Still, it seems that some people think the SEALs would be better off staying out of the headlines.
Retired Lt. Gen. James Vaught is one of those people.
The retired general blasted Special Operations Commander Adm. Bill McRaven at a meeting of the National Defense Industrial Association in Washington, D.C., telling him that the SEALs shouldn’t be calling so much attention to themselves.
“Since the time when your wonderful team went and drug bin Laden out and got rid of him, and more recently when you went down and rescued the group in Somalia, or wherever the hell they were, they’ve been splashing all of this all over the media,” Vaught, 85, said. “I flat don’t understand that.
“Now back when my special operators extracted Saddam [Hussein] from the hole, we didn’t say one damn word about it,” he continued. “We turned him over to the local commander and told him to claim that his forces drug him out of the hole, and he did so. And we just faded away and kept our mouth shut.
“Now I’m going to tell you, one of these days, if you keep publishing how you do this, the other guy’s going to be there ready for you, and you’re going to fly in and he’s going to shoot down every damn helicopter and kill every one of your SEALs. Now, watch it happen. Mark my words. Get the hell out of the media,” he concluded, as laughter broke out.
McRaven responded that he became a Navy SEAL because his sister was dating a special forces member and also because he became infatuated with the John Wayne movie, “The Green Beret”.
“The fact of the matter is, there have always been portrayals of SOF [Special Operations Forces] out in the mainstream media,” he said. “We are in an environment today where we can’t get away from it. It is not something that we actively pursue, as I think a number of the journalists here in the audience will confirm. But the fact of the matter is, with the social media being what it is today, with the press and the 24-hour news cycle, it’s very difficult to get away from it.”
He added that today’s constant news cycle could actually help Navy SEALs improve.
“We have had a few failures. And I think having those failures exposed in the media also kind of helps focus our attention, helps us do a better job. So sometimes the criticism…the spotlight on us actually makes us better,” McRaven said.
You can check out the awkward exchange below.