Greg Wright and his team were returning from an asset meeting in a Middle Eastern country when they came under intense fire from a large force of individuals. Greg, responsible for protecting the team of Central Intelligence Agency officers, moved swiftly into action as he drove the lead vehicle. The resulting fire fight took Greg’s life, but he was able to ensure his colleagues, his friends, survived.
Greg was assigned to protect the lives of CIA officers in often dangerous locations. He was reliable, resourceful and enjoyable to work with. More than 1,200 family members and friends came from around the world to attend his funeral. This is his story.
Gregory R. Wright Jr. was born in the Naval Hospital on the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia, and as a member of a military family, he moved 15 times in his first 13 years. In 1987, his family moved back to Virginia Beach, Virginia, and opened an Irish pub. Greg later enjoyed the camaraderie of working there. He also reconnected with his former middle-school friends. Greg entered First Colonial High School, where he played defensive end on the varsity football team and, because of his popularity and his wide range of friends, he was elected “Mr. First Colonial.” He graduated in 1990.
Greg entered the Virginia Military Institute (VMI); while there he played football, was chief of the VMI Emergency Response Team, and served as chief of the VMI Forest Fire Fighting team. He also volunteered with the Lexington, Virginia, Firefighters and Rescue Squad where, among other duties, he served as an ambulance driver. To say that Greg enjoyed contributing to his community is an understatement.
Greg graduated from VMI in 1996 and joined the Marine Corps. He attended Officers’ Candidate School, the Advanced Infantry Course, the Scout-Sniper School and the Army Intelligence School. Greg stayed close to his schoolmates from VMI while he made new friends with a group of Navy Seals.
Life at the CIA:
Greg left the Marine Corps in 2000 and launched a new career as a highly trained, special security services officer, traveling around the world protecting key individuals. Among the many dignitaries he protected were information technology mogul Steve Case and his family; former Secretary of State Madeline Albright; and then-DCI George Tenet.
His Final Mission:
In 2005, following a successful agent meeting in a Middle Eastern country, several CIA officers and Greg were returning to base in a vehicle when they were ambushed by an unidentified number of individuals on the main highway. The officers took evasive action, and a 40-kilometer chase ensued during which hundreds of rounds impacted the vehicle. At a CIA memorial Service, then-Director of CIA General Michael Hayden commented on Greg’s actions: “At the wheel of the car he was as calm and professional as ever, despite the growing chaos and confusion all around him.”
Eventually, the engine failed and caught on fire, forcing the occupants out of the vehicle. The four men took up a defensive position and attempted to move to a safer location. One Agency officer was shot. Greg shielded him in order to give him an opportunity to bandage his wound and, in the process, Greg was shot in the leg. Help arrived shortly thereafter and the ambushers relented. The injured were taken to a nearby clinic and treated, but Greg died at the scene. He was 32 years old.
Greg Wright died while demonstrating extraordinary valor. His courage and sound judgment under direct fire very likely saved the lives of the other officers. Greg’s associates, both at headquarters and in the field, recognize and appreciate his contributions as a contractor who worked side-by-side with Agency employees, and who died while protecting them. His honor, courage and sacrifice reinforce the importance of industrial and other contractors’ contributions and their dedication to our dangerous mission.
Honoring His Service:
Greg’s star on the CIA Wall of Honor was carved in 2006, one year after his death. During the CIA’s annual ceremony to commemorate those on the Wall, Director Hayden shared Greg’s story with the intimate crowd of friends, family members and colleagues who attended to honor the fallen officers.
“Through his example, Greg taught those around him the keys to a full life. Known as Puddy, Greg made friends very easily. He listened. He laughed. He led his friends to see the good in every situation. His broad smile and abundant charisma made an immediate impression on everyone who met him. He drew people in and brought them together. Above all when we think of Greg, we will remember his generous spirit,” noted Director Hayden.
The other officer who was shot in the ambush, who Greg protected that day, described Greg in the following way: “He would give you the shirt off his back. Kind and caring, he always put the needs of others above his own.”