Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Navy SEALs, special warfare combatant-craft crewmen (SWCC) and NSW support personnel integrated with ships from the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Carrier Strike Group during an independent deployer certification exercise (IDCERTEX) Nov. 8-14.
During the exercise, NSW personnel trained to increase cooperation between special operations forces and the fleet by collaborating with Sailors from Ronald Reagan, USS Kidd (DDG 100) and USS Howard (DDG 83).
Over the course of the week at sea, NSW personnel participated in a surface warfare exercise; a counter-piracy scenario; two helicopter visit, board search and seizure (HVBSS) evolutions; a simulation of transiting a narrow strait; and a SEAL raid on a land target that employed a shipboard helicopter squadron.
“When [NSW] came on board, immediately we integrated,” said Cmdr. David Zook, commanding officer of Howard. “About an hour after they arrived, we started discussions about an interoperable mission.”
Central to the training was the unmanned aerial system (UAS) Scan Eagle, which NSW routinely uses to gather intelligence and conduct surveillance and reconnaissance missions on land. During a nighttime surface warfare exercise, the NSW team demonstrated the UAS’s ability to help surface commanders find and identify other ships at sea that might otherwise remain undetected. Similarly, Scan Eagle provided Navy crews aboard large ships with aerial views of movements of smaller craft during counter-piracy and HVBSS simulations.
“We started to see some capability that came along with the [NSW] team, and that was just phenomenal,” Zook said. “It really enhanced our situational awareness and gave us a much broader perspective.”
Scan Eagle can also fly ahead of a ship’s movements, increasing the ship’s range of visibility.
“You get that long look to see what you’re going into,” said Cmdr. T.J. Zerr, executive officer of Kidd. “Most of the time when we’re traveling into an area it takes us a couple hours to transit to the problem, so having that ability to get out there matters.”
Though SEAL and SWCC teams are able to operate independently, the forward presence of the fleet and the communication abilities of large ships enhance NSW capabilities. In particular, small NSW teams are able to use ships as staging areas for missions to have advantages over enemies relying on more limited resources.
“The fleet can obviously deliver us further by using one of their platforms as an [afloat-forward staging base],” said a Navy SEAL officer involved in the training. “Their radar systems can pick up vessels a lot earlier than we would be able to, they provide fuel for aircraft [and] just increase our time on station ten-fold.”
NSW groups command, train, equip and deploy components of NSW squadrons to meet the exercise, contingency and wartime requirements of the regional combatant commanders, theater special operations commands and numbered fleets located around the world.
U.S. Third Fleet leads naval forces in the Eastern Pacific from the West Coast of North America to the international date line and provides the realistic, relevant training necessary for an effective global Navy.