The Tampa, Fla., special operations community is lauding President Barack Obama’s choice to be the next deputy commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.
Vice Adm. Sean Pybus, currently head of NATO’s Special Operations headquarters in Brussels, was named by Obama on Tuesday to take the MacDill Air Force Base-headquartered command’s No. 2 slot.
That slot is currently held by Army Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland, Jr.
Mulholland has not made his future plans known, according to SOCOM spokesman Ken McGraw, who said he either could retire or get a new assignment.
If Pybus’ nomination is approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee, that would make two SEALs in charge of the command.
SOCOM commander Adm. William McRaven is also a SEAL.
It would also mark a return for Pybus to Tampa, where he served as SOCOM’s Director of Operations from 2007 to 2009.
He still has a home and saw his children go to school there, according to Joe Maguire, a retired Navy vice admiral.
Pybus is “well-known to the Tampa area, to MacDill and is held in the highest esteeem by everyone in the joint community, not just Navy SEALs,” said Maguire, who was a SEAL and now serves as chairman of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation in Tampa. “He is a bright guy and has a very, very deep level of experience and is probably just the right guy to go in as deputy commander.”
Like Maguire, Dave Scott, a retired Air Force major general who served as deputy director at SOCOM's Center for Special Operations, lauds Pybus’ nomination.
“He is absolutely the finest SEAL I have ever met,” Scott said. “He is a great operator, a great leader, and he is a common sense kind of guy. The troops respect him.”
Pybus, he said, “is exactly who you would love to see be successful and work in high levels of leadership in our military. All of us are comfortable with him. I think he is the perfect choice.”
Scott said that “the highest compliment any special operator can convey is this is someone I trust, who cares about the troops, who understands the mission and someone who acts as the point operator to fight and win the nation’s wars. That’s Sean Pybus.”
Before taking the NATO job, Pybus was commander of all Navy SEALs from 2011 to 2013 as the head of Naval Special Warfare Command. Those who served under him respect Pybus as a “leader and mentor,” said Dan O’Shea, a former Navy SEAL commander now living in South Tampa.
Pybus took over at a difficult time for the SEAL community, as controversy bubbled up about publicity surrounding the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
“I am very disappointed with the few people who use their SEAL cachet for self-serving purposes, particularly through falsehoods and certainly when the safety and security of themselves and their active-duty teammates and families are put at risk,” he said, according to the Navy Times.
“Most of our former or retired NSW members find a suitable second career without compromising the ideals of their active service — honor, courage and commitment. Most of our veterans with physical or mental health issues get some degree of health care, and we are actively pursuing even better options in this realm. I think we’re doing the things that you would expect from a dedicated, disciplined and trusted force.”
As for what he will bring to the table as deputy SOCOM commander, Scott said “that depends on who the No. 1 is. It’s always a ballet. You compliment the commander.”
SOCOM spokesman McGraw would not speculate on McRaven’s future.
Pybus graduated from the University of Rochester in 1979 with a bachelor of arts in economics, according to his bio, and received a regular Navy commission through NROTC. He graduated BUD/S training in December 1979.