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DGA of '73
Distinguished Graduate Awardees

"Each year, we honor distinguished graduates because of their demonstrated and unselfish commitment to a lifetime of service, their personal character and the significant contributions they have made to the Navy and Marine Corps or as leaders in industry or government."

Byron F. Marchant ’78
President, U. S. Naval Academy Alumni Association

2017 ~ Eric Thor Olsen

Our First Distinguished Graduate Awardee, ADM Olsen - LH Admiral Eric T. Olson ’73, USN (Ret.), former Commander, United States Special Operations Command. The first Navy SEAL to reach three- and four-star rank and the first naval officer to command U.S. Special Operations Command, Admiral Olson retired in 2011 after 38 years of service.

The top graduate in his SEAL training class in 1974, he served in special operations units throughout his career, deployed for several contingency operations and commanded at every level. Admiral Olson’s overseas assignments included staff positions and operations in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Israel, Egypt, Tunisia and Somalia, where his valorous actions earned him the Silver Star. He commanded the Navy’s counterterrorist unit in the late 1990s and Naval Special Warfare Command from 1999 until 2002.

His restructuring of all Naval Special Warfare forces in 1999 and 2000 set the stage for continuous command-level deployments in response to the attacks of 9/11. Later, as head of all U.S. Special Operations forces from 2007 to 2011, he was responsible for the mission readiness and deployments of more than 60,000 Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps personnel in more than 75 countries.

After retirement, he founded ETO Group, an independent national security consultancy that advises a number of public and privately held companies focused on developing advanced technologies to solve national security challenges.

Admiral Olson holds a master’s degree in International Affairs from the Naval Postgraduate School and is an adjunct faculty member at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

He serves the non-profit National Navy SEAL Museum and the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

Among numerous recognitions, he was appointed an Officer in the French Legion of Honor and he received the Business Executives for National Security’s Eisenhower Award, the Office of Strategic Services Society’s’ Donovan Award and the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Patriot Award.

Taken from 2017 Distinguished Graduate Award Recipients




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