Over the course of several months as U.S. intelligence agencies were working hard around the clock to present their finding to the highest level, military officials from JSOC were also working hard to develop several military plans if an operation were to be authorized by President Obama. By early 2011, the evidence provided by the intelligence agencies was not “absolutely conclusive, it was circumstantial evidence that he (bin Laden) was going to be there” (Obama, 2011). Yet, President Obama felt he had enough confidence in everyone involved on this matter, the evidence was convincing enough, and the risks were outweighed by the possible benefit of finally catching or killing bin Laden.
Then, two military plans were presented to the President, his team and closest advisors for deliberation and approval. The first plan was a series of airstrikes directly on the compound, and the second approach would be a ground assault conducted by The Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), the premier counter terrorism unit comprised of already highly trained, capable and elite Navy SEAL’s. The benefits of the airstrike tactic would have been the complete obliteration of the compound, the occupants in it, and it posed a minimal risk of danger to U.S. military personnel. However, at what cost though? The airstrike approach had great potential for extensive collateral damage as the compound was located in a residential area, which would result in the death or injury of many innocent civilians, and if bin Laden was in the compound during an airstrike, the ability to verify his remains would be extremely difficult resulting from the power of the airstrikes. Subsequently, that plan was disapproved by the President and the ground assault approach was selected on the morning of April 29th, 2011 as the best fit for executing the mission. While the ground approach would put these elite operators in significant unknown danger, it would minimize collateral damage significantly, and allow for positive identification of bin Laden, if he was found in the compound dead or alive.
At approximately 14:00 hours Eastern Standard Time (EST) in Washington, D.C. on May 1st, 2011, President Obama walked downstairs to the White House Situation Room to meet and watch with his closest colleagues, and advisors Operation Neptune Spear unfold. Many hours ahead, across the globe, and on a moonless night in Abbottabad, Pakistan is was soon to be met with many American visitors. Across the border in an American base in Jalalabad Afghanistan, two modified Blackhawk helicopters, and two Chinook helicopters flown by pilots of the U.S. Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment took off to the compound in Abbottabad, about 160 miles away. On board the modified Blackhawks were two dozen DEVGRU members, and one tracing canine named Cairo. The two Chinook’s carried extra combat personnel, equipment, and extra fuel for ariel-refueling. Flying low and fast to avoid detection by Pakistan military radar for about ninety minutes, they finally arrived at the compound at 15:30 EST. Immediately after arrival, one helicopter controlled crashed as it lost lift in the warm thin air. Fortunately, no injuries occurred, and the mission went on. DEVGRU members blasted their way into the compound by blowing up several walls and made their way inside on the first floor. They cleared the compound by eliminating combatants, and secured noncombatants. Then, they finally made their way to the third floor where they met their much-anticipated high valued target, Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden posed a significant threat to the point man and was immediately met with three rounds to the chest where he died immediately. Right after, it was heard over the radio ‘Geronimo (bin Laden’s code name) EKIA (Enemy Killed in Action).
Once the compound was secured enough, team members collected the remains of bodies into body bags, and others gathered any pieces of equipment and intelligence that they could to take back for future analysis. Just after 16:00 EST the first helicopter departs back to Jalalabad Afghanistan, a minutes after team members on the ground blew up the down helicopter from the beginning of the assault. At 16:10 EST, the remaining personnel on the ground were picked up by a Chinook helicopter to head back to Jalalabad Afghanistan. Photos were taken, DNA tests were conducted, and a positive match that the man on the third floor of the compound that was killed was in fact, Osama bin Laden. After the troops arrived safely back in Jalalabad, and positive identification of bin Laden’s remains were verified, President Obama then addressed the nation at 23:35 EST about the successful raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and the chief architect of the September 11th attacks. An hour after that address, bin Laden’s body was buried at sea within twenty-four hours in respect to Islamic law, and to prevent his body becoming a memorial of any sort. In all, the operation claimed the lives of five enemy combatants, including the worlds most wanted man.