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Special Boat Team - 22,  Stennis, MS


 

Special Boat Team TWENTY-TWO

The Worldwide Special Operations Riverine Force
by
GMCS Clark Gertner SWCC/PJ Ret

HISTORY:   Special Boat Team TWENTY-TWO (SBT-22) is the direct descendent of Coastal River Division TWENTY-TWO, which was commissioned on December 16, 1972.  CRD-22 was located at Point Algiers, on the West Bank of the Mississippi River, and was situated across the river from New Orleans’ famed French Quarter. 

In March 1979, the name was changed to Special Boat Unit TWENTY-TWO, as part of a community-wide realignment to reflect the community’s evolved mission within the Special Warfare community.  In 1998, the unit was moved to the John C. Stennis Space Center, about 45 miles north-east of New Orleans Their new digs were somewhat less than luxurious, being housed in trailers situated in the parking lot of a hand grenade factory.  Like all self-respecting SPECWAR facilities, though, it had a well equipped gym, located in a corner of the hand grenade factory.  The location, however, was ideal for riverine operations.  The Space Center is situated directly on the Pearl River, which connects with the Middle and West Pearls and, eventually, with Lake Ponchartrain and the Gulf of MexicoThe down-side was that the Boat Unit headquarters was located several miles away from the river and from its own repair and maintenance facilities.  Riverine Task Units had offices in a berthing barge, which was tied up on a spur of the Pearl River, near the maintenance yard.  The Armory was located a similar distance in the opposite direction.  This may not sound very efficient, but it was actually a huge step up from the old Point Algiers location on the very wide, busy, and swiftly moving Mississippi River. 

In 2002, SBU-22 moved into its magnificent new headquarters, with direct access to the Pearl River.  The new compound consists of: 

  • Headquarters building with Administrative offices, medical facility, and gymnasium

  • Armory / Task Unit building with Task Unit Offices, Isolation Facility, gymnasium, and language lab

  • Supply building

  • Two Maintenance buildings and storage / repair yard

  • Pier facilities

  • Olympic class “Combat Training Tank”.  The CCT did take some of the excitement out of swim training, though, as there are none of the alligators that accompanied SBT personnel on swims in the Pearl River

  • In 2003, a Riverfront Facility was added to house visiting units and Task Units involved in exercises 

In October 2002, under the SPECWAR reorganization dubbed “NSW-21”, the community was again realigned.  SBU-22 became SBT-22 and its parent command, Naval Special Boat Squadron Two (an Echelon TWO command) became Naval Special Warfare Group Four.  Additionally, the NSW community was folded into the Special Operations Command. 

The new SBT-22 facility was built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane and Hurricane Katrina, in 2005, thoroughly tested the design and construction.  There was significant wind damage and flooding throughout Mississippi and Louisiana, with the Gulf Coast virtually obliterated from New Orleans to Mobile, Alabama (far greater and more widespread damage than the highly publicized flooding in New Orleans).  SBT-22 survived and the facility was pressed into service to house the families of Team members, some for as long as 3 months after the storm.  SBT-22 was tasked with Humanitarian Assistance Missions throughout the Pearl River area and as far south as New Orleans.  Because the active duty component of SBT-22 was committed to other world-wide taskings, their Selected Reserve (SELRES) component conducted much of the humanitarian assistance and back-filled other jobs at the command.

CRD-22/SBU-22/SBT-22 was directly augmented by a SELRES unit, Detachment Alpha, which was co-located with the active duty command at Point Algiers and, later, at the Stennis Space Center.  On the west coast, another SELRES unit was co-located with CRD-XI/SBU-XI at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard and, later at the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Center, Sacramento (now named the Navy Operational Support Center, Sacramento).  After SBU-XI was disestablished, SBU-22 provided administrative, logistics, and training support to the SELRES at both locations. 

In September, 1997 SBU-XI was disestablished on Mare Island and a hand-picked cadre of SELRES moved to Sacramento to establish SBU-22, Detachment 122.  In October, 2002, under NSW-21, the two SELRES units were detached from SBU-22, which then was renamed SBT-22, and placed under Operational Support Team Two (OST-2), which is a component command of Operational Support Group (OSG).  OSG is a component of the Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC) and is located on Coronado Island, California.  Under NAVSPECWARCOM, the Commanding Officer, Executive Officer, and Operations Officer of all Special Boat Teams are required to be SEALs. 

Under NSW-21, the SELRES units became Naval Reserve Special Boat Team-Riverine/Training and Operations, Detachment Stennis and Detachment Sacramento, and they continue to augment SBT-22, as the World-wide Special Operations Riverine Force, conducting or supporting GWOT missions in all four theaters, including Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.  Recently, Riv T&O Det Sac combined with a SEAL Reserve Detachment to become Naval Reserve Special Warfare Unit One. 

MISSION:     Prepare Riverine Task Units to conduct special operations in a riverine environment anywhere in the world.  Be prepared to support Naval Special Warfare employment in their War Plans and contingencies and the National Mission Units in their operations.

Develop operational employment concepts for riverine Special Operations and train Special Operations Forces on how to employ those concepts. 

SCOPE OF ENVIRONMENT:     SBT-22 is the U.S. Navy’s sole Riverine Warfare command and, as such, is tasked with conducting all Riverine Warfare missions, anywhere in the world that may take them and it has taken them pretty much everywhere in the world. 

The world has over 900,000 rivers, with 224 major river basins.  Of these, over 50 are more than 1,000 miles long and 298 are over 500 miles long.  The world’s major river systems have over 465,100 miles of commercial inland waterways and play a significant role in supporting human occupancy of the planet.  Besides being a source of water for all human needs, they are a primary food source and facilitate the movement of goods and people.  In many parts of the world, they are the primary means to do so.  Militarily, they offer a means of dividing a country into controllable areas and of regulating the movement of people and goods.  It is easy to see how crucial it is for the U.S. to maintain a Riverine Warfare capability. 

SBT-22 trains to control the riverine environment through insertion/extraction of other Special Operations Forces, as well as through Direct Action Assaults, Gunfire Support / Targeting, Ambush / Blocking Force, and Interdiction Operations.  Other missions include Reconnaissance and Surveillance, such as Waterborne Guardpost and ”Tipper” Ops, as well as Combat Search and Rescue / Personnel Recovery and Noncombatant Evacuation. 

The Boat Team is organized into Task Units (TU), with each TU consisting of two Detachments and each detachment having two assigned boats, crews, and Maintenance / Support Team (MST) personnel.  By design, a TU is trained/deployed in a 2 year cycle (as shown below) however, operational commitments and personnel issues may extend the deployment phase and shorten or eliminate the Professional Development Phase.

1st  Phase:  Detachment Training Phase. This is when a TU Commander is designated, the TU personnel are assigned to him, and the TU is actually “Stood-up”.  Boats and all necessary gear are issued and the TU begins to train as a Team.  Although personnel are assigned primary, secondary and, sometimes tertiary positions within the Boat Crew, Detachment, and Task Unit, Team members are cross-trained on each other’s jobs, so that any Team member can jump in to take over for a downed Team member.  After work-up, if an emerging tasking required it, a TU could actually deploy on a real world mission, although ideally, they would not deploy until 3rd Phase. 

2nd Phase:  Special Interoperability Training (SIT) Phase.  This used to be called SEAL Interoperability Training but the name was changed because TUs work with more than just SEAL Teams.  The concept behind SIT is for Boat Teams and SPECOPS units (both U.S. and foreign) to learn to work together.  During this phase, the Boat Teams also work with Helicopter (Helo) units to hone their Maritime External Air Transport (MEATS) skills.  MEATS is a method of inserting a Riverine Craft into an OP Area by transporting it to the area with a Helo, thereby greatly extending the operational range of the craft and the speed with which a craft can be inserted into a hot area. 

3rd Phase:  Deployment (DEP) Phase.  During this phase, the TU is deployed to all corners of the globe, often with each Det deployed to a different AO.  When this occurs, the Det OIC (usually a Chief or Senior Chief) actually functions like a TU Commander.  Deployments may be “real world” or exercises. 

4th Phase:  Professional Development (PRODEV) Phase. This phase occurs after the TU is actually “Stood-down”.  The TU Commander turns over all gear and boats to Supply and Maintenance, and the personnel go off to various schools, such as Army Basic Airborne or Free Fall, language, shooting schools, etc.  After each member’s school phase, they return to the Team for re-assignment to a TU or perhaps to the Training or Operations Departments.

COMMANDING OFFICERS

 

COASTAL RIVER DIVISION TWENTY-TWO

CDR R. D. GLEASON, USNR

Dec 72 – Aug 74

CDR R. P. CUSHING, USNR

Aug 74 – Nov 77

CDR J. C. FOSTER, USNR

Nov 77 – Mar 79

SPECIAL BOAT UNIT TWENTY-TWO

CDR J. C. FOSTER, USNR

Mar 79 – Aug 79

CDR W. R. HAMPE, USNR

Aug 79 – Aug 81

CDR G. W. YEEND, JR, USNR

Aug 81 – May 82

CDR S. P. THIEL, USNR

May 82 – Jun 84

CDR J. G. CALLAWAY, USNR

Jun 84 – Jul 85

CDR W. H. FISHER, USNR

Jul 85 – Sep 87

CDR G, J. GREETIS, USNR

Sep 87 – Sep 89

CDR R. L. McKAY, USNR

Sep 89 – Sep 91

CDR J. D. WEBB, USNR

Sep 91 – Aug 93

CDR C. J. STEINBAUGH, USNR

Aug 93 – Aug 95

CDR T. W. BUNCE, USN

Aug 95 – Aug 97

CDR R. W. LOTH, USN

Aug 97 – Aug 00

CDR B. G. GREEN, USN

Aug 00 – Jul 02

CDR P.W. BUTLER, USN

Jul 02 – Oct 02

SPECIAL BOAT TEAM TWENTY-TWO

CDR P.W. BUTLER, USN

Oct 02 – Jul 04

CDR S. P. GRZESZCZAK, III, USN

Jul 04 – Sep 06

CDR JAMES A. EMMERT, USN

Sep 06 -

 

 

For SBT-22, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 set into motion a series of events that lead to the first combat employment of Riverine Forces since Vietnam and the first combat employment of the Special Operations Craft-Riverine (SOC-R).  SBT-22 played a significant role in the opening days of the Gulf War, securing oil platforms and restricting access to the Shat Al Arab, where the Tigress and Euphrates Rivers enter the Arabian Gulf, and continues to be a major player in the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT).  Additionally, SBT-22 conducted the first-ever riverine craft launched UAV missions in Iraq. 

Other significant achievements for SBT-22 include: 

  • First riverine support mission for the President of the U.S. during his visit to Thailand for APEC.

  • Conducted riverine operations in all 4 theaters, including operations in 3 theaters simultaneously.

  • Conducted over 30 missions in 9 countries, most to locations where riverine forces had never before been utilized.

  • First exercise of OPLAN 5027 riverine requirements during Operation Foal Eagle in Korea.

  • Forward staged SOC-Rs and PBLs in CENTCOM, PACOM, and SOUTHCOM.

  • Conducted over 6 weeks of Humanitarian Assistance Operations along the Andaman Sea coast of The Kingdom Of Thailand after the devastating tsunami of 2004. 

TRAINING, QUALIFICATION, AND A LOOK INTO THE FUTURE :      SBT-22 continues to train and deploy throughout the U.S. and the world, preparing for any contingency.  They conduct Counter Narco-Terrorism Missions to SOUTHCOM and PACOM as well as Joint and Combined Interoperability Training with the world’s Special Missions Forces.  SBT-22 Riverine Task Units deploy to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and other locations, to conduct Maritime External Air Transport System (MEATS) training, which includes Fast Rope training. They also deploy to Fort Knox, Kentucky, to conduct live-fire training on the Salt River and convoy training at the very cutting-edge MOUT facility.  They will soon be able to conduct live-fire training on the recently acquired 5,120 acre water-to-land and jungle range in the Pearl River area and have plans to construct a MOUT Facility on Stennis Space Center.  In addition to the above, Boat Team operators are also static-line and Free-fall parachute qualified.  They also attend both civilian and military shooting schools, the Defense Language Institute in Monterrey, California, and a variety of Navy and other-service schools. 

Currently, there are no on-base berthing facilities for team members and their families, with all personnel living on the local economy.  However, approval has been received to build an apartment-style barracks compound off-base, near the Space Center. 

SALES PITCH:     If you are considering a career in the Military, there is no more rewarding or challenging profession than Naval Special Warfare.  Whether you chose to go SEAL or SWCC, the skills you learn and the personal bonds you form will follow you the rest of your life.  Chances are that you will get to see nearly all of the world, be exposed to a wide variety of cultures and languages, and will become proficient with equipment that most people, even those in other parts of the military, only read about or see in the movies.

 


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