WASHINGTON — U.S. officials remain tight-lipped about why Navy SEAL Team 6 got the call to confront Osama bin Laden, the most coveted target in the world. After all, each service has elite special operations forces that train for precision missions.
But Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Richard Mills wasn’t surprised.
“Well now, now, SEAL Team Six is unique,” conceded Mills, the recent commander of Afghanistan’s southwest region. President Barack Obama nominated him on Wednesday to become deputy commandant of the Marine Corps and receive a third-star.
“SEAL Team Six - those are big boys. Those are the pros, ok? I mean, they are trained, that’s what they do, they go – they are dedicated to extraordinary high, strategic targets. …That particular team is kind of -- that’s your top shelf stuff.”
Mills told reporters Thursday that Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, or MARSOC, fighters also train to do precision raids and special operations on targets similar to the bin Laden raid -- but not like SEAL Team Six.
In southwest Afghanistan, MARSOC units were valuable in conducting mostly “village stability operations,” he said, involving meeting elders and organizing local youths into security forces that could do checkpoints and identify Taliban.
“You could put them into bad neighborhoods – to very bad neighborhoods. They could get in there, fight their way in, maintain themselves, while they dealt with the elders,” he said.
U.S. Special Operations Command officials would not discuss operational details of the bin Laden mission, as expected, but spokesman Ken McGraw offered this: “The method used to select an element to conduct a special operations mission is no different than making the same determination for any other military operation.” In other words, when a unit receives a mission, it analyzes the assignment and develops the most appropriate course of action, and personnel, to complete it.
“Any number of our special ops components could do this job,” said Capt. Dick Couch, a retired Navy SEAL and Vietnam War combat veteran, who teaches at the U.S. Naval Academy. “I bet a lot of them wish they had been asked to do it.”