In 2010 O’Neill was admitted to a delayed entry program in the Army, and in 2011 completed basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia.
After taking an aptitude test, O’Neill was given several options for further training. From Fort Benning, O’Neill transferred to Fort Huachuca, in Arizona, where he learned to work on small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones.
“I like working with my brains and my hands,” he said.
From there, O’Neill was transferred back to Fort Benning, this time for Airborne School. When not practice jumping out airplanes, there was a little R&R.
“Columbus (a nearby town) is an amazing city full of barbecue and amazing country music,” he said.
As an E4 Specialist, he was then sent to join the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Three months later he was, somewhat reluctantly, on his way to Afghanistan.
“I was just there (in North Carolina) long enough to start getting to know the town,” he said. “But I guess that’s what I signed up for.”
O’Neill served in Afghanistan from March through October 2012. His job was to provide ground support and maintenance for the Shadow 200. The UAV provides reconnaissance and surveillance, flying over terrain, highways, looking for suspicious activity like someone planting explosives to disrupt U.S. convoys, or “To basically blow us up,” O’Neill said. UAVs “are basically big cameras in the sky helping us find the enemy.”