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Quit dissing millennials, says retired admiral who led US special operations forces

U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McRaven makes remarks during his retirement ceremony on August 28, 2014. (SSG Sean K. Harp/Department of Defense)

“The good I have seen far outweighs the evil. So if you have any worries, if you have any worries about the current state of affairs, if you worry about where we’re going as a nation, if you worry about what’s going to happen as a world, we have great men and women who are coming up behind us,” McRaven said Friday.

McRaven, a retired four-star admiral whose final assignment was commander of all U.S. special operations forces, spoke Friday at the Forum Club of the Palm Beach, part of the promotional tour for his second book, “Sea Stories.” He’s also author of the earlier best-seller “Make Your Bed.”

The Forum Club is a gathering of the Palm Beach County business, political and legal establishments. But McRaven, who’s at times been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, steered clear of politics during his 30-minute speech and a short question-and-answer session.

McRaven, who served on the National Security Council staff under President George W. Bush and as a top military commander under President Barack Obama, said “both men had great integrity and character.” He said he didn’t agree with either one on every decision.

“Here’s the issue with being in the military. As long as the order is a legal offer, then you are obliged to follow that order,” he said. “If you don’t want to follow that order, it is easy: you resign.”

He said that is what happened with Trump’s defense secretary — “my great friend” James Mattis. Once Mattis concluded he could no longer support his commander in chief, he resigned.

In his 37 years as a Navy SEAL, McRaven oversaw the raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden, the terrorist behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the U.S., and he commanded the forces that captured Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi leader, and rescued Captain Richard Phillips, captain of the container ship captured by Somali pirates.

He’s seen the “worst of humanity,” he said, including Iraqi torture house and the results of Taliban “hit teams”

McRaven said Obama made a “courageous decision” in ordering the raid that went after bin Laden, because it wasn’t certain it would work or even that bin Laden was the person located by U.S. intelligence.

“Irrespective of your politics, you would have been very proud of the way the president and his national security team approached this,” he said. There was never discussion of the politics of what would happen if the raid had gone wrong, McRaven said. “People were just trying to do the right thing. They were just trying to do the right thing for the country.”

In the past, McRaven has faulted Trump for calling the press the “enemy of the people,” humiliating the U.S. in the world and dividing the country.

McRaven, who commanded many service members and served as chancellor of the University of Texas System from 2015 to 2018, said people who denigrate millennials are wrong. Millennials are part of the generation that became young adults early in the 21st Century.

“I am one of the biggest fans of the millennials you’ll ever meet, and I think that surprises people,” he said. “I hear this talk about the millennials, they’re pampered and they’re entitled and they’re soft. And I’m quick to point out you have never seen them in a firefight in Afghanistan.

“This is a great generation, and anybody who worries about the future of this country, spend a little time with these young kids and you really won’t worry about that much anymore,” McRaven said.


© 2019 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.