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First Commanding Officer of Seal Team Six Dies at Age 81

Richard 'Dick' Marcinko was tasked with designing the counter-terrorist team after the Iran hostage crisis in 1979

Richard “Dick” Marcinko, the first commanding officer of U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6, died Saturday at the age of 81.

“Last night, Christmas evening, we lost a hero, who’s also known as The Rogue Warrior, the retired Navy SEAL commander AND the creator of SEAL Team Six, my father, Richard Marcinko. His legacy will live forever. The man has died a true legend. Rest In Peace Dad. I love you forever,” tweeted Matt Marcinko.

Marcinko was memorialized in a statement from the Navy SEAL Museum:

Dick Marcinko played a very unique part in SEAL history, leaving a legacy like no other. ‘Demo Dick’ is considered the United States’ premier counterterrorism operator. We send our deepest sympathies to his family, teammates, and friends.”

Marcinko was born in 1940 in Lansford, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1958, eventually attaining the rank of commander. During his tenure with the Navy, he would earn a bachelor’s degree in international relations and a master’s degree in political science.

Marcinko was one of two Navy representatives on an unsuccessful task force intended to free American hostages during the Iran hostage crisis in 1979. That experience led him to found and lead two of the most influential units focused on anti-terrorism. 

Marcinko was the first commanding officer of SEAL Team 6 and RED CELL. Both are considered the military’s top anti-terrorism units. Marcinko was part of the founding team for both units, leaving a significant mark in the anti-terrorism protocol for the U.S. armed forces. 

Marcinko commanded SEAL Team 6 from August 1980 to July 1983.

SEAL Team 6 later carried out Operation Neptune Spear in Abbottabad, Pakistan, successfully killing al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May 2011. 

Despite his military success, Marcinko served 15 months in jail for allegedly conspiring with an Arizona arms dealer to receive $100,000 for securing a government firearms contract. He always denied the charges, however. Marcinko claimed he was set up by the Navy’s highest-ranking officers whom he allegedly embarrassed by exposing weakness and leadership failures within their units.

Marcinko authored several books, including his 1993 New York Times bestselling autobiography, “Rogue Warrior.”

Marcinko’s cause of death has not been shared at this time. 

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