The estimated salary for a Navy SEAL -- with over a dozen years of experience and an E-7 pay grade -- is about $54,000, according to an estimate based on data from the Department of Defense.
However, all military personnel are eligible to receive higher pay -- closer to six figures -- with additional skills, which many of the members of the team that captured bin Laden likely had.
"Each of these operations is different, but we get the same amount of pay, so it's fair," said John Scorza, MC2, under the Naval Special Warfare Command.
The base salary level is comparable to the average annual salary for teachers in the U.S., which was $55,350 for the 2009-2010 school year, according to the Digest of Education Statistics.
"Also note that military personnel may have more extensive benefits and on-base housing," said Lori Taylor, a professor at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. "But they work year 'round while teachers get 2 to 3 months off in the summer."
Though Navy SEALs are usually more experienced service members, the typical graduate of SEAL qualification training is 19 to 23 years old, said Lt. Cmdr. Fred Kuebler of U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla.
The youngest graduates normally make a monthly base salary of $1,916.10 to $2,325.90, according to the Department of Defense.
Eric Haney, a retired Command Sergeant Major, is a former member of Delta Force, which is regarded as the Army's equivalent of the SEAL Team Six. Haney estimated that the average ranking of special operations team members across the military branches is E-7, which entitles them to receive a monthly base pay of $2,637.30 to $4,143, according to the Department of Defense.
"But they're certainly not in it for the bucks," said Haney. "And they're in it for more than serving the country. Clerks who type on their desk are also serving their country."
Haney said everyone involved in the operation did a "superb job" and it was the culmination of "great patience."
An E-7 Navy SEAL would typically not be on a ship or plane long enough to be eligible for sea pay ($135 to $600), aviation ($125 to $840) or flyer incentive pay ($150-400), according to Kuebler.
Most military members, not just Special Forces, are eligible to receive incentive pay, said Wade Ishimoto, defense specialist.
These examples, from the Department of Defense, include:
$240 for hazardous duty incentive pay
$225 for imminent danger pay/hostile fire pay
$150 to $225 for parachute, demolition and other tasks
$240 to $340 for diving pay for officers and enlisted military members, respectively
$521.40 to $961.80 for a basic allowance for housing (monthly, for dependents in some cases)
$223.84 to $325.04 for a basic allowance for subsistence (monthly)
Family subsistence supplemental: not to exceed $1,100
$327.60 to $759.60 for special clothing allowance (annual, for enlisted members, not officers)
"They've earned it and they deserve it," Ishimoto said. "But none of that helps them in their retirement."
Ishimoto said the retirement pay that military members receive is solely based on their base pay.
Still, Haney said those serving in Special Forces do so because "it's something these people feel they must do."
"Some people are driven to this. Just be damn glad they are," Haney said.