CORONADO, CA – In two short years since its re-designation from Operational Support Group to Naval Special Warfare Group 11, the newest NSW Echelon III command has manned, trained and equipped reservists to mobilize in support of NSW’s active-duty force.
Group 11’s first priority was to find personnel to fill its SEAL billets. In 2008, reserve SEAL manning was at 35 percent, and even fewer of its special warfare boat operator billets were filled.
Opportunity to serve in an operational capacity definitely sparked the interest and loyalty of NSW SEAL reservists. The number of them who have volunteered to put their uniforms back on for NSW is now up to 65 percent.
“They want to be part of the team,” Group 11 Commodore Capt. Edward Gallrein said about his operators. Since being “operationalized,” reservists from SEAL Teams 17 and 18 have conducted three successful deployments.
The success of those deployments and the value the operators are finding has led to what leadership calls “repeat offenders;” reservists who deployed with ST-17 Alpha platoon first, returned and then volunteered for a second deployment with Bravo platoon.
“Five of the 10 SEALs who deployed with Bravo (platoon) started with Alpha.” said Cmdr. Steve Renly, commanding officer, SEAL Team 17. “They had such a good time that they volunteered to go again for Bravo.”
In this community, it’s not surprising that many operators like Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Curtis Martin jump at the chance to be activated and deploy.
“My reaction to the mobilization and deployment was, ‘Where do you need me?’” said Martin, a SEAL Team 17 operator. “After being on active duty, it is hard to forget the feeling of accomplishment that came with completing the enormous tasks asked of us on a daily basis and even harder to find a comparable position in civilian life. The phrase ‘once a SEAL always a SEAL’ is true now more than ever. It is an honor to still be a part of accomplishing the ongoing NSW mission.”
Their willingness and eagerness to deploy aren’t the only things that benefit NSW. Of the 10 reservists in the SEAL Team 17 Bravo platoon who recently returned from deployment, none of them had less than two active-duty deployments and 70 percent of them have combat experience. As a whole, the platoon averaged 15 years of NSW experience per operator.
“These are older, very senior and very experienced people,” said Gallrein. “It would be rare for you to walk into a SEAL team now and find that much skill and experience.”
This experience and maturity also enables them to successfully complete the very condensed Unit Level Training that is necessary for their missions.
The Operations and Training departments at SEAL Team 17 and Group 11 condensed the year- long ULT to three months. The goal of the consolidation was to be able to train and seamlessly integrate reservists with active-duty operators, if necessary.
The operators’ training schedule that’s completed includes several of the same blocks of training active-duty operators complete including visit, board, search and seizure, gas oil platform and urban warfare.
The operators worked seven days a week with few breaks to complete the training and were impressed by the results.
“The best way to describe the pre-deployment workup is thorough and efficient,” said Martin. “The training schedule was the definition of full-time and rigorous, to say the least. In the end, this training produced the tightest knit platoon I have had the opportunity to be a part of thus far in my career.”
This kind of preparation enabled the first two reserve Team 17 SEAL platoons to deploy as task units in support of Naval Special Warfare Unit 1 and other commands where they were needed. The success of the task units has only furthered Group 11’s ability to deploy more assets to NSW commands.
“This is a huge, positive development because NSW needs more capability and capacity,” said Gallrein. “We were able to demonstrate to the NSW leadership that we could do this mission set. Once they were able to accept and recognize the value of the contribution SEAL Team 17 offered, it was approved for SEAL Team 18 to provide similar capability in support of Special Operations Command South.”
One of Group 11’s hopes for the future is that more SEALs continue their careers and support NSW by being a part of the teams as reservists.
“We have been asked to double our capability,” said Gallrein. “The active-duty cycle is currently toe-to-toe. Once we are added into the deployment cycle, the hope is to bring some sort of normalcy to the cycle. That, in turn, produces a better home life and, ultimately, a better SEAL.”