The words “quiet professionals” have been used to describe the men and women of Air Force Special Operations Command since its inception a quarter century ago. However, there is at least one man who can claim an exception to that — for all the right reasons. Despite spending a career working within special ops, planning and leading the most secretive military operations, Lieutenant General Brad Webb is no stranger to being in the spotlight.
In fact, Webb became one of the most visible faces within the military in no small part thanks to an iconic photograph taken in the White House situation room during arguably the most secret military operation in modern history.
On May 1, 2011, White House photographer Pete Souza captured the unnerving drama and stress of the operation that marked the end of the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden. It was Webb, then a one-star general, who was at the center of the photo, flanked by President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Clinton and the president’s national security team.
Webb was assistant commanding general of Joint Special Operations Command at the time. He was charged with monitoring the highly secretive operation on a computer screen with a live feed that was being relayed from a secret drone over Pakistan. During the mission, Secretaries Clinton, Gates, and Vice President Biden joined Webb in the situation room to watch the operation unfold. Unbeknownst to Webb, the president would later join his cabinet and upon walking into the room said, “I need to watch this,” as he seated himself next to Webb. The tension of the moment, as is seen in the photograph, is clearly visible.
In a recent interview, Webb says the memory that stands out most from that day was of “being in the zone.”
“You hear people talk about this in sports…when time seems to slow down, everything is really focused and instead of being nervous, you are perfectly calm,” Webb said. “I recall looking around the room at some point when the entire leadership team of our nation was in the room and thinking, ‘I should be freaking out right now.’ But, I was perfectly calm, concentrating on the task at hand.”
Since the 2011 operation, Webb has been promoted twice, now a three-star general and is currently serving as the commander of NATO Special Operations Headquarters in Europe, planning and leading joint special operations missions throughout Europe and Africa.
This week, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced the appointment of Webb to lead Air Force Special Operations Command, which is headquartered at Hurlburt Field in Okaloosa County.
Webb has spent most of his career serving the special operations community, with more than 13 years served at Hurlburt, where more than 10,000 people work.
In his most recent assignment at Hurlburt, Webb served as the director for Plans, Programs, Requirements and Assessments at AFSOC from July 2012 to July 2013. Early in his career, he spent seven years as a pilot, instructor pilot and flight examiner with the 20th Special Operations Squadron, which he later went on to command.
An Air Force Academy graduate, Webb is a veteran command pilot with more than 3,700 flying hours, including 117 combat hours in Afghanistan, Iraq and Bosnia. During his career, he has flown the MH-53, the CV-22 Osprey, the UH-1, and the MC-130.
Webb’s appointment to lead the command will go before Congress, and if confirmed, he will succeed Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, who has served as AFSOC’s commander since 2014.