Adm. William H. McRaven assumed command of U.S. Special Operations Command from Adm. Eric T. Olson during a change of command ceremony here today at the Davis Conference Center.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta presided over the ceremony, praising Olson for the work he and the command have accomplished.
“Eric is beloved by those under his command,” said Panetta. “As he says, humans are more important than hardware, and quality is more important than quantity. And that’s exactly where his focus has been here at SOCOM – finding, caring for and keeping the highest quality people.
“As a result of his hard work, we now have the best-trained, the best-equipped and the most experienced Special Operations Force in the history of the United States.”
Panetta also acknowledged Olson’s operational contributions, highlighting his efforts during the 1993 Black Hawk down battle in Mogadishu.
“It was then-Commander Olson who led a ground convoy to rescue his comrades fighting for their lives against hundreds of enemy fighters who had them surrounded.
"That mission showed Eric’s extraordinary courage, his warrior spirit, his inspired leadership and the overwhelming care and concern he has for his comrades-in-arms. All traits that he has demonstrated again and again throughout his storied career.”
During the ceremony, a moment of silence was observed to honor the U.S. servicemembers and Afghan National Army commandos killed during recent events in Afghanistan.
“We will honor the fallen by showing the world our unyielding determination to press ahead, to move forward with the hard work that must be done to protect our country,” said Panetta.
McRaven becomes the ninth commander of USSOCOM and responsible for all Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps Special Operations Forces. USSOCOM is the Department of Defense’s lead command for planning and synchronizing the global war against violent extremist organizations.
“I can’t think of anyone better suited to help succeed Admiral Olson in this tough job and manage the continued growth of SOCOM than another Navy SEAL, Admiral Bill McRaven,” Panetta said.
“He is one of the military’s outstanding strategic thinkers and leaders, who has always kept faith with those serving downrange.”
McRaven thanked Secretary Panetta and reminded everyone of the importance of USSOCOM’s mission.
“The world today is as unpredictable as ever,” said McRaven. “And as such, the American people will expect us to be prepared for every contingency, to answer every call to arms, to venture where other forces cannot, and to win every fight no matter how tough or how long.
“They will expect it because we are the nation’s Special Operations Force, and Mr. Secretary, we will not let them down,” McRaven concluded.
McRaven most recently served as the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command headquartered at Fort Bragg, N.C.
He has also commanded at every level within the Special Operations community, including assignments as the commander of Special Operations Command Europe, director of the NATO Special Operations Forces Coordination Centre, deputy commanding general for Operations at JSOC, commodore of Naval Special Warfare Group 1, commander of Seal Team 3, Task Group Commander in the Central Command 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.
His 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.
Olson, the first Navy SEAL to be promoted to three and later four-star rank, will retire in August after 38 years of service to the nation.
“My most powerful memories will be of the individual people who selflessly serve or served," Olson said. "I’ve had the opportunity to meet them at their headquarters, training areas and forward bases, hospitals and recovery centers.
"Their motivation is strong, their skills are incredible, their bravery in the face of the enemy is unflinching, their spirit is unwavering and their families are impressive almost beyond belief… I admire each of you for all you have done and continue to do.
“To serve as commander has been the highest of honors,” Olson said. “This is a force of which America can and should be intensely proud. And it is a force that America surely needs.”