SWCC and the Future



Special Boat Squadron - 1 History

SBS-1 History



In 1981 with Special Boat Units now being commanded by SEALs, the utilization of Combatant Craft in NSW ops were being studied to integrate them into Emergency Contingency Plans. In 1981 a clear weakness was shown that the Boats of the SBUs at the time were not a rapid deployable asset.

The smaller craft could be flown out in C-5 Air Force transports, but there was no promise the host nation could move the craft from the airfield to the Op Area. The larger PCF and PBs had to loaded on ships and transported over there. This was a time consuming problem, for a SEAL Platoon could deploy in short notice and fly anywhere in the world. The SEALs once in the A.O would be committed to maritime combat operations without tactical boat support until the SBU assets arrive in the A.O.

It was a massive transport effort to get PBMKIIIs to the A.O

SEAL visionary LCDR D.Wilbourne and Commodore of SBR-1 CMDR Thomas S. Tollefson developed The Special Operations Crew (SOC) concept and put into effect Sept 1981.
The SOC were formed, and trained to deploy on short notice with a SEAL Platoon, its mission to provide the tactical support and liaison to SEALs while embarked on Indigenous craft. They will liaison on Host Nation naval craft insuring accurate navigation, Insertion of SEALs, communications, and tactical support and extraction of SEALs to insure the successful completion of the Mission, When the host nation has no armed maritime assets, The SOC will operate local indigenous craft, be it local fishing boat, pleasure craft, water taxi, tug boat etc, etc.

28 Sept. 1981 CMDR Tollefson signed the instruction establishing the Special Operations Crews for Special Boat Squadron One and directed its subordinate units, SBU-11, SBU-12, and SBU-13 to:

  • Train qualify and equip and have SOCs ready for deployment.

  • SBU-11 was to stand up 3 Active duty SOCs and 5 Reserve SOCs

  • SBU-12 was an all active duty unit and was to stand up 5 SOCs

  • SBU-13 was to stand up 2 active duty SOCs an 5 SOCs

The SOCs never gained the authorized full strength as there was just not enough 9533 boatguys to fill these billets and other SBU tasking. A basic SOC was made up of a Officer or CPO and 3 enlisted made up of the following rates, BM, QM, GMG, EN, ET. Two SOCs could be combined for larger craft.

Before being considered for SOC you had to be fully qualified 9533 NEC boatguy, a first class swimmer and SERE school in your record. Because of the high risk and sensitive nature of the mission the SOC were screened and only the best chosen for the assignment. The new SOC instruction was received as a mandate and SOCs were formed, and rapid deployable, weapons, comms, navigation, engineering, and electronic repair gear was identified and earmarked for SOC ops.

The concept of using Indigenous Craft in Special Operations is not new. Historically its as old as man took to the sea, and the classic examples are 17th century Privateers. The concept was widely used by the British in WWII and also used in Korea and covertly in Cuba in the early 60s and Vietnam as well.

However by 1980 the concept was a lost art with the exception of veteran SEALs. So armed with the SBR-1 SOC instruction the SEALs re-invented the wheel again and drove home the ideas and techniques into the brains of the SOC using Indigenous craft of the area. The concept is really Good Common Sense. An SBU Combatant Craft, stealthy well armed and blacked out if spotted by the enemy its still a Military boat. However an Indigenous craft common in the area sighted by the enemy may take no notice and may be able to slip in and conduct its mission.

The Boatguys designated SOC entered a new dimension of maritime covert operations. All west coast units stood up SOC teams active and reserve based on availability and operational commitments.

SBU-12 with it's all active duty with commitments to NSWU-1 in Subic and ARGs, They could not have separate SOC's as dets, so the MST det "wore two hats", both MST and SOC and received extra SOC training to their MST training. SBU-11 the riverine unit in Mare Is. stood up and had strictly dedicated SOCs both active and reserves as they had no overseas commitments. They had a great operational area, enlisted SEALs as part of their SOC and they were commanded by a veteran SEAL CPO.

SBU-13, its actives, formed into a SOCs but only as a collateral duty. Its reserves formed two SOCs completely dedicated to SOC operations. From 1981 to 1984 SOCs trained, operated, and often used as aggressors in exercises in CONUS. Some SOCs deployed without ever using its special skills, some did deploy as SOC and had interesting operations.

With the much touted new C-141 air deployable SEAFOX becoming the main Rapid deployment asset by 1984, the SOCs fell from favor. There were other problems when SOCs Officers complained they lost their best men from their boats to SOC and enlisted grumbled only the SOCs get fun training and cool ops. The griping from officers and enlisted could have, but wasn't, handled by keeping the Unit informed on how SOC fit into the SBU as just another deployable asset.

The SOC faded from SBU history for years. The SOC concept had laid dormant for years when it was resurrected by SBR-1 Commodore CMDR Gary Stubblefield under the new title of Tactical Operations Crew (TOC), but with the same mission and concept. Oddly enough the SEAFOX by this time was a worn out lemon to NSW. The new TOCs performed just as well as the earlier SOC and was growing in readiness when in 1990 Desert Shield/Storm came along and the TOC concept was not immediately used in the war. The concept was being studied and considered by Capt Ray Smith C.O of NSWG TG in Desert Shield when the land war kicked off and 100 hours later the war was over. The TOC was given another chance in 1992 to the SBU-13 reserves but never had a chance to develop as SBU-13 was dis-established in 1993, and once again faded into history.

Despite the problems within a command about effecting morale, the concept of using Indigenous Craft conduct NSW operations remains tactically sound.

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