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In Memoriam: Vice Admiral Albert M. Calland, USN (Ret)

April 13, 2023 | By Sam Cox (Rear Adm. USN, Ret.), Director, Naval History and Heritage Command
It is with deep regret that I inform you of the passing of Vice Admiral Albert Melrose “Bert” Calland III, U.S. Navy, Retired, on 31 March 2023 at age 70. Vice Admiral Calland entered the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) in June 1970 and served as a SEAL until his retirement in July 2007 as deputy director for Strategic Operational Planning for the National Counterterrorism Center. His commands included a platoon in SEAL Team ONE, SEAL Team ONE, Naval Special Warfare Development Group, U.S. Central Command Special Operations Command, and Naval Special Warfare Command, in addition to serving as the deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He led a special warfare task unit in the Arabian Gulf during Operation Earnest Will (including the capture of Iranian minelayer Iran Ajr) in 1987 and led Central Command special warfare forces in the opening weeks of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. 

A gifted All-State three-sport letter winner in high school, Bert Calland took the Oath of Office at the U.S. Naval Academy in June 1970, where he majored in oceanography. He played rugby and lacrosse, each for one year, and football for all four years, including three on varsity. He broke the USNA record for most receptions in a season, and became second in all-time receptions for Navy. He was the most valuable player his senior year, defeating Army 51–0 after two close losses the previous years. During his junior year, he was All-East Honorable Mention. He was also a midshipman battalion commander in his First Class year. He was one of five midshipman in his class selected to go directly to Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL School (BUD/S) with the opportunity to become a Navy SEAL. He graduated and was commissioned an ensign on 5 June 1974. 

After six months at the Naval Academy as an Instructor, Ensign Calland reported in December 1974 to Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, California, in BUD/S Class 82. He was one out of 11 of 72 who made it through the course (a typical level of attrition at the time). In June 1975, he reported to Underwater Demolition Team ELEVEN (UDT-11), serving as special assistant to the commanding officer for swimmer delivery vehicle (SDV) and after his six-month probationary period was designated a SEAL. He was promoted to lieutenant (junior grade) in June 1976. 

In April 1977, Lieutenant (j.g.) Calland was assigned to SEAL Team ONE, making two deployments to the Western Pacific serving as an SDV platoon commander and SEAL platoon commander. He was promoted to lieutenant in July 1978. In May 1981, he reported to Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, serving as diving phase instructor and then senior instructor at BUD/S. In January 1983, Lieutenant Calland reported to Commander, Naval Special Warfare Group ONE, serving as tactical development and evaluation officer. He was promoted to lieutenant commander in September 1983. 

In March 1984, Lieutenant Commander Calland reported to Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, serving as special warfare/explosive ordnance disposal/mine warfare officer. In May 1986, he assumed duty as executive officer of Special Boat Unit TWELVE. During this assignment, he deployed to the Persian Gulf as commander of Naval Special Warfare Task Unit, Pacific, from August to December 1987 in support of Operation Earnest Will, the U.S. Navy escort of U.S.-reflagged Kuwaiti tankers that protected them from Iranian attack. Operating from the mobile barge Wimbrown II, forces under the command of Calland, including a detachment of the U.S. Army’s 160th Special Operations Regiment (Airborne) AH-6 Little Bird helicopters, detected the Iranian vessel IRAN AJR in the act of laying mines in international waters. They captured the ship and most of the crew, collecting intelligence before scuttling the vessel. This intelligence enabled the U.S. Navy to trace the origin of the mine struck by USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) the next year, resulting in Operation Praying Mantis. In April 1988, Calland was assigned to Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command, as assistant chief of staff for programs and research, development and acquisition. He was promoted to commander in October 1989. 

In May 1990, Commander Calland reported to Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Special Operations Command, at MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Florida, serving as joint programs analyst and mobility branch chief. In October 1992, Calland assumed duty as commanding officer of SEAL Team ONE at Coronado. In January 1995, he reported to Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command, Coronado, as assistant chief of staff for programs and programmed objective memorandum. In August 1995, he commenced study at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (ICAF), at Fort McNair in Washington, DC. He was promoted to captain in December 1995 and earned a master of science in national resource strategy. He also earned a master of science in foreign affairs from the National Defense University.

In June 1996, Captain Calland reported to Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command Detachment, Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, as deputy director for operations, and serving as director for operations, Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). In May 1997, he assumed command of Naval Special Warfare Development Group (known in the media as SEAL Team SIX), Dam Neck, Virginia, a Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Priority One major command. He was designated a joint specialty officer (JSO) in 1997. In June 1990, Calland assumed duty as executive assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Manpower and Reserve Affairs) at the Pentagon in Washington, DC. 

On 28 June 2000, Captain Calland was designated a rear admiral (lower half) for duty in a billet commensurate with that rank. The next month, Rear Admiral Calland assumed duty as commander, Special Operations Command, U.S. Central Command. Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he directed 3,000 U.S. and coalition special operations forces, deploying first to Uzbekistan and then to Mazar e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan, and becoming the first U.S. flag officer to set foot in Afghanistan after the initiation of Operation Enduring Freedom on October 2001. He conducted liaison with various factions of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance in order to coordinate the offensive that brought about the rapid collapse of the Taliban regime (with a critical assist from carrier-based U.S. naval aviation). He was promoted to rear admiral (lower half) on 1 October 2001. 

In July 2002, Rear Admiral Calland assumed duty as commander, Naval Special Warfare Command, at Coronado, responsible for “providing maritime special operations forces to conduct full-spectrum operations, unilaterally or with partners, to support national objectives.” He was promoted to rear admiral (two-star) probably sometime in 2003 (the date in his service transcript appears to be incorrect). 

In February 2004, Rear Admiral Calland was assigned to the CIA as associate director of Central Intelligence for military support. He was promoted to vice admiral the next month. In July 2005, Calland was appointed by President George W. Bush to be deputy director of the CIA. He relinquished this position in September 2006, when General Michael Hayden was confirmed as the director of Central Intelligence/Central Intelligence Agency due to a 1953 Amendment to the 1947 National Security Act that prohibits the director and deputy director of CIA both being active-duty military personnel. Vice Admiral Calland was then assigned to the National Counterterrorism Center as deputy director for strategic operational planning until his retirement on 1 July 2007. 

Vice Admiral Calland’s awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal; Distinguished Service Medal; Defense Superior Service Medal (two awards); Legion of Merit; Bronze Star; Defense Meritorious Service Medal (two awards); Meritorious Service Medal (five awards); Navy Commendation Medal; Joint Meritorious Unit Award (three awards); Meritorious Unit Commendation; Navy Expeditionary Medal; National Defense Service Medal (three awards); Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (two awards); Southwest Asia Service Medal; Armed Forces Service Medal; Humanitarian Service Medal; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (four awards); NATO Medal; Rifle Marksmanship Medal with Silver “E”; and the Pistol Marksmanship Medal with Silver “E.” He also received Central Intelligence Agency Awards: the Distinguished Intelligence Medal; CIA Director’s Award; and the National Clandestine Service Donovan Award. 

Following his retirement from active duty, Vice Admiral Calland worked as executive vice president for security and intelligence integration at CACI International, Inc., from 2007 to 2014. 

Vice Admiral Calland chose to enter the U.S. Navy and serve his country despite an ongoing unpopular war, which speaks to his dedication. He served our nation with extraordinary skill and leadership during very challenging circumstances, to include Operation Earnest Will in 1987, during which he was expected to deter or interdict Iranian attacks on Kuwaiti and neutral shipping without accidentally starting a war. He operated on that fine line with great finesse and success, to include capturing the Iranian minelayer Iran Ajr in the act of laying mines in international waters. He played a key role in operations that remain classified, to include his time as director of operations for Joint Special Operations Command and commander of Naval Special Warfare Development Group. As the commander of U.S. Central Command special operations forces, he played a critical role in bringing about the rapid collapse of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which required extraordinary innovation due to the lack of any existing war plan for such an operation. His exceptional understanding of counterterrorism operations led to his selection as director of military support to the CIA, an assignment he carried out with such success that he became the deputy director of the CIA. His spectacular career of service— and sacrifice—pretty much speaks for itself and needs little elaboration by me, so I will close with Admiral Calland’s leadership principles that he often sought to pass along: 
  • Integrity: Always do the right thing 
  • Teamwork and team building: It is not about you, it is all about the team 
  • Quality decisions: Quality decisions vice good decisions as not all choices made with good intent end up being a good call. Quality decisions are the best choice you can make after careful analysis of all the options/risks/outcomes 
And a couple other of his frequent points: “If you are a leader, you are not all-knowing and if you ever think you are, you are in the wrong job” and, “Be firm, fair and consistent—and have some fun!” 

Taken from our wardroom far too early, Admiral Calland will be truly missed by a grateful nation, Navy, and intelligence community. 

Rest in Peace, Admiral Calland.

On a personal note, although I never met Admiral Calland, as the N2 for U.S. Naval Forces Central Commend during the opening months of Operation Enduring Freedom, I witnessed him in action on numerous senior-level command video-teleconferences and was truly impressed by his leadership and ability to innovate in a war inside Afghanistan that no one expected. Some of the finest Intelligence officers I ever worked with, and who knew him, held Admiral Calland in the highest regard due to his exceptional ability to use intelligence for operational success. This is a huge loss.