CIA Honors ‘Trailblazer’ & Trailblazer Museum for 70th Anniversary

At a private ceremony last week at CIA headquarters to mark the Agency’s 70th anniversary, CIA Director Mike Pompeo bestowed the honor of “Trailblazer” – a distinction reserved for those who have profoundly shaped CIA and its mission – on legendary former CIA officer Greg Vogle.

The CIA also unveiled a new, internal exhibit detailing the achievements of past CIA Trailblazers, who are some of the most influential figures in CIA history.

The events were part of CIA’s celebration of seven decades of service to America, dating back to the National Security Act of 1947, which established CIA as an independent intelligence agency charged with ensuring that U.S. policy makers have a comprehensive picture of the threats and opportunities facing our country in times of war and peace.

CIA seal
This CIA seal is a hallmark of the Original Headquarters Building lobby. The large granite seal – which measures 16 feet in diameter – has been the symbol of the CIA since Feb. 17, 1950. The eagle is our national bird and stands for strength and alertness. The 16-point compass star represents the convergence of intelligence data from around the world at a central point. The shield is the standard symbol of defense; US policymakers make decisions that defend our country through the intelligence we gather.

New CIA Trailblazer Honored

Mr. Vogle is a career paramilitary officer who recently retired from the Agency.

While details of his many accomplishments at CIA remain classified, he held senior executive positions in charge of global clandestine operations and helped lead joint programs and missions with partners in the Department of Defense and across the Intelligence Community.

Mr. Vogle’s CIA citations include:

  • The Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal (2016)
  • The Director’s Award for Distinguished Service (2016)
  • The Intelligence Star (2003)
  • The Distinguished Intelligence Cross (2002)
  • He also earned interagency honors, including the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal (2016).

Prior to joining CIA, Mr. Vogle served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1981-1986.

CIA Trailblazer Award
CIA Trailblazer Award

The prestigious Trailblazer award is only given to CIA officers who—by their actions, example, innovation, or initiative—have taken the CIA in important new directions and helped shaped the Agency’s history.

These are officers who distinguished themselves as pioneers in furthering the Agency’s mission and who served as a standard of excellence for others to follow.

The Trailblazer award was first proposed in 1997 when CIA celebrated its 50th anniversary.

That year, 50 individuals were honored with Trailblazer awards.

With the honor bestowed on Mr. Vogle today, CIA has given the Trailblazer award to 83 individuals and teams.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo
CIA Director Mike Pompeo

“Greg is an extraordinary leader and true Agency hero who left behind a legacy of devoted service, outstanding bravery, and unwavering commitment to mission,” said CIA Director Pompeo.

“As we celebrate our 70th anniversary, Greg encapsulates who we are and what we stand for as an Agency.”

“His outstanding actions over his career, particularly in the wake of 9/11, have better positioned CIA to meet the complex challenges of the future and to conduct operations in non-traditional and hostile environments around the world.”

“As we build on Greg’s legacy, we must bring to our own work every day the same energy and creative spirit that Greg invested in his.”

New Trailblazer Museum Exhibit Unveiled

In connection with the 70th anniversary, the Center for the Study of Intelligence and the CIA Museum unveiled a small, internal exhibit that provides a history of CIA’s Trailblazer award and lists unclassified names of Trailblazer recipients, from the inception of the award to the present.

CIA celebrates its 70th Anniversary
CIA celebrates its 70th Anniversary

The exhibit also includes a carefully curated collection of CIA Museum Trailblazer artifacts, with historical information about each artifact.

Additional information about past CIA Trailblazers can be found at:

The CIA Museum supports the Agency’s operational, recruitment and training missions and helps visitors better understand CIA and its contributions to national security.

The CIA Museum’s collection includes artifacts associated with the CIA’s predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services; foreign intelligence organizations; and the CIA itself.

The collection includes clothing, equipment, weapons, insignia and other memorabilia that serve as tangible testimony to the Agency’s history.

All artifacts displayed in the museum’s exhibits have been declassified by the appropriate Agency officials.

Because the Museum is located on the CIA compound, it is not open to the public for tours.

(On July 24, 2013 NBC Nightly News broadcast a rare look inside the main ‘secret’ CIA museum. Courtesy of NBC Nightly News, the Central Intelligence Agency and YouTube. Posted on Sep 8, 2014)

History of CIA’s Creation

The United States has carried out intelligence activities since the days of George Washington, but only since World War II have they been coordinated on a government-wide basis.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed New York lawyer and war hero, William J. Donovan, to become the first Coordinator of Information in July 1941.

(Major General William “Wild Bill” Donovan will always be known as the father of modern American intelligence. Courtesy of the Central Intelligence Agency and YouTube)

The Office of the Coordinator for Information constituted the nation’s first peacetime, non-departmental intelligence organization.

After the United States entered World War II, President Roosevelt appointed General Donovan to lead the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in 1942.

The OSS – the forerunner to the CIA – had a mandate to collect and analyze strategic information.

After World War II, however, the OSS was abolished along with many other war agencies, and its functions were transferred to the State and War Departments.

The CIA Family Tree (Courtesy of the Central Intelligence Agency)
The CIA Family Tree (Courtesy of the Central Intelligence Agency)

It did not take long before President Truman recognized the need for a postwar, centralized intelligence organization.

To make a fully functional intelligence office, Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 on July 26, 1947, establishing the CIA.

The National Security Act charged the CIA with coordinating the nation’s intelligence activities and correlating, evaluating and disseminating intelligence affecting national security.

CIA formally came into existence on September 18, 1947.

To learn more about the the origins of CIA, please visit