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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]

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 67)
Tacoma, Washington
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branchSeal of the United States Department of the Navy.svg United States Navy
Years of service1973–2011
RankUS-O10 insignia.svg Admiral
Commands heldUnited States Special Operations Command
Deputy, United States Special Operations Command
Naval Special Warfare Command
Naval Special Warfare Development Group
Battles/warsBattle of Mogadishu
AwardsDefense Distinguished Service Medal
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star
Defense Superior Service Medal (2)
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star (w/Combat V)


Military careerEdit

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.

Olson has participated in several conflicts and contingency operations, and has served as a SEAL platoon commander, BUD/S 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. Olson was commanding officer of SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team ONE from 1989 to 1990. 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. From Aug 1991 to Aug 1993, Olson commanded Special Boat Squadron TWO before rejoining DEVGRU. In Oct 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 until August 2002 when he was relieved by Rear Admiral Albert M. Calland III.

Olson earned a Master of Arts degree in National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School in 1985 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 was the highest-ranking Navy SEAL to hold the Bull Frog title. He was succeeded by Commander Brian Sebenaler and Admiral William McRaven, who had also succeeded him as Commander of the United States Special Operations Command and himself retired in 2014.[6]

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

Olson is an Advisory Board Member of Spirit of America, a 501(c)(3) organization that supports the safety and success of Americans serving abroad and the local people and partners they seek to help.[7]

Awards and decorationsEdit

SEAL Trident
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 Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland (degree of Commander) United Nations Medal
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
Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge United States Special Operations Command Badge

Image galleryEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c,13319,135457,00.html
  2. ^ Michael Mullen (August 22, 2011). "Retirement Ceremony for Adm Eric T. Olson, U.S. Special Operations Command". Archived from the original on November 15, 2011. Retrieved September 11, 2012.
  3. ^ "SOF Transformer", Special Operations Technology, 2 (4), July 13, 2004, archived from the original (– Scholar search) on October 19, 2006
  4. ^ "Valor Awards for Eric Thor Olson". Military Times. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
  5. ^ "Face of Defense: Longest-serving Navy SEAL Retires". United States Department of Defense. September 29, 2009. Archived from the original on March 1, 2010.
  6. ^ "Longest Serving Navy SEAL Passes on Legacy Title". United States Navy. August 26, 2011.
  7. ^

External linksEdit

  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