Insights on Megatrends Affecting Global Security, Economics, and Politics

Special Guest Speaker: Admiral Eric T. Olson, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Admiral Eric T. Olson retired from military service after more than 38 years in uniform, at which time he was the “Bull Frog,” the longest serving Navy SEAL on duty. His last assignment was in command of the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). Comprising all special operations forces from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, USSOCOM ensures their readiness and, as directed, conducts specialized operations worldwide. Olson was the first three- and then the first four-star Navy SEAL, as well as the first naval officer to be USSOCOM’s combatant commander.

A senior member of the United States National Defense team, Olson is often described as one of this century’s great military leaders and credited with developing the specialized forces that have accomplished some of the most notable military operations of the last decade, the raid on Osama bin Laden prominent among them. During his tenure as America’s top special operations officer, he was responsible for recruiting, training, equipping, and deploying broadly capable forces worldwide. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said, “As a result of his hard work, we now have the best-trained, the best-equipped, and the most experiences Special Operations Force in the history of the United States.” He is sometimes described as “the most important man you never heard of,” in keeping with his low-key demeanor.

A native of Tacoma, Washington, Eric graduated from the United States Naval Academy and qualified as a Naval Special Warfare officer (Navy SEAL). He served in several operational units and was a SEAL instructor and tactics development officer. His overseas assignments included Israel, Tunisia and numerous deployments to contingencies and conflicts. Prior to leading USSOCOM, Olson commanded SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team One, Special Boat Squadron TWO, Naval Special Warfare Development Group and Naval Special Warfare Command – a total of over 14 years in command.

Olson earned a Master of Arts degree in National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School with an emphasis on Africa and the Middle East. He is a two-time graduate of the Defense Language Institute, in Arabic and French. His military awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal (for service) and Silver Star Medal (for gallantry in action) and Bronze Star Medal (for valor). He was also decorated by three foreign nations, to include appointment as an Officer in the French Legion of Honor. Olson has been recognized by several civilian organizations for his leadership and service.

Eric is now an independent consultant who serves on public, private, and non-profit boards of directors, provides strategic advice to several companies, and teaches a graduate course at an Ivy League University. He has been married for 35 years and has two grown children.

Olson’s personal operational experiences were diverse, marked by valor and strong leadership. He is known as a visionary and action-oriented leader who stayed connected with his forces at all levels. Having developed the best of the best, Admiral Eric T. Olson addresses building, training, and leading highly effective teams and our nation’s geopolitical challenges.