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Fort Drum, Army Chief of Staff celebrates deputy commander’s promotion

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FORT DRUM — The post on Monday celebrated the promotion of its deputy commander for operations in a ceremony featuring the Army’s chief of staff.

Brig. Gen. Mark J. O’Neil was promoted from colonel to brigadier general in a ceremony at the LeRay Mansion involving several members of his family. The ceremony also drew dozens of his friends, classmates, fellow soldiers and football teammates and coaches.

Also in attendance was Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Army chief of staff. Before taking the deputy commander role at Fort Drum, Gen. O’Neil was Gen. Odierno’s chief of staff.

The new general said his story was made possible by his supporters throughout his life.

“That’s what makes the celebration today so special,” Gen. O’Neil said. “It’s because of extraordinary opportunities and the extraordinary people I have in my life.”

Pinning on his new rank was his wife, Wendy, and his sons, Taylor, 20, and Riley, 17. He choked back tears as he thanked his wife for her support during his career, which included annual deployments from 2002 to 2011.

“Thank you for keeping the family together and doing all the heavy lifting for a long time,” he said.

Other members of Gen. O’Neil’s family in attendance were his parents, Donald and Shirley O’Neil, and siblings Matt O’Neil, Megan Duncan and Maureen Davis.

Gen. O’Neil was nominated for the promotion in mid-December, the same time he arrived on post.

During his remarks, Gen. Odierno described Gen. O’Neil as a “natural leader,” and said his character and communication and team-building skills were major assets.

“When you work with Mark, you know you want to be a part of Team O’Neil,” Gen. Odierno said.

Gen. Odierno drew some laughs when he started his remarks by saying that he had slept fine at the mansion the previous night and that he had only three interactions with ghosts.

“My wife would have told you my stories would have scared them away,” he said.

Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commander of the post and the 10th Mountain Division, said it was a blessing to have Gen. O’Neil on post.

“His career and his service as a warrior and an officer in our Army ... his credentials are impeccable,” he said.

Following the ceremony, Gen. Odierno, Gen. O’Neil and Gen. Townsend were unavailable for additional comments. Gen. Odierno was scheduled to leave the post immediately after the ceremony.

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