A unit by any other name …


The trouble with secret military units – the type the U.S. government refuses to acknowledge even exist,  like, say, Delta Force or Area 51 – is this: Just how is the public, including the news media, supposed to identify them accurately if there is no official logo or name? Without it, chances are good that some might get it wrong.

That’s apparently what happened when German television station N24 aired a report May 5 on the May 1 killing of Osama bin Laden by Navy SEALs. The station used what it  believed was an official logo of the classified secret unit known as Naval Special Warfare Development Group or  SEAL Team 6.

A screen capture of the May 5 report by German TV station N24 reporting on SEAL Team 6.//Trekmovie.com/

The problem? The logo, which features an eagle holding a trident similar to that depicted in the Navy SEAL Trident warfare pin worn by SEALs and on team patches, represented fighters living in a different century and universe. The logo used apparently was created by a “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” fan to represent the Maquis, a band of 24th century rebel fighters.

One clue that the logo was wrong might have been the Klingon skull and eyepatch. Another hint that screamed out to Scoopdeck is the phrase “SEALS TEAM VI.” Real SEAL teams are referred to as “SEAL Team (fit number here).”

A day after the German news report aired, a blogger on the Star Trek fan site, http://trekmovie.com, reported on the error, and poked some fun with it. The international blogosphere had a field day with the mix-up, too. “Maquis Special Forces took down Bin Laden?” one site asked, dryly. “Osama Bin Laden was killed by Star Trek rebels,” proclaimed a headline. “Star Trek terrorists killed bin Laden,” said another. The Fox News channel picked up the story several days later.

A military surplus shop owner holds up a SEAL Team 6 patch.//The Associated Press/

While Naval Special Warfare Command, U.S. Special Operations Command and Joint Special Operations Command don’t acknowledge the existence of a unit called SEAL Team 6, and has no publicly-available official unit logo, a SEAL Team 6 patch can be bought online at various online sellers and local military surplus stores. Just assume, of course, that it’s legit. Die-hard collectors might want to scoot out to the surplus store and grab those patches while you can.

And hurry. Just two days after bin Laden’s demise, The Walt Disney Co. asked the federal government to let it trademark the name, SEAL Team 6, according to MediaBistro. Disney Enterprises, Inc., a Burbank, Calif.-based entertainment company submitted three applications on May 3, asking to trademark the unit’s name for three purposes:

1. Clothing, footwear and headwear.

2. Entertainment and education services.

3. Toys, games and playthings; gymnastic and sporting articles (except clothing); hand-held units for playing electronic games other than those adapted for use with an external display screen or monitor; Christmas stockings; Christmas tree ornaments and decorations; snow globes.

Snow globes. Imagine Mickey Mouse with an M4A1 and .45 cal pistol. Really. Well, perhaps a modern-day Captain Hook. According to Media Bistro:

“For all we know Disney has been working on an animated feature about a team of anthropomorphic seals in search of adventure, but given the timing of the application that seems…unlikely.”

It’s not clear yet whether Disney Nation will succeed where others haven’t. A check of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office online search page found that in 2002 and 2004, NovaLogic, Inc., of Calabasas, Calif., tried to trademark SEAL Team 6 for computer and video game purposes and for games and action figures, but it dropped the request in 2006. But, then again, if the government doesn’t say that a unit by that name exists, would it object to a trademark request by Disney, or anyone else? And, if so, would that open the floodgates to others who also want to capture – and capitalize on – the namesakes and historic achievements of military units who selflessly serve their nation, even those that officially do not exist?


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