Board of Advisors

Michael E. Thornton

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while participating in a daring operation against an enemy-occupied naval river base…


Michael E. Thornton enlisted in the United States Navy in 1967. He entered basic training at the Naval Training Center, San Diego, California. Mike was selected for specialized training Basic Underwater Demolition in Coronado, CA and the Navy’s elite SEAL community. He was assigned to SEAL team One from 1968-1974, during this period from 1968 -1973, Mike completed several tours of duty in the Republic of Vietnam and Thailand. He was the recipient of numerous awards, the most prestigious decoration was bestowed for the heroic actions on his last tour of duty in Vietnam which resulted in saving the life of a fellow SEAL. For this action during a reconnaissance and intelligence gathering mission, Mike received this Nation’s highest award: Congressional Medal of Honor. From 1974-1977, he served as an instructor at the SEAL training command in Coronado, 1977 he transferred to SEAL 2, 1978 he deployed to the United Kingdom to serve with the Royal British Special Boat Squadron before returning to help establish and operate with SEAL Team Six. In June of 1982, Lieutenant Thornton received his commission as U.S. Navy Ensign, after completing training 1986 he went on to the USS Edenton as Diving/Salvage Officer for Combat Support Squadron Eight. In 1990 he reported as Bravo Company Commander in Desert Shield /Desert Storm. In May of 1992, Lt. Thornton retired from Active Duty from the Navy.



Lieutenant, SEAL Team 1, 2, 3, 6



Medal of Honor, Silver Star, Bronze Star (3), Purple Heart


Vice Admiral Colin J. Kilrain

Commissioned in 1985, BUD/SEAL in 1986. Commands include Naval Special Warfare Unit 4, SEAL Team 4, Naval Special Warfare Group Two, Special Operations Command Pacific, Associate Director for Military Affairs CIA, Commander of the NATO Special Operations Headquarters, Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff...


Vice Admiral Colin James Kilrain, born in 1958 in Quincy, Massachusetts, stands as a paradigm of naval excellence and dedication, encapsulating distinguished service in the United States Navy, spanning nearly four decades from 1985 to 2023. 


A graduate of Lehigh University, Kilrain established himself early on as a formidable athlete, achieving the status of a three-time NCAA All-American wrestler, a testament to his dedication and competitive spirit. Further academic pursuits led him to earn a Master of Science in National Resources Strategy and Management from the National Defense University’s Eisenhower School. Additionally, his linguistic accomplishments are notable, having mastered both German and Spanish at the Defense Language Institute, skills that would serve him well in his international assignments.


Kilrain's commissioning in 1985 marked the beginning of an exceptional naval career, with his early years characterized by the rigorous training challenges of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S), which he completed in 1986. His progression through the ranks of the Navy SEALs was marked by a series of increasingly critical command and leadership roles. These included commanding Naval Special Warfare Unit 4 in Puerto Rico, SEAL Team 4, and Naval Special Warfare Group Two in Virginia, culminating in leadership roles as Commander of the Special Operations Command Pacific in Hawaii, Associate Director for Military Affairs (ADMA) for the Central Intelligence Agency from 2019 to 2021, Commander of the NATO Special Operations Headquarters from 2016 to 2019, and finally as Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from October 20, 2021 to February 2023.  


Throughout his tenure, Kilrain’s operational assignments were diverse and global, highlighting his versatile and dynamic approach to Naval Special Warfare and Joint Special Operations Command missions. Noteworthy was his involvement in the Personal Exchange Program with the German Navy Kampfschwimmer Kompanie in Eckenförde, Germany, which underscored his international military collaboration and expertise.  He also led a number of task forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan, to include JSOC Task Forces during combat operations in Afghanistan. His deployments spanned five continents, demonstrating a commitment to global security and operational excellence in various theaters of operation, including the War in Afghanistan and the Iraq War. His exceptional service in these conflicts and others earned him numerous accolades, such as four Defense Superior Service Medals, two Legion of Merit awards, and five Bronze Star Medals, reflecting his valor, leadership, and significant contributions to national security.


Kilrain’s roles extended beyond operational Commands into strategic and policy-making capacities, which included serving as Operations Officer for Special Operations Command South in Panama, Operations Officer for the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism, and Director of Strategy and Policy for the Office of Combating Terrorism at the White House during the Obama Administration. His insights and leadership were further recognized in his appointment as Senior Defense Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. His career culminated in the pivotal roles assisting the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Central Intelligence Agency, where he continued to influence key military and national security strategies.


On a personal note, Vice Admiral Kilrain is married to Susan Kilrain, an American aerospace engineer, former U.S. Navy officer and the youngest NASA astronaut to pilot a Space Shuttle with more than 3,000 hours flown.  Together with their four children, they reflect the highest ideals of the U.S. Navy and the nation it serves; and they serve as beacon of naval leadership that is exemplified by Vice Admiral Kilrain’s remarkable career, strategic acumen, and steadfast service to his



Four Defense Superior Service Medals 

Two Legion of Merit Awards

Five Bronze Star Medals