Elite S. Korean SEAL unit gets training from San Diego-based experts
Stars and Stripes March 6, 2008
CHINHAE NAVAL BASE, South Korea — If South Korea’s elite navy SEALs had to raid a suspected terrorist safe house, knowing the right methods for clearing it room-by-room would be crucial.
And if they had to board and seize a ship — a very likely scenario — clearing it bulkhead-by-bulkhead would be just as important.
To help them hone those skills, three U.S. Navy SEALs out of San Diego have been in South Korea in recent weeks, sharing their expertise.
The training has been under way at Chinhae Naval Base, where the South Korean SEALs are headquartered and have their training facilities. Their mission is maritime interdiction and counterterrorism.
On a cold, sunny Tuesday afternoon, 14 members of the South Korean SEALs counterterrorism unit practiced seizing a “tire kill house,” built of rubber tires stacked two stories high with ground-floor doorways made of metal frames. The house is about 100 feet long and 70 feet wide.
There’s no roofing and trainers can stand above and watch whether the SEALs are applying the correct techniques.
“Close-quarter combat is what it’s called,” said a U.S. Navy SEAL officer who for security reasons is being identified as “Greg.”
“This is mostly about movement,” Greg said, noting that clearing a room amounts to much more than just bursting in with weapons.
“You could be a fantastic shot, but you really couldn’t do this if you don’t know how to move through a room properly,” he said.
“It’s all choreographed. ‘You go left, you go right.’ … This absolutely relies on teamwork. ’Cause you’re relying on the other guy to cover your back,” he said.
“So we emphasize speed. We emphasize the coordination of the teams, holding security, and just ensuring that they clear behind all obstacles and dead spaces.”
During Tuesday’s training, some SEALs wearing bright red vests played the terrorists. They took up positions inside the tire house and waited, some of them concealed behind various objects meant to represent furniture or objects an enemy might use for concealment.
The raiding teams began by moving single-file along the walls of the tire house.
Then, on a given signal, they burst through the doorway and began clearing the room using the techniques they’ve been taught.
The SEALs wore protective face masks and had their submachine guns loaded with 9 mm “Simunition,” paintball-tipped rounds that leave a small blob of paint on whatever they hit. They try to shoot their opponents during the training and getting hit carries a sharp sting, trainers said.
When the SEALs spotted a suspect they’d shout directions at him, get him lying face down and search him at gunpoint.
During the weeks they’ve been training with the Koreans, the U.S. SEALs encountered a training challenge that was not tactical but “cultural,” Greg said.
The Korean SEALs newly out of training were so respectful of the senior status of the experienced SEALs that they couldn’t bring themselves to shoot them during the close-quarters combat training.
But that problem is just about resolved, or “sort of.”
“Because some of them still aren’t shooting,” Greg said.