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May Conversation with a CEO Featuring U.S. Special Operations Command General Richard Clarke to be Rescheduled

By Keith Morelli

Richard Clarke

TAMPA (March 12, 2020) -- A future guest of the Conversation with a CEO is a well-seasoned leader of men and women on the battlefield. Gen. Richard D. Clarke sits atop the U.S. Special Operations Command, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base, overseeing military operations in most of the troubled spots around the globe.

That includes Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and a number of areas torn apart by war over the past two decades. His responsibilities now also include countering military posturing by Russia and China. It’s a job few are capable of handling. Clarke is one of the few.

To be successful, he must not only command the military side of the efforts, but a side that encompasses the basic tenets of business. There are budgets, supply chains, morale among the troops, all the challenges faced by a corporate CEO, but much, much more.

Clarke was scheduled to be the guest of the USF Muma College of Business’ Conversation with a CEO series in May, but was called off due to the COVID-19 crisis. Plans are still in the works to have Clarke at a future event.

Born an Army brat in Germany more than a half century ago, Clarke went on to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the National War College with a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies.

Along the way, Clarke managed time to earn an MBA from Benedictine College in Kansas and will talk about the importance of what he learned as a graduate student and how it relates to the military decisions he makes that impact the lives of thousands of service members.

“While SOCOM is a military operation, make no mistake it must deal with all the critical business functions as well,” said Moez Limayem, dean of the USF Muma College of Business. “Gen. Clarke’s expertise in military planning and execution and his ability to balance those essential requirements with the demands of business reveals how this brilliant leader has taken charge of such a massive undertaking and made it work on both the military and business levels.”

Clarke became the commander of SOCOM in March 2019, transferring from his post at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. as director of strategy, plans and policy for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Credibility with the American public is among his top concerns.

"The themes of trust and of teamwork have been a large part of your training," Clarke told a graduating class of Navy SEALS in August. "Across the [Special Operations Command] enterprise, trust is our currency with the American people. It's a powerful but fragile credibility that each of us must guard fiercely."

Clarke, the 12th commander of SOCOM, has put time in the field, as well. He spent eight years in the 75th Ranger Regiment, first as a company commander, then as a battalion commander, and finally as the regimental commander. He also served as commander of the 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.

He has led soldiers at all levels in Airborne, Ranger, Mechanized and Light Infantry units in divisions that were headquartered in the United States, Europe, Iraq and Afghanistan. His deployments include Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Operation Joint Guardian in Macedonia, three deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, four deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and one deployment as the commander of the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command - Operation Inherent Resolve.

Though still fighting against militant groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaida, Clarke now is tasked with monitoring and countering military moves of China and Russia.

Former SOCOM Commander Adm. William McRaven said Clarke is the right leader at the right time to manage change at the command that trains and equips Navy SEALs, Green Berets and Rangers, Marine Raiders and Air Force special operators.

"I think Rich Clarke is absolutely the right guy to take over for Tony Thomas," McRaven told the Tampa Bay Times at SOCOM’s change of command ceremony last year. "Rich has got great conventional and special operations experience. He's got combat experience. He's got Pentagon experience. He understands the interagency.”

To register for the event, click here.