Richard “Dick” Marcinko, the first commanding officer of Navy SEAL Team 6, the group of highly trained warriors that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, died on Christmas Day at the age of 81, according to his family.
Marcinko’s daughter Kathy Ritchie confirmed the retired commander and Vietnam War veteran’s death to NBC News on Monday morning.
She did not disclose any details on her father’s death.
The National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida, remembered Marcinko in a Facebook post, saying he “played a very unique part in SEAL history, leaving a legacy like no other.”
Marcinko enlisted in the Navy in 1958 and eventually worked his way up to the rank of commander. In addition to developing SEAL Team 6, he also created Red Cell, another prominent counter-terrorist unit within the military, according to NavySeals.com.
Marcinko was a two-time Vietnam War veteran, who also served in Cambodia, and Iran, according to the museum.
He was part of a Joint Chiefs of Staff task force known as the Terrorist Action Team (TAT) during the Iran hostage crisis in 1979, where Iranian militants raided the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held American hostages. TAT’s work led to Operation Eagle Claw, the failed 1980 attempt to rescue the hostages, the museum wrote in its post. The 52 U.S. captives were eventually released on Jan. 20, 1981.
“After this tragic operation, the Navy recognized a need for a full-time dedicated counter-terrorist team and tasked Marcinko with its design and development,” the museum stated.
Marcinko was selected as the first commanding officer of the new unit. Though the Navy only had two SEAL teams at the time, he named the unit “SEAL Team 6” to “fool other nations, notably the Soviet Union,” into believing the United States had more teams that they didn’t know about, according to the museum.
Marcinko commanded SEAL Team 6 from August 1980 to July 1983.
In addition to his military career, he wrote several books including an autobiography entitled “Rogue Warrior.”