SOCOM Commander Criticized for Being Too Cozy With Media
A veteran of World War II, and the Korea and Vietnam wars, the 85 year old Vaught is a fixture at the National Defense Industrial Association's annual special operations/low intensity conflict conference held each February in Washington, D.C.
U.S. Special Operations Command Commander Adm. William H. McRaven found himself at the end of a Vaught harangue Feb. 7 as the one time Army special operations leader accused current leadership of being too cozy with reporters.
"Get the hell out of the media!" Vaught shouted into the microphone following McRaven's keynote speech. Details of the Osama bin Laden killing in Pakistan last year and the more recent rescue of kidnapping victims in Somalia were giving away sensitive special operations forces tactics, he said.
Next time, "You're going to fly in and they're going to shoot down everybody in the helicopter," he said. "You're splashing this all over the media, and I flat out don't understand that."
Vaught had a storied career in the military. He was considered one of the heroes of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. But he also oversaw Operation Eagle Claw, the failed attempt to rescue hostages held in Iran in 1980.
McRaven said one reason why he became a Navy SEAL was that he had seen the John Wayne move, The Green Berets.
He said it is not realistic today to stay away from the news media. "We are in an environment today where we can't get away from it," he added. "It is not something we actively pursue, as many of the journalists here in the audience will confirm."
Not only does the media focus on SOF successes, but it also points out the failures, he said. "I think having those failures exposed in the media also kind of helps focus our attention and helps us do a better job," McRaven said.
Vaught said in his day, when a "high value" target was captured, special operators would turn them over to local conventional forces commanders, let them take credit, and then fade into the background.
McRaven's comments came weeks before the premiere of a documentary, Act of Valor, which will be widely released in movie theaters later this month. One reporter at the conference noted that he must obscure the faces of special operators for security reasons, but the film is promoting itself as starring active duty SEALs. Their faces have been exposed in television advertisements.
McRaven said Act of Valor began its life as a recruitment video that aimed to bring more minorities into the special forces. It evolved into a mainstream movie with a theatrical release. Seven of the eight SEALs featured are still on active duty, he noted. They all volunteered to be in the film, and they said they were not concerned that exposing their faces would not be a threat to them or their families. He said no secret tactics, techniques or procedures are shown in the film.