William H. McRaven
|Chancellor of the University of Texas|
January 5, 2015 – May 31, 2018
|Preceded by||Francisco G. Cigarroa|
|Succeeded by||Larry Faulkner|
William Harry McRaven
November 6, 1955
Pinehurst, North Carolina, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Georgeann Brady McRaven|
|Awards|| Defense Distinguished Service Medal (3)|
Defense Superior Service Medal (2)
Legion of Merit (2)
Bronze Star Medal (2)
|Branch/service||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1977–2014|
|Unit||Naval Special Warfare Development Group|
|Commands||U.S. Special Operations Command|
Joint Special Operations Command
Special Operations Command Europe
Naval Special Warfare Group 1
SEAL Team 3
|Battles/wars||Persian Gulf War|
• Operation Desert Shield
• Operation Desert Storm
Operation Enduring Freedom
• War in Afghanistan
Operation Neptune Spear
William Harry McRaven (born November 6, 1955) is a retired United States Navy four-star admiral who served as the ninth commander of the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) from August 8, 2011 to August 28, 2014. From 2015 to 2018, he was the chancellor of The University of Texas System.
McRaven previously served from June 13, 2008, to August 2011 as commander of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and from June 2006 to March 2008 as commander of Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR). In addition to his duties as COMSOCEUR, he was designated as the first director of the NATO Special Operations Forces Coordination Centre (NSCC), where he was charged with enhancing the capabilities and inter-operability of all NATO Special Operations Forces. McRaven retired from the U.S. Navy on August 28, 2014, after more than 37 years of service.
McRaven was born in Pinehurst, North Carolina. His father, a career Air Force officer, was stationed at Pope Air Force Base, now known as Pope Field, part of Fort Bragg. He has two older sisters. His family moved to Texas while he was in elementary school and settled in San Antonio. McRaven attended Theodore Roosevelt High School where he took part in track. He is the son of Anna Elizabeth (Long) and Col. Claude C. McRaven, a Spitfire fighter pilot in World War II who played briefly in the NFL.
McRaven attended the University of Texas at Austin where he was a walk-on member of the track team, and was a member of the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps. He graduated in 1977 with a bachelor's degree in journalism, and was named a Distinguished Alumnus in 2012. McRaven holds a master's degree from the Naval Postgraduate School, where he helped establish and was the first graduate from the Special operations/Low intensity conflict curriculum.
After graduating from The University of Texas at Austin, McRaven was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy and volunteered for Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training (BUD/S). After six months of training, McRaven graduated BUD/S class 95 in January 1978. Following completion of a six-month probationary period, he received the 1130 designator as a Naval Special Warfare Officer, entitled to wear the Special Warfare insignia. As a Navy SEAL officer, McRaven was deployed to the Philippines. In 1982, as a junior officer, McRaven was assigned to SEAL Team Six under the command of CDR Richard Marcinko but was removed one year later due to McRaven's concerns about military discipline, and difficulties in keeping his sailors in line. Richard Marcinko fired the 27-year-old McRaven in 1983. "He was a bright guy, but he didn't like my rude and crude way," Marcinko said. "If I was a loose cannon, he was too rigid. He took the special out of special warfare." McRaven later returned to his position as a squadron commander at Naval Special Warfare Development Group after Marcinko was forced to give up his command of the unit later that same year.
McRaven served numerous staff and command assignments within the special operations community, including platoon commander at Underwater Demolition Team 21/SEAL Team Four, squadron commander at Naval Special Warfare Development Group, Executive Officer of SEAL Team ONE, task unit commander during the Persian Gulf War, task group commander in the CENTCOM area of responsibility, commanding officer of SEAL Team THREE, deputy commander for operations at JSOC, commanding officer of Naval Special Warfare Group ONE from 1999 to 2001. McRaven earned his Master of Arts degree at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, in 1993. McRaven's thesis was titled "The Theory of Special Operations" (republished in 1995 as Spec Ops: Case Studies in Special Operations Warfare: Theory and Practice).
McRaven later served as a staff officer with an interagency coordination focus, including 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.
McRaven was the deputy to General Stanley A. McChrystal, and later leader, of a battle group targeting Al Qaeda in Iraq called 'Task Force 714' which proved to be innovative and highly successful.
On April 6, 2011, McRaven was nominated by President Barack Obama for promotion from the rank of vice admiral to admiral and appointed as the ninth commander of USSOCOM, of which JSOC is a component.
In his confirmation hearings, McRaven "endorsed a steady manpower growth rate of 3% to 5% a year" and favored more resources for USSOCOM. After the Armed Services committee hearings, in late June, McRaven was confirmed unanimously by the Senate for his promotion to full Admiral and assignment as commander of USSOCOM and took command August 8. The transfer ceremony was led by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in Tampa, with ADM Eric T. Olson also in attendance, two days after the Wardak Province helicopter crash which cost 30 Americans, including 22 SEALs, their lives. With several hundred in attendance, Panetta spoke of sending "a strong message of American resolve [and] ... carry[ing] on the fight".
Operation Neptune Spear
McRaven is credited for organizing and overseeing the execution of Operation Neptune Spear, the special ops raid that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011. CIA Director Leon Panetta delegated operational & execution decisions on the raid to McRaven, who had worked almost exclusively on counter-terrorism operations and strategy since 2001.
According to The New York Times, "In February, Mr. Panetta called then-Vice Adm. William H. McRaven, commander of the Pentagon's Joint Special Operations Command, to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, to give him details about the compound and to begin planning a military strike. Admiral McRaven, a veteran of the covert world who had written a book on American Special Operations, spent weeks working with the CIA on the operation, and came up with three options: a helicopter assault using U.S. Navy SEALs, a strike with B-2 bombers that would obliterate the compound, or a joint raid with Pakistani intelligence operatives who would be told about the mission hours before the launch." The day before the assault, President Obama "took a break from rehearsing for the White House Correspondents Dinner that night to call Admiral McRaven, to wish him luck".
A June 2013 Freedom of Information request revealed that on May 13, 2011, McRaven sent email titled "OPSEC Guidance / Neptune Spear" that instructed redacted recipients that "all photos [of UBL's remains] should have been turned over to the CIA; if you still have them destroy them immediately" or "get them to" a recipient whose identity was redacted.
Retirement from the military
In June 2014, it was announced that Admiral McRaven had his request for retirement approved after a 37-year career. Admiral McRaven retired from the U.S. Navy on September 1, 2014. During the last few years of his career he was also Bull Frog, the longest serving Navy SEAL still on duty, having succeeded his SOCOM predecessor Eric T. Olson in the title.
The University of Texas Chancellor
Disputes with President Trump
"Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency."
William McRaven, open letter to President Donald Trump, August 16, 2018
In August 2018, McRaven expressed support for former CIA Director John O. Brennan, whose security clearance had recently been revoked by the Trump Administration. He authored an open letter to President Donald Trump in The Washington Post entitled "Revoke my security clearance, too, Mr. President", in which he affirmed his regard for Brennan, his former colleague, and offered criticism of the decisions and personal behavior of President Trump. McRaven said of Brennan, "He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question ... except by those who don't know him." Of Trump, McRaven wrote, "Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation."
In a November 18, 2018, interview on Fox News, Chris Wallace mentioned McRaven's name. Trump called McRaven a "Hillary Clinton fan" and accused McRaven of being a fan of former President Barack Obama. McRaven later told CNN, "I did not back Hillary Clinton or anyone else. I am a fan of President Obama and President George W. Bush, both of whom I worked for. I admire all presidents, regardless of their political party, who uphold the dignity of the office and who use that office to bring the nation together in challenging times." One media source noted that Trump's ire seemed to be rooted in "McRaven’s criticism that the president’s rhetoric toward the press is the 'greatest threat to democracy' in his lifetime".
On October 17, 2019, McRaven published an op-ed in The New York Times with the headline "Our Republic Is Under Attack From the President", arguing that if Trump did not demonstrate leadership, he was to be replaced. He elaborated his position in a CNN interview the same day, saying that Trump was undermining domestic institutions and damaging America's international standing, especially with respect to the treatment of the Kurds during the 2019 Turkish offensive into north-eastern Syria.
Upon the February 2020 dismissal by the president of Joseph Maguire for having briefed congressional intelligence committee members about emerging evidence of foreign efforts to interfere in the 2020 presidential election, McRaven authored a guest editorial in The Washington Post in which he declared that, "As Americans, we should be frightened — deeply afraid for the future of the nation. When good men and women can’t speak the truth, when facts are inconvenient, when integrity and character no longer matter, when presidential ego and self-preservation are more important than national security — then there is nothing left to stop the triumph of evil."
McRaven is the son of a career Air Force officer. McRaven married Georgeann Brady McRaven, then a fellow undergraduate at the University of Texas, in 1978. They have three children. McRaven attended the 2012 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner as the guest of his fifth grade classmate, Karen Tumulty.
Awards and decorations
Award ribbons and badges
Award and badge names
|Naval Special Warfare insignia|
|Defense Distinguished Service Medal
w/ two bronze oak leaf clusters
|Defense Superior Service Medal with oak leaf cluster|
|Navy and Marine Corps Parachutist Insignia|
|Presidential Service Badge||United States Special Operations|
- The Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement (2014)
- The Distinguished American Award (2016)
- The Texas Commandery of the Naval Order of the United States 2017 Nimitz Leadership Award
- The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association’s National Award
- The National Intelligence Award
- Admiral McRaven Leaves the Audience SPEECHLESS | One of the Best Motivational Speeches
- Dirty Wars, a 2013 American documentary, includes McRaven revisiting the site and survivors of the Khataba raid to apologize.
- His 2014 commencement address for the University of Texas at Austin received over 16,000,000 views (As of Feb. 1, 2021) on YouTube.
- He was portrayed by Christopher Stanley in the 2012 film Zero Dark Thirty.
- McRaven was featured by Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday in the segment "Power Player of the Week," September 5, 2021" on remembering those who served in the military embracing "the hero code", the subject and title of his new book.
- McRaven, William H. (1995). Spec Ops: Case Studies in Special Operations Warfare Theory and Practice. Presidio Press. ISBN 978-0-89141-544-2. (Paperback: ISBN 978-0-89141-600-5)
- McRaven, William H. (2017). Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...And Maybe the World. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 978-1455570249.
- McRaven, William H. (2019). Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 978-1-5837-2974-8.
- McRaven, William H. (2021). The Hero Code: Lessons Learned From Lives Well Lived. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 978-1-5387-1996-1.
- "Joint Special Operations Command Change of Command" (Press release). USSOCOM. June 13, 2008. Archived from the original on July 14, 2008. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
- "Navy SEAL behind bin Laden mission hails from San Antonio". KENS. May 4, 2011. Retrieved May 4, 2011.
- Hirsh, Michael. "Biden and Flournoy Have Clashed Over Policy in Past". Foreign Policy. Retrieved November 21, 2020.
- "McRaven confirmed as new UT system chancellor". Army Times. Associated Press. August 21, 2014. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
- "Claude McRaven Obituary - Austin, TX - Austin American-Statesman". Austin American-Statesman.
- Lloyd, Jennifer R. (August 2, 2014). "Adm. McRaven will bring fearlessness, humble nature to UT System". San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved June 19, 2015.
- Levesque, William R. (August 9, 2011). "SOCom gets new commander in ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa". St. Petersburg Times. Archived from the original on April 29, 2012. Retrieved August 9, 2011.
- Christian, Carol (May 3, 2011). "Head of unit that killed bin Laden has Texas ties". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved May 4, 2011.
- "The lowdown on higher education". Austin American-Statesman. May 8, 2012. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
- "All Hail the Texas Exes' 2012 Distinguished Alumni". The Alcalde. May 2012. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
- Gal Perl Finkel (March 7, 2017). "A New Strategy Against ISIS". The Jerusalem Post.
- Mazzetti, Mark; Kulish, Nicholas; Drew, Christopher; Kovaleski, Serge F.; Naylor, Sean D.; Ismay, John (June 6, 2015). "SEAL Team 6: A Secret History of Quiet Killings and Blurred Lines". The New York Times. Retrieved June 19, 2015.
- "The Theory of Special Operations". June 18, 1993.
- Wirtz, James J. (2021). "The Abbottabad raid and the theory of special operations". Journal of Strategic Studies: 1–20. doi:10.1080/01402390.2021.1933953. ISSN 0140-2390.
- Shultz, Richard H.; Joint Special Operations University. (2016). Military innovation in war : it takes a learning organization, a case study of Task Force 714 in Iraq. MacDill Air Force Base, Florida :The JSOU Press. JSOU report, 16-6 Retrieved 9 January 2020.
- "Flag Officer Announcements". Defense.gov (Press release). Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs). April 6, 2011. Retrieved May 4, 2011.
- Ahearn, Dave (July 2011). "Editor's Perspective". Special Operations Technology. 9 (5). Retrieved August 5, 2011.
- Whitlock, Craig (May 4, 2011). "Osama bin Laden dead: Hamas condemns killing of bin Laden". The Washington Post. London. Retrieved May 4, 2011.
- Mazzetti, Mark; Cooper, Helene; Baker, Peter (May 2, 2011). "Clues Gradually Led to the Location of Osama bin Laden". The New York Times. pp. 2–3.
- "Judicial Watch v. DoD, 13-cv-1343 (JDB)" (PDF). Judicial Watch. January 31, 2014. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
- McConnell, Dugald (February 11, 2014). "Admiral's e-mail on photos of Osama bin Laden's corpse: 'Destroy them'". CNN. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
- Gellman, Barton (December 14, 2011). "William McRaven: The Admiral". Time Magazine. Archived from the original on December 14, 2011.
- Wright, Austin (July 1, 2014). "McRaven Approved for Retirement". Politico: Morning Defense. Retrieved June 19, 2015.
- "Longest Serving Navy SEAL Passes on Legacy Title". United States Navy. August 26, 2011.
- Caruso, Robert (July 14, 2014). "Opinion: The Legacy of Adm. William McRaven". United States Naval Institute.
- Vertuno, Jim (July 29, 2014). "University of Texas Picking William McRaven As New Chancellor". Retrieved June 19, 2015.
- "UT regents confirm McRaven as next system chancellor - Austin Business Journal". Bizjournals.com. August 4, 2014. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
- Bergen, Peter. (2019). Trump and his generals: the cost of chaos. New York:Penguin Press. ISBN 978-0-525-52241-6. p. 46.
- "Former Chancellors". University of Texas System. Retrieved October 5, 2019.
- "McRaven to Step Down as Chancellor in 2018". The University of Texas System. May 23, 2018. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
- McRaven, William (August 16, 2018). "Revoke my security clearance, too, Mr. President". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 16, 2018.
- "Retired US Navy admiral William McRaven praises John Brennan, says he won't be scared into silence by Donald Trump". ABC News. Reuters. August 17, 2018.
- Jake Tapper; Devan Cole (November 18, 2018). "Architect of bin Laden raid: Trump 'threatens the Constitution' when he attacks the media". CNN. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
- Samuels, Brett, Trump stokes new unlikely feud, The Hill, November 19, 2018
- LeBlanc, Paul (October 17, 2019). "Architect of bin Laden raid says Trump is working to 'destroy' the country". CNN. Retrieved October 18, 2019.
- McRaven, William H., William McRaven: If good men like Joe Maguire can’t speak the truth, we should be deeply afraid, Washington Post, February 21, 2020
- "James B. Milliken Biography". University of Texas System. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
- "Navy hero and his first mate make brain health their special ops". The Dallas Morning News. January 20, 2019.
- "The full interview with the 2011 Texan of the Year, Bill McRaven". Dallas Morning News. December 24, 2011. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
- "The Quiet Professional". The Alcalde. Texas Exes. June 24, 2011. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
- Parker, Kathleen (May 1, 2012). "The unknown celebrity". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 3, 2012.
- "Adm William McRaven". darpa.mil.
- "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". www.achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement.
- "2014 Summit Highlights Photo".
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Admiral William McRaven discuss the ongoing wars in Syria and Iraq.
- "NFF Distinguished American Award Recipients". National Football Foundation. Retrieved September 4, 2020.
- "ADM William H. McRaven, USN (Ret.) - 2017 Nimitz Leadership Award". Naval Order of the United States. March 10, 2018. Retrieved September 6, 2020.
- William H. McRaven (2014). University of Texas at Austin 2014 Commencement Address. Austin, Texas. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
- William H. McRaven (May 23, 2014). University of Texas at Austin 2014 Commencement Address - Admiral William H. McRaven. Austin, Texas. Retrieved May 27, 2014.
- Paul Caron, ed. (May 26, 2014). "Ten Life Lessons From Navy SEAL Training (transcript)". Retrieved May 27, 2014.
- msn.com (September 5, 2021). Former "Navy Admiral remembers those who served with 'the hero code'." Retrieved September 5, 2021.
- McRaven, William H. (2021). The Hero Code: Lessons Learned From Lives Well Lived. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 978-1-5387-1996-1.
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