Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden says 9/11 gave him courage to do the job
Rob O'Neill, the Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, said the tragedies that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001 helped spark the courage he needed as he engaged in the famous raid that left one of America's top enemies dead.
O'Neill, in an exclusive interview with DailyMailTV, also warned the now-deceased terrorist mastermind's son, "You will die next."
A member of SEAL Team 6, which raided bin Laden's Abbottabad, Pakistan compound in a stealth mission, O'Neill describes the 9/11 memorial in Manhattan, N.Y. as "very humbling."
"I go down there once in a while just to realize what's important," O'Neill told DailyMailTV, adding that New York has become such an important aspect of his life. "To relive the moment and to see the incredible job that the 9/11 memorial staff has done."
O'Neill recalls where he was on the fateful day of the terrorist attacks: Germany, just returned from a peace-keeping mission in Kosovo.
"I was in the operation center and the TV went to breaking news," O'Neill said. "As a group of Navy SEALs, we realized that we were just attacked, and it was seconds before someone said al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden."
That information was enough to ensure O'Neill and his comrades that America was going to war.
O'Neill soon volunteered to undergo the arguably hardest training in the larger U.S. military as a member of the Tier 1 units, which is an elite group within the already-elite special ops.
"You learn close quarters combat and more advanced tactics to a point where you can't be taught anymore," O'Neill explained. "There's a selection course and about half of the guys don't make it through."
In his storied career, O'Neill has been a key component of some of the most famous missions, including the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips, who had been kidnapped by Somali pirates.
His success, along with the team he worked with, played a huge part in then-President Barack Obama's decision to choose them for the raid, according to O'Neill.
"Not everyone believed bin Laden was there, we kept hearing it was 70-75 percent," O'Neill told DailyMailTV. "President Obama said that he wasn't 100 percent sure he was there but he was 100 percent sure after meeting us that we could go and find out and come back."
He continued: "Every first-term president wants a second term. If we failed the mission, like it or not, he's probably not getting re-elected."
The mission was precarious at a minimum, and certainly dangerous and daring. U.S. intelligence wasn't completely sure of Pakistan's air-defense technology and capabilities, as well as how bin Laden, if within the targeted compound, would react to an ambush.
"If anyone was going to blow up himself and his entire family, then bin Laden would," O'Neill said. "I had last meals with my family even though I couldn't tell them. I knew I probably wouldn't see my kids again."
Despite his perceived low chances of survival -- having written goodbye letters to his family -- he said there was no hesitation from SEAL Team 6 to undergo the mission, stating "it was an honor to be asked."
Just prior to the mission, with all of his gear and weaponry ready, O'Neill called who he considers his best friend: his father.
Upon arrival at the compound, the helicopter carrying the men grazed a wall of the structure, causing a slight change of plans.
"We were supposed to let off the snipers, a dog and an interpreter, then my team of eight was going to jump down from the roof to the third-floor balcony to shoot through the window at bin Laden," O'Neill said.
Instead, SEAL Team 6 detonated the car port door, and made their way to the second floor.
"We knew bin Laden was up there and we assumed suicide bombers but I squeezed him on the shoulder and we went up," O'Neill detailed, according to DailyMailTV, referring to the fellow SEAL just ahead of him.
After reaching the third floor, a SEAL jumped on multiple women believing they were wearing suicide vests.
"He was sacrificing himself so someone else could get the shot," O'Neill said. "Thankfully the grenade didn't go off."
Soon, the SEAL went one direction, while O'Neill went the other to scan the premises for their target.
After turning the corner, bin Laden appeared.
"He was standing three feet away and right away, I knew it was him," O'Neill, who signed a book deal in Jan. 2017, recalled. "I remember how skinny he was and taller than I thought, about 6'4. His beard was short and grey. I shot him in the head twice as he was standing up and then once more on the ground."
O'Neill seems to consider it fairly random that he was the one who got shot, arguing it just worked out that way. He constantly attributes success to the team and not any one individual.
The crew subsequently scrambled to collect as many items as they could to be later used as intelligence. A separate SEAL team arrived shortly after to pick them up and leave the area.
"We all set our watches for 90 minutes until we crossed the border of Afghanistan. I was thinking, if we don't get shot down, we live. No one was saying anything," O'Neill said. "Then the pilot comes over the radio and says, ''Gentlemen for the first time in your lives, you're going to be happy to hear this: Welcome to Afghanistan.'"
A friend of O'Neill's, part of a different squadron, told O'Neill on the helicopter after hearing that he got the shot that his family thanks him.
O'Neill eventually arrived back in Virginia to applause from fellow SEAL members, although he was, at least originally, trying to keep the situation, more specifically the identity of who took out the terrorist leader, as hush as possible.
O'Neill retired from the military in 2012 after 16 years of service in four different war zones. In all, he received official accolades 52 times. He currently works as a leader of a foundation, Your Grateful Nation, that works to help veterans of special operations forces transition into civilian life -- something he seems to have done very well, as he also gives motivational speeches.
When asked if he's worried about being known as the specific man who took down the leader of a huge, violent movement, he simply said "no."
"Prepared," he continued. "Yes."
Despite his success, he says his time in the military shaped his outlook.
"When we first started, I wanted to go to war. But after seeing it, there's a realization that life is very fragile," said O'Neill. "I wouldn't mind seeing a little more diplomacy. I don't wish war on anybody."