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UT Alum Led Unit That Attacked Osama bin Laden

Vice Adm. William H. McRaven commanded the unit that killed Osama bin Laden. He is also a graduate of UT's journalism program.
Photo by U.S. Navy
Vice Adm. William H. McRaven commanded the unit that killed Osama bin Laden. He is also a graduate of UT's journalism program.

The man who commanded the unit that shot and killed Osama bin Laden this week is a graduate of the University of Texas journalism program. The Daily Texan reports that Vice Adm. William H. McRaven graduated in 1977.

“I was fascinated that somebody with a journalism degree had gone to special forces and been a SEAL,” said retired Adm. Bobby Inman, a professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. “He has demonstrated that he is truly a distinguished graduate of the University.”

McRaven was chosen in March to head up the U.S. Special Operations Command, a unit with about 57,000 military employees including active duty soldiers.  Prior to that, McRaven was in charge of one of the most secretive agencies in the military, the Joint Special Operations Command.

The San Antonio native was not on the ground during the operation to kill bin Laden, but he was in charge of the unit and was watching a real-time video feed of soldiers storming the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, MSNBC reports.

According to current and former officials, CIA Director Leon Panetta was also able to watch the operation in real time from the CIA, conferring live with Vice Admiral William H. McRaven, head of the Joint Special Operations Command, who was in Afghanistan.

In a piece on McRaven from 2004, Newsweek said his thesis from the Naval Postgraduate School is now required reading for Special Ops commanders.

"Bill is reputed to be the smartest SEAL that ever lived," says a former commander who knows McRaven well. "He is physically tough, compassionate and can drive a knife through your ribs in a nanosecond." According to his former boss at the White House, Gen. Wayne Downing, "if anybody is smart and cunning enough to get [bin Laden], McRaven and the Delta and SEAL Team Six guys he now commands will do it."

The soldiers whom McRaven commanded are considered to be the most elite warriors in the United States military, reports The Nation.

Col. W. Patrick Lang, a retired Special Forces officer with extensive operational experience throughout the Muslim world, described JSOC’s forces as “sort of like Murder, Incorporated.” He told The Nation: “Their business is killing Al Qaeda personnel. That’s their business. They’re not in the business of converting anybody to our goals or anything like that.” Shortly after the operation was made public, retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey called JSOC’s operators the “most dangerous people on the face of the earth.”


Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.
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