Admiral William H. McRaven – currently a four-star Admiral of the United States Navy – was born on November 6, 1955 in Pinehurst, NC.  Admiral McRaven, commander of the US Joint Special Operations Command, is most recently noted for his involvement in Operation Neptune Spear, in which US Navy Special forces DEVGRU, hunted, located and killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. 

Click here to view a brief Armed Forces History Museum video on the movie “Zero Dark Thirty” 

Before the Attack

Admiral McRaven has held every level of command within special operations.  On September 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked the United States McRaven, then a Navy SEAL Captain, was in the hospital recuperating from a sky diving accident that left him with a broken pelvis and back.   The four SEAL teams under McRaven’s command had trained for such an incident, but McRaven soon found it necessary to step down from command. 


A decade later, William H. McRaven - recovered from his injuries - had risen up through the ranks.  Meanwhile, Osama bin Laden had remained evasive and was still alive.  Their paths were now destined to cross. 


The Planning Begins

Reports mention that then Vice-Admiral McRaven, commander of the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command, was called to the CIA’s headquarters in Langely, VA by its director, Leon Panetta.  The two discussed the compound where bin Laden was thought to hiding and began to lay the plans for a military strike.  For the next several weeks, Admiral McRaven would use his covert background while working with the CIA on this plan.  He devised three possible options:

1)       An assault using a helicopter and US Navy SEALs

2)      An air strike using B2 bombers to destroy the compound

3)      A joint raid with Pakistan, in which their intelligence operatives would only learn about the mission a few hours prior to its launch.


Operation Neptune Spear

On May 1, 2011, President Obama gave the go-ahead and McRaven commanded the helicopter assault against bin Laden.  The mission ensued in Abbottabad, Pakistan while Admiral McRaven – in Jalalabad, Afghanistan – maintained a secure link with the White House and kept President Obama briefed on the operation as it progressed.  Reports state Admiral McRaven maintained a calm and steady voice even as a downed helicopter was being intentionally destroyed. 


The DEVGRU team moved into the compound and began searching from room to room.  Within a few minutes, Admiral McRaven stepped away from the screen.  After a few moments of eerie silence, he returned to his chair and reported “…we have a call of ‘Geronimo EKIA’”, (enemy killed in action).  That quickly, the hunt for al Qaeda’s iconic leader, Osama bin Laden, was over.  Operation Neptune Spear, headed up by US Navy four-star Admiral William McRaven, was a success.