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Red Cell

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Red Teams or Red Cells are United States government terms for National Security Co-ordination Teams (NSCT). These teams or units are designed to test the effectiveness of American tactics or personnel. In a war game, Red Cell can also refer to the opposing side.[1]

In 1984, Red Cell was formed after Richard Marcinko relinquished command of SEAL Team Six to Commander Robert Gormly.[2] Red Cell members demonstrated the vulnerabilities of military bases and would regularly use false IDs, dismantle fences, barricade buildings, take hostages, and kidnap high-ranking personnel. Additionally, Red Cell planted bombs near Air Force One and snuck into submarine bases and took them over. Their operations were recorded and subsequently displayed to base personnel. This was done to expose vulnerabilities that they should patch.[3]

The original Red Cell was a 14-man team composed of 13 former members of SEAL Team Six and one Force Recon Marine.[4] The unit was also known as OP-O6D which had been organized to attempt to infiltrate and otherwise test the security of US military bases and other installations sensitive to US security interests.[5]

The team was led by the former commander of SEAL Team Six (DEVGRU) Richard Marcinko until he was relieved of duty and charged with conspiracy, conflict of interest and misappropriating funds. Marcinko maintains that these were made-up allegations as part of a vendetta against him, due to anger felt at senior levels at how easily Marcinko and his team had infiltrated bases and procured top secret information from high-ranking individuals.[6] A high-ranking Navy official cited in People magazine said there was no vendetta and that "the general take was that Red Cell was a good thing."[7]

Realistic exercise scenarios executed around the world involved documentation using both civilian and military personnel. Remote, fixed and handheld, video cameras captured all aspects of the exercises and were used to compile quick-look after-action reviews as well as in-depth lessons learned catalogs.

The name was derived from "Red Team", a term for the opposing force in a war game by Western states during the Cold War, a reference to the predominantly red flags of Communist states (i.e., the USSR and PRC) with the Western forces being the Blue Team. The Warsaw Pact countries used the same colors, but reversed meaning—they were the Red Team and the opposing force was the Blue Team.[8]

A new Red Cell team was formed by the CIA following the 9/11 attacks to brainstorm ways to attack America. The goal of renovating the former Red Cell team was to produce better security measures to prevent them. Novelist Brad Meltzer was recruited to write plots as part of this program.[9]

1986 kidnapping incident[edit]

On March 20, 1986, Red Cell team members kidnapped Ronald D. Sheridan, a civilian security guard who worked at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach in Southern California, as part of an exercise to test the defenses of the base. They took him to a nearby hotel, where he was held for 30 hours and tortured: stripped, kicked, beaten, and repeatedly dunked into a flushing toilet and a bathtub filled with water. While, in theory, the kidnapping could prove a weakness, actually committing the torture served no useful purpose. In addition, the kidnapping was not even successful as a show of weakness; Sheridan's wife saw the suspicious men with a van and neutralized them with her own pistol. She was prevented from shooting the would-be kidnappers by her husband calling her off and insisting it was part of an exercise, as he thought at the time it would be a brief matter. Since Sheridan was not naval personnel, he sued the government afterward.[10][11][12]


  1. ^ DCDC Guidance Note: A Guide to Red Teaming. United Kingdom Ministry of Defence. 2010. p. 67.
  2. ^ "Born to Raise Hell | PEOPLE.com".
  3. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: RED CELL Security Training 1. YouTube.
  4. ^ Marcinko, Richard (24 November 2009). Rogue Warrior. New York: Simon and Schuster. pp. 331–332. ISBN 978-0-671-79593-1.
  5. ^ Lanning, Col. Michael Lee (18 December 2007). Blood Warriors: American Military Elites. Random House Publishing Group. p. 170. ISBN 978-0-307-41468-7.
  6. ^ Gormly, Robert A. (3 August 2010). Combat Swimmer: Memoirs of a Navy SEAL. New York: Penguin Group US. p. 185. ISBN 978-1-101-45994-2.
  7. ^ "Born to Raise Hell | PEOPLE.com".
  8. ^ Mariana Islands Range Complex: Environmental Impact Statement. United States Navy. 2010. p. 42.
  9. ^ Meltzer, Brad (January 1, 2011). "Author Brad Meltzer was recruited in government agency". Daily News. New York.
  10. ^ Babcock, Charles R. (August 11, 1987). "FINANCES OF SECRET NAVY TEAM PROBED". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 19, 2021.
  11. ^ Rose, Andy (March 19, 1987). "Civilian Sues U.S., Says He Was Beaten, Kidnaped in Exercise". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 19, 2021.
  12. ^ Willman, Martha L. (March 28, 1987). "Navy Weapons Base Guard, Wife Recall 30 Hours of Terror". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 19, 2021.

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