updated 8/20/2005 6:05:42 PM ET 2005-08-20T22:05:42

The oldest Navy SEAL in uniform has retired at age 60 after a career that included a tour in Vietnam, 24 years in the reserves and a return to active duty to help reorganize the reserves.

Capt. William “Wild Bill” Wildrick signed on with the SEALs in 1968, before the highly specialized Sea Air Land commandos became a household name. He served all but two of his 39 years in the Navy with the SEALs.

“There was a time when our compound wasn’t even marked and we didn’t wear patches,” Wildrick said at his retirement ceremony last week. “Now you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in the world who doesn’t know what a SEAL is.”

Wildrick, who lives in La Jolla, was the last active-duty SEAL platoon officer who had served in Vietnam and the second-highest ranking SEAL nationwide.

In 1996, after more than two decades in the SEAL reserve units, Wildrick returned to active duty at the U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., where he worked to overhaul a reserve system that suffered from low funding, poor training and often fragmented leadership.

Wildrick made some of the most significant changes in the Naval Special Warfare Reserve community in 30 years, including setting up SEAL support commands on both coasts to increase coordination and support between active and reserve forces. His model is now being considered for all Navy reserves.

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