Whitefish Senator Was Member of Elite SEALs Unit

By Beacon Staff

State Sen. Ryan Zinke said Monday he feels a “special pride” as a former commander of the elite Navy SEAL team credited with killing Osama bin Laden and ending the world’s biggest manhunt.

Zinke, 49, is the former Deputy Commander of Special Forces in Iraq. He spent 22 years in the military, most of that time with the Navy SEALs Team Six in operations in Iraq, the Philippines, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina. He now represents the northwestern Montana town of Whitefish in the state Senate.

He told The Associated Press he feels a bond with the Team Six members who carried out the mission.

“I had a special source of pride that the SEALs were the one that did it,” Zinke said.

According to official accounts, two dozen members of the Navy’s elite SEAL Team Six carried out the raid early Sunday at the compound where Osama bin Laden was staying in the northeast Pakistani town of Abbottabad. They flew in by helicopter before dawn, stormed the compound and engaged in a firefight. Bin Laden was killed with a bullet to the head and went down firing.

There are no individual heroes within a SEAL unit in any operation, much less this particular one that comes with the high threat of retribution by al-Qaida, he said.

“Considering the stakes of this one I’m hoping they remain faceless,” he said. “I think it’s enough for the opposition to know that we have the great capability to go after al-Qaida wherever they are.”

Zinke described SEAL Team Six as the best of the best — about 90 percent of applicants never become a SEAL. After that, it takes nearly 10 years for to make it through the training to become part of Team Six, he said.

Team members have a unique dedication and inner drive to be able to be at the highest level that calls for them to be deployed across the world for long periods of time. Their grueling schedule creates a unique sense of camaraderie he said.

“It’s a group of real talented patriots, that I guess have an uncommon dedication to a mission’s success,” Zinke said.

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