Legendary SEAL Team Six founder passed away a year ago, but legacy, ‘10 Commandments’ lives on.
Story and Photos by Paul Pawela
In the past couple of years, we have lost some giants in the self-defense industry. I hope to address many of these legends, especially the ones I knew who made an impact on me in my life and impacted the lives of others too. Fewer deaths impacted me more than that of Richard “Dick” Marcinko. It was December 25, 2021, when I received notice that Marcinko, the founder of SEAL Team Six and the founder of Red Cell, had died. Even though I knew he was in his 80s, it was hard to believe this legend in the counterterrorism world could have passed away. I was honored to have called Dick Marcinko both a mentor and a friend, but I always addressed him as “Sir.” For transparency and clarity, I did not serve with Marcinko in his 30-plus years of dedicated service, though I did have the honor of receiving training and mentorship from some of the men who were plank owners of SEAL Team Six, and I had the opportunity to train with other former members of SEAL Team Six.
HOW I CAME to know Marcinko was meeting him at his first book signing event for his (now) famous bestseller Rogue Warrior, after he retired from the Navy. I was formally introduced to him by my military Special Forces/Ranger Hall of Fame mentor, Gary O’Neal, who is also legendary in the Special Operations community. The two were very close friends. As a writer, I made a sojourn many times to the mecca event, the SHOT Show where the two were sponsored by different vendors. Then I attended the Special Operations Charity Network American Warrior Legends Night. I had the privilege of listening to these two at several roundtable discussions, many times about how to win life’s battles and other pearls of wisdom.
The majority of people know of Marcinko’s exploits, so I do not feel there is any need to go into full details about his life, which can be read in his books Rogue Warrior and Red Cell. Other than this, the man started without a high school diploma; when he wanted to enlist in the Marine Corps, he was rejected for that very reason, so he joined the Navy. A highlight of Marcinko’s career was that his leadership saw exceptional potential in him, and they wanted him as an ocer, so he became one and made it all the way to commander. Marcinko was one of the Navy’s most elite SEALs, and he also had outstanding combat experience participating in what the Navy called “the most successful SEAL Operations in Navy history” during the Vietnam campaigns.
After the failed hostage rescue of Americans in Iran, Marcinko – of all the Navy officers in the U.S. military – was handpicked to organize, pick, and train 75 men in hostage rescue and counterterrorism designed to infiltrate behind enemy lines deep in their own backyard. They would become known as SEAL Team Six, and their specialty was oil rigs and ships. Over time, their missions branched out to counter-proliferation of weapons of mass-destruction. SEAL Team Six would become recognized as some of the best shooters in the world, as their ammo allotment was more than the entire Marine Corps. Many will argue there are no better warriors in the world – well, maybe their Army counterparts might and do, but I digress. Commander Marcinko certainly made the world a much safer place, as his blueprint for counterterrorism has been a success for not only SEAL Team Six but counterterrorist teams throughout the world. Navy SEAL Admiral Eric Olson, who oversaw Operation Neptune Spear, summed up Marcinko’s life best when he said, “He was a spirited rogue for sure, but we are better off for his unconventional service!”
IN ONE OF many sit-down talks I had with Marcinko at the Special Operations Charity Network American Warrior Legends Night, I asked him what the most important secrets of leadership were. What he did was direct me to his book Leadership Secrets of the Rogue Warrior: A Commando’s Guide to Success The Ten Commandments of SpecWar, in his words, are: I am the War Lord and the wrathful God of Combat and I will always lead you from the front, not the rear.
I will treat you all alike – just like sh*t. Thou shalt do nothing I will not do first, and thus you will be created Warriors in My deadly image. I shall punish thy bodies because the more thou sweatest in training, the less thou bleedest in combat. Indeed, if thou hurteth in thy efforts and thou suffer painful dings, thou art Doing It Right. Thou hast not to like it – thou hast just to do it. Thou shalt Keep It Simple, Stupid. Thou shalt never assume. Verily, thou art not paid for thy methods, but for thy results, by which meaneth thou shalt kill thine enemy by any means available before he killeth you. Thou shalt, in thy Warrior’s Mind and Soul, always remember My ultimate and final Commandment. There Are No Rules – Thou Shalt Win at All Cost.
Marcinko’s commandments were not only designed for our most elite warriors who protect this country, but they also work in general as the cornerstone of success for anyone in life. As Marcinko pointed out, WAR is an acronym for we are ready. Why? Because life is a struggle for survival, success and dominance. Life is war. It is an economic war, a political war, a social war and a personal war. One of the last things he ever imparted to me in life was in one of his books, which he autographed for me. He wrote, “To Paul on Life Always Attack, Attack, and Attack – Win at all Costs!” Goodbye, Sir. You will never be forgotten but you will be sorely missed. Rest in peace.
Jim “Patches” Watson (right) was Marcinko’s point man in Vietnam, as described in Rogue Warrior. Watson authored two books of his own, Point Man and Walking Point. A highly decorated Navy SEAL, he told me Marcinko was the real deal as a leader; he would never ask you to do something he would not do first.From left to right: Michael E. Thornton, Pawela and Tom Norris. Thornton, a Medal of Honor recipient/ plank owner of SEAL Team Six who is mentioned in Marcinko’s Rogue Warrior, personally told me he loved working with Six and enjoyed Marcinko’s leadership style. Norris was awarded the MOH for rescuing two downed Navy pilots in Vietnam, which was featured in the movie Bat*21. Later, when he was in a gun fight against 200 to 300 enemies while calling in air support and protecting the rear element, he was shot in the head. At the time, Thornton was with Norris and went back for him. He carried an unconscious Norris, saving his life, which would earn him the MOH. It would be the first time two MOH recipients were on the same mission with one rescuing the other. A statue immortalizes the two at the Navy SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida. Norris would get out of the Navy and join the FBI; he was in the same class as Edmundo Mireles, the hero of the FBI shootout in Miami. Norris would later become famous again as a plank
Editor’s note: For realistic self-defense training, see assaultcountertactics.com. Author Paul Pawela is a nationally recognized firearms and self-defense expert based in Florida.