Defense Media Network

OIF Second Night: SEAL Assault on the GOPLATs

Naval Special Warfare secures Iraqi oil terminals

Lt. Wennen, the assault force commander for Mina al Bakr, was justifiably concerned with the mission’s chances, especially after the reports of the “thugs” arriving earlier. The fear was that they might have brought in explosives and weapons to fortify the platforms and prepare them for demolition. Originally, the assault plan had focused on taking the platforms’ oil manifolds and valves first, then taking down the personnel. Within an hour to launch, Wennen gained approval from Richards and Harward to capture or kill the crew first, and then “safe” the platforms.

When the twin assaults began on the GOPLATs at 10:25 p.m., the assault teams found they had achieved total surprise. Platform 1 was rapidly taken by the SEALs, while the GROM commandos took Platform 2. A total of 32 prisoners were taken, with no fatalities on either side.

SEAL inspects

A Naval Special Warfare operator inspects an area of Mina Al Bakr (Platform 1) during the operation. Official U.S. Navy photo by Photographers Mate 1st Class Arlo K. Abrahamson

As Wennen and Richards later related, “It went according to plan …. We caught them by surprise. … All the planning and the experience with the Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIOs) we did was really good too, because a big part of any military operation is command and control and communication. … As things break down everyone knew their contingencies. … There was food on the grill and the men had their feet up on the tables.  They weren’t in a very alert posture at all.  There was not much resistance at all once they entered the dining area. No prisoners were injured during the raid.”

In fact, Wennen noted that his men treated the prisoners in a professional manner after they and the target were secured. “As far as treating these people humanely, … there was a stack of mattresses in the facility, and without asking, our guys went and placed the mattresses out flat and then picked these guys up off the steel deck. Once they got the prisoners under control, they placed them on these mattresses. The Corpsmen were checking the prisoners’ pulses, making sure that the restraints weren’t too tight, escorting them to the bathroom and making sure they had water.”

GOPLATs, explosives

Explosives found at one of the GOPLATs. Official U.S. Navy photo by Photographers Mate 1st Class Arlo K. Abrahamson

Over the next few hours, the assault teams and follow-on teams of Marines and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams moved across the vast platforms, looking for explosives, along with any apparent booby traps or sabotage. As expected, the “thugs” had brought aboard boxes of explosives, as well as diving gear to place the charges on submerged portions of the GOPLATs. Had the twin assaults not gone in when they did, the Allies’ worst fears about ecological and infrastructure damage might well have come to pass.

Today, the simultaneous sea and land assault to secure Iraq’s oil infrastructure is recognized as a model of SOF operations. The success of this operation is representative of the professionalism of SOF units throughout OEF, OIF, and the GWOT. Especially impressive had been the performance of the Polish GROM commandos, whose unit ironically was scheduled to be shortly disbanded back home.

Richards summarized the securing of the sea-based GOPLAT operation when he said, “As SEALS, you practice non-stop for this stuff and you get to be pretty good at it. … It was a perfect SEAL operation!”

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