- The Washington Times - Friday, October 24, 2003

Wives and widows of nine men from Navy special operations launched a boat tour yesterday to call attention to their husbands’ sacrifices and raise money for other families.

Calling themselves SEAL Wives Against Terrorism (SWAT), they left at midday from Columbia Island Marina on the Potomac River near the Pentagon on a 300-nautical mile trip to New York.

Stops are planned in two other cities and all money raised will go to an existing Navy welfare fund, they said.

Three of the women are widows who lost their husbands in the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns, and the rest are wives of active-duty or retired SEALs, among the military’s secretive special forces.

“It’s the first time SEAL wives have done anything like this because we’re a very protected community. … It’s very secret work … we haven’t been allowed in the public eye,” said Carlin, who was allowed to give only her first name to protect her husband and family.

“They are truly a great group of ladies who understand what sacrifice is all about,” Thomas W. O’Connell, assistant defense secretary for special operations, said at a brief ceremony.

The days of secrecy about special forces — when officials wouldn’t admit their existence — are a thing of the past, Mr. O’Connell said.

“We don’t talk about the mission, but we do acknowledge that we have SEALs — we’re proud of them, we let them stand up and take recognition,” he said after the ceremony.

Special operations forces in all the services have come into greater use and prominence since the war on terror began to hunt down and destroy terrorists and their networks around the world.

The first U.S. troops to go into Afghanistan in the fall of 2001 were Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs and special operations aviators who swept into the north to advise and lead anti-Taliban forces and identify targets for U.S. aircraft, officials have said.

Their work, in conjunction with CIA operatives, is widely credited with accelerating the demise of the Taliban regime that had been harboring al Qaeda terrorists.

The women on the boat tour are traveling on two Zodiac Home Guard Defender boats, designed for patrolling and other homeland security missions, Defense Department officials said.

They will take turns piloting with the help of Zodiac personnel, and they plan stops in Annapolis, and Atlantic City, N.J., before attending a maritime exposition Wednesday and Thursday in New York.

The raised funding will go to the Naval Special Warfare Foundation.

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