U.S. military special forces commander Richard Marcinko died on Christmas Day at age 81. Marcinko was a founder of the elite group, Seal Team Six, which was later responsible for the death of terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden.

Marcinko joined the Navy at 18 years old and served in the Vietnam War. After the war, he commanded the Seal Team Six force for its first three years. During his career with the U.S. Navy, he earned over 30 medals and citations.

He gained a reputation for abrasiveness and violence. For example, he frequently engaged in bar fights. Of his time on the battlefield, he once said in an interview, “I’m good at war. Even in Vietnam, the system kept me from hunting and killing as many of the enemy as I would have liked.”

While Marcinko achieved great success during his time in the military, he also caused conflict. Many criticized him for violent behavior that disregarded rules and encouraged a reckless, “bad boy” culture in the force. In addition, he faced legal battles outside of the military. In 1990, he was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, and he was incarcerated for 15 months for the offense.

Despite his controversial record, Marcinko was highly instrumental in elevating America’s counter-terrorism efforts at the end of the Cold War. In addition to his work with Seal Team Six, he founded another unit, called Red Cell, which tested security at military and intelligence sites.

Admiral William McRaven, a past critic of Marcinko, spoke of his passing and honored the veteran’s legacy. “While we had some disagreements… I always respected his boldness, his ingenuity and his unrelenting drive for success,” he said. “I hope he will be remembered for his numerous contributions to the Seal community.”

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