Joo Ho Han: The oldest SOF operator in the world

Author: Eric Sof

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In the world of Special Operations Forces, age means experience. But, among elite operators, the optimal age is considered between 30 and 45 years. However, in some military forces outside the United States, age is not a limit unless you are fit to fulfill your duty.

For example, the average age of a 1st SFOD-D (Delta Force) operator is around thirty-five.

Oldest SOF operator in the world

Warrant Officer Joo Ho Han (1957-2010) was a legend amongst the South Korean UDT/SEALs and the active-duty world’s oldest SOF operator. Well known for his incredible physical fitness even at his old age. FYI, the UDT/SEAL and the 707th battalion are the most elite unit in the ROK military (South Korea). During daily PT, he was well known for training alongside and leading his younger UDT/SEAL comrades despite his old age.

He was essentially a key pioneer for the UDT/SEALs since he served the unit from its early establishment. He was the definition of a “superfit operator.” However, his undying devotion and commitment ultimately led to his tragic death in 2010, where he has died during the mission at the age of 53.

The Oldest SOF Operator in the World: Joo Ho Han
Joo Ho Han – ROK UDT/SEAL 1957-2010 (Photo: Wiki)

Cheonan Sinking

During the unprovoked shocking Cheonan Sinking in 2010, a North Korean submarine sunk a South Korean corvette killing 46 crew members on board. The whole nation’s grief worsened when the news broke out that Warrant Officer Han had died during the rescue mission.

He was well known in Korea as he had previously appeared on a UDT/SEAL documentary about ten years prior, which was very popular at the time due to its rare access to one of the most classified military branches in South Korea.

“We are men of steel/ We sacrifice our lives for our country/ We live and die with faith and loyalty/ Let us go to the sea, our paradise,” sung a group of underwater demolition team members past and present, moving their right arms up and down with the rhythm of the song during his funeral.

He had lost consciousness while reaching the sunken corvette and later died in hospital due to oxygen deprivation. It was particularly saddening as, at his age, he didn’t have to take part in the mission and should’ve stayed out of the water.

However, due to the extremely rough weather conditions at the time, he insisted he join his younger comrades in the water to oversee the mission despite being urged not to. Following his death, the nation erected numerous memorial statues to honor his legacy.

ROK Navy Admirals pay respects to Joo Ho Han in front of one of his many statues
ROK Navy Admirals pay respects to Joo Ho Han in front of one of his many statues. (Photo: Wiki)

Joo Ho Han was one of the most inspiring officers in the world of special forces. He spent his whole life serving his country and died on a mission at the age where he clearly could choose not to go. Respect!

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