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Safety.
By Tom Demerly
US Navy SEALs

Part Two in a series on the U.S. Navy SEALs and endurance sports.


In our second look at the U.S. Navy SEALs as endurance athletes we take a look at a fictional SEAL team operation showcasing the skills, training and equipment the SEALs use in their operations.
Note: This is a fictional story.


Wednesday, 16:41 hr.s local, Allamanda Hotel at Laguna Phuket Triathlon, Thailand.

Jill and Dave Stevens are triathletes. They’ve saved for this trip for a decade. Jill’s new job freed up cash and Dave earned vacation time so here they were, on the beach in Thailand, the Laguna Phuket Triathlon.

The beach was white, the sand was warm and the water was clear. Paradise. The race was in three days. Jill and Dave felt fit and ready. For any triathlon couple it was the trip of a life time.

Until Wednesday afternoon.

News reports out of Bangkok were sketchy. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was better, but they lost their TV signal in the hotel at the Allamanda. Dave got on his cell phone to his mother-in-law in the states. She turned on CNN. She read the news ticker across the bottom of the screen:

…insurgents from Myanmar… Piracy… executions…. hostages…

Dave heard his mother-in-law on the other end of the cell connection.

“…you two OK? Maybe you should come…”

The phone signal dropped. Stevens waited a few seconds and hit redial. There was a rapid busy signal.

Then he heard gunshots coming from across the lagoon. The couple locked the door on their second story hotel room. And waited.

Thursday morning, 01:20 hr.s Local, 30 Kilometers off Laguna Phuket, Thailand.

“Seacat 41, get ready…”

The MC-130E Combat Talon banked slightly before leveling off as the cargo ramp at the back of the big tactical transport aircraft clunked into the opened position. The Andaman Sea was black 3,200 feet below. The stars shown brightly in the night sky off the Thai coast.

“Execute… execute… execute…”

A light turned green in the rear cargo compartment. The drogue parachute deployed and the big 11 meter RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) boat slid out the back cargo door of the Combat Talon. Behind it eight men laden with equipment waddled to the cargo door and jumped into the night sky. All eight parachutes opened. Seconds later the men were in the water and swimming to where the 11 meter RIB splashed down.

They swam a quarter mile on the surface, each wearing 25 pounds of equipment. All eight men located the 11 meter RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) in 15 minutes. Without a word they began rigging it for operation in starlit darkness. The quiet running outboard engine was started and the Chief, a member of Special Boat Team 20, turned the boat in a tight circle to create a luminous wake on the ocean surface. The flight crew of the orbiting MC-130E saw the frothy circle in the dark ocean below through their night vision goggles. Another set of cargo parachutes was dropped with the big, blubbery fuel blivet. The fuel bag splashed down and the SBT 20 crew and their Navy SEAL team mates began fueling the boat for the long run in toward the coast. Thirty minutes later the big black boat was running quietly on the surface with its load of SEALs and Special Boat Team operators.

Sunrise, jungle near Laguna Phuket Resort, Thailand.

Peeking out their window Jill saw men in hoods kill a shuttle driver in the street. She caught a scream in her throat. They could not stay in their room anymore. They climbed down to the pool area, ran across the golf course and into the jungle. They had a bottle of water and Dave’s cell phone. Despite the early hour it was beastly hot. The jungle was dark while the sun began to burn into the Thai sky as it rotated over the horizon. In the humidity everything seemed wet.

From where they sat on the side of a steep jungle hill just off the golf course they could see through the high trees. One of the houses on the golf course behind the Allamanda was burning. All else was quiet. An hour earlier there were gunshots. The electricity went out sometime during the night. No vehicles or people moved. The morning procession of shuttles bringing in resort employees wasn’t happening. They came to Thailand for a triathlon; they found themselves smack in the middle of an international incident.

Dave and Jill had no news broadcast. They didn’t know that a group of insurgents loyal to the former prime minister deposed in the 2006 coup had landed on the island from Myanmar. The war in Myanmar had provided convenient haven for terrorist cells. The extremists took a group of tourists in the resort hostage. They intended to release them once funds from the former Prime Minister’s seized accounts were released. The funds were frozen when the new government loyal to the beloved Thai King took over. In the years since the tsunami the coastal resort areas were quickly rebuilt. Their restoration was central to the country’s new economy as a major tourism cash cow. Hitting the new government here was hitting them in the bread basket. Dave and Jill were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Thursday morning, 04:07 hr.s Local, 2 Kilometers off Bang Tao Beach, Thailand.

Six combat swimmers from SEAL Team 5 rolled quietly over the side of their 11 meter RIB boat before sunrise. In the dark silence four feet below the surface they gently kicked toward the coast, swimming line abreast. Their Drager rebreather units gave off no bubbles, circulating their breath through a canister that removed CO2. From the surface, the six men were invisible. Years of hard swim practice, much of it at night, made the swim easy work for the SEALs. Of the six men on the team, three had finished Ironman. That was for fun. This was work.

It took forty minutes for the men to swim a few hundred meters off the beach. Swimming in pairs connected by a tether at their wrists the group came on line and fanned out. The team leader pulled his knees under him on the sandy bottom and, like a crocodile, pushed his head up to his eyes above the surface to scan the beach. Nothing moved.

After scanning the area the team crossed the beach in swim pairs, the first covering the last, the last doing their best to sweep away tracks in the sand. With their left wrist through the strap of their swim fins they first low crawled, then ran quietly to the rally point between the massage huts on the beach. Each man advanced with his M4 rifle in the ready position. Once in position the team leader, nearly invisible in the shadows under layers of camouflage face paint and his Crye Precision multi-cam uniform, used the satellite radio to call in a sitrep (situation report). The team had landed, the beach was empty, there was no movement. The report ended with the duress code signaling the team had not been compromised. After a few moments an intelligence report came back.

An RC-135W Rivet Joint reconnaissance aircraft was dispatched to Southeast Asia the moment the hostage crisis began. Using its clairvoyant electronic ears the big Rivet Joint aircraft, a modified 707 airframe, began listening. Some of the things it heard were cell phone conversations from people in Laguna Phuket. Dave Steven’s PDA smartphone was equipped with AGPS capability, an enhanced GPS locating system. Everywhere Dave and Jill went, the AGPS (Assisted Global Positioning System) silently emitted a signal revealing their position. When the intel report came back to the SEAL team on the ground in Phuket, finding Dave and Jill was their first tasking.

“…Locate and secure U.S. Citizens: Stevens, David F. and Jillian R. Passport numbers and SSN to follow…”

The team leader briefed his men quickly with the aid of a small ruggedized laptop computer. They returned their commo equipment to its waterproof backpack and began the tactical movement to where the two Americans were last tracked.

10:47 hr.s local, Laguna Phuket Resort Area, Thailand.

Even though Jill and Dave are fit and resourceful they were deep trouble in the middle of a crisis. Now they were lost, scared and hungry.

Dave knew he shouldn’t risk crossing the golf course in the open. The masked men who shot the shuttle driver may not be far away and would spot him easily. He and Jill skirted the golf course through the jungle foliage until they found a road. Then they made their first mistake. They crossed a road in the open. It only took a second before a white Daewoo mini-van whirled around a turn in front of them and raced to where they were. Jill froze. Dave thought about running but hesitated. Their second mistake. It was also their last.

13:50 hr.s local, Banyan Tree resort, Laguna Phuket, Thailand.

U.S. Intelligence assets had identified a cell of Jemaah Islamiyah operatives in Myanmar four months prior. They issued the normal warnings associated with such activity. The warnings were distributed publicly through unclassified sources such as The ASI Group, an intelligence think tank in Texas that monitors the world intelligence situation for private clients. Jill and Dave never heard it. They briefly checked the State Department’s travel warning website before they left for Thailand- there was no mention of Jemaah Islamiyah activity.

The U.S. assets that tracked such organizations noted a number of trends: The organization was moving frequently. Shipments of cash into Thailand had been seized at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok. The Jemaah Islamiyah operatives were strapped for cash. Like a trapped animal they began to rapidly contemplate their dwindling options. Then they hit Laguna Phuket.

The U.S. had forecasted this and pre-positioned the appropriate resources in the area. Special Boat Team 20 from Little Creek, Virginia was in the Southeast Asian Theater of Operations on a “training” exercise when the crisis began. A platoon of operators from SEAL Team 5, currently in Diego Garcia, was flown on a C-17 to the staging point for the rescue mission. The mission was planned in the air. They had an intelligence contact on the ground in Laguna Phuket, a shadowy figure working for an OGA (Other Government Agency) deployed to potential trouble spots as a trip wire. He was on a satellite phone back to the U.S as the crisis unfolded.

The six man team from SEAL Team 5 moved down to the lagoon between the Allamanda resort and the beach. They silently slipped into the water and swam, semi-submerged, through the canal into the Banyan Tree resort. A bridge crossed the canal linking the beach area with the Allamanda. The instant the team swam under the bridge a white Daewoo van started up the road from the Allamanda to the beach front. The team froze. The van crossed the bridge and turned right into the Banyan Tree. Two team members low crawled up the bank of the canal. When they got to the top they saw the van, three men and then… a woman and a man pulled from the back of the van. They wore white flexi-cuffs round their wrists.

The SEAL team pair made a hand signal to the remaining four SEALs still in the canal: “contact”.

Two SEALs crawled up the bank to cover the approach as rear security. The remaining four worked out the hasty assault plan. One SEAL would serve as overwatch with an SR-25 rifle. The remaining three would neutralize the three men and secure the two subjects. They fit the descriptions of Stevens, David F. and Jillian R.

Three on three are good odds for SEALs so it didn’t take long. Two of the SEALs crept low along the bank in flanking positions, crossing the road when the view was obstructed from the van’s position. One SEAL remained on the bank. He tossed a flash-bang stun grenade onto the road. The blinding flash, then repeated explosions gave the SEAL’s time to close the distance to the three men and the two Americans. In less than ten seconds all three men were on the ground; face down, One SEAL covering them with his M4, another putting flexicuffs on them. Jill held her eyes shut but Dave was wide-eyed with surprise. One of the SEALs grabbed Dave’s arm, “Sir! You’re safe. What is your name Sir?”

Dave was stunned. The SEAL’s slight Texas drawl caught him by surprise. He looked at the man’s green and black face, Dave’s eyes big as saucers.

“Sir! What is your name?”

“Dave. David. Dave Stevens… from the U.S. We’re Americans!”

“Well, Sir. Mr. Stevens, you’re safe now. We’ll have you out of here shortly. Stand by.”

Forty minutes later a Thai helicopter was landing on the beach. Dave and Jill were escorted on board and flown to a hospital. As they off-loaded the Thai S-70B Sea Hawk helicopter Jill tugged on the crew chief’s arm. She shouted a question about the roar of the jet engines and the rotor blades.

“Who were the men who found us?”

The Thai Navy crew chief swung his intercom mic out of the way and answered,

“No Lady, we don’t know. They secret men… swim here to get you. You safe now though. Those men disappear into the sea.”

 

 

© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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