Navy SEALs Transfer Command at Special Operations

Departing SOCOM Commander Adm. Eric Olson visited with Afghan leaders as part of his job. Photo courtesy of the Dept. of Defense.

Hailed as a true legend among Special Forces and as the first four star Navy SEAL, Admiral Eric Olson stepped down Monday as Commander of U.S. Special Operations after leading the joint command at MacDill Air Force Base for more than four years.

Olson said his Change of Command ceremony, attended by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, was made even more poignant by the deaths of 22 SEALs, three Air Force and five Army aviators over the weekend.

“This is a force in which America can be and should be intensely proud and it is a force that America surely needs,” Olson said. “Osama bin Laden is dead but Al Qaeda version 2.0 is brewing.”

New SOCOM Commader Adm. Bill McRaven passes the Special Operations Command flag to Command Sgt. Maj. Tommy Smith. Photo courtesy of SOCOM.

The loss of 30 U.S. Special Operations forces was foremost on the mind of Panetta as he oversaw the SOCOM ceremony in Tampa.

“They were far from home, but we know that they were also where they wanted to be doing what they wanted to do alongside men who were perhaps closer to them than their own brothers,” Panetta said making his first public comments since the losses.

“As heavy a loss as this was, it would even be more tragic if we allowed it to derail this country from our efforts to defeat Al Qaeda and deny them a safe haven in Afghanistan,” Panetta said.

The ceremony was broadcast live from MacDill on the Pentagon Channel and transmitted worldwide to Special Operations teams in remote settings. Those forces witnessed the transfer of the colors from Adm. Olson to their new commander, Adm. Bill McRaven who also is a Navy SEAL.

“The world today is as unpredictable as ever,” McRaven said. “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.”

McRaven then told the Secretary of Defense that Special Forces will not let him down.

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