The famed U.S. Navy SEALS are witnessing major changes to the elite fighting force, and a former naval commander says the coming changes are welcome news.
With an eye on China and Russia, the Navy’s special operations force plans to return to training for conventional warfare, including seaborne operations, after fighting terrorists in the Middle East for two decades.
Rear Admiral H. Wyman Howard III, the top commander for the SEALS, told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview that SEAL units are returning to the sea after years of counterterrorism missions in the mountains of Afghanistan and the Iraqi desert.
The Pentagon recognizes the threats posed by China and Russia and the need for special operations to counter those threats, the AP said.
Howard called the military capability of those countries “peer threats” that are being countered with expanded SEAL platoons that will take on new roles in cyber and electronic warfare, operating unmanned systems, and intelligence gathering.
Retired navy commander Kirk Lippold, an adjunct professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, says the changes are long overdue after SEAL teams have been sent to Afghanistan and the streets of Baghdad.
“They've kind of lost some of their war-fighting expertise and skills,” he tells One News Now, “and I think that Admiral Howard is working to get back to that, and I'm very glad to see it.”
The history of the SEALs can be traced to World War II, when troops known as “Scouts and Raiders” were trained in amphibious warfare as the Allies prepared to invade North Africa. A second group of troops were trained in demolitions and participated in the D-Day invasion, where they sustained a 52% casualty rate.
Today, the SEALs have endured numerous deployments to warzones while the Pentagon has witnessed their units embarrass the uniform with sexual assault scandals and a drug scandal involving cocaine usage. A hazing scandal claimed the life of an Army Green Beret and that incident sent a SEAL to prison for a year, the AP reported.
In the AP interview, the rear admiral said the Navy is determined to improve its screening of SEAL applicants and told the news service that a “double blind” interview, already used by the Army, is being used by the SEALs.
Lippold says he is pleased that there will be a greater effort to maintain operational security after some SEALs have publicized their work despite an ethos to remain quiet.
“Stop talking about the missions that we're going to go do. Stop talking about where we're going to the world. Just shut up,” he says. “Be confident and go do your job to the best of your ability for your nation."