Eric T. Olson

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For the American philosopher, see Eric T. Olson (philosopher). For other people, see Eric Olson (disambiguation).
Eric Thor Olson
Admiral Eric Olson.jpg
Admiral Eric T. Olson, USN
Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command
Born (1952-01-24) January 24, 1952 (age 62)
Tacoma, Washington
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch United States Department of the Navy Seal.svg United States Navy
Years of service 1973–2011
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg Admiral
Commands held United States Special Operations Command
Deputy, United States Special Operations Command
Naval Special Warfare Command
Naval Special Warfare Development Group
Battles/wars Battle of Mogadishu
Awards Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star
Defense Superior Service Medal (2)
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star (w/Combat V)

Eric Thor Olson (born January 24, 1952) is a retired United States Navy admiral who last served as the eighth Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) from July 2, 2007 to August 8, 2011. He previously served as Deputy Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command from 2003 to July 2007. Olson was the first Navy SEAL ever to be appointed to three-star and four-star flag rank, as well as the first naval officer to be USSOCOM's combatant commander.[1] He took command from Army General Bryan D. Brown in 2007.[1] Brown and Olson had served together at the SOCOM headquarters in Tampa for four years.[1] He retired from active duty on August 22, 2011 after over 38 years of service. He relinquished command of SOCOM to Admiral William H. McRaven the same day.[2]

Military career[edit]

Olson graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1973 and qualified as a Naval Special Warfare (SEAL) officer in 1974. He graduated in BUD/S Class 76. He has served operationally in an Underwater Demolition Team, SEAL Team, SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team, Special Boat Squadron, and at the Naval Special Warfare Development Group. He has commanded at every level.

Olson has participated in several conflicts and contingency operations, and has served as a SEAL instructor, strategy and tactics development officer and joint special operations staff officer. His overseas assignments include service as a United Nations military observer in Israel and Egypt, and as Navy Programs officer in Tunisia. He served on the Navy staff as assistant deputy chief of Naval Operations (Plans, Policy, and Operations). The commander in charge of all Navy SEALs during Desert Storm, Ray Smith, hand picked Olson to be on his staff. In 1993, Olson participated in the Battle of Mogadishu, he was later awarded the Silver Star for his actions which was cited as "... during combat actions in Mogadishu, Somalia, in October 1993. while under withering enemy fire during actions in support of UNOSOM II operations, Captain Olson demonstrated a complete disregard for his own personal safety in the accomplishment of his mission".[3][4] In 1994, Olson became commander of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, an American counter-terrorism unit. Olson was promoted again in 1999 when he assumed command of Naval Special Warfare Command in Coronado, California.

Olson earned a Master of Arts degree in National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School and studied at the Defense Language Institute. He is a Joint Specialty officer and Political-Military Affairs sub-specialist with emphasis on Africa and the Middle East. His awards include the Navy Distinguished Service Medal and Silver Star.

In addition to being the first three and four star Navy SEAL, Admiral Olson was the Bull Frog, the longest serving Navy SEAL still on duty.[5] At four-star flag rank, Olson is the highest-ranking Navy SEAL to hold the Bull Frog title.[5]

Olson was the first person to ever throw a ceremonial first pitch for a post-season game at the new Yankee Stadium in 2009.

Retirement and personal life[edit]

Admiral Olson retired in August 2011. He has since joined the board of directors of Mission Essential Personnel and Iridium Communications.[6] He is an honorary chairman of The OSS Society.

Olson met his wife, Marilyn, a native of New York City, when he was serving as a U.N. military observer in Israel and she was a member of the United Nation’s staff. They have been married for 30 years and have two children, Dan and Ally.[7]

Awards and decorations[edit]

US Navy SEALs insignia.png
 
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Combat Distinguishing Device.png
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Gold star
Gold star
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Gold star
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
United States Navy Parachutist Badge.png
United States Special Operations Command Insignia.svg Joint Chiefs of Staff seal.svg
SEAL Insignia
Defense Distinguished Service Medal Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star Defense Superior Service Medal with oak leaf cluster Legion of Merit Bronze Star with Combat V
Defense Meritorious Service Medal with bronze oak leaf cluster Meritorious Service Medal with two gold award stars Joint Service Commendation Medal with bronze oak leaf cluster Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal
Combat Action Ribbon with gold award star Joint Meritorious Unit Award with bronze oak leaf cluster Navy Unit Commendation with bronze service star Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation with two bronze service stars
National Defense Service Medal with two bronze service stars Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal with bronze service star Vietnam Service Medal with bronze campaign star Southwest Asia Service Medal with two bronze campaign stars
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal Global War on Terrorism Service Medal Armed Forces Service Medal Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with two bronze service stars
Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon with two bronze service stars Special Operations Service Ribbon United Nations Medal Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland (degree of Commander)
Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia) Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait) Marksmanship Medal for Rifle Expert Marksmanship Medal for Pistol Expert
Navy and Marine Corps Parachutist Insignia
United States Special Operations Command Badge Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge

Image gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to Eric Olson at Wikimedia Commons

Military offices
Preceded by
Bryan D. Brown
Commander of United States Special Operations Command
July 2, 2007 – August 8, 2011
Succeeded by
William H. McRaven