Air Force Base, Florida: USSOCOM.

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