The Aug. 22 retirement of Adm. Eric T. Olson marked the end of the Navy SEAL officer’s 38-year naval career – and the passing of the title of longest-serving SEAL.
Olson, a 1973 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, became a SEAL officer in 1974, an achievement that led to a storied career and command at nearly every level, from SEAL team to Naval Special Warfare Command and ultimately to his most-recent job as head of U.S. Special Operations Command, the Tampa, Fla.-based headquarters for the military’s joint special operations forces. For nearly two years, Olson also held the title of “Bull Frog,” the moniker and honor given by the UDT/SEAL Association to the SEAL who has served the longest time on continuous active duty in naval special warfare. Olson, the first Navy SEAL to reach the four-star rank, also is the first SEAL to lead the nation’s commando forces. But he’s not the last. Earlier this month, he handed over SOCOM’s reins to another experienced SEAL, Adm. William H. McRaven.
In fact, McRaven, also a former commander of Naval Special Warfare Command and most recently commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, also follows Olson in holding the title of Bull Frog – and he gets to share it with another Navy SEAL. That is Cmdr. Brian Sebenaler, who serves as Naval Special Warfare Command’s training and readiness officer and, like McRaven, graduated with Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL’s Class 95.
Both men will share the title as the 15th Bull Frog. The names of the officers, who combined have served 70 years as SEALs, are engraved in the Bull Frog trophy, which will be kept at the association’s new UDT-SEAL Heritage Center in Norfolk, Va.
According to the association, the nickname hails back to the old days of UDT swimmers, who were nicknamed “frogmen.” The team boss was known as the Bull Frog, a moniker adopted by Rear Adm. Richard “Dick” Lyon, the original and first Bull Frog. But it wasn’t until 2007 when the Navy “officially” recognized the title with an official instruction signed off by another veteran SEAL, now-Vice Adm. Joseph Kernan, who headed the Coronado command at the time.