Thomas Richards graduated from Villanova University in 1969 and was commissioned through the Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps. After his commission as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy, Richards received orders to Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training (BUD/S) at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. After six months of training, Richards graduated BUD/S class 55 in April 1970. Richards first assignment was to SEAL TEAM ONE and deployed to the Mekong Delta during Vietnam War in 1970. He was wounded in February 1971 and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart. Richards led naval special operations forces during Operation Prime Chance and Operation Praying Mantis in the Persian Gulf. Richards served in numerous staff and command positions including operations officer NSWG 1; executive officer, Underwater Demolition Team Twelve (UDT-12), commanding officer, Special Boat Unit Thirteen; senior U.S. Naval representative at the U.S. Military Group (MILGRU), El Salvador; commanding officer, SEAL Team ONE; programs officer with the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, D.C., and commanding officer, Naval Special Warfare Center. From 1996 to 1999, Richards served as the commanding officer of the Naval Special Warfare Command. He retired from active duty in 1999 after 30 years of service.
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