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William Harry McRaven (born November 6, 1955) is a retired United States Navy admiral who last served as the ninth commander of the United States Special Operations Command from August 8, 2011, to August 28, 2014. From 2015 to 2018, he was the chancellor of The University of Texas System.

William McRaven
ADM William H. McRaven 2012.jpg
Birth nameWilliam Harry McRaven
Born (1955-11-06) November 6, 1955 (age 63)
Pinehurst, North Carolina, U.S.
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service1977–2014
RankUS Navy O10 infobox.svg Admiral
Commands heldU.S. Special Operations Command
Joint Special Operations Command
Special Operations Command Europe
Naval Special Warfare Group 1
SEAL Team 3
SEAL Team 6[citation needed]
Battles/warsPersian Gulf War
 • Operation Desert Shield
 • Operation Desert Storm
Operation Enduring Freedom
 • War in Afghanistan
Iraq War
Operation Neptune Spear
AwardsDefense Distinguished Service Medal ribbon.svg Defense Distinguished Service Medal (3)
Defense Superior Service Medal ribbon.svg Defense Superior Service Medal (2)
Legion of Merit ribbon.svg Legion of Merit (2)
Bronze Star Medal ribbon.svg Bronze Star Medal (2)
Spouse(s)Georgeann Brady McRaven

McRaven previously served from June 13, 2008, to August 2011 as commander of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC)[1] and from June 2006 to March 2008 as commander of Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR).[1] 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.[2]


Early lifeEdit

McRaven was born on November 6, 1955, 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. He attended Theodore Roosevelt High School where he took part in track.[3] He is the son of Anna Elizabeth (Long) and Col. Claude C. "Mac" McRaven, a Spitfire fighter pilot in World War II[4][5] who played briefly in the NFL.[6] 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.[7] Additionally, 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.

In 2012, McRaven—along with former First Lady Laura Bush, Charles Matthews, Melinda Perrin, Julius Glickman and Hector Ruiz—was named a Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Texas.[8][9]


Special operationsEdit

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) graduating with Class 95 in 1978. As a Navy SEAL officer, McRaven was deployed to the Philippines.[10] In 1982, as a junior officer McRaven was assigned to SEAL Team Six under the command of CDR Richard Marcinko but was pushed out in 1983 due to McRaven's concerns about a culture of recklessness, military discipline, and difficulties in keeping his sailors in line. Richard Marcinko fired the 27-year-old McRaven after a year. "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." (Time magazine 12/04/2011) [11] McRaven later returned as a squadron commander at Naval Special Warfare Development Group, and has commanded at every level within the special operations community, including assignments as platoon commander at Underwater Demolition Team 21/SEAL Team Four, Executive Officer of SEAL Team One, task unit commander during the Persian Gulf War, task group commander in the CENTCOM area of responsibility, deputy commander for operations at JSOC, Commodore of Naval Special Warfare Group 1 from 1999 to 2001 and commanding officer of SEAL Team Three at Coronado, CA.

McRaven earned his master's 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).[12]

McRaven has also 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.

Georgeann Brady McRaven, McRaven's wife, and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta affix Navy Adm. William H. McRaven's new rank as a Four-Star Admiral at a U.S. Special Operations Command ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base, in Tampa, Florida, August 8, 2011
(L-R) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaks with William McRaven, at a reception at the LBJ Presidential Library, in the background, at center, is Carmel Fenves, wife of University of Texas at Austin president Greg Fenves

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,[13] 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, including "additional drones and the construction of new special operations facilities".[14] After the Armed Services committee hearings, in late June, McRaven was confirmed unanimously by the Senate for his promotion to full Admiral and as commander of USSOCOM[15] 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".[6]

Operation Neptune SpearEdit

McRaven is credited for organizing and overseeing the execution of Operation Neptune Spear,[16] the special ops raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011. CIA Director Leon Panetta delegated the raid to McRaven, who had worked almost exclusively on counter-terrorism operations and strategy since 2001.[16]

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."[17] 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".[17] 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.[18][19]

In December 2011, McRaven was runner-up for Time Person of the Year for his role in the operation.[20]

Retirement from the militaryEdit

In June 2014, it was announced that Admiral McRaven had his request for retirement approved after a 37-year career.[21] Admiral McRaven retired from the U.S. Navy on 1 September 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.[22][23]

The University of Texas System (UT System) ChancellorEdit

Admiral McRaven was selected the lone finalist for the chancellor of the University of Texas System on July 29, 2014.[24][25] McRaven began this role in January 2015.[26] On December 15, 2017, McRaven announced that he is stepping down from the role of Chancellor in 2018.[27]

Dispute with President TrumpEdit

"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[28]

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.[28] 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."[29]

In a November 18, 2018, interview on Fox News, Chris Wallace mentioned McRaven's name. Trump retorted twice, "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."[30] 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".[31]

Personal lifeEdit

McRaven is the son of a career Air Force officer.[32] McRaven is married to Georgeann Brady McRaven.[33] They have three children.[34] McRaven attended the 2012 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner as the guest of his fifth grade classmate, Karen Tumulty.[35]

Awards and decorationsEdit


  • 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.

In mediaEdit

  • 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 8,000,000 views on YouTube.[36][37][38]
  • He was portrayed by Christopher Stanley in the 2012 film Zero Dark Thirty.
  • McRaven is mentioned in "Betrayed: The Shocking True Story of Extortion 17 as told by a Navy SEAL's Father" by Billy Vaughn, which is about the death of SEAL team 6 members involved in Operation Neptune spear.[39]


  This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Navy document "Admiral William H. McRaven".

  1. ^ a b "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.
  2. ^ "Navy SEAL behind bin Laden mission hails from San Antonio". KENS. May 4, 2011. Retrieved May 4, 2011.
  3. ^ "McRaven confirmed as new UT system chancellor". Army Times. Associated Press. August 21, 2014. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  4. ^ "Claude McRaven Obituary - Austin, TX - Austin American-Statesman". Austin American-Statesman.
  5. ^ Lloyd, Jennifer R. (August 2, 2014). "Adm. McRaven will bring fearlessness, humble nature to UT System". San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved June 19, 2015.
  6. ^ a b Levesque, William R. (August 9, 2011). "SOCom gets new commander in ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved August 9, 2011.
  7. ^ Christian, Carol (May 3, 2011). "Head of unit that killed bin Laden has Texas ties". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved May 4, 2011.
  8. ^ "The lowdown on higher education". Austin American-Statesman. May 8, 2012. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  9. ^ "All Hail the Texas Exes' 2012 Distinguished Alumni". The Alcalde. May 2012. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  10. ^ Gal Perl Finkel (March 7, 2017). "A New Strategy Against ISIS". The Jerusalem Post.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Flag Officer Announcements". (Press release). Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs). April 6, 2011. Retrieved May 4, 2011.
  14. ^ Turse, Nick (August 4, 2011). "A Secret War in 120 Countries: The Pentagon's New Power Elite". CounterPunch. Retrieved August 5, 2011.
  15. ^ Ahearn, Dave (July 2011). "Editor's Perspective". Special Operations Technology. 9 (5). Retrieved August 5, 2011.
  16. ^ a b Whitlock, Craig (May 4, 2011). "Osama bin Laden dead: Hamas condemns killing of bin Laden". The Washington Post. London. Retrieved May 4, 2011.
  17. ^ a b 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.
  18. ^ "Judicial Watch v. DoD, 13-cv-1343 (JDB)" (PDF). Judicial Watch. January 31, 2014. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  19. ^ McConnell, Dugald (February 11, 2014). "Admiral's e-mail on photos of Osama bin Laden's corpse: 'Destroy them'". CNN. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  20. ^ Gellman, Barton (December 14, 2011). "William McRaven: The Admiral". Time Magazine.
  21. ^ Wright, Austin (July 1, 2014). "McRaven Approved for Retirement". Politico: Morning Defense. Retrieved June 19, 2015.
  22. ^ "Longest Serving Navy SEAL Passes on Legacy Title". United States Navy. August 26, 2011.
  23. ^ Caruso, Robert (July 14, 2014). "Opinion: The Legacy of Adm. William McRaven". United States Naval Institute.
  24. ^ Hamilton, Reeve (July 25, 2014). "UT System Expected to Name New Chancellor on Tuesday". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved June 19, 2015.
  25. ^ Vertuno, Jim (July 29, 2014). "University of Texas Picking William McRaven As New Chancellor". Retrieved June 19, 2015.
  26. ^ "UT regents confirm McRaven as next system chancellor - Austin Business Journal". August 4, 2014. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  27. ^ "McRaven to Step Down as Chancellor in 2018". The University of Texas System. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
  28. ^ a b McRaven, William (August 16, 2018). "Revoke my security clearance, too, Mr. President". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 16, 2018.
  29. ^ "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.
  30. ^ CNN, Jake Tapper and Devan Cole. "Architect of bin Laden raid: Trump 'threatens the Constitution' when he attacks the media". Retrieved November 19, 2018.
  31. ^ Samuels, Brett, Trump stokes new unlikely feud, The Hill, November 19, 2018
  32. ^ "James B. Milliken Biography". University of Texas System. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
  33. ^ "The full interview with the 2011 Texan of the Year, Bill McRaven". Dallas Morning News. December 24, 2011. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  34. ^ "The Quiet Professional". The Alcalde. Texas Exes. June 24, 2011. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  35. ^ Parker, Kathleen (May 1, 2012). "The unknown celebrity". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 3, 2012.
  36. ^ William H. McRaven (2014). University of Texas at Austin 2014 Commencement Address. Austin, Texas. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
  37. ^ William H. McRaven (May 23, 2014). University of Texas at Austin 2014 Commencement Address - Admiral William H. McRaven. Austin, Texas. Retrieved May 27, 2014.
  38. ^ Paul Caron, ed. (May 26, 2014). "Ten Life Lessons From Navy SEAL Training (transcript)". Retrieved May 27, 2014.
  39. ^ Cahnman (July 10, 2015). "Cahnman's Musings: Book Review: Betrayed, by Billy Vaughn". Cahnman's Musings. Retrieved April 7, 2019.

External linksEdit

Military offices
Preceded by
Stanley McChrystal
Commander of Joint Special Operations Command
Succeeded by
Joseph Votel
Preceded by
Eric Olson
Commander of United States Special Operations Command
Academic offices
Preceded by
Francisco G. Cigarroa
Chancellor of the University of Texas System
Succeeded by
James Milliken