February 7th, 2012
04:32 PM ET

Elite troops' commander told: 'Get the hell out of the media!'

By CNN Pentagon Producer Larry Shaughnessy

There's a saying that old soldiers just "fade away," but retired Army Lt. Gen. James Vaught, who is known for being unconventional, sure isn't fading away.

Vaught on Tuesday scolded Adm. William McRaven - head of Special Operations Command and the officer who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden - for all the attention his elite troops have been getting lately.

"One of these days if you keep publishing how you do this, the other guy's gonna be there waiting for you and you're gonna fly in and he's gonna shoot down every darn helicopter," Vaught said with passion and even a bit of shouting. "Get the hell out of the media!"

His warning came in a question-and-answer session that followed McRaven's address at a Washington symposium on Special Operations Forces.

Vaught is no average retired general. His time in the Army dates back to World War II. He served in Korea and was in Vietnam during the Tet offensive. He eventually worked his way up to be the commander of the task force that tried to rescue the U.S. hostages in Iran in 1979.

The failure of that mission is a milestone in the creation of today's U.S. Special Operations Command.
McRaven said he understood Vaught's concerns.

"I take your point sir," he said. "We don't ever want to get to the point where our sensitive tactics, techniques and procedures are open for everybody to take a look at so that next time we come in on a target we are exposed."

Still, McRaven, who until his latest promotion was rather media shy, argued some media attention is good for the Special Operations Command, which encompasses elite troops in all service branches.

"You can't pick up a paper without seeing some reference to Special Operations, and I'm very proud of that fact," McRaven said.

He added it's also unavoidable: "With the social media what it is today, with the press and the 24-hour news cycle, it's very difficult to get away from it. But not only does the media focus on our successes, we've had a few failures. And I think having those failures exposed in the media also helps focus our attention, helps us do a better job."

A new film about Navy SEALs, "Act of Valor," got a high-profile push with advertisements during the Super Bowl.

The film bills itself as a "motion picture starring active duty Navy SEALS." Special Operations Forces are rarely publicly identified, but McRaven said this movie is not exposing SEALs who were supposed to remain in the shadows.

"It was initially started as recruiting film so that we could help recruit minorities into the teams. If you've seen the trailer, we think it accurately represents a number of the acts of valor," McRaven said.

He told the symposium's audience that the new film, which was started five years ago, also shows the bigger American military at its best. "You'll see that there are special warfare combatant craft crewmen, there is the big Navy, big Air Force. I mean, admittedly it focuses on the SEALs, but it shows that support of the broader services."

His support of a Hollywood movie of the Navy SEALs while at the same time keeping very secret the names of the SEALs who took part in perhaps the greatest Special Operations mission ever, the bin Laden raid, perhaps dates back to his start in the military.

"One of the reasons I became a Navy SEAL was that my sister was dating a Green Beret, and the green beret actually convinced me to become a Navy SEAL," he said. "But the reason I was so infatuated was I'd seen this movie starring John Wayne called 'The Green Berets.' So the fact of the matter is there have always been portrayals of (Special Operations Forces) out in the mainstream media."

He did not say what became of his sister's romance with the Green Beret.

Filed under: Navy SEALs • Special Operations Forces • USSOCOM
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  20. Bud

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    March 3, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Reply
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      March 3, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Reply
  21. ;)

    R.L.T.W. just saying

    March 3, 2012 at 12:29 am | Reply
  22. D

    Spec ops are unconventional soldiers... Not necessarily assassins. the job gets done because of the support and will power. And sure the whole deal about seal team six is all over the media there plenty of other units not heard or hardly exposed in the media ( like MARSOC, AFSOC, the activity, etc.) I'm not gonna pretend like I know too much, but know that this stuff gets done because of these men's bravery and will power – having the guts is just as MOREor less as important as having the tactics. I am a former SOWT candidate, medically discharged but am re-enlisting in a couple weeks for another chance.

    March 2, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Reply
  23. newman

    I'm 75 and would like to be a Navy Seal or mascot.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:23 pm | Reply
  24. Jo

    17 years old, Joined the Military, 1979, 1st of the 506th Infantry 101st Airborne Division Ft Campbell KY. 5th Special Forces, SOG, (Special Operations Group) Ft Bragg NC, Since Moved to Ft Campbell Because of the Nightstalkers aviation Wing stationed there, Operation Urgent Fury, (Grenada), Operation Just Cause, and Nifty Package) The hunt and capture of General Noriega, in Panama. Operation Desert Storm, Iraq, Operation Enduring Freedom Afghanistan. Currently Serving in Afghanistan. Master Sergeant. I can tell you from experience that the Media Puts our Teams in jeopardy. It started with Iraq in Kuwait. They started televising the war, and had new's teams traveling with troops. Before this we were unknown, and we like it this way. Now there are documentaries on the Military channel, and Movies with Active duty Spec Op's, They might as well inform the Al-Qaeda Top Commanders that we are coming for them before we even launch a raid. We are currently training Afghan Regulars Guerrilla techniques, and I can tell you that 85% of their regular army is illiterate, but they would die for us. Point in case, 3 month's ago while conducting a raid on a suspected Al-Qaeda strong point, an Afghan Regular wounded (By accident) one of my team members in the leg. The man felt so bad he rushed a machine gun nest and was wounded in the chest. I am glad to report he survived, and is back with his unit. To all of you that only know about this war from what you read, and then spout off with all this accumulated knowledge. I would say shut the hell up! You don't live this day to day, and until you do. your viewpoints don't count for Sh#*. The Media Put's us in more danger now than it ever has. I would say to the media that you need to do more reporting on issue's that are happening in our country and stop putting us in danger. Loose Lip's Sink Ship's.

    February 28, 2012 at 11:53 am | Reply
    • Ana

      I respect and agree with your comments. I identified with you due that my son is in the Army. You are constantly in danger. Imaging how parents feel, it is not easy and we live constantly in fear.
      God bless you! We love you.

      February 29, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Reply
    • Ray

      Jo, I completely agree with you on all points. I got my stripes during operation Desert Storm and served my combat tour and agree that unless a person has served it is impossible to understand. I am still opposed to any of the "imbedded reporters" following our soldiers around. It still gets to me knowing these reporters are allowed to do this, I say if you want to do some good for our country, enlist and join us, otherwise get the hell out of here. One other thing I'd like to see is a change of the rules who can lead our country. As President of our country I would prefer he or she would be a veteran of one of the branches of our military.

      March 6, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Reply
    • chris

      I find your story very suspect. If you joined in 79 you have 32 years in and your a Master SGT still BS. Big Spot light you wrote SOG, (Special Operations Group) it is Special Forces Group No one in Group would say SOG not since Vietnam I think your a faker watch what stories you tell you could end up on the wall of shame.

      March 15, 2012 at 7:42 am | Reply
    • d

      so what is your mos?

      May 26, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Reply
      • chris

        18B, you?

        May 27, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
  25. Bob

    Sure, it's OK for Obama to tell the world that he apologized to the Taliban, publically humiliating the USA and demoralizing our troops everywhere, but it's somehow not ok for the troops to speak out? Sorry, but after retiring from Special Ops, and 3 wars, I'm totally fed up with Washington and politicians, who are the real enemies of the USA...

    February 27, 2012 at 10:26 am | Reply
    • HPNIII

      As a citizen, I have no problem with anyone apologizing for killing unintended targets. We are the kind of nation that does feel bad when things go wrong, and to me it just emphasizes the integrity of our nation. Not to do so to may says we could care less.

      February 29, 2012 at 7:55 am | Reply
  26. Bob

    Meanwhile, Vaught has no problem making money from Hollywood "consulting" on military folms... hypocrite!

    February 27, 2012 at 10:20 am | Reply
  27. JMissal

    This movie isn't going to show anything more than NatGeo does on a regular basis.

    That said, I agree that special operations need not, and SHOULD not be in the media. Hell, I don't think any publication whatsoever of special ops missions should even be discussed publicly at all until declassified. That includes bragging by a president; that is beneath the office and was purely for political gain.

    February 25, 2012 at 11:36 am | Reply
    • nanana

      It was important for everyone to know bin Laden was killed. We don't need details, and the announcement could be delayed to give intelligence time to work on the confiscated data, but we needed to know bin Laden is dead.

      March 1, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Reply
  28. Saber

    I am completely humored at all of the nonsense here! Folks it does not matter what Hollywood puts on the screen and/or whether or not the Military decided to cooperate with this picture. By the time its on the screen and the yo-yo's over there see it, the concept will be obsolete, and have changed for the next mission. As I have learned, no two missions are EVER alike. Furthermore, if you folks think the enemy will ever know when, where, who, how, or what will be involved? Think again. That information is so secure its never revealed until long after that particular mission is complete. Moreover, this film is going to show nothing any different than what is currently available on the Discovery Military Channel! Really folks, grow up!

    February 25, 2012 at 3:35 am | Reply
  29. CSCI132

    I am a retired USAF Combat Controller, Colonel, and nobody needs to tell anything about anything special ops are doing or did and he just needs to shut up.

    February 12, 2012 at 10:10 am | Reply
    • Bob

      I retired from Special Ops and couldn't disagree with you more!

      February 27, 2012 at 10:21 am | Reply
      • Bud

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        March 3, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  30. Unknown

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    The President of Iran, at this very moment is the 6th president of Modern Day Iran.
    His name Has a total of 18 numbers, or as we know it in today's tongue, characters in his name. here is his name- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. If you take 18 and divide it by 6, then you get threescore of 6= 666 This is the name and the number of the beast. He hasn't became yet, but his physical body, will soon be killed. Either through being killed, by a Military led Invasion of Iran, or by him killing himself, to fulfill the prophecy in which his Islamic Religion believes in. Mahdi, the 12th Imam.
    One can also surmise that he is to be anticrist, due to this. Mahdi, being the 12th Imam. 6 is a division of 12. take the 2 sixes, which are 12, and also the 6 from him being the 6th president. and you would also arrive at 6 6 6. Once this prophecy has became fulfilled, he will be, then in spirit form, and will be able to become Mahdi, or what we know as the one world leader. There is also a false prophet in the world, who is already at work, helping prepare the world, for the arrival of this Leader. Mahdi won't be, like most people consider Anticrist to look like or act like at first. He will try to convince all peoples, he is the messiah, and will deceive many in doing so. I pray for those that are not of the belief in Jesus, that you will see this, and read, not only what I have to say about it, but also the bible. This information I have given you, is in total agreeance, with what scripture has said to look for. Luke 21:28) and when you see these things, begin to come to pass, then look up and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh. If you are a believer in Jesus, then this passage of bible scripture, should not be foreign to you.

    February 11, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Reply
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      Go sell crazy somewhere else, we're all stocked up here.

      February 15, 2012 at 9:07 am | Reply
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        February 16, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
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      February 23, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Reply
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      February 26, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Reply
  31. Jerry

    I agree with the General. There is a reason why the CIA and KGB never made open hits on one another. Its too easy to do, and next thing you know you have world leaders and key figures falling down dead all over the place. When you start making open assasinations you start recieving them back. Kudos to the General for speaking out. Besides isnt the point of being a secret special operations group the fact that its secret? There are men with medals of valor that will never be named and they know the stakes but its necassary to keep it under wraps.

    February 11, 2012 at 2:38 am | Reply
  32. jayman419

    "But not only does the media focus on our successes, we've had a few failures. And I think having those failures exposed in the media also helps focus our attention, helps us do a better job."

    A not-so-subtle jab.

    February 10, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Reply
    • who knows you

      Glad I wasn't the only one who caught that. 🙂

      March 6, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Reply
  33. JJ

    There are a few units along with ST6 inside of the Admiral's command. Why is it that we don't hear about them? Because their commands are Army and, merely by their own culture of spec-ops service, they don't like the idea of revealing themselves. It's a good practice.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Reply
  34. HaterOfTowelHeads

    The public doesn't need to know why, when, how or where...just WHO. Those that want to know the details about Special Ops should sign the dotted line and give up their freedoms just as our current and previous members of the military have done. Can you imagine the look on their face when they can't get a weekend pass like they could when they were regular citizens?
    Our military kicks a$$...no matter what branch.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Reply
  35. Ogre

    There comes a point where the more you talk about yourself, the less special you become.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:25 am | Reply
  36. mipolitic

    talking in the direction of the white house and company only and not against the usa military. we need a commander and chief that has the backbone to face down real threats to the usa and its interest . this is on a much higher level of concern than getting a few bad guys in small pockets, these actions do not make the grade of the office of the president of the usa. iran is the real deal and 19 americans detained in egypt and the slaughter of the syrian people is all a result of obama being viewed as a very weak. bush and cheney as wrong as they were will go down in the history books as angles compared to obama if iran is allowed to aquire nukes . real threats need a commander and chief that is respected in the world as a voice of resolve. obama said on tv to the people of syria that assad would fall for months before the onslot of slaughter that is now happening. and now all obamas failed words of false hope have been crushed under the weight of putin and assad because obama is viewed as being weak.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:02 am | Reply
    • yeahright

      What would you NOT blame Obama for? Obama is to blame for Syria??? Really? Give me a break.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Reply
      • Pablo

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        April 3, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • Thirsty

      When Obama wins the next election, will you slit your wrists, or blow your brains out?

      February 10, 2012 at 12:18 am | Reply
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        April 4, 2012 at 1:25 am |
    • nanana

      I, too, am a graduate of West Point's Online Academy for Armchair Generals. I agree with you that Obama is a complete military failure. I mean, there are a few exceptions:
      – authorization of SEAL rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips from Somali pirates
      – authorizing military surge in Afghanistan
      – isolation of Iran through sanctions, with the support of Russia and China who typically veto any resolutions
      – subterfuge of Iran's nuclear programs, including the Stuxnet virus
      – retaining Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense

      In my armchair general courses, I learned the easiest solution was just to bomb everything. Nevermind the complex political landscape and long-term implications of any actions like regime change and bombing. That's why I think Obama should just attack Assad and end the Syrian crisis, even though I vehemently opposed the simpler Libya mission where we provided mostly logistical support at little monetary cost and no lives lost. I just think Obama doesn't know what he's doing.

      March 1, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Reply
  37. zrxgrim

    Once Megaforce came out it was all down hill from there...

    February 8, 2012 at 9:03 am | Reply
  38. Stephen

    Loose lips sinks ships....Lt. Gen. Vaught is right, these tactics will be exposed and compromised. When the enemy will see what our specops do, they will adapt and adjust making us vulnerable.

    February 8, 2012 at 2:20 am | Reply
  39. Warrior

    We kick a#s and dont know there names.just what we are trained to do!!

    February 8, 2012 at 1:21 am | Reply
  40. radgast

    time to change the name...

    February 7, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Reply
  41. rightospeak

    Gen . Vaught is absolutely right. Only a moron would not understand that – be it a general or a private.

    February 7, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Reply
    • Experts are like a88holes

      lol... so, you're an expert, huh?

      February 8, 2012 at 12:26 am | Reply
      • george

        Gen vaught is right and I have 40 years of military service to back up that statement...Lets not make wives widows because politicians want to brag about spec ops kicking some butt!

        February 8, 2012 at 6:01 am |
      • troll feeder

        No but I'm sure you are, let me guess green beret, navy seal, CIA, doctor of medicine and everything else. It is simple friend, if you say enough stuff out loud, other people pay attention.

        February 8, 2012 at 8:10 am |
  42. ma & pa

    Maybe if Soviet Russia and China viewed the movie they'd be inspired to get off their duffs and vote with free people to stop the slaughter in Syria: HOMS especially. The people of that city have put peace and tolerance among their diverse religious peoples as almost a religion of itself, and lived peacefully until attacked now by government thugs. Russia, China and Syria have shown their true face and lack of good character, now for all the world to see. It's time for THEM to stop the slaughter and lies their corrupt governments commit and let the people live in peace. The head of that barbaric ideological snake should bite it's tail and roll back into the crack it crawled out of. Our heros should be allowed to sit this one out and watch the world correct itself.

    February 7, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Reply
  43. c1a8cl4i0

    What I find wrong is how you can buy training manuals on line.

    February 7, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Reply
  44. physics-lite

    And God bless everone of them.

    February 7, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Reply
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  46. Carole Clarke

    Yet if we don't know anything about what they do and are unable to laud their victories or examine their failures thru the media, they might not get the funding they need to get the job done. It's a two-edged sword. My father was over 30 years in the Army and they were always sweating funding, smiling at disgusting congressional junketeers who knew they had the military over a barrel and got away with alot.

    February 7, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Reply
    • SHandye

      Bhatnagar provides the flnlowiog quote from the Ramayana: “Rama was born on the Navami tithi of Shukla Paksha of Chaitra masa (9th day of the increasing phase of the moon in the lunar month of Chaitra). At that time, the nakshatra was Punarvasu, and Sun, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and Venus were in Aries, Capricorn, Libra, Cancer and Pisces respectively. Lagna was Cancer and Jupiter & Moon were shining together. — Ramayana 1.18.8,9The conditions can be summarized as follows, according to Bhatnagar:1. Sun in Aries2. Saturn in Libra3. Jupiter in Cancer4. Venus in Pisces5. Mars in Capricorn6. Lunar month of Chaitra7. 9th day after New Moon (Navami Tithi, Shukla Paksh)8. Moon near Punarvasu Nakshatra (Pollux star in Gemini constellation)9. Cancer as Lagna (Cancer constellation rising in the east)10. Jupiter above the horizonAccording to the Planetarium software, it provides the flnlowiog date: Sri Rama Navami 10th January 5114 BCE Birth Day of Rama, Observation at 12.30 p.m.Bhatnagar continues: “By using a powerful planetarium software, I found that the planetary positions mentioned in Ramayana for the date of birth of Lord Ram had occurred in the sky at around 12.30 p.m. of 10th January 5114 BC. It was the ninth day of the Shukla Paksh of Chaitra month too. Moving forward, after 25 years of the birth of Lord Ram, the position of planets in the sky tallies with their description in Ramayana. Again, on the amavasya (new moon) of the 10th month of the 13th year of exile the solar eclipse had indeed occurred and the particular arrangement of planets in the sky was visible. ( Date comes to 7th October, 5077 BC). Even the occurrence of subsequent two eclipses also tally with the respective description in Valmiki Ramayana. (Date of Hanuman’s meeting Sita at Lanka was 12th September, 5076 BC). In this manner the entire sequence of the planetary positions gets verified and all the dates can be precisely determined.”

      April 4, 2012 at 12:09 am | Reply
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  47. footlong frank

    i have to agree. with the media the way it is. our special opps troops are at risk! we need to let them fade into the background and let them do their jobs without the whole frickin world gettin ideas about how their gonna do it! with the gulf war we practickly said ok, you have 24 hrs to go before we're comin so run and hide,... christ, your supposed to silent anddeadly thats whole point,of secret job hello....

    February 7, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Reply
  48. Portland tony

    They are both right. You hardly heard the term Seal or Special-Ops in the media until the bin Laden raid. But as time passes the news articles will slowly make their way from front page to back page. The military could help by defining Spec-Ops as routine etc..

    February 7, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Reply

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