The Navy SEALs who killed Osama bin Laden are being hailed as heroes. But who are the men who carried out the dangerous mission?
The small group of highly-trained Navy SEALs took out the world's most wanted man in 40 minutes. But, as CBS News Correspondent Whit Johnson reported on "The Early Show," they were called upon to make history -- and we may never know their names.
Navy SEAL Reserve Lt. Cmdr. Eric Greitens, who once commanded a cell that targeted al Qaeda, is the author of "The Heart and the Fist." He offered insight into this mission on Tuesday morning's broadcast.
Greitens explained the SEALs were facing a significant number of challenges in this raid on bin Laden's compound.
"I, like all Americans, were proud to hear they were successful," he said. "I was proud to hear that it was the SEAL team. And for a lot of people on this raid, this is not just hitting a target, this is a personal mission. These are men who have been involved in the fight, many of them for nine and a half years. Their families have made tremendous sacrifices; they've lost comrades on the battlefield.
"They've seen comrades come off of the battlefield wounded and disabled. So for them, it's more than just hitting a target. This was really about justice."
Co-anchor Erica Hill noted it's been reported 79 people were involved, four helicopters, and the compound had been re-created. She observed, "There was significant practice going on here."
But is it typical for a mission like this to have that much preparation?
Greitens said that's "absolutely" the case in missions like these.
"These are some of the best in the world, and one of the things that makes them good is relentless practice," he said. "They go through the hardest military training in the world. For an operation like this, they use relentless practice around three principles, surprise, speed, and violence of action. Hit the enemy when they're not expecting it, hit them hard, and hit them really fast."
Hill remarked the mission was really fast -- only about 40 minutes for the entire operation.
She said, "It's really amazing to think about how this went down -- how much do you think they knew? How much do you think they knew in the run-up with all of the practice, who the target actually was?"
Greitens said, "They do their best job to gain as much intelligence about every physical detail about the compound and every detail of their targets as they can. They also recognize that once they engage, things are going to happen on target that they can't anticipate."
Did the soldiers know the target was bin Laden?
"They knew it was Osama bin Laden before they went out," Greitens said. "The word is when they heard who the target was, there was a great cheer. All of these Navy SEALs wanted to be on this mission, and they wanted to get Osama bin Laden."
But, Hill noted, these soldiers will likely never be publicly honored for their service on this mission.
"These are people who will never see a victory parade and we will likely never know who was behind this," Hill said.
Greitens added, "These are men who definitely are going to be honored and revered within their SEAL teams. Their public identities may never be known."
Safety, he explained, is important for these individuals.
"These are quiet professionals," he said. "If you told them today that there was another mission that they had to be on, they'd be right back in the helicopters right at it. These are warriors who are really dedicated to this mission."
The mission, Hill added, also garnered, possibly, a treasure trove of intelligence from the home where bin Laden was living.
Greitens said the commandos understood they were going after bin Laden and anything else they could find inside the compound. He said the commandos knew intelligence could help "roll back the entire Al Qaeda network."
He said, "Every single person on that target has to use their mind, use their creativity, use their intelligence to hit the target, grab intelligence, and make sure that everybody comes off safely."
"It's an incredible group of warriors," Greitens added. "We should all be really proud of them. They're all heroes."