Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno promoted Col. Mark J. O’Neil, 10th Mountain Division (LI) deputy commander - operations, to brigadier general in a late morning ceremony Monday in front of historic LeRay Mansion at Fort Drum.
Odierno, the 38th chief of staff of the Army, took a brief moment away from his demanding work schedule to preside over the ceremony and to highlight O’Neil’s career.
In his speech, Odierno highlighted not only the magnitude of the promotion itself but of the reasons promotions to the general officer ranks are so rare.
“Less than one percent of all colonels in the Army get selected for promotion to brigadier general,” he said. “It is something that is incredibly difficult to attain.”
Odierno also spoke about the considerable changes that those who attain the rank of a general officer can expect to see in their lives as a result of the additional responsibility that comes with the office.
“When you put that star on your shoulder, it does change your life,” Odierno said. “It changes how people see you, and it is a burden of responsibility, but it is also one that we give to the very best.”
O’Neil was deployed every year from 2002 until 2011 when Odierno selected him as his aide de camp. Odierno said he felt the deployments were crucial to O’Neil’s selection for the rank.
“That’s an incredible burden and an incredible sacrifice,” Odierno said. “And it gets to really saying why Mark O’Neil is being promoted.”
Immediately after the publication of the orders, Odierno pinned on the initial stars that represent O’Neil’s new rank. Afterwards, O’Neil’s Family and parents joined in pinning on his shoulder boards and helping him don his new headgear.
Odierno emphasized the fact that promotions are Family affairs that involve both a Soldier’s Army Family and their actual Families by stressing the need for their support while progressing through the ranks.
In his remarks after his promotion, O’Neil thanked Odierno for his attendance as well as the mentorship that he credits with his success. He also acknowledged that he has been fortunate to have been given the opportunities he has had throughout his career.
“My story continues to be one of extraordinary opportunities and extraordinary people,” O’Neil said. “I am thankful for each of you that have helped to shape my life.”
O’Neil was commissioned as an infantry second lieutenant upon graduating from Norwich University in 1986. He has served for more than 27 years, commanding at every level.