Special Operations News

The Challenges of SDV Operators

CORONADO, CA – Ask anyone at SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team ONE (SDVT-1) what they like about being there and you will hear the same answer – It’s all about the challenge. Like other NSW operators, SEALs assigned to SDVT-1conduct dangerous missions, long workups before deployments and do whatever it takes to carry out the commander’s intent. Being at the SDV team is very similar to being on a traditional team but with a particular focus on the core undersea skill. Being an SDV operator requires a unique level of maturity and trust required to take on missions in support of our nation’s highest defense priorities.

Prior to the end of the Cold War, the U.S. undersea mission was one of strategic deterrence. With new and emerging threats from rogue states and terrorist elements, the evolving face of war began to require something much different. In response, Naval Special Warfare sought improvements in its undersea capabilities to meet these emerging threats.

“SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team ONE has a very unique function within the Naval Special Warfare community,” said the executive officer (XO) of SDVT-1. “Our specific mission set focuses on executing global operations within the maritime environment. Much like our brothers within Naval Special Warfare Group’s ONE and TWO, we execute a core unit level training (ULT) period followed by several months of undersea mission specific profiles. The SDVT-1 SEALs are trained to meet the expectations placed on them with the highest levels of trust.”

The success of SDV missions depends on many factors, most importantly, training and preparation. One aspect of NSW’s undersea enterprise is that it requires maritime skills sets in addition to those of SEALs operating on the ground. Typically, SEALs will rotate through ULT in roughly six months and get qualified in a variety of combat skills. Previously, if they opted for a stint at an SDV team they were required to get trained and qualified in very different skill sets. The feeling of many operators was, “Why go to an SDV team? I want to remain competitive and keep myself qualified.

Now, SEALs going to SDVT-1 have similar training requirements seen throughout NSW. It is expected that all SEALs will excel within the core skills in addition to the unique capabilities associated with working out of an SDV. Environmental conditions during missions and training remain very challenging; however, state-of-the-art equipment used today has vastly improved underwater conditions for operators.

“Even though we have made great improvements in gear and training, there are still very physically and mentally challenging times that are associated with SDV training and operations,” said the XO. “The command is gratified at the commitment of these guys every single day.”

“You can feel like you’re going from hypo to hyperthermic 10 times in a night,” said an SO1 who is a waterside trainer with TRADET-3. “From freezing in the water to baking in a dry suit, you’ve got to be tough to manage it.”

Each platoon is assigned four maintenance technicians who are responsible for the performance of the craft. The four technicians make up the support team which is critical to maintaining all aspects of the SDV and ensuring mission success every time. They are charged with the pivotal role of ensuring the SDV is prepared and the vehicle launches and returns, without issue. “Our technicians take great pride in making sure the SEALs get back safe. They know that their attention to detail determines if a mission is completed safely.”

Regardless of how or why SEALs get stationed at SDV Team ONE, they stay for the unique challenge.

“I’m staying because the caliber of people I work with every day is unbelievable,” said SO1. “I take comfort in knowing that the guys I go out with will do what it takes to overcome any challenges we may encounter. It’s hard and it’s rewarding.”


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