How Delta Force And SEAL Team 6 Might Be Mitigating Coronavirus Readiness Risks

How Delta Force and SEAL Team 6 might be mitigating coronavirus readiness risks

Washington Examiner · by Tom Rogan · April 14, 2020

How will the military’s top special operations units mitigate the risk of a coronavirus outbreak in their ranks?

Well, in much the same way that the rest of us are: by isolation. But isolation with a few differences.

It’s a relevant concern in that Joint Special Operations Command is the tip of the military’s contingency spear. This bears particular importance in relation to the direct action hostage rescue responsibilities which fall primarily to the Army’s Delta Force and the Navy’s DEVGRU/Seal Team 6 (although the Air Force’s 24th Special Tactics Squadron is also trained for hostage rescue).

The basic point is that if Americans are taken hostage and held in an identified location, or a critical mission requirement develops in which on-ground special operations forces are needed, Delta Force, DEVGRU, or both will be deployed.

To facilitate their rapid deployment in a crisis scenario, the two units rotate each of their four “sabre” assault squadrons (approximately 100 operators) through 90-day counterterrorism alert duty. Delta’s alert squadron is designated “Aztec,” and DEVGRU’s is designated “Trident.” And while on alert duty, squadron members are required to remain close to their bases so they can be airborne within three hours of a deployment order. The idea being that, say a U.S. Embassy is seized by terrorists on the other side of the world at midnight Eastern Time, Aztec or Trident can be at or near the embassy by noon.

Of course, the coronavirus adds a new challenge here.

Because where alert squadron operators would normally be able to stay with their families or otherwise go about their daily lives off-base (Fort Bragg for Delta Force and the Navy’s Dam Neck Annex for DEVGRU), that activity now risks them contracting the coronavirus — and then spreading that virus to the rest of the squadron, thus risking an inability to deploy effectively.

But seeing that we don’t know how long the coronavirus pandemic is going to last, it’s not feasible to keep the alert squadrons locked down on their compounds and away from their families for up to three months. So what to do?

Well, in order to mitigate the risks here, Aztec and Trident could be keeping one of their three subordinate troops in segregation on their compounds. If on 15-day rotations, this would give the units confidence that they can get at least some units into action with a highly mitigated risk of infection. Considering the coronavirus’s incubation period, those about to enter the 15-day rotation avoid all but immediate family contact for the week preceding their rotation. The FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team, responsible for domestic hostage rescue taskings, could be employing something similar.

It’s imperfect, but this solution would allow for a balance of coronavirus realities and mission readiness.

In short, Islamic State leader Amir Mohammed al Mawli al Salbi and al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri shouldn’t view the coronavirus as a shield against facing their predecessors’ fate.

Washington Examiner · by Tom Rogan · April 14, 2020

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