Originally known as SEAL Team Six, the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DevGru) is one of several publicly disclosed units under the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), a highly classified elite group that coordinates the fight against terrorism and other security-related missions. around the world. (Others include the Army’s legendary Delta Force and the Air Force’s 24th Special Tactical Squadron.) Based at Pope Army Air Field and Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the JSOC was established in 1980 after US Special Forces failed to rescue US hostages at the Iranian Embassy during Operation Eagle Claw.
A JSOC unit responsible for counterterrorism operations in the maritime environment became operational the following year as SEAL Team Six, a name chosen to scramble Soviet intelligence since only three SEAL teams existed at the time. In 1987 it was disbanded and renamed the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group.
While DevGru’s organization, like the details of its operations, is shrouded in secrecy, most of its members are believed to be handpicked from other SEAL teams and explosive ordnance destruction units in the Marine. In addition to the grueling training program that all SEALs – the acronym refers to the contexts in which they are deployed: sea, air and land – must take, DevGru candidates receive advanced training in counterterrorism techniques before to undergo a rigorous selection process. According to the security information site GlobalSecurity.org, the unit now has around 200 operators as well as 300 specialists responsible for testing and developing special equipment and weapons.
In October 2010, The Atlantic reported that defense officials had renamed DevGru again, but the new nickname has yet to be made public.
While many of DevGru’s operations remain classified, some of its activities have been confirmed and published, including the unit’s most publicized raid to date: the assault on the Osama Bin Laden compound in Pakistan that took killed the elusive leader of Al Qaeda.
READ MORE: How the Sixth SEAL Team took out Osama Bin Laden
Operation Urgent Fury (1983)
The Sixth SEAL Team participated in the US-led invasion of Grenada, which quelled a Communist takeover of the government of the small Caribbean nation in October 1983. Four of its members were lost at sea during a helicopter drop at sea. The unit was responsible for rescuing the country’s governor general, Paul Scoon, who had been under house arrest and at risk of execution, as well as securing a radio transmitter . Under heavy fire from Grenadian soldiers as they attempted to evacuate, the SEALs swam out to sea, where they waited nearly six hours until the Navy found and retrieved them.
Operation Just Cause (1989)
Working with Delta Force and other elite units, members of the DevGru helped capture ousted dictator Manuel Noriega during the United States’ invasion of Panama in December 1989.
Operation Pokeweed (1990)
DevGru has reportedly returned to Panama to participate in a covert operation to apprehend Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. The mission is believed to have failed due to poor intelligence.
Battle of Mogadishu (1993)
Members of DevGru participated in a multinational task force during Operation Gothic Serpent, the US-led mission to capture Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid in the fall of October 1993. It culminated in the Battle of Mogadishu, which was subsequently recounted in the book “Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War” and a subsequent film adaptation.
READ MORE: Navy SEALS: 10 key missions
Arrest of Bosnian War Criminals (1998)
In the aftermath of the wars in the former Yugoslavia, members of the DevGru were deployed to Bosnia to track down accused Bosnian war criminals and bring them to The Hague for trial. They apprehended a number of key suspects, including Radislav Krstić, the Bosnian general who was later indicted for his role in the Srebrenica massacre in 1995.
Linda Norgrove’s Rescue Attempt (2010)
In October 2010, members of DevGru carried out an attack on a Taliban compound in Afghanistan where Linda Norgrove, a kidnapped Scottish aid worker, was being held. Placed in the line of fire by her captors, Norgrove was fatally injured in a clash between American forces and armed Taliban. A joint US-UK investigation later revealed that a grenade thrown by one of the SEALs killed the 36-year-old woman. Several weeks later, newspapers reported that several members of DevGru had been penalized for failing to inform those responsible for the circumstances of his accidental death.
Conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq (2001 to present)
Members of the DevGru have played a key role in the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, targeting many prominent Al Qaeda and Taliban figures. They have often worked in close cooperation with the Special Activities Division of the Central Intelligence Agency, which conducts covert paramilitary operations.
Assassination of Osama Bin Laden (2011)
The mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden escaped capture for nearly a decade until DevGru completed his most publicized mission in this day. Although details of the operation have not yet been confirmed by officials, it is believed that two dozen SEALs from the unit stormed the terrorist leader’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in the early hours of September. May 2, 2011. According to reports, a gunfight broke out. which lasted 40 minutes and resulted in the death or capture of 22 people. Bin Laden was fatally shot and then buried at sea after a meticulous identification process. All SEALs survived the assault despite a helicopter malfunction that nearly compromised their mission.
WATCH: Revealed: The Hunt for Bin Laden, premieres Sunday, May 2 at 8/7 a.m. on HISTORY®.