The US Navy SEALs trace their origins back to World War II, when two Pacific Underwater Demolition Teams were put together at Amphibious Training Base in Waimanalo, Hawaii. Operating in obscurity was a primary goal of the Navy SEALs during the majority of conflicts in the 20th century, but the military unit has increasingly become a point of focus in the national consciousness, particularly following the raid in Pakistan that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden and the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips.
In order to support the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) community, as well as its families, the Navy SEAL Foundation was launched in 2000. The foundation offers various programs designed to provide essential support to enhance resiliency, improve health and welfare, and provide essential support in times of injury, illness, and loss. These programs and the fund-raising efforts to support them are overseen by a board of directors and four officers: chairman, vice chairman, treasurer, and secretary. On February 1, 2019, the foundation welcomed Vice Admiral (Ret.) Sean Pybus as its new chairman.
Pybus, who has more than 35 years of service with the United States Navy, knew he wanted to pursue a military career while still in high school. He applied to Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs with both the Navy and Army as a high school senior and received a scholarship offer from the Navy, which he used to attend the University of Rochester. He studied economics at the school and, in email correspondence with the institution as part of an alumni feature in 2011, attributed the rigorous academic regimen as a driving factor in making him more goal-oriented and disciplined. He was a commander with the Naval Special Warfare Command at the time and spoke to the importance of having a diverse group of officers and enlisted corps, including individuals with a liberal arts education similar to what he completed at Rochester. He also holds a master’s degree in strategic studies from the Naval War College.
Military Career and Achievements
Since completing his Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training as part of Class 105 in December 1979, Pybus has served on the ground as part of the SEAL Team, SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team, Underwater Demolition Team, and Special Boat Team. He has undertaken numerous classified contingency operations as part of SEAL Team Six and has participated in overseas assignments in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America. As a leader, Pybus has held commander roles with Special Operations in the Pacific, NATO’s Special Operations Forces, and the NSW community.
In 2016, Pybus retired from the US Navy after completing a two-year stint as commander of US Special Operations Command. Throughout the course of his military career, he earned more than a dozen medals, commendations, and service ribbons. These include a Meritorious Service Medal (x3), Defense Superior Service Medal (x3), Legion of Merit (x2), and a Distinguished Service Medal.
Participation in Foundation Events
Since Pybus was appointed as chairman of the Navy SEAL Foundation, he has overseen first-time events, as well as a new sponsor partnership to help raise funds for the nonprofit. It hosted the inaugural “Service Member and Son Day” on June 2 at Padres Stadium in San Diego. As part of the event, more than 300 NSW service members and their sons had an opportunity to bond and watch the Padres game from a designated section on the rooftop. Food was provided free of charge. Another first-time event was the Boston Frogman Swim, which occurred on June 2. A total of 27 swimmers took part in the event and helped raise nearly $70,000 to benefit the foundation. In addition, NSW Gold Star and Surviving Family members were guests of honor at a dinner and reception.
In other news, the Navy SEAL Foundation partnered with Reebok for sponsorship opportunities within the NSW community. Reebok sponsored the Boston Frogman Swim and will continue to lend support to other events in 2019 and 2020. Military personnel and their family members will also be able to apply a 20 percent “Heroes Discount” on purchases made online or at Reebok stores in the US provided that they have a valid military ID.
Predecessor Garry Bonelli
Prior to the appointment of Pybus, Rear Admiral (RET.) Garry Bonelli served for five years as chairman of the Navy SEAL Foundation. Under his leadership, the foundation improved its financial stability and opened a second office to more effectively provide services to SEAL communities on the East and West Coast. It also received perfect scores from the watchdog group Charity Navigator, which tracks the activities of nonprofit organizations.
“It’s been my honor to serve as chair of the Navy SEAL Foundation,” said Bonelli in a press release. “Our volunteer board, professional staff, and steadfast donor support have helped enhance the resiliency of our warriors and their families who sacrifice so much every day for the defense of our great nation. I can think of no better frogman than Sean Pybus to lead our foundation forward. He will inspire both our donors and our dedicated volunteers.”