Mainstream Media Caught in Case of Mistaken Identity in Christmas Twitter Video.
News stories around the world on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018 reported that the U.S. President “… may have revealed the location of SEAL Team Five…” during his Christmas visit to Iraq this week. While the specific units shown in the video are not identified due to normal security protocols, the claims that the men are Navy SEALs are likely inaccurate.
The reports that appeared on the Newsweek.com, Rolling Stone and Daily Mail websites claimed that the U.S. President may have compromised the operational security of a naval special warfare team by publishing photos and video of the President and First Lady posing with members of “SEAL Team 5” and posting the video on Twitter. The photos and videos are from the U.S. President’s visit to Al Asad Air Base in Iraq on Wednesday.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 26, 2018
The reports are partially inaccurate. Only one person appears briefly in the video wearing a Naval Special Warfare qualification insignia. He is seated at a table during what appears to be a meeting with the President.
Earlier in the video, the President and the First Lady are shown posing for photos and video with at least twelve men wearing uniforms and tactical equipment in the “AOR1” camouflage pattern that are used by several U.S. military special operations teams. While U.S. Naval Special Warfare (SEAL) teams have worn the AOR1 camouflage scheme, so do other U.S. military units including U.S. Air Force special operations teams.
The Wikipedia page for the U.S. Air Force Combat Control Team shows an archive photo of Kentucky Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Phil Speck wearing an AOR1 uniform, while other archive photos widely published also show members of U.S. Air Force Special Operations wearing the AOR1 digital desert camouflage uniform.
Perhaps the key details the mainstream media missed in the video with the President are the older style night vision devices worn by the men in the video.
Members of the U.S. Navy’s special operations teams, especially operational SEAL teams deployed in the Middle East, have been photographed wearing the L-3 (Level 3) GPNVG-18-ANVIS Night Vision goggles. This device is readily identifiable by its four optical tubes. Most people are familiar with this device from its use during Operation Neptune’s Spear, the raid to capture Osama bin Laden.
The night vision devices shown in the Christmas video are an older two optical tube night vision device, most likely the less exotic, more common Harris AN/PVS-23 Night Vision Binocular System. This night vison optic is in use with Air Force special operations teams.
Another interesting detail in the video is that one of the men wearing a camouflage uniform posing with the President is wearing a unit patch from the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division. While unconfirmed, it is possible the person seen wearing the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division patch on the front of their body armor is a former member of the 3rd Division and is now serving in an Air Force Reserve special operations unit likely seen in this video.
While common operational security dictates that specific units are usually not identified in media showing U.S. forces deployed in an operational setting, it is almost a certainty that the men shown in the President’s Christmas video while visiting troops in Iraq were not members of a U.S. Navy Special Operations team.