A native of Brockton, Mass., Anthony (Tony) O'Brien, Sr. is the son of 'Deacon Don' who is a Marine Corps veteran & was the first Deacon at St. Edward Parish. Tony has 14 siblings from a family of nurses & veterans. His greatest joy is being Dad to Anthony (9) & James (7) with humble gratitude for his family's commitment to faith, family, education, and service to community & country.
He is a former Navy SEAL Lieutenant Commander who served with SEAL Team FIVE & SDV Team ONE. Before joining the Navy, he served a tour in the Marines like his Dad.
A veteran of seven overseas deployments, he led 4 platoons & 3 task units for crisis response to 30 countries throughout Asia, the Middle East & Europe including Kuwait, Kosovo, and Iraq; and trained in 20 US states.
He worked with US Secret Service details for 3 US Presidents (Pres. Bush Sr in 1991, Pres. Clinton 1993, Pres. Bush Jr 2001).
His awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Southwest Asia Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, and commendations from the Secretary of the Navy & the U.S. President.
After serving a tour in the Marine Corps infantry & recon, the Secretary of the Navy selected him to try-out for the SEALs at their basic training course "BUD/S." He graduated with class 156.
His athletic career included finishing 15 marathons (26.2 mi), 3 Half-IRONMAN triathlons, and the 1993 IRONMAN triathlon world championship in Hawaii (swim 2.4mi, bike 112mi, run 26.2mi).
For his participation in & support of theater & performing arts, he was inducted to the Robert McEwan Drama Hall of Fame in 2011 at Cardinal Spellman High School where he was a member of the National Honor Society for academics.
After his faith in God, and thanks to God, his favorite blessing is being a Dad, of course top credit & max thanks to their Mom Staci.
Although he started early as a runner finishing 3 marathons (26.2 mi) in his senior year at Spellman, most of his accomplishments that may inspire others are in the category of "Better late than never" including attended SEAL basic training BUD/S at max allowed age of 28, is one of oldest Army Ranger School graduates ever (age 41), and became a first-time Dad at age 51.
One of many inspiring principles from his faith & military service is "we are never out of the fight." We all stumble, we all fall, how long do we stay down? Who gets up? Of course, one doesn't have to be a Marine, SEAL or Pastor to be inspired to overcome obstacles. Thankfully many people do overcome.
Detailed military biography
His inspiration to serve our country was from "years of listening to uplifting stories & admiring pride of service from his Dad, Uncle Dick & Uncle Chuck who were Marines" and in response to a call to service from President Reagan following the Iran embassy hostage crisis. His family legacy makes him most proud of his military service.
After joining the Marines, he was selected for appointment to Lieutenant in the Marines by President Reagan. Then he was selected to be an infantry platoon commander assigned to First Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment (1/5), First Marine Division at Camp Pendleton CA, under battalion commander Colonel Peter Vacca, a Vietnam Silver Star recipient. O'Brien led his platoon on an overseas deployment throughout Asia including Japan, Korea, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand & China.
His battalion executive officer Major Wallace Gregson & operations officer Capt. Richard Natonski would both rise to the rank of General. LT O'Brien was blessed with outstanding leaders & mentors throughout his military service. Infantry units are the front line combat personnel closest to enemy engagement during conventional military operations which are usually large scale operations.
As the platoon commander, he was responsible for his unit's combat readiness, served as the unit's primary instructor for weapons & tactics, and coordinated their admin & tactical intel, training, ops, logistics, supply, transportation, and communications functions.
Deployments are the rotation of units to temporary assignments overseas to maintain US national security in that area, train with foreign military units, and remain vigilant there to respond to crisis situations as assigned by higher authority. The DOD national management of the deployment system maintains US military presence worldwide to assist allies & serve US national security interests.
One of the Corps' most decorated units, First Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment (1/5), nicknamed "Geronimo" after the famous warrior, has a century-old reputation as a "Go-to" unit selected for difficult missions that participated in some of the most famous battles ever: Battles of Belleau Wood (WWI), Okinawa (WWII), Chosin Reservoir (Korea), Hue (Vietnam), Desert Storm & Iraqi Freedom.
The Marines' nickname "Devil dogs" was given by the French in appreciation for the Marines' never-say-die fighting spirit that was critical to victory during the infamous Battle of Belleau Wood.
For their courage at Belleau Wood, the Fifth Marine Regiment was awarded the French Fourragere decoration (shoulder cord) which the unit still wears today.
Fifth Marines are considered the most decorated regiment in Marine Corps history.
LT O'Brien also completed USMC Mountain Leader Course at Bridgeport CA in the Sierra Nevada mountains conducting challenging training to become an instructor in military rock climbing and skiing.
After his tour in the infantry, O'Brien was hoping to serve in a unit more focused on smaller & more independent special operations. He was selected for & completed a rigorous screening process for "Recon" and was selected as a recon Platoon Commander at First Reconnaissance Battalion under battalion commanders Colonel Wheeler Baker & Colonel Digger O'Dell.
Colonel O'Dell was inducted in the USSOCOM Commando Hall of Honor. Recon is a division-level combat asset that performs reconnaissance providing intelligence offices with tactical information. (Recon was the first of very few Marine Corps units to be considered a "special operations" unit before the Marines joined SOCOM in 2006 to fully integrate in US Special Operations and established the Raiders in 2015.) First Recon Bn was featured in the TV miniseries "Generation Kill."
O'Brien's recon platoon conducted special weapons and tactics training with one of America's most highly-regarded law enforcement units, Los Angeles Police SWAT.
In 1985, he led his platoon as the first Recon platoon to make an operational overseas deployment since Vietnam and deployed with Battalion Landing Team 3/1 (BLT) throughout Asia.
LT O'Brien worked for BLT commander Colonel Bob Tilley, a Vietnam Silver Star recipient, and trained in Japan with a Navy SEAL unit led by LTs Joe Kernan & Tom Brown and Chief Pat Parks. Kernan & Brown rose to the rank of Admiral. For his tour in the infantry & recon, O'Brien was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal from Colonel O'Dell & General Hank Stackpole.
At Recon, he attended Navy Diver School and Navy Diver Ops Supervisor Course (taught by SEALs) at San Diego CA and led several diving ops from several patrol boats, ships & submarines.
He attended Army Airborne (parachutist) School and Army Jumpmaster School at Ft. Benning GA and led many parachute ops from fixed wing aircrafts & helicopters from all four branches (Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines). He is authorized to wear the Navy Diver insignia, Army and Navy parachutist "jump wings" badges, and the French Fourragere decoration.
In 1986, he and members of his recon platoon were selected to be "extras" in Clint Eastwood's Marine Corps movie "Heartbreak Ridge" for scenes filmed at Camp Pendleton and can be seen in several scenes as Marines in the units with Eastwood.
During training in Quantico VA, O'Brien played a season for the Marine Corps Quantico rugby team.
On promotion to Captain in the Marines, he was selected to serve at Bootcamp Parris Island SC as a Series Commander and Battalion Executive Officer leading Drill Instructors training thousands of recruits to graduate from Marine Corps Bootcamp & become Marines.
As a Battalion Adjutant, he carried his Uncle Richard's USMC sword while leading many ceremonies including bootcamp graduations. Uncle Dick was a Marine Colonel & Vietnam veteran who also served in recon and was a decorated Vietnamese linguist interrogating prisoners in combat, an infantry battalion commander (1st Bn, 8th Marines), and national commandant of the Marine Corps League (MCL), the first MCL commandant while serving on active duty since the legendary General John A. Lejeune founded the MCL in 1923.
For his successful tour in the Marines, Capt. O'Brien was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal from Colonel Jay Sollis & the Commanding General and the Meritorious Unit Commendation from the Commandant of the Marine Corps. His Drill Instructors presented a Marine Corps NCO sword (enlisted non-commissioned officer) to him which he says was one of his greatest honors & gifts.
While at Parris Island, and inspired by his previous training with SEALs and desire to serve in units more focused on special operations, he was selected for a rare inter-service transfer to the Navy, an appointment to Lieutenant by US Secretary of the Navy James Webb (a distinguished USMC veteran and author), and an opportunity to try-out for the SEALs at their maximum allowed age of 28. (Average age of BUD/S students is 21.) He is especially grateful to CAPT Larry Bailey, then the Commanding Officer of BUD/S, who supported his application to transfer to the Navy.
BUD/S is Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training course considered one of the most difficult military training programs in the world & the foundation of the SEAL's legacy as a highly successful special operations military unit. At BUD/S, an average of 25% of students graduate in each class.
Tony often looks back at his experience at BUD/S & how a "do-or-die mindset" & attitude was required to start and complete some training events (as well as a supreme trust in the training staff, and of course faith in God). Once one achieves that mindset then it can change how one approaches so many things in life for their entire life.
Navy SEAL units are specialized combat units tasked by higher authority usually for crisis response, search & rescue, and disaster relief operations usually under highly challenging & hazardous conditions. SEAL Teams were founded in 1962 by President Kennedy, who heroically commanded specialized small boat operations in WWII.
The SEALs were formed from their predecessors the UDT, Underwater Demolition Teams, who were founded in 1942 during WWII as an emergency response for the great need for more intel before amphibious landings in the Pacific campaign. UDT conducted critical specialized missions during WWII, the Korean War & the Vietnam War. The nickname for UDT was "frogmen" and, out of utmost respect for their UDT predecessors, today SEALs still call each other "frogman."
Tony's family Navy legacy includes Uncle David was the 48th Commanding Officer of the USS Constitution (still commissioned in the active duty Navy, USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship in the world & "America's Ship of State"), cousin Tom was a Top Gun pilot who worked as an advisor on the movie "Top Gun," and cousin Mike served in the nuclear Navy. Tony's Dad Don served in the Marine Corps in aviation ordnance. Tony's brother Dave served in the Marines as a Sergeant & aircraft mechanic.
LT O'Brien was selected for & attended BUD/S at the maximum age of 28. In class 155, and as the senior ranking student as a Lieutenant, he was the class leader through training including completing Hell Week on his first try. During marksmanship training & qualification he was recognized as the top shooter in his class. Then he failed a rigorous pool training event when he passed out underwater, was revived poolside, and was dropped from class 155 & rolled back to class 156.
He graduated with class 156 at age 29, one of the oldest graduates since BUD/S started in 1942.
He was awarded & is authorized to wear the SEAL "trident" insignia. O'Brien credits the success that he & his classmates had at BUD/S to "his unusual professional preparation (in the Marines) & his running-endurance experience since high school plus the incredible motivating leadership of BUD/S instructors & relentless selfless teamwork of his classmates."
He was assigned to SEAL Team FIVE as a Platoon Commander where his platoon conducted tactical training with several local & federal law enforcement agencies.
A highlight of their training was during a major evaluated exercise in California & the parachuting part of a night at-sea event when a major equipment accident required the mission to be aborted.
Due to the equipment accident, the exercise was rescheduled and was a success for his platoon.
During the same training event, another mishap was avoided, and not related to the major equipment accident, when O'Brien had to be rescued from a near-drowning situation by his platoonmate & "Swim Buddy" Navy SEAL Curt Campbell.
LT O'Brien led an overseas deployment to NSWU-1 highlighted by his platoon's support for US Embassy security against terrorist threats in the Philippines. During winter training in Korea on steep mountains and in a harsh snow storm, his unit conducted a successful hazardous no-notice, high-altitude, life-saving medevac of a pregnant Korean civilian with severe medical complications which was the subject of an international news story. On the same deployment, LT O'Brien received serious injuries during a parachute training accident in a remote area of the Philippines when he landed on some rocks including he broke his ribs & punctured a lung. He is supremely grateful to teammates who expedited his medevac for critical care. On the same jump, a platoonmate broke his leg and also required medevac. O'Brien's injuries required suspension of his SEAL & Navy diver qualification. However, he was allowed to complete the deployment with his platoon.
After the deployment, he recovered, was reevaluated and deemed qualified to return to full duty as a SEAL & Navy diver. Then he was elevated to task force SEAL ops officer in support of a SEAL Team THREE Task Unit working directly for Task Force Commander Admiral Stephen Clarey during the Persian Gulf War (Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm & Provide Comfort). A highlight of that deployment was his task unit processed 1,500 prisoners of war (POW) in 2 days.
He also worked with SEAL Team EIGHT, Admiral Bill McRaven and Captain Pete Toennies (his former CO at ST5) during the defeat of the Iraqi invasion in Kuwait.
Their Amphibious Task Force (19 total ships) was the largest naval deployment and operation since the Vietnam War. With an unprecedented multinational coalition of 38 countries led by President Bush Sr., the Gulf War also resulted in a historically low number of KIA casualties for a large-scale operation (500,000 American troops participated).
On their way home, a massive historic cyclone decimated the Bangladesh coastline killing 40,000 people and thousands of livestock in a few hours, basic infrastructure services were destroyed, and 5 million people became homeless. His task force was diverted to Bangladesh for Operation Sea Angel to lead America's initial response to the deadliest cyclone ever (category 5). His task unit's efforts as the first international responders on the ground establishing the initial command post and worldwide communications, and providing emergency first aid, food & water to survivors were credited with saving thousands of lives and was the subject of international news stories. Task Force Sea Angel, commanded by O'Brien's former boss General Stackpole, included a coalition joined by Japan, Pakistan, England, China, India & France.
While assigned to SEAL Team FIVE and during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, he was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Humanitarian Service Medal and Kuwait Liberation Medals.
Then he was assigned by Commodore Ray Smith to SDV Team ONE at Pearl Harbor HI as a Platoon Commander (DDS), led overseas deployments to NSWU-1, and received the Battle Efficiency ("Battle E") Ribbon award and Navy Unit Commendation from CDR Joe Yarborough & the Secretary of the Navy.
At Pearl Harbor at the famous national monument & gravesite USS Arizona, LT O'Brien assisted the ceremonial dive team during funeral & burial at-sea services for survivors of the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack. During the attack, 1,122 Sailors were killed onboard the USS Arizona which was sunk where it was moored. Those Sailors remain interned onboard the ship. Upon request, Pearl Harbor survivors may return to Pearl Harbor and may be buried at sea at the USS Arizona with their fellow veterans of the Pearl Harbor attack.
O'Brien's shipboard deployments included onboard USS Peleliu (LHA-5), USS Tarawa (LHA-1), USS Okinawa (LPH-3), USS Blueback (SS-581), USS Tunny (SSN-682), and USS Bates (SSN-680).
He says "Our many awards & promotions during our highly challenging tours at SEAL Team FIVE and SDV Team ONE were in greatest part due to the incredible work of my teammates, I was blessed to stand on their shoulders, and they have my utmost admiration and appreciation forever." Due to those successes, coordinating training and operations for Army, Navy & Air Force Special Operations units, as well as several federal intel & law enforcement agencies, during deployments throughout Asia and the Middle East, he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander and selected to be the Chief of Maritime Counter-terrorism Ops for Admiral Charles Larson at US Pacific Command (PACOM) In this assignment, he also worked with Secret Service details protecting Presidents Bush Sr. & Clinton.
In 1995, he attended Army Freefall/HALO School at Ft. Bragg NC and Yuma AZ. (Upon selection to attend Army HALO School & due to his experience as a civilian skydiver, he was selected for a rare opportunity to formally "challenge" the course in a significantly shortened format for an accelerated graduation.) He is authorized to wear the military HALO Freefall parachute badge.
He completed Command & Staff College graduate studies in National Security & Strategic Planning. He is authorized to wear the USCINCPAC Joint service badge & was awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal from ADM Larson.
He also was in charge of an operations support center coordinating training and worldwide deployments for reserve units which prepared him for his follow-on assignment that included coordinating activities of SEAL reserves units throughout the eastern US at Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Group TWO in Norfolk VA.
He served as a Casualty Calls officer who, upon the death of any Sailor anywhere in the world who had family/NOK (next of kin) in O'Brien's region, was assigned to provide the first in-person notification of that Sailor's death to loved ones.
He also participated in a nation-wide multi-agency law enforcement investigation Operation Long Fuse that resulted in the arrests & prosecutions of several military personnel involved in the theft of sensitive military equipment throughout the US. In 1998, he was selected as the National Junior Officer of the Year by the Association of the US Navy (AUSN)
He was then elevated to serve as Group Training Officer at NSW Group TWO in Norfolk VA coordinating worldwide training for active and reserve SEAL Teams plus directed the SEAL advanced training course, SEAL Sniper course & SEAL Breacher course. He also helped develop new & improved curriculums for training programs incl. the SEAL advanced training course.
While assigned to Group TWO, and at the age of 41, he volunteered to attend Army Ranger School (class 11-00) at Ft. Benning GA. Ranger School is considered one of the best small unit infantry combat leadership courses in the world, and one of the most difficult to complete. Army Rangers are famous for many combat successes most notably during WWII climbing the cliffs at Normandy to defeat heavily-defended, critical enemy positions aimed at stopping the American beach landings. Ranger school primarily trains infantry small unit leaders to be top tactics instructors & better leaders back at their infantry units. (Note: Although all Rangers must graduate Ranger School, the large majority of graduates do not serve as Rangers in Ranger battalions.)
He says "Ever since my first assignment in the military leading an infantry platoon in the Marine Corps and as a 'grunt' at heart, Ranger School was considered the best & toughest infantry training so I always wanted to try it. I am most thankful to Commodore Bob Schoultz for allowing my attendance."
(Note: Many Army schools allow students from other branches of the military besides the Army. Regarding age, the average age for Ranger students is 22 & almost no students start or complete
Ranger School in their 40's.) His Ranger class started with 240 students and graduated 90.
He was the only member of the Navy in his class. Despite some injuries especially to his back and feet, he completed training on the first try and is one of the oldest graduates of Ranger School since its founding in 1950. Ranger School graduates are awarded, and authorized to wear, the coveted Ranger tab - less than 1% of the Army are graduates of Ranger School.
He was also awarded the Ranger School Leadership Honorman Award from General John LeMoyne.brother of SEAL Admiral Irve LeMoyne. This Honorman Award was sponsored by the Association of the US Army (AUSA) and nicknamed the "Go-to guy" Award for the student who instructors & classmates reached out to more often to help solve problems among the students.
He also served as a JSOC Task Force SEAL Ops Officer for Army, Navy & Air Force SpecOps conducting evaluated tactical exercises at Ft. Bragg NC where he was awarded the Joint Service Achievement Medal from SEAL Admiral Eric Olson, a Somalia Silver Star recipient, and General Bryan Brown, a recipient of the Distinguished flying Cross.
Then O'Brien was selected as detachment & task unit commander of a SEAL Team TWO Detachment deployed overseas in support of the Balkans peacekeeping mission in Operation Joint Guardian. They worked closely with Army Special Forces units. His unit also worked with the Secret Service detail protecting President Bush Jr. during his visit to Kosovo. He was awarded the Army Achievement Medal, Kosovo Campaign Medal & NATO Medal by General Vincent Brooks, commander of Task Force Falcon who later also was the highly-recognized US operations media spokesperson for the initial Iraq invasion in 2003.
LCDR O'Brien was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal by Commodore Karl Heinz & the Chief of Naval Operations and a U.S. Presidential Commendation from President G.W. Bush.
He is one of the few personnel in all of the US military, including the Army, to graduate from the following four Army courses: Army Airborne School, Army Jumpmaster School, Army Ranger School, and Army Freefall/HALO School. (Please note: O'Brien never served as a member of the Army. These Army schools allow students to attend from all branches of the military.)
While stationed in Norfolk VA, he also coached a youth basketball team ages 8-10. He played softball for Navy teams that participated in tournaments in Newport RI & Norfolk VA.
Besides qualifying as a parachute ops jumpmaster and diving ops supervisor, his instructor certifications include Rock climbing & skiing instructor, Water safety survival instructor (WSSI), and Law enforcement firearms instructor.
While training with foreign units on several deployments in Japan, Korea and the Philippines, he learned Japanese, Korean and Tagalog (Philippine) language skills and studied Tae Kwon Do martial arts.
He was then selected for a US Presidential Management Fellowship in the Bush Jr. administration with US Dept. of Energy in Washington DC under US Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham serving as a Budget Analyst and Congressional Liaison coordinating a $15 billion portfolio with congressional offices & committees supporting hazardous materials security for US energy facilities worldwide.
He also led an executive protection detail in Iraq in 2006 ensuring security for American author Elizabeth Kilbride who deployed with combat units to Anbar province to conduct research for her book on combat operations which was sponsored by businessman, philanthropist, and Navy veteran Ross Perot.
During his successful tours with the Marines & Navy, O'Brien made seven overseas deployments supporting US national security & diplomacy and Top Secret high-risk, no-notice missions including crisis response, disaster relief, and search & rescue; specialized in hazardous operations in extreme desert, jungle, mountain, underwater, and winter environments; and conducted training & operations in 20 US states and 30 countries in Asia, the middle east, the Caribbean & Europe with numerous federal agencies (State Dept., FBI, DIA, CIA, HSD), foreign military units, and law enforcement depts. including service with US Secret Service details that protected 3 US Presidents.
Commander O'Brien credits the success of his units to "outstanding leadership, training and teammates he served with who call each other "brothers" and who made me a better leader."
He says the key to success in the Marine Corps and Navy is "the TEAM of troops who we lead, train, deploy and operate with who have each other's backs all day everyday especially in (often very fast-moving) missions with maximum risks and threats to protect America and represent America with honor, courage and commitment. I'm humbled we got through all we did and I owe our success, and truly my life, to my brothers and God. I was also blessed to have great bosses who gave me & our units super opportunities. I'm most humbled by brothers who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms & their Gold Star families who are in my prayers every day. So I try to give back every day in honor of and gratitude for our troops, their families, veterans & our supporters everywhere today who are a great example of the best of American service to our nation & the world."