Honoring SGM Billy Waugh
Remembering SGM (R) Billy Waugh
It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Sergeant Major (Retired) Billy Waugh, a distinguished member of the Special Operations community and a hero to many. On April 4th, at the age of 93, Billy passed away, leaving behind a legacy that will be remembered forever.
Billy’s military career began in 1948 when he joined the Army as a young man. He fought in the Korean War with the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team and then set his sights on joining the Special Forces. He earned his Green Beret and completed multiple grueling deployments to Vietnam with the 10th and 5th Special Forces Groups. Billy was a pioneer of the military’s Freefall program and completed the first ever High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) combat jump into Vietnam in 1971. He went on to complete an additional four combat jumps during the war. Billy retired in 1972 after 24 years of active duty service in the Army, during which time he earned an impressive collection of military decorations, including 8 Purple Hearts, a Silver Star, 4 Bronze Stars, 2 Combat Infantryman Badge awards, a Legion of Merit, Static Line Jumpmaster, HALO Jumpmaster with 5 Combat Jumps, an Army Commendation Medal with Valor, and more.
After his military career, Billy joined the CIA and worked on clandestine operations throughout the Middle East and North Africa. He performed surveillance operations and intelligence gathering on terrorist leaders Illich Ramirez Sanchez (AKA Carlos the Jackal) and Osama Bin Laden. Even in his 70s, Billy was deployed through the agency to Afghanistan and Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. As a member of the CIA’s Northern Alliance Liaison Team, Billy worked with Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance to take down the Taliban and Al Qaeda at the Battle of Tora Bora.
Billy is an inspiration to our company and all who know his story. In 2016, during a visit to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, Billy met with one of our own who was recovering from injuries sustained in Afghanistan. Trevor Brunell, an Army Ranger on our team, remembers the encounter with Billy: “At nearly 90 years old, Billy came into my room and took a close look at my leg, which was partially bandaged and elevated after another surgery. He asked ‘What are your plans?’ to which I answered that I was driven to make it back to work and re-deploy. Billy nodded and told me ‘You’ll be fine and back to work in no time. Don’t worry about it’. He handed me a coin after an inspiring chat and left. Later on, one of his former team members stopped in to tell me more about their work together. I was in awe and no longer felt sorry for myself about what had happened to me overseas. Whenever things in life were challenging after that due to my injury, I would reflect that if SGM Waugh could push on through his injuries and get back to the fight, so could I.”