The elite, top-secret United States Navy counter-terrorism unit that on Sunday took out Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda thug who triggered the attacks on America that killed about 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001 had local roots.
Lansford native and Navy Commander (Ret.) Richard Marcinko in 1980 created and was the first commander of the U.S. Navy's SEAL Team Six, which shot and killed bin Laden in his luxurious compound in Abbottobad, Pakistan.
Efforts to reach Marcinko at his Alexandria, Va., home early Wednesday were unsuccessful.
In an interview broadcast Tuesday on ABC News affiliate WLS-TV in Chicago, Marcinko spoke with pride of the heroic accomplishment of SEAL Team Six, the unit so secretive it doesn't even have an official name or comply with military protocal.
"I mean, it's a self-contained unit that can go any place in the world and literally do nothing but kick ass," Marcinko said on the broadcast.
Of the SEAL who fired the kill shot, Marcinko said in an interview with The Washington Post that the man's colleague's will likely razz him.
"They're gonna hard-ass him. It'll be, 'If I'd have been there, it'd have been done in 20 minutes instead of 40 minutes'," Marcinko said in the Post interview. But the marksman will likely fire back, Marcinko said, with something along the lines of "Talk is cheap. I did it. I left my mark in the sand."
SEAL Team Six is now known as DEVGRU – Naval Special Warfare Development Group.
Marcinko's strength, courage and can-do toughness spring from hardscrabble roots.
Born on Thanksgiving Day, 1940, at his grandmother Justine Pavlik's Lansford home, to George and Emilie Teresa Pavlik Marcinko, he was born into a long line of coal miners. His grandfather was Joe Pavlik. The family lived on a hill, "around the corner" from the little family-owned Kanuch's grocery store.
In his book, Rogue Warrior, released in 1992, Marcinko wrote of his family's life in Lansford.
"I'm Czech on both sides. My mother is short and Slavic-looking. My father was big – just under six feet – dark, brooding, and had a nasty temper," he wrote. "All the men in the family – and virtually every male in Lansford as well – were miners. They were born, they worked in the mines, they died. Life was simple and life was hard, and I guess some of them might have wanted to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, but most were too poor to buy boots."
The family moved to New Brunswick, N.J., in 1952. Marcinko struggled with the cultural shift from a mostly Eastern European town of about 4,000 to the racially and ethnically diverse city.
In high school – St. Ladislaus Hungarian Catholic School – he worked long hours at Gussy's Luncheonette, near the Rutgers University campus.
He dropped out of high school in February 1958, and the following September, joined the Navy. Marcinko eventually became a SEAL, serving two tours of duty in Vietnam, where he earned the Silver Star, four bronze stars with Combat V, two Navy Commendation Medals, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star. His SEAL platoon was so effective – 150 confirmed Viet Cong dead and another 84 captured – that the Viet Cong posted a reward of 50,000 piasters for his death, according to a biography.
Marcinko took a staff position at the Little Creek Naval Base in Virginia, and earned a degree in International Relations. In 1973, he became Naval attache' to Cambodia. he left that post in 1975 to to become commanding officer of SEAL Team Two. From there, he earned a master's degree in politcal science, and became a special operations planner assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Eventually, in 1980, Marcinko, then age 39, was given the task of creating and leading SEAL Team Six, the Navy's first and only counter-terrorist command.
The elite unit required even more rigor and skill than the highly-trained SEALs.
"The shooters of SEAL Team Six would have to be able to bring down their targets with one or two shots, under any circumstances," Marcinko wrote in Rogue Warrior.
With that goal in mind, Marcinko designed a regimen that required each SEAL in Team Six to shoot a minimum of 2,500 rounds a week, very week.
"That was more per week than most SEALs shot in a year," he wrote.
The young men would be required to be able to endure long swims under water, extremes in temperatures and other tests of strength and ability.
His Team Six up and running to his standards, Marcinko turned over command to Capt. Bob Gormly on July 5, 1983. Most commands last two years.
Marcinko also founded another counter-terrorism unit, Red Cell, a SEAL unit that tests Naval security forces worldwide. Retired after serving more than 30 years, he is now chairman of the board of a Washington, D.C.-based private security consulting firm, Red Cell International Corp.