Meet Admiral William McRaven: The True Undercover Boss
Admiral William McRaven was the Special Operations coach for SEAL Team Six for the operation that brought down the World’s leading terrorist, Osama Bin Laden, last May. And, last night, Both Adm. McRaven and SEAL Team Six had another big night. Adm. McRaven was the guest of Michelle Obama at her husband’s State of the Union Address. And, before President Barack Obama’s speech to combined session of Congress and the American people, forces under Adm. McRaven’s command were carrying out a special operations mission to rescue two hostages from the hands of pirates in Somalia. Navy SEAL Team Six, the same unit that killed Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, carried out a nighttime helicopter raid on Somali kidnappers during the rescue of American Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagan Thisted of Denmark, aid workers taken hostage last October.
A Select Biographical Summary about Admiral William McRaven –
Admiral McRaven is the ninth commander of United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. USSOCOM ensures the readiness of joint special operations forces and, as directed, conducts operations worldwide.[i-a]
Adm. McRaven served from June 2008 to June 2011 as the 11th commander of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) headquartered at Fort Bragg, N.C. JSOC is charged to study special operations requirements and techniques, ensure interoperability and equipment standardization, plan and conduct special operations exercises and training, and develop joint special operations tactics.[i-b]
Adm. McRaven served from June 2006 to March 2008 as commander, Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR). In addition to his duties as commander, SOCEUR, he was designated as the first director of the NATO Special Operations Forces Coordination Centre where he was charged with enhancing the capabilities and interoperability of all NATO Special Operations Forces.[i-c]
Adm. McRaven has commanded at every level within the special operations community, including assignments as deputy commanding general for operations at JSOC, commodore of Naval Special Warfare Group 1, commander of SEAL Team 3, task group commander in the CENTCOM area of responsibility, task unit commander during Desert Storm and Desert Shield, squadron commander at Naval Special Warfare Development Group, and SEAL platoon commander at Underwater Demolition Team 21/SEAL Team 4.[ii-a]
Adm. McRaven’s diverse staff and interagency experience includes assignments as the director for Strategic Planning in the Office of Combating Terrorism on the National Security Council Staff, assessment director at U.S. Special Operations Command, on the Staff of the Chief of Naval Operations and the chief of staff at Naval Special Warfare Group 1.[ii-b]
Adm. McRaven’s professional education includes assignment to the Naval Postgraduate School, where he helped establish and was the first graduate from the Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict curriculum.[ii-c]
Admiral McRaven was the terrorist hunter on whose shoulders Osama bin Laden raid rested. Soon after the successful operation that eliminated Osama bin Laden, conducted by SEAL Team Six, Adm. McRaven’s name emerged as the architect of the mission. At the time, Admiral McRaven was former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ recommended new leader of U.S. Special Operations Command. One of the most experienced terrorist hunters, Adm. McRaven tapped a special unit of Navy SEALs for the mission two earlier. The author of a textbook titled “Spec Ops,” McRaven had long emphasized six key requirements for any successful mission: surprise, speed, security, simplicity, purpose and repetition. For the especially risky bin Laden operation, he insisted on another: precision. A former SEAL himself, Adm. McRaven had overseen weeks of intensive training for a covert operation that could cripple al-Qaeda if it worked, or strain an already troubled alliance with Pakistan if it went awry.[iii]
Choppering 25 Navy SEALs into a populated area covered by the air defenses of an unsuspecting sovereign nation. Fast-roping them down into a fortified compound containing unknown numbers of enemies. Killing or capturing the world’s most dangerous terrorist. Extracting them safely and flying them to Afghanistan the same way they came.[iv] That was the plan. A daring plan that we now know was a great success, although one of the two Blackhawk helicopters that carried the SEALs into bin Laden’s Pakistani compound grazed one of the compound’s wall and was forced to make a hard landing. Osama bin Laden was eliminated, SEAL Team Six became American heroes, and Admiral McRaven became a household name.
Fast forward nine months, and Admiral McRaven again finds himself front and center. Last night, he was one of Michelle Obama’s many guests, along with other military guests, at President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. As the television cameras captured him sitting in the gallery of spectators, he appeared calm and composed. He did not look like a person who had just ordered the rescue of two hostages being held by pirates in Somalia, nor did he appear to be stressed or anxious about the mission’s outcome.
U.S. military forces sent helicopters into Somalia in a nighttime raid Tuesday and freed the two hostages who had been captured on October 25, 2011. The raid was conducted by a joint team involving Special Operations Forces, including Navy SEAL Team Six, the same unit that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May 2011.[iv] See Fox News’ television report on this raid at this link. The two hostages were freed uninjured after a shoot-out that resulted in nine of their captors being killed. There were no casualties reported among US forces.
In an interview on ABC News Good Morning America this morning, Vice President Joe Biden said that the senior leadership of the Special Forces (Admiral McRaven) recommended that now was the time and the opportunity to act, and the President authorized the mission. In discussing the Special Forces that conducted the raid, he said that they are “The most incredible warriors this World has ever seen.”
Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta released a statement this morning on the hostage rescue operation in Somalia:
Last night U.S. Special Operations Forces conducted, by order of the President of the United States, a successful mission in Somalia to rescue two individuals taken hostage on October 25, 2011. Ms. Jessica Buchanan, an American citizen employed by the Danish Demining Group, and her Danish colleague, Mr. Poul Thisted, were kidnapped at gunpoint by criminal suspects near Galcayo, Somalia.
Ms. Buchanan and Mr. Thisted have been transported to a safe location where we will evaluate their health and make arrangements for them to return home.
This successful hostage rescue, undertaken in a hostile environment, is a testament to the superb skills of courageous service members who risked their lives to save others. I applaud their efforts, and I am pleased that Ms. Buchanan and Mr. Thisted were not harmed during the operation. This mission demonstrates our military’s commitment to the safety of our fellow citizens wherever they may be around the world.
I am grateful to report that there was no loss of life or injuries to our personnel.
I express my deepest gratitude to all the military and civilian men and women who supported this operation. This was a team effort and required close coordination, especially between the Department of Defense and our colleagues in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They are heroes and continue to inspire all of us by their bravery and service to our nation.[v]
Members of the military, and those who lead them, do not seek fame or fortune for the heroic acts they perform. They are doing their job. The results of their success are felt throughout America in the sustained freedom, and the protection from foreign aggressors who threaten that freedom, that we all enjoy. We sometimes take for granted what these men and women do, and we sometimes forget that they are out there doing these kinds of things when we least expect it. The members of SEAL Team Six deserve the recognition and praise on this day after such a daring and successful mission. And, to Admiral McRaven, our gratitude for mastering the profession of arms and the ability to be a leader of character and a gentleman in the face of challenge and adversity. Admiral McRaven’s charisma displayed on Tuesday night is a true example of what our senior military leaders are all about.
Copyright © Dale R. Wilson
[i-a,b,c] “Admiral William H. McRaven – Commander, United States Special Operations Command – United States Navy” – United States Navy Biography – Updated 24 January 2012 – http://www.navy.mil/navydata/bios/navybio.asp?bioid=401 – Accessed 25 January 2012 – NAVY.mil (Official Website of the United States Navy) – http://navy.mil
[ii-a,b,c] “What Michelle Obama’s guests tell us about the State of the Union” – Guest List for the First Lady’s Box – State of the Union Address – Posted by Brad Plumer – Posted on 01/24/2012 – Ezra Klein’s WONKBLOG – http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/what-michelle-obamas-guest-list-tells-us-about-the-state-of-the-union/2012/01/24/gIQAJw4COQ_blog.html – Accessed 25 January 2012 – The Washington Post – http://www.washingtonpost.com/
.[iii] “Adm. William McRaven: The Terrorist Hunter on whose Shoulders Osama bin Laden Raid Rested” – By Craig Whitlock – Published: May 4, 2011 – The Washington Post National – http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/adm-william-mcraven-the-terrorist-hunter-on-whose-shoulders-osama-bin-laden-raid-rested/2011/05/04/AFsEv4rF_story.html – Accessed 4 May 2011 – The Washington Post – http://www.washingtonpost.com/
[iv] “Spec Ops Chief Sketched Out bin Laden Raid…in 1995”– By Spencer Ackerman – Posted May 3, 2011 – Danger Room – http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/05/risky-bin-laden-raid-came-from-commanders-book/ – Accessed 25 January 2012 – Wired – http://www.wired.com
[iv] “US Military Raid Frees American, Dane Held Hostage in Somalia” – FoxNews.com (with contributions from The Associated Press) – Published January 25, 2012 – http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/01/25/sources-us-raid-frees-american-and-dane-held-hostage-in-somalia/ – Accessed 25 January 2012 – Fox News – http://www.foxnews.com
[v] “SECDEF Releases Statement on Hostage Rescue Operation in Somalia” – Press Released Statement by the Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta – Release Date 01/25/2012 – http://www.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=64962 – NAVY.mil (Official Website of the United States Navy) – http://www.navy.mil