Hey, it's not as if he's doing the network news, amirite?
WASHINGTON -- Robert McDonald, the secretary of veterans affairs, wrongly claimed in a videotaped comment earlier this year that he served in the Army's elite special forces, when his military service of five years was in fact spent almost entirely with the 82nd Airborne Division during the late 1970s.
U.S. special operations forces (SOF) are composed of exhaustively trained and highly capable troops from each military service, including the Army Rangers, Delta Force, Navy SEALs and Army Special Forces (also known as the Green Berets) -- but not the 82nd Airborne. They are certified to undertake the most dangerous and delicate missions, including, famously, the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011. Special operators are a close-knit community deeply hostile to outsiders who try to claim the coveted mantle of special operations.
McDonald, a retired corporate executive who took over the VA last June as the agency was sinking in scandal, made the claim in late January as he was touring a rundown Los Angeles neighborhood during a nationwide count of homeless veterans. He was accompanied by a CBS-TV news crew, which recorded an exchange between McDonald and a homeless man who told McDonald he had served in special forces.
“Special forces? What years? I was in special forces!” McDonald told the homeless man. That exchange was broadcast in a Jan. 30 CBS News story about the VA’s efforts to find and house homeless veterans.
In fact, McDonald never served in special forces. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1975, completed Army Ranger training and took courses in jungle, arctic and desert warfare. He qualified as a senior parachutist and airborne jumpmaster, and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division until he resigned his commission in 1980. While he earned a Ranger tab designating him as a graduate of Ranger School, he never served in a Ranger battalion or any other special operations unit.
“I have no excuse,” McDonald told The Huffington Post, when contacted to explain his claim. “I was not in special forces.”