Tuesday, October 29, 2013

OSS Society Honors Admiral William H. McRaven: Washington's Intelligence Community Comes Out For A Gala "Spy" Prom

Carol Ross Joynt at the Washingtonian offers a piece on the OSS Society's event honoring Navy SEAL Admiral William H. McRaven (seen in the above Navy photo).

No one in the ballroom came right out and shouted, “William McRaven for elected office!” but the idea hovered like a thought bubble over the OSS Society’s William J. Donovan Award Dinner Saturday night, where the commander of US Special Operations was honored—including by President Obama—and even sounded himself a bit like a candidate.

The annual celebration commemorating the World War II spy agency and predecessor of the CIA—for the intelligence and special operations communities, it’s the prom and the Oscars wrapped in one—is a time for reminiscing and gossiping for both the smooth-skinned, ramrod-spined young operatives and the retired spies and warriors with more medals than hair or teeth. But McRaven, the Navy admiral who oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL mission that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden and who received the Donovan award, gave this year’s gathering a political edge.

... McRaven was the last act after at least nine toasts, as many speeches, and several videos (including one of soldiers singing a spoof of At The Hop), a jazz performance, and repeated standing ovations. It probably helped that waiting for each guest at his or her place, was a gin martini with onions, to be raised in a toast to Ernest Hemingway, who famously liberated the Paris Ritz at the same time as the allies liberated Paris. It’s a ritual of the dinner.

McRaven did not equivocate. “I often hear disillusioned officers and noncommissioned officers ask, ‘Why aren’t we more like the OSS?’ Well, ladies and gentlemen, I am here tonight to tell you that the OSS is back,” he said, emphatically. “Not since World War II has there been such a lethal combination of intelligence officers and special operations warriors. Not since the fight against Hitler have we had such a talented group of government civilians, intellectuals, businessmen, writers, philosophers, engineers, tinkers, tailors, soldiers, and spies.” He took a pause before declaring, “but, still, there will be some who doubt this resurgence. So let me put those doubts to rest.”

McRaven noted that over the past dozen years he has worked side by side “with my intelligence counterparts” all over the world, “in every war zone, declared and undeclared.” He described the modern Navy SEAL arsenal, a kind of fantasy list for spy geeks. That includes craft that move “on the water and under the water. We have big planes and little planes and littler planes. We have submarines and mini-subs. We have scuba rigs and jet boots that propel us under water. We have jet skis and kayaks, we have motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles. We have high-definition sensors that look like rocks. We Tweet and Google and Bing. We are building an Ironman suit that will test the limits of technology and entrepreneurship.”

Lest anyone think SEAL life is all about gadgets, he went on to describe the modern intelligence and special operations recruit. “They come from all walks of life. They are New Yorkers and Texans. Big city and small towns. They are Ivy League and community college. They are bikers, lawyers, poets and musicians, geeks and old school, officers and enlisted, uniformed and suits; they speak Farsi, Pashtu, Somali, Chinese, Arabic, and Hangul.” 

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:


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