SEAL Team, caption follows
SEAL fire team transitions from underwater to shore in an alert status. Each is using a Draeger LAR-V underwater breathing apparatus (UBA) rebreather to remain clandestine.

Masters of the Deep  Submarines From a SEAL's Perspective
Article and photos by CDR Michael Wood, USN

Life aboard a submarine is an interesting experience for a Naval Special Warfare (NSW) operator - and especially for a SEAL doing SUBOPS for the first time. And conversely, I'm sure it's an equally enlightening experience for submariners exposed initially to an exuberant SEAL team that invades every nook and cranny of their boat and eats all their food. For a SEAL, that first onboard can be confining, claustrophobic, over-regimented, and confusing. And Heaven forbid a new SEAL should flush the head while the boat is blowing sanitaries! We already have a proud record of Golden Flapper Awards earned by SEALs young and old alike! To the submariner, it seems like the SEALs are everywhere and that all they care about is their 3M system - movies, meals and mattresses. 

They never secure anything for sea - they make a mess out of the forward torpedo room - and the greatest offense of all is that because they're onboard, the young submariners now have to hot-rack all the time.

And yet despite these initial impressions and the obvious differences in SEAL and submarine "style," before the cruise is over we'll form up to become one of most potent fighting teams in the nation's arsenal. Greetings! I'm CDR Mike Wood and I'm the Information Operations Officer at Naval Special Warfare Command in Coronado, California. I've deployed aboard many a submarine as a combat swimmer for escape-trunk lock-in/lock-out ops, as a Dry Deck Shelter (DDS) Platoon Commander, SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) Platoon Commander, and Naval Special Warfare Task Unit Commander. I've had the privilege to serve aboard the USS Cavalla (SSN-684), USS Sam Houston (SSBN-609), and USS Kamehameha (SSBN-642) for full six-month deployments and also conducted SSN/NSW operations from many other submarines, including the USS William H. Bates (SSN-680), USS John Marshall (SSBN-611), and USS Tunny (SSN-682). I've been around the barn a few times.

The SSN/NSW team is an incredible warfighting asset that will see increasing use in both traditional warfare and future non-traditional missions - such as Information Warfare, countering WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction), or establishing the new Expeditionary Sensor Grids. In any event, I believe SEALs and submariners will be working together more than ever, which suggested the need for this photo feature. From our SEAL perspective, the submarine crew makes a significant sacrifice when we come onboard, but except for a few at the conn who get to watch through the periscope, they don't generally see what goes on outside the boat to justify our being there.

So these photos are for you! They show how the SDV is launched and recovered and what it does when it leaves your boat. You'll see how the SEALs steal away in little rubber boats and a little of what they do when they're outside. And it's my hope that these photos will give you a view of underway SSN/DDS/SDV/SEAL operations you may not have experienced and convince you that we SEALs really do more than 3M onboard.

CDR Wood, a SEAL for 31 years, has served as a SEAL point-man in Vietnam, a SEAL Delivery Vehicle Task Element Commander during Operations DESERT SHIELD/STORM, and Amphibious Ready Group NSW Task Unit Commander in the early phase of U.S. involvement in Somalia. In addition to the biographical information provided in the text, he also served as a UDT Assistant Platoon Commander, and OIC of SDV Team ONE DET Hawaii. He has extensive experience operating from SSNs and SSBNs at sea, including two WESTPAC submarine deployments.


Releasing the CRRC, caption follows


(left) Releasing the CRRC. Four Combat Rubber Raiding Craft (CRRCs) are lashed to the Dry Deck Shelter (DDS) track and cradle. Each CRRC has the SEAL squad combat equipment and the outboard motor (OBM) already pre-staged. As the CRRC is released from the DDS cradle, it will rise to the surface on a guide line and the SEALs will then surface and inflate the CRRC, reposition all the gear, and start the OBM to wait for the word to get underway.

(near right) Inflating the CRRC. The DDS deck crewmen have removed the CRRC cargo straps, and one crewman has inflated the CRRC. As the stern begins to rise to the surface, the other deck crewman is readying and releasing the buoy line. Notice the cargo web inside the CRRC - that is where the SEAL squad combat equipment and OBM are stored for the ride to the surface. This is the last of four CRRCs to be surfaced. Then the DDS deck crew will winch the DDS track and cradle back into the DDS and the nine-foot DDS door will be shut. (far right) Mass Swimmer Lock-in. The DDS Deck Captain monitors as a combat swimmer returns back down the buoy line to the DDS. Meanwhile, two CRRCs and other combat swimmers wait their turn on the surface. This is referred to as Mass Swimmer Lock-in (MSLI).

Photo collage. Inflating the CRRC and Mass Swimmer Lock-in, caption follows



Seal Insertion, caption follows


(left) SEAL Insertion. The SEAL squad, in desert camouflage, maintain a low profile position in the Combat Rubber Raiding Craft as they prepare to insert and land on the shore. The CRRC coxswain may take the CRRC back to sea and wait, or the squad may camouflage the CRRC ashore while performing their mission. This is a daylight photo of what would normally be conducted under the cover of darkness.


(below left) Placing the LAM. In the foreground, SDV is "bottomed-up" under the ship, with the SDV pilot and navigator placing a MK-V Limpet Assembly Module (LAM) in the background. This is a two-module LAM with over 100 lbs. of high explosive. (below middle) The SDV pilot and navigator place the explosive device, which will time-detonate in either a "contact" or "standoff" mode. The SDV and her crew will be miles away when the explosive actually detonates. (below right) Here is the result of the 100-pound explosive in "contact" mode on a Yard Oiler (YO) ship in open ocean off Waikiki, Oahu. Photo by Bernie Campoli.

Photo collage. Placing the LAM, caption precedes


(below left) SDV Launch. The DDS Hangar Supervisor closely monitors as the DDS Deck Captain and Deck Crewman launch the SDV from the DDS track and cradle - this view is from inside the DDS looking out. Silhouetted lines are the hangar open-circuit "hooka" stations the DDS crew and SEAL personnel breath off of while inside the DDS.


(below top right) Out of the Slipstream. The DDS deck crew pushes the SDV out of the SSN/DDS slipstream and into the underway one-knot flow of current. The SDV pilot ensures the bowline is connected to the buoy line as he stands by for the launch signal. (below bottom right) Stern View. This is an overall stern view of the DDS deck crew launching an SDV.

Photo collage. SDV Launch, Stern view, and Out of the Slipstream. Caption precedes.

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