The former member of the exclusive SEAL Team Six that carried out the May 2, 2011 raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan was set to share his story for the first time in an upcoming special with Fox News called “The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden.”
Ahead of this, his identity has been revealed by SOFREP, a news and analysis site dedicated to the military and special operations.
Navy SEALS, who promise not to “advertise the nature of my work, nor seek public recognition for my actions,” are not meant to speak publicly about their missions, many of which are highly classified.
It is rumored that O’Neill is speaking out after learning that his decision to leave the SEALs after 16 years instead of the full 20 would result in a significant loss of military benefits.
O’Neill’s astounding military record spans 400 combat missions, including some of the most high profile military rescues in recent years – the Maersk Alabama, a US ship captured by Somali pirates and made famous in the film Captain Phillips, and the rescue of SEAL Marcus Luttrell, the only survivor of a failed mission to capture a Taliban leader in Afghanistan, recently immortalized in the movie Lone Survivor.
O’Neill’s father, Tom, spoke to The Daily Mail today about his heroic son from their hometown of Butte, Montana, a former mining town with an immense Irish history. It was listed as "the most Irish town in America" in the 2010 US Census.
The elder O’Neill told the Mail that his son was inspired to become a SEAL at 19 when “we were going hunting and a friend asked us to take a guy who was a Navy SEAL with us. We were expecting someone who was 6 ft. 8 in. who could lift a house with his bare hands, but he was this normal guy. And Rob said if this guy could be a SEAL, then so could he.”
His son has served over a dozen tours of duty in four war zones including Afghanistan and Iraq, O’Neill told the Mail. He has been decorated 52 times and left with the rank of Senior Chief Petty Officer.
The former SEAL has spoken in previous interviews about his involvement in the bin Laden raid but never directly revealed the extent of his role or any specific details. He is now believed to have been the subject identified only as “The Shooter” in an interview last year with Esquire magazine, where he spoke anonymously about the night of May 2, 2011. Accounts of the chain of events vary, with O'Neill saying he shot bin Laden three times at close range in the forehead, while another account maintains that bin Laden was mortally wounded by one shot from O'Neill and then shot twice more by two other Team Six SEALs.
“The Shooter” also voiced frustrations over the military’s treatment of veterans such as himself, saying that when he announced his decision to retire after 16 years of service the SEALs offered to set him up with a job delivering beer in Michigan, which he compared to “witness protection for Mafia turncoats.”
Since leaving the SEALs, O’Neill has been working as a motivational speaker, sharing his story to motivate others but, as he states in this video, not revealing any secrets:
His bio reads, “He was a team leader with the Naval Special Warfare Development Group.
"With most of his career shrouded in a classified cloak, O’Neill was the man on the ground we have never heard of but know exists.
"He was one of the quiet professionals performing the most difficult tasks in the most difficult circumstances, serving his remarkable career in the shadows and keeping America safe in the process.
"In his line of work, instant, critical decision-making is an absolute necessity for success, and he has proven experience in exceptionally high-risk and fluid environments.
"O’Neill brings this unique expertise to organizations and translates his elite SEAL team training into high-impact, actionable insights on leadership, decision-making, operating in uncertain environments, and how to become the ‘best of the best.’
"His mantra is ‘never quit,’ and O’Neill believes this is the single most important factor in determining success.”
It is anticipated that there will be legal repercussions following O’Neill’s decision to speak out.
Fellow former SEAL Matt Bissonnette is currently under investigation for writing a book, "No Easy Day," giving his first-hand account of the mission that brought down bin Laden.
O’Neill’s father told the Mail that he supports his son’s decision completely. “What are you supposed to do when you come out of the military after such service – become a greeter at Walmart?” he asked.