By Dermot Connolly
Oak Lawn native Edward J. O’Connell IV was recently promoted from major to lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marines, in charge of a 400-member battalion.
In June, the career military man relocated with his family from California to take up his new position as commanding officer of 400 Marines in the 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion in Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, in Havelock, N.C.
O’Connell, 38, attended St. Linus Elementary School in Oak Lawn, where his parents, Edward and Mary O’Connell, still live in the house where he grew up. The Marist High School alumnus was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps following his 2003 graduation from the University of Notre Dame, where he went through the Naval ROTC program.
His wife, Rene, grew up in Burbank, where she graduated from Reavis High School.
“Our families and a lot of friends are still in the area so we try to come back at least once a year,” he said. “But it is getting difficult now that we have four young children.”
“I wanted to be part of something a little bigger than myself, and I had a sense of service,” said O’Connell, explaining why he decided on a military career.
“By reputation, the Marines were a little more difficult, a little more challenging than the other branches,” O’Connell added.
While there wasn’t a tradition of military service in his immediate family, he had some friends and relations in the Marines.
O’Connell was deployed to Iraq in 2005 as platoon commander of the 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He also served in Afghanistan in 2013, as senior air coordinator for Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron 38 deployed in support of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing during Operation Enduring Freedom.
In addition to being stationed in war zones, and in support of foreign humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in the Caribbean Islands following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, 2017, a military career has meant many moves around the United States for O’Connell and his wife and children.
“Moving frequently is a part of the job. I was counting them up recently, and figured out this move to North Carolina is the 11th in my career. Although it is the first time for my family being here, it was actually my first duty station so it is very familiar to me.
While climbing the military ladder, O’Connell has also advanced his education. Among other accreditation, he is a distinguished graduate of Expeditionary Warfare School, and a distinguished graduate of USMC Command and Staff College with a master’s degree in military studies. In addition, he is a graduate of the School of Advanced Warfighting with a master’s degree in Operational Studies. He also holds a master’s degree (with distinction) from the University of Maryland as part of the Leadership, Education and Development program.
“This is a two-year deployment, and we will see where my career takes me from there. My job now is to prepare the battalion for anything. It depends on what is going on in the world, all or part of the battalion could be deployed to support Marine expeditionary units.
“There are no immediate plans to go into a war zone, but there is always the possibility. The bottom line is, we have to be prepared for anything,” he said.