By Rick Coates
Judging by a confusing barrage of news reports over the last two weeks,
exactly what happened during the 40-minute mission carried out by an elite
team of Navy SEALs that ultimately resulted in the death of Osama bin
Laden may never be known.
Conflicting reports of the operations details began leaking just after
President Barrack Obama announced bin Ladens demise on the evening of May
1. But for SEALs Team 6, the details are not important.It is all about
Former Navy SEAL and now best-selling author, screenwriter and Bellaire
resident, Chuck Pfarrer, knows the inner workings of the SEALs. He was one
of the first members of the elite unit known as Team 6 and was even its
leader during his tenure that began 25 years ago. Pfarrer, in addition to
writing several books (Warrior Soul: The Memoir of a Navy SEAL and
Killing Che) and screenplays (Navy SEALs, The Jackyl, Darkman)
also currently serves as a consultant and trainer to companies contracted
to work with the Navy SEALs and has somewhat of a different perspective
about releasing the details of the mission.
MUMS THE WORD
Since I am not a politician I am free to speak my mind and I will start
by saying, had I been in charge of this operation, I would not have made a
public statement at all, Pfarrer says. Look, 99% of the operations of
the SEALs are never released, so why this one? I understand the publics
interest in this but this is just another mission for the unit. I guess if
this publicity accomplishes one thing it tells the people of the world
that we (SEALs Team 6) are capable of going anywhere in world at any time
undetected, so dictators should beware.
Pfarrer said he is not surprised that politicians, the media and the
public are confused over exactly what took place.
SEAL teams work outside the typical military protocol; details of
missions are not discussed publicly before or after they take place. So
this is uncharted waters (discussing details of a mission), so details are
going to conflict because people sharing the information were not part of
the mission directly.
Pfarrer takes it a step further.
When this mission was put together this SEAL team went into isolation;
they had no contact with their family and the outside world for several
months. This is typical protocol for all missions. The training for these
types of missions is very intense. They started training several months
ago and went through at least two complete dry runs from top to bottom at
a replica compound probably somewhere in Afghanistan, said Pfarrer.
Look, this is the most elite fighting unit in the world and while every
possible scenario is reviewed and discussed, here is how works once you
arrive at your destination. Once the first bullet is fired it becomes
somewhat of a chaotic situation and plans have to be adjusted based on
what is presented. The bottom line is to accomplish the mission,
essentially at any cost. So typically the details of the mission after the
fact are not discussed.
Pfarrer points out that despite obstacles the SEAL team was able to
successfully complete the mission.
The mission was to take out bin Laden, get his body and collect and
gather up all the data possible. They accomplished this in 40 minutes
despite losing one helicopter and not knowing exactly what they might
encounter, he said.
It takes at least two years of training to become a SEAL. Typically half
of those who try dont cut the physical requirements, but then 75% of
those who do dont cut the academic requirements. SEALs are well read and
there is a tremendous amount of bookwork required. The required reading
list is extensive and includes the Qurān.
While the American public and the world is fascinated by the operation
that resulted in the death of bin Laden, for the SEALs this was just
I know this might be difficult to understand but SEALs look at every
mission in the same way; each one is important and has a purpose, said
Pfarrer. So while I understand the enthusiasm the American people have
with this, it really is irrelevant to the SEAL team. This is their job,
and while Tom Cruise gets on his motorcycle and rides off into the sunset,
these guys have already moved on to their next job. Some of them might
have went out the next night on their next mission. Look, the typical SEAL
will participate in over 500 special ops during his tenure. We dont get
caught up into politics or placing one operation as more valuable versus
ON THE LINE
But these missions are often politically motivated.
As SEALs we understand that, but we remove ourselves from the politics. I
am sure every current and former SEAL had a big smirk on their face when
they saw the photo of the situation room with the President and other
high ranking officials watching as the mission unfolded, said Pfarrer.
Here is the difference; for everyone in that picture -- their political
career was on the line -- while for each SEAL their life was on the line.
The bottom line is everyone in that picture has never spent one night
outside in their life. For those people in the situation room we are just
a video game.
Pfarrer knows the language might be harsh and he means no disrespect to
the President or the military; he says it is the reality of the situation.
To put it bluntly we do not do this job for the people in that room -- we
do it to serve our country. You sacrifice a lot when you serve in the
military and your family sacrifices right along with you. So I chuckle
when I look at that picture because not one person in that photo is
concerned about the individuals carrying out the mission; their only
concern is with poll numbers. We know that it is just the reality of the
So exactly what was the President and others observing in the situation
They were not tuned into the radio frequency so they were not hearing the
audio, but they more than likely had aerial images of the mission and that
is what they were watching, said Pfarrer. They also would get updates
from the commanding general who is in contact with the command center.
Pfarrer agrees with the administrations decision not to release the photo.
It would just inflame the situation. I know that this is somewhat of a
celebratory thing that bin Laden is dead, but I am not sure that type of
information needed to be released. SEAL units operate in secrecy and the
less information provided to the public the better. Typically these units
go in, complete the mission, and nothing is said and the local government
is left wondering who was here and exactly what happened. Remember, we do
not do local work -- SEAL units work overseas. I am sure these team
members were told the name of their target but typically that information
is irrelevant to the mission.
As far as secrecy goes it is a trait that comes naturally for SEALs.
It really is easy for us. There are no second chances. If you share
information you are out. In our line of work the smallest error could
result in the end of your life, said Pfarrer. The difficulty is really
with family and friends, they have the harder time with all of the
Today, training and developing SEAL units requires the assistance of
private contractors and Pfarrer serves in that capacity.
There are so many operations going on around the world and with these
units essentially working outside of the typical military it is necessary
that private contractors be involved in training, said Pfarrer. Every
retired SEAL I know is working in this capacity. We feel an obligation.
When not consulting or training Pfarrer continues to write books and
screenplays. His current screenplay A Man Without A Country has not
found a taker so Pfarrer has converted it into a novel that will be
published later this year.
He also has been fighting an ongoing battle with cancer that he and his
oncologist have been winning. Pfarrer moved to Bellaire 10 years ago and
still travels the world on various assignments, including making numerous
media appearances over the past two weeks. He is also very excited about
how technology is changing the worlds political landscape.
When I was a SEAL it was MTV that helped to bring down the Soviet
Empire, said Pfarrer. Now it is Twitter that is bringing down the rest
of the dictatorships in the world.