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
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…
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,
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
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
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
“…Locate and secure U.S. Citizens:
Stevens, David F. and Jillian R. Passport numbers and SSN
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
10:47 hr.s local, Laguna Phuket Resort
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
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
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
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
“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.”