Several days before the beginnig of the invasion of Iraq two SDV teams were launched from Mark V Special Operations Craft in the Persian Gulf. Their objectives were the hydrographic reconnaissance of the Al Basrah (MABOT) and Khawr Al Amaya (KAAOT) Oil Terminals. After swimming under the terminals and securing their Mark 8 mod 1’s the SDV SEALs spent several hours taking pictures and surveying Iraqi activity on both platforms before returning to their boats.
On March 20, 2003 the Navy SEALs launched what is the largest single SEAL operation in history from US Naval vessels, Ras al-Qulayah Naval Base and Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait as part of a mixed force of US Navy SEALs, Polish GROM and British Royal Marines. Their targets were not only the MABOT and KAAOT platforms but their respective onshore petroleum pumping locks and the Al Faw port and refinery. Each force was to be inserted via helicopter or boat on the perimeter of the targets and then assault the main facilities. The first attacks occurred at the pumping locks for each offshore terminal. At MABOT’s pumping lock the team’s landing zone was covered in concertina wire that was unreported by their intelligence and so the SEALs and Royal Marines were forced to hover several feet off the ground. The Royal Marines, lead by a Provost Sergeant, were the first off the helicopter followed by the SEALs and all immediately became entangled in the obstacles. In this exposed position the SEALs and Marines began taking fire from the platform’s garrison. The landing at the KAAOT pumping lock ran into similar problems with their landing zone but, both teams at both locations regrouped and successfully assaulted the pumping locks taking the main buildings and several occupied bunkers. After secuing the facility an Iraqi armored vehicle approached the SEAL’s position. Their embedded Air Force Combat Controller coordinated with an Air Force A-10 and destroyed the vehicle. In total five Iraqis were killed and sixteen captured.
The assault on the offshore platforms were carried out by SWCC manned ridged hull inflatable boats (RHIB) carrying the SEALs and SWCC manned Mk Vs carrying the GROM. The SEALs were assigned MABOT and GROM the KAAOT. Two days before the launch of the operation the Iraqis replaced the MABOT garrison with elite Republican Guard troops. With this last minute change in opposition in mind, and the added fear of the Republican Guard blowing up the platforms upon attack, the SEALs decided to change their plan to quickly take out all opposition before physically securing MABOT. Once the SEALs assaulted MABOT via RHIB the Republican Guard forces immediately began to surrender. The GROM on KAAOT encountered the same unwillingness by the Iraqis to fight allowing both platforms to be taken with no deaths. Subsequent inspection on MABOT showed that the Iraqi forces had not primed their explosives having been unwilling to destroy the facility.
The assault on the Iraqi positions on the Al Faw penisula consisted of a DPV mounted SEAL force at the refinery and port with a larger force of US Marines from the 5th Regimental Combat Team of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force attacking Iraqi positions farther north in the Rumaila oil fields. Before the operation the SEALs raised objections that the ground looked unsuitable for DPV use but the faulty intelligence was assured by their attached intelligence liason that the land on Al Faw would be hardpack. The teams went ahead and landed with their DPVs straight off the helicopters but their fears were confirmed when the oil soaked and muddy ground on the peninsula rendered their underpowered, rear wheel drive vehicles useless. Now on foot and surrounded by approximately 300 entrenched Iraqi soldiers and armored vehicles the SEALs relied on their Combat Controller to call in air strikes. In coordination with close air support the SEALs swept the entire facility on foot fighting through enemy positions until day break when they were relived by the 42 Commando of the British Royal Marines. In total several hundred Iraqis were killed, 100 captured and all the armored vehicles destroyed.
Coalition military planners were concerned that retreating Iraqi forces would destroy the Mukatayin hydroelectric dam northeast of Baghdad in an attempt to slow advancing US troops. In addition to restricting the maneuver of Coalition forces the destruction of the dam would deny critical power needs to the surrounding area as well as cause massive flooding and loss of Iraqi civilian life. A mixed SEAL/GROM force was called in to seize the dam. This force was flown several hours by US Air Force MH-53 Pave Lows to the dam. The SEALs employed DPVs into blocking positions to defend against counter-attack and roving bands of Iranian bandits that had been crossing the border and raiding Iraqi towns. As in Al Faw the SEALs found their DPVs to be ineffective and this marked the last time they would employ them in Iraq.
The SEALs and GROM on foot fast roped out of their helicopters and immediately stormed the dam. The minimal Iraqi security forces on site surrendered and with the exception of GROM operator who broke an ankle during the insertion the operation went off with no casualties. After several hours of searching the dam for remaining hostile forces or any explosives the SEALs fully secured the dam and were later relived by advancing elements of the US Army.