- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 14, 2013

Navy SEALs are the toast of America.

They have killed Osama bin Laden, Somali pirates, al Qaeda terrorists in Iraq and Taliban extremists in Afghanistan. They have been featured in magazine articles and Hollywood movies.

Now there is a richly illustrated book, which its authors bill as the best inside look yet at how to train a naval commando. It shows the faces of men who protect America by fighting, and sometimes dying, in the shadows.

Greg E. Mathieson Sr., a war correspondent who owns a photo news service, and Dave Gatley, a former photographer for the Los Angeles Times, have teamed to produce the simply titled “United States Naval Special Warfare.”

“This book is a first of a first of a kind,” Mr. Mathieson said, “an authentic, exclusive inside look at SEALs and the NSW community.”

For the author, it was a labor of love, not profit. He said he spent “six figures” to self-publish the book, as well as to travel overseas to document SEALs in action and to pay contributors.

The black-and-gold, foot-tall book is a narrative of SEAL history, training, tactics and equipment studded with glossy photographs of scenes never before publicized.

The pictures are not just of SEALs at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado running on the beach near San Diego, as guests of the Hotel Del Coronado look on while enjoying cocktails and the brilliant Pacific Ocean.

“Books in the past only focused on the BUDS training of SEALs lifting logs, running,” Mr. Mathieson told The Washington Times, referring to basic underwater demolition training.

“You’ll notice on the inside cover flaps photos of all the signs we went past, which showed the restricted areas no cameras, classified areas and more,” he said. “Every time we showed up, we got strange looks and people having to double-check and getting it in writing before opening up the doors.”

Supporting the SEALs

People who wonder how two dozen Navy SEALs prepared for the mission of storming bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan, will know once they see the grueling regimen it takes to pin on the Trident medal the special warfare insignia.

The book’s illustrations include a photo of the special Quadeye night-vision goggles that SEAL Team 6 used to navigate bin Laden’s compound, locate the al Qaeda leader and kill him.

“It’s SEAL Team 6 that has this thing,” Mr. Mathieson said. “It enables them to see 180 degrees around them.”

The book is being released as the SEALs, largely unseen, have completed more than a decade of fighting the war on terrorism in shadowy villages in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere. They reached their zenith in May 2011, when special Black Hawk helicopters penetrated Pakistani airspace, landed in Abbottabad and killed bin Laden.

In a sense, it was much like other SEAL missions since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States by al Qaeda: They are assigned a target, receive an intelligence brief, grab the needed sensors and guns, climb into a helicopter, hit the compound, kill or capture terrorists, and return to base.

Scores of such missions have been conducted during the war, mostly unheralded.

But with the bin Laden operation, the Obama White House conducted extensive briefings for favored press while the CIA entertained and fed details to the filmmakers of “Zero Dark Thirty.”

SEAL Team 6 member Matt Bissonette quit the Navy and wrote a best-selling book, “No Easy Day,” a personal moment-by-moment re-creation of killing the most wanted man in the world.

“United States Naval Special Warfare” helps round out the picture with its photos of intensive training and an inside look at the SEALs’ extensive support network, a ratio of 20 support personnel to each combatant.

“The book addresses itself to the supply/support technicians that help the teams,” said retired Rear Adm. George Worthington, the Navy’s top SEAL from 1989 to 1992 and one of the book’s contributors. “Back in the old days, SEAL Team 1 in the early ‘60s, they took care of their own equipment, their own maintenance.”

Adm. Worthington wrote several of the book’s sections on training, equipment and command structure. Pictured are all sorts of gear, including guns, sophisticated night-vision technology and a desert dirt bike.

“We hope this book provides a better understanding of what the SEALs do and what the people who are assigned to help them out do. That’s been a thing that has been overlooked in every book so far the support people,” Adm. Worthington said.

Cold War heroics

During the scariest days of the Cold War, the SEALs had a nuclear weapons mission, as they were trained to carry a 160-pound “suitcase nuke.” In the doomsday scenario, a SEAL would be dropped off near a strategic base or harbor, attach the weapon to some kind of mooring and then move to safety before detonation.

Such weapons were eliminated by the U.S.-Soviet arms reduction treaty.

“There is a lot of historical stuff in the book that has never been seen before,” Mr. Mathieson said. “There are pictures of two SEALs pulling an atomic bomb out of the water. It is a picture of them using a dummy or the real thing. They did have the real things back then. They were deployed all over the world.”

The book reveals another Cold War mission, when Navy SEAL Bill Bruhmuller discarded his real identity in 1963 and went to work for the CIA. One of his missions was to organize exiles of the Fidel Castro regime to penetrate Cuban waters and blow up fast-attack Russian missile boats.

The exiles attached mines to four boats, three of which “blew high to the sky” as the exiles and Mr. Bruhmuller made their way back to the mother ship a Panamanian-flagged freighter.

The authors snapped photos of the women “behind the lines” who are attached to SEAL teams in support roles. They are weapons-qualified and often deploy with SEALs near a point of attack.

The armed services are preparing plans by May 15 to tell Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel how they will integrate women into direct land-combat units.

Adm. Worthington told The Times that, in his opinion, the SEAL specialty should remain male-only.

Asked how a woman could complete 55 weeks of training to become a SEAL, he said, “Beats me.”

“This is a political thing to let women into everything, so there is going to be a female chairman of the Joint Chiefs,” the retired admiral said. “I think it’s ridiculous. Part of this is male bonding, getting together as a team. I just personally don’t think women are going to hack it seven people in a rubber boat in a surf zone and then after that you stack your boat and go for an 8-mile run.”

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