On Easter Sunday, SEALs rescued Maersk Alabama Captain Richard Phillips off the coast of Somalia and quickly dispatched three pirates. This brought Naval Special Warfare (NSW) into the spotlight for a few news cycles. Footage of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training ran on cable news, statistics on operational deployments and recruiting got air time. The coverage highlighted one of NSW's core missions: maritime special operations. But this incident of strategic application was only one in a long stretch of NSW operations since 11 September 2001.
Like the other units inside the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), SEALs and the NSW community have continuously adapted during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. As the current fight approaches the eight-year mark-longer than NSW's direct involvement in either World War II or Vietnam-we must assess our performance as well as how the nature of this enemy is changing the organization, capabilities, and strategic employment scheme of naval special warfare.