Richard Marcinko, who died at the age of 81, was the founder of Seal Team Six, one of America’s finest special forces organisations that would later carry out a fatal raid against Osama Bin Laden.
He was a Vietnam War veteran who headed the group for the first three years and received over 30 medals and honours throughout his US Navy career.
His direct and caustic leadership style was extremely effective, although it frequently generated friction with superiors. Some have accused him of instilling a “bad boy” ethos in Seal Team Six.
Marcinko endured legal issues off the battlefield, and he was briefly imprisoned for cheating the US government.
Despite this, at the conclusion of the Cold War, he was instrumental in bolstering America’s counter-terrorism capabilities.
Seal Team Six’s place in military folklore and popular culture was cemented by his larger-than-life attitude and autobiography Rogue Warrior.
‘I’m a good soldier.’
Marcinko was born in 1940 in Lansford, Pennsylvania, a tiny mining town.
Marcinko recalled in Rogue Warrior that his parents were immigrants from Slovakia and Herzegovina, and that all the men in his family worked as miners.
“I think some of them might have wished to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, but most were too impoverished to afford boots,” he wrote.
Marcinko attempted to enlist in the US Marines after dropping out of high school but was turned down due to his lack of a high school diploma.
He joined the US Navy at the age of 18 and served as a commissioned officer with Seal Team Two in Vietnam in 1967.
Marcinko was awarded the Vietnamese Cross for Gallantry and the first of four Bronze Stars throughout the War.
Because of his wartime accomplishments, he claimed in his book that the North Vietnamese had set a premium on his head.
He previously told People Magazine, “I’m terrific at battle.” “Even in Vietnam, the system prevented me from killing as many enemy soldiers as I would have liked.”
Admirals kidnapped and bar fights
Marcinko was promoted to command Seal Team Two in 1974-76 after two tours in Vietnam and stints in the United States and Cambodia.
In 1980, the US attempted but failed to rescue 53 Americans held prisoner at the country’s embassy in Iran, called Eagle Claw.
Marcinko was picked to oversee a new, dedicated counter-terrorism unit for the navy as a result of the disaster.
At the time, there were only two Seal (Sea, Air, and Land) teams, therefore he named his new outfit Seal Team Six to confuse hostile nations about the size of the force.
He put in a lot of training time with the new battalion, boasting that they possessed more ammunition than the whole US Marine Corps.
He also developed a reputation for breaking the regulations, giving Seal Team Six a rebellious image in the military.
Drinking together – and occasionally getting into bar fights – was vital for team bonding, he writes in Rogue Warrior.
But not everyone in the military liked the team’s “bad boy” attitude, including William McRaven (now an admiral), who joined Seal Team Six as a junior officer and eventually led the attack on Bin Laden in 2011.
The officer was temporarily pulled out of the battalion after complaining about difficulty keeping his troops in line.
Despite these reservations, Marcinko was praised for his efforts and was given a three-year command at a time when two-year commands were the standard.
Following his stint with Seal Team Six, the navy asked him to form Red Cell, a secret organisation that would test security at military and intelligence locations.
Among other things, the squad was able to install bombs near Air Force One and penetrate a nuclear submarine station.
‘A never-ending desire to succeed’
Marcinko left the Navy in 1989 and later ran into legal issues, which he blamed on his success with Red Cell.
He was convicted of cheating the government over hand grenade contracts in 1990. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison, but was released after 15 months.
In 1992, he informed that his Red Cell adventures had embarrassed US Navy officials, and that he’d been “singled out.”
Admiral James Lyons, who chose Marcinko to run Red Cell, denied that there was any sort of grudge. “The general take was that Red Cell was a good thing,” he told People Magazine, adding that Marcinko might “get carried away.”
Millions of copies of Rogue Warrior were sold. Marcinko also co-wrote several works of military fiction, owned a private security agency, had a radio talk show, and acted as a consultant for films and television shows such as 24, among other things.
Marcinko is the protagonist of the first-person shooter video game Rogue Warrior, which was released in 2009 and was voiced by actor Mickey Rourke. It was largely regarded as one of the worst games ever developed by critics.
Marcinko has left an indelible impression on the US military and counter-terrorism skills, despite being a divisive figure in some quarters.
“I always valued his daring, brilliance, and unrelenting quest for achievement,” Admiral McRaven told that “even though we had occasional disagreements.” “I hope his various contributions to the Seal community will be remembered.”