Brian Edward O’Neill

1971 Brian

Brian Edward O’Neill, born July 31, 1954, died November 15, 2006

Brian served in the US Army Infantry, post Vietnam but before Iraq.  He  completed Airborne Ranger  training which began in Fort Benning, GA, with B Company, 5th Battalion.  Brian didn’t talk much about his time in the military.  I found this on Wikipedia on what it takes to graduate from Airborne training at Fort Benning.

Ranger School training has a basic scenario: the flourishing drug and terrorist operations of the enemy forces, the “Aragon Liberation Front,” must be stopped. To do so, the Rangers will take the fight to their territory, the rough terrain surrounding Fort Benning, the mountains of northern Georgia, and the swamps and coast of Florida. Ranger students are given a clear mission, but they determine how to best execute it.

The first phase of Ranger School is conducted at Camp Rogers and Camp Darby at Fort Benning, Georgia and is conducted by the 4th Ranger Training Battalion. The “Benning Phase” is the “crawl” phase of Ranger School, where students learn the fundamentals of squad-level mission planning. It is “designed to assess a Soldier’s physical stamina, mental toughness, leadership abilities, and establishes the tactical fundamentals required for follow-on phases of Ranger School”. In this phase, training is separated into two parts, the Ranger Assessment Phase (RAP) and Squad Combat Operations.

Water confidence course

The Ranger Assessment Phase is conducted at Camp Rogers. As of April 2011, it encompasses Days 1–3 of training. Historically, it accounts for 60% of students who fail to graduate Ranger School.Events include:

  • Ranger Physical Fitness Test (RPFT) requiring the following minimums:
  • Push-ups: 49 (in 2 minutes, graded strictly for perfect form)
  • Sit-ups: 59 (in 2 minutes)
  • Chin-ups: 6 (performed from a dead hang with no lower body movement)
  • 5 mile individual run in 40 minutes or less over a course with gently rolling terrain
  • Combat Water Survival Test (no longer conducted as of 2010)
  • Combat Water Survival Assessment, conducted at Victory Pond (previously called the Water Confidence Test). This test consists of three events that test the Ranger student’s ability to calmly overcome any fear of heights or water. Students must calmly walk across a log suspended thirty-five feet above the pond, then transition to a rope crawl before plunging into the water. Each student must then jump into the pond and ditch their rifle and load-bearing equipment while submerged. Finally, each student climbs a ladder to the top of a seventy foot tower and traverses down to the water on a pulley attached to a suspended cable, subsequently plunging into the pond. All of these tasks must be performed calmly without any type of safety harness. If a student fails to negotiate an obstacle (through fear, hesitation or by not completing it correctly) he is dropped from the course.
  • Combination Night/Day land navigation test – This has proven to be one of the more difficult events for students, as sending units fail to teach land navigation using a map and compass. Students are given a predetermined number of MGRS locations and begin testing approximately two hours prior to dawn. Flashlights, with red lens filters, may only be used for map referencing; the use of flashlight to navigate across terrain will result in an immediate dismissal from the school. Later in the course, Ranger students will be expected to conduct, and navigate, patrols at night without violating light discipline. The land navigation test instills this skill early in each student’s mind, thus making the task second nature when graded patrolling begins.
  • A 3-mile terrain run, followed by the Malvesti Field Obstacle Course, featuring the notorious “worm pit”: a shallow, muddy, 25-meter obstacle covered by knee-high barbed wire. The obstacle must be negotiated—usually several times—on one’s back and belly.
  • Demolitions training and airborne refresher training.
  • Modern Army Combatives Program (MACP) training was removed as a part of a new POI at the start of 2009; it was reinstated with Class 06-10. The Combatives Program was spread over all phases and culminated with practical application in Florida Phase. However, MACP has been removed from Ranger again, starting with the Combatives Program in Mountains and Florida and followed by the removal of RAP week combatives in class 06-12.
  • A 12-mile forced, tactical ruck march with full gear from Camp Rogers to Camp Darby. This is the last test during RAP and is a pass/fail event. If the Ranger student fails to finish the march in under 3 hours, he is dropped from the course.

Soldier negotiates the Darby Queen Obstacle Course

The emphasis at Camp Darby is on the instruction in and execution of Squad Combat Operations. The phase includes “fast paced instruction on troop leading procedures, principles of patrolling, demolitions, field craft, and basic battle drills focused towards squad ambush and reconnaissance missions”. The Ranger student receives instruction on airborne/air assault operations, demolitions, environmental and “field craft” training, executes the infamous “Darby Queen” obstacle course, and learns the fundamentals of patrolling, warning and operations orders, and communications. The fundamentals of combat operations include battle drills (React to Contact, Break Contact, React to Ambush, Platoon Raid), which are focused on providing the principles and techniques that enable the squad-level element to successfully conduct reconnaissance and raid missions. As a result, the Ranger student gains tactical and technical proficiency, confidence in himself, and prepares to move to the next phase of the course, the Mountain Phase. The Mountain Phase is followed by the Florida Phase which is followed by graduation at Fort Benning.

Description of the Ranger training continues in more detail in the Wikipedia article but this is enough of the description to emphasize that this was really tough training.  Brian had a number of ups and downs in his life but completing Ranger training was something that he was truly proud of accomplishing.  I don’t know all the military assignments that Brian served after completing this training but he did talk about guarding the DMZ in South Korea for a time.  Brian died way too young at 52  from liver cancer which may have resulted from the hepatitis A that he got from a blood transfusion while in the military.


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