Zero or hero

They approached the $1 million compound in specially designed MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters loaded with decibel reducing modifications and advanced stealth technology. The expected crescendo of thumping rotor blades was nowhere to be heard as they touched down.  Once boots hit the ground, it was all by the book with every maneuver guided by unprecedented training and split second instincts.

Osama bin Laden’s security posse was about to rendezvous with one of the most highly trained and deadly military forces on the planet-the United States Navy SEALs.

40 minutes later, when the gun battle was over, several people lay dead including the 54-year-old bin Laden shot at close range with single a bullet hit above the left eye.  After an almost 10 year manhunt, the most wanted terrorist was finally eliminated. His body quietly deposited into the North Arabian Sea.

Another mission accomplished for the elite Navy SEALs.

The Navy SEALs (short for SEa Air and Land) were first envisioned during a speech by President John F. Kennedy to congress on May 25, 1961. Becoming more aware of the escalation in Southeast Asia and the need to strengthen unconventional warfare capabilities to combat guerrilla warfare, Kennedy announced spending $100 million to enhance special operations forces. The first major deployment of Navy SEAL units was to Vietnam in March of 1962.

A majority of SEAL Teams (Teams 1-5 and 7-10) are unclassified units except Team 6. Team 6 is considered the elite of the elite or the “All-Star Team” and was the Team selected to take out Osama bin Laden. Members of Team 6 participate in the most dangerous and covert missions imaginable. In fact, Team 6 is so secretive that even the President and Defense Department deny its existence. Successful Team 6 missions are not acknowledged before the public with parades or ceremonies. Because they are military personnel, they’re not eligible for the $25 million bounty placed on bin Laden’s head.

SEALs are unique units because they are highly trained to conduct missions under water, on the ground and in the skies. Navy SEAL preparation involves years of highly unconventional and extremely brutal training. After the first round of training, about 20% of the candidates make the cut. For those who succeed to the next round of training, about 50% make the cut.

SEAL training exercises involve parachuting out the back of an aircraft at 30,000 feet with an oxygen mask strapped to the face, underwater demolition training and swimming in frigid ocean waters for days on end with little or no sleep.

I recently read an article on the Navy SEALs in the San Jose Mercury News. The article involved an interview with a 49-year-old former Navy SEAL named Don Shipley who now runs a private training school in Chesapeake, Virginia called Extreme SEAL Experience.  Shipley, like all former SEALs interviewed, believe the shooting of bin Laden was the proper decision.

Shipley states: “It’s dark; there’s been a lot of bullets flying around, a lot of bodies dropping; your mission is to capture or kill bin Laden; who knows what he’s got tucked in his shirt? It happens in the absolute blink of an eye for these guys and there’s that target in front of you. Second chances cost lives”.

Shipley concludes with this: “If that thing had gone bad, the conversation you and I would be having would be completely different. There’s only two ways to go in these operations-zero or hero”.

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