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News > USSOCOM holds historic change of command
Change of Command
U.S Navy Adm. Eric Olson salutes after taking over as the eighth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command in a ceremony presided over by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at the Tampa Convention Center, July 9. Courtesy Photo.
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USSOCOM holds historic change of command

Posted 7/22/2007   Updated 7/22/2007 Email story   Print story


by Mike Bottoms and Master Sgt. Laura LeBeau
USSOCOM Public Affairs

7/22/2007 - Tampa, FL -- Adm. Eric Olson became the first Navy officer to command U.S. Special Operations Command when Army Gen. Doug Brown turned the helm over to him at a 10 a.m. ceremony July 9 at the Tampa Convention Center.

Admiral Olson, 55, a Navy SEAL for 34 years and the first SEAL to achieve four-star rank, assumed duties as commander of USSOCOM from General Brown. who has led USSOCOM for almost four years and is the command's longest serving commander. He's retiring after 40 years of service to the nation.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates presided over the ceremony and praised General Brown for the work he and the command have accomplished synchronizing the Global War on Terrorism.

"He came to this post four years ago determined to improve the way special operators fight," Mr. Gates said. "He has done just that."

General Brown also streamlined the command and made it more efficient, the secretary said. He's responsible for the creation of the Center for Special Operations. The changes allowed different special operations specialties to build on each other rather than compete. Mr. Gates praised the intelligence community for working side by side with special operators, "fusing their expertise and planning to greatly improve results."

General Brown began his remarks by thanking all the wounded warriors and special operation forces Medal of Honor recipients in attendance at the ceremony. He also thanked Congress and particularly Congressman Bill Young from Florida's 10th Congressional District.

"We're honored to have the Honorable Bill Young and his wife Beverly here today, representing our Congress. The importance of Congress to this command cannot really be over emphasized because it is, in fact, responsible for establishing this organization," General Brown said. "I like to think the vision Congress had 20 years ago this year has really proven its relevancy today."

General Brown noted Admiral Olson has all the abilities to be a great commander.

"As we leave this stage, a new commander will be at the reigns of 'the world's gold standard for special ops,' and he is the right guy," General Brown said. "I have marveled at his intellect, his insight, his vision, his hard work, his patience, his courage to make the hard decision and his understanding of all the parts of SOF... He is a wonderful joint SOF operator who also happens to be a SEAL."

Mr. Gates also expressed confidence Admiral Olson will build on General Brown's good work, noting the admiral has vast joint experience in special operations. He praised Admiral Olson's reputation for always giving the unvarnished truth.

"There is no mistaking his combination of courage, experience and leadership," Mr. Gates said. "I want you to continue your custom of giving honest opinions and recommendations -- with the bark off and straight from the shoulder."
Admiral Olson thanked General Brown and reminded everyone of the importance of USSOCOM's mission.

"It is an honor to take command and to continue the great work of General Brown," Admiral Olson said. "I intend to reinforce our enduring priorities: to deter, disrupt and defeat terrorist threats; develop and support our people and take care of their families; and modernize our force."

Admiral Olson graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1973. The Tacoma, Wash., native has served at every level in SEAL and naval special warfare units from SEAL platoon officer-in-charge to the command of Naval Special Warfare Command. In addition to serving in SEAL teams, SEAL delivery vehicle teams and special boat squadrons, he's a joint specialty officer and political-military affairs sub-specialist with emphasis on Africa and the Middle East. 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.

In October 1993, Admiral Olson played a key role during the battle in Mogadishu, Somalia. After a pair of Army Black Hawk helicopters were shot down by enemy fire, Admiral Olson helped organize and lead a relief team to the crash sites. He was awarded a Silver Star, the military's third highest award for combat valor.

Admiral Olson earned a Master of Arts degree in National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School and studied both Arabic and French at the Defense Language Institute. He has participated in several conflicts and contingency operations, and his awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star and the Bronze Star with valor.

Admrial Olson becomes the eighth USSOCOM commander. The prior seven commanders include General Brown, Air Force Gen. Charles Holland, Army Gens. Peter Schoomaker, Hugh Shelton, Wayne Downing, Carl Stiner and James Lindsay.

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