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Professional Knowledge: Special Warfare and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD)

professional knowledge Jan 10, 2020

It’s back!! It’s the return of the Academic Year for the mids, which means it’s also the return of Pro-Know for the plebes.  I hope this blog post will provide you with a brief background of the in depth knowledge the plebes are required to learn this week!  This week’s subject is the one subject everyone always wants to learn more about... Naval Special Warfare (NSW) and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD).  

The plebes are introduced to the SPECWAR Ethos, which has a large focus on the history and tradition of the Trident, a symbol of honor and heritage. The SPECWAR ethos revolves around understanding the hazards and dangers of their profession, as well as the honor, character, and integrity necessary to be defenders and protectors of the American people and our allies. These inspiring words are the heartbeat of the special warfare community. 

The topic moves into the history of special warfare, mentioning how the origins are traced back to amphibious scouts and raiders, the Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDUs), the Office of Strategic Services Maritime Unit, and the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs) of World War II.  From those units, the SEAL teams were born, with the first SEAL Teams being established by President Kennedy in 1962. SEAL stands for SEa, Air, and Land.

Today, there are six Naval Special Warfare Groups, all of which are organized under the Naval Special Warfare Command (NAVSPECWARCOM). Under NSWG ONE and NSWG TWO, there are eight active duty SEAL teams.  NSW Group ONE, located in Coronado, CA, is comprised of SEAL Teams ONE, THREE, FIVE, and SEVEN. NSW Group TWO, based in Little Creek, VA, is comprised of SEAL Teams TWO, FOUR, EIGHT, and TEN. Just remember - Odd/West Coast, Even/East Coast!  The SEAL teams are further divided into three Troops, with three platoons in a team, totaling 72 platoons of SEALs. Additional NSW Groups (NSWG THREE, FOUR, TEN, and ELEVEN) are responsible for undersea special operations, special boat operations, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), and reserve components, respectively. 

The plebes will also be required to learn about the career progression of SEAL officers, the composition of SEAL Teams, and the critically important role of Special Warfare Combatant Craft-Crewmen (SWCC).   

In order to gain a better understanding of NSW in the big picture, the plebes are taught about the SPECWAR missions and capabilities which I have done my best to summarize in one sentence snippets:

  1. Direct action.  Short-duration and small-scale offensive actions to destroy or capture adversaries, or to recover friendly forces in denied areas.
  2. Special reconnaissance.  Acquiring information about the intentions, actions, or capabilities of an enemy.
  3. Unconventional warfare.  Operations conducted through other forces.  Think training foreign guerilla forces, or conducting clandestine operations, to operate in otherwise inaccessible areas.
  4. Counterterrorism.  The prevention, deterrence, and response to terrorism.  A very common mission set for NSW in recent history.
  5. Foreign International Defense.  This involves the training of foreign security forces to help with their domestic law enforcement, border defense, and counter-drug operations.
  6. Counterinsurgency.  NSW Actions taken to support a government’s objective to defeat an insurgency. 

The next section is about EOD, or Explosive Ordnance Disposal (or as I like to kindly refer to them... the crazy people that want to blow stuff up and disarm bombs). 

From the Professional Knowledge book:

The EOD insignia is often referred to as the “crab” and is issued by all four services. The crab holds significant meaning for all EOD technicians. The Wreath is symbolic of achievements and laurels gained through minimizing accident potentials through ingenuity and devotion of EOD service members. The Bomb is copied from the World War II bomb disposal badge and represents the historic and major objective of the EOD attack, the unexploded bomb. The three fins on the bomb represent the major areas of nuclear, conventional, and chemical/biological interest. Lightning Bolts symbolize the potential destructive power of the bomb and the courage and professionalism of EOD personnel in their endeavors to reduce hazards as well as to render explosive ordnance safe. The Shield represents the EOD mission, to protect personnel and property.

As mentioned in the significance of the insignia, the mission of EOD is “to protect personnel and property” and are experts on the following types of ordnance:

  1. Ground Ordnance (projectiles, rockets, grenades, landmines)
  2. Air Ordnance (bombs, missiles, aircraft explosive hazards, and dispensed munitions) 
  3. Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs)
  4. Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) (chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons)
  5. Underwater Ordnance (mines, torpedoes, and depth charges)

The Navy uses our EOD forces primarily for Expeditionary Mine Countermeasures, Special Operations Forces Support, and Expeditionary Diving and Salvage, but they also possess the skills needed to conduct an even wider range of operations. There are about 425 Navy EOD officers and 1200 enlisted personnel, all of whom are trained at the Naval School Explosive Ordnance Disposal at Elgin Air Force Base in Florida. 

Navy EOD forces are divided into two Groups, EODGRU ONE, based on the west coast in Coronado, CA, and EODGRU TWO, based on the east coast in Little Creek, VA. 

Plebes must know the names and uses of common equipment used by EOD technicians, including robots, underwater breathing apparatuses, and the bomb suit.  And most importantly, the plebes will be required to learn about two EOD war heroes. Chief Jason Finan, who was killed in combat against ISIL fighters, and Senior Chief Scott Dayton, who was killed in action while operating in Syria.  Rest in Peace warriors and thank you for your service.

This Pro-Know chapter is extensive with tons of information regarding both NSW and EOD.  No better way to welcome the plebes back to Bancroft than with an in-depth professional knowledge section.  Beat the Dark Ages!!


Midshipmen may select from 24 different career choices in the Navy and Marine Corps and submit their service assignment preferences (up to six) in late August of their 1st Class (senior) year. 

For the Class of 2020, 30 Midshipmen were assigned SEAL and 16 assigned EOD.

If you want to learn more about the United States Naval Academy, please "like" Grant's facebook page and visit his website

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