Jack O'Neill: Military Career

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Forever in a Day


Jack O'Neill has made a lifetime career of the U.S. Air Force, beginning as an Air Force Academy cadet and progressing through the officer ranks to Colonel and leader of SG-1, and then to Brigadier General and commander of the SGC. He was promoted again to Major General and now works at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.. He is presumably the head of Homeworld Security, although that has never been stated explicitly. The role of that position is to oversee all things related to Earth's defense — the SGC, the F303 program, the Antarctic site, etc., and to have some authority over the Atlantis base (8.02 "New Order Part 2", SGA 3.10 "The Return Part 1"). He returns to the SGC for events of great significance (Stargate: Continuum) and during times of crisis (10.14 "The Shroud").

Education, Training, and Qualifications

Jack graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1974. He was recognized for 'Academic Excellence Achieved in Military Sciences and Engineering'. It is still not certain whether that was his major, or if he simply excelled in those areas. As of today, the Air Force Academy does not offer a general engineering degree, but rather several more specific engineering majors (Aeronautical Engineering, etc). It also offers a degree in Military Strategic Studies.

The Academy does not have degrees beyond the Bachelors, so it is certain that Jack received further education elsewhere during the course of his career, in order to achieve a Masters Degree or its equivalent, as is typically required to attain the rank of Major.

Jack completed the Air Commando Operations Course in 1992, and this may have been crucial to his participation in special operations activities in the Gulf. He has mentioned he was Special Operations trained, including resistance to mind control (1.14 "Hathor").

While a Major, he completed a course at the Defense Intelligence Center in Langley, Virginia, home of the CIA. While a Lt. Colonel, he was recognized for Excellence of Achievement While Conducting Special Operations under the auspices of the U.S. Air force Space Systems Command. It is not clear if this recognition was related to his work at the SGC, but it is unlikely the Space Systems Command was involved in Gulf War activities.

He received a statue with a plaque from the Air Force Special Operations Unit at Mildenhall Air Base, England, in 1990, about the time that the Cold War ended. He may have been stationed in England at that time, just before the first Gulf War.

In spite of his academic recognition, Jack prefers to play the dumb soldier and keep his personal accomplishments under wraps. However, several military advisors have mentioned Jack's writing skills, regarding mission reports as "gripping" (1.01 "Children of the Gods "/ 1.03 "The Enemy Within"). General Hammond's temporary replacement, General Bauer, did suggest that O'Neill consider "bullet-point summaries" to make his reports more readable (4.15 "Chain Reaction"). Jack is also very correct about proper English usage and grammar (4.16 "2010", 6.08 "The Other Guys").

Jack wears two silver badges on the front of his uniform. The top one is a Master Parachutist badge, indicating he completed a certain number of jumps in specified conditions. The bottom one is the Master Space and Missile Badge, indicating he completed training in space warning, satellite command and control, missile operations, space surveillance, or space lift. Military badges indicate what skills a member has, and to what level of expertise.

While he does not wear the wings on his uniform that would signify pilot status in the Air Force, Jack O'Neill is a trained pilot, and adorning his office are several pictures of him, dressed in a flight suit, in and around fighter aircraft. He has flown fighter jets (no known designation) and experimental aircraft such as the X-301 Interceptor (4.12 "Tangent") the X-302 (6.01 "Redemption Part 1"), and its production version, the F-302 (7.01 "Fallen Part 1", 9.03 "Origin Part 3"). He can also pilot a Goa'uld cargo ship (4.13 "Serpent's Venom"), a Goa'uld death glider (6.03 "Descent"), and quickly mastered the Eurondan aerofighter drones (4.02 "The Other Side"). He is a trained paratrooper (4.07 "Watergate") with hundreds of jumps to his credit. He referred to himself as no longer being a test pilot, which means he must have once been one (SGA 3.10 "The Return Part 1").

Military Experiences

Gen. O'Neill

After eight years at the SGC, O'Neill was promoted to Major General; it appears that he took Hammond's position as Head of Homeworld Security and now works at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. (9.01 "Avalon Part 1", 9.03 "Origin Part 3"). Along with the IOA, he has large influence over the operations of both the SGC and Atlantis. Jack followed through on his promise to get Cameron Mitchell a place on SG-1 (9.01 "Avalon Part 1") and agreed to allow Samantha Carter to return to the SGC from her new position at Area 51, at General Landry's request (9.06 "Beachhead"). He suggested that Landry take his case for continued funding to the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee (9.04 "The Ties That Bind"). He returned to the SGC to witness the implementation of the intergalactic gate bridge and negotiated with the Ancients about ownership of Atlantis (SGA 3.10 "The Return Part 1"). He made the call for Weir and her crew to stay on Atlantis, acknowledging that the IOA could override him. So it appears he is the military head of both the SGC and Atlantis (SGA 3.11 "The Return Part 2").

Before his current position, Jack served as leader of SG-1, and de-facto second in command (2IC) at Stargate Command under General George Hammond. While his position as 2IC was never stated outright, his rank of colonel and Hammond's request that Jack take command of the Alpha site if Earth was destroyed by the Goa'uld naquadah comet was an indicator of O'Neill's status in the chain of command (5.17 "Fail Safe"). It was also implied earlier when Hammond gave command of the SGC to O'Neill when Hammond left the base to try to make contact with the outside world when the time dilation problem was occurring (2.15 "A Matter Of Time").

Jack participated in numerous classified missions during the 10 years prior to retirement, after which he was recalled to active duty and joined the SGC. One such mission, Operation East Fly, had disastrous consequences when the East Germans who were guarding a Russian prisoner repelled the team's assault, costing the lives of several of Jack's teammates, including his best friend, Col. John Michaels (2.04 "The Gamekeeper"). He has never forgiven himself for what he perceived as his failure to keep his team from harm.

During an "unofficial" mission to Iraq, he was left behind by his unit, commanded by Col. Frank Cromwell, and retained in an Iraqi prison for four months (2.03 "Prisoners", 2.15 "A Matter of Time"). Severely injured, he escaped and made it out of the country on his own (1.17 "Solitudes"). This experience reinforced his belief that no one under his command be left behind under any circumstances, yet he has defied this personal directive on certain occasions:

  • A fatally wounded Daniel was left on Klorel's ship, to guard the team's back and prevent his hampering their mission to save Earth (2.01 "The Serpent's Lair Part 2").
  • Teal'c was hit by a staff weapon on Vorash, then taken aboard Apophis' ship. Jack had no choice but to leave him so that SG-1 and Jacob could escape a supernova (4.22 "Exodus Part 1"). He later learned that Teal'c had survived, and they were able to retrieve him (5.01 "Enemies Part 2").
  • Lt. Elliot, also fatally wounded, was left on Revanna armed with a poison which killed enough Jaffa to allow the others to escape through the Stargate (5.16 "Last Stand Part 2").

O'Neill has participated in undercover missions, for example, the NID rogue hunt. He appeared to have stolen a Tollan device and was consequently asked to resign. Col. Maybourne of the NID approached him afterward and recruited him to steal other valuable alien technology, but instead, Jack turned the teams in for punishment for past thefts. This mission was undertaken with the cooperation of the Asgard and the Tollans, but without the knowledge of his teammates on SG-1 until it was over (3.18 "Shades of Grey").

Military Behavior

While Jack takes his commitment to the military seriously, he will lie about mission events when he believes fabrications or incomplete reports are necessary. During the first Abydos mission, he reported that Daniel Jackson had been killed in order for his friend to remain behind with his new wife (1.01 "Children of the Gods Part 1").

He may also have filed a false or partially falsified report regarding events on Euronda. After discovering that SG-1 had been helping genetic extremists exterminate another race of people, the colonel warned their leader, Alar, not to follow them through the gate as the team returned home. He consequently ordered the iris closed after the last member returned, and a moment later the splat of an incoming traveller was clearly heard (4.02 "The Other Side"). Since he had been ordered by Gen. Hammond to negotiate for Eurondan technology, it is almost certain that he would have left out some of this information in order to preserve his military career.

Jack O'Neill is a bit of a maverick. On several occasions he has defied direct orders from his superior officers:

  • After the SGC was shut down by Sen. Kinsey (1.21 "Politics"), he led SG-1 on a mission to save Earth from a direct attack by the Goa'uld, Apophis (1.22 "Within the Serpent's Grasp Part 1").
  • When it appeared that the authorities would not offer sanctuary to the Orban child-scientist, Merrin, Jack took her off base for some playtime, though Gen. Hammond had specifically told him the girl was not to leave the base (3.05 "Learning Curve").
  • Ordered by General Hammond to negotiate with the Eurondans for some of their technologies, Jack decided that they were not worth the price, which was helping the Eurondans destroy another race. He cut off diplomatic relations by helping the other side gain a foothold in the Eurondan fortress, and when the complex was being invaded, he ordered his team back through the gate (4.02 "The Other Side").

Even his robotic double could not resist disobeying orders from the real O'Neill not to leave their planet with his duplicate SG-1 team. After overcoming power supply difficulties so they could venture away from their home base on P3X-989 (Altair) for 48 hours at a time, the robot doubles began going out on "missions." The O'Neill android was destroyed on Juna (P3X-729) by Cronus' Jaffa troops, along with the rest of the Altair team (4.21 "Double Jeopardy").


O'Neill has been instrumental in saving Earth from alien invasion on several occasions:

  • The first was during the Abydos mission, when Ra was killed (Stargate, The Movie).
  • Another direct attack, planned by Apophis, was thwarted when Jack, leading SG-1 along with Master Bra'tac of the Jaffa, succeeded in blowing up both of Apophis' ships just before their attack on Earth began (2.01 "The Serpent's Lair Part 2"). O'Neill was presented with the Air Medal for Heroism for this mission. The cover story was listed as analysis of deep space radar telemetry (2.09 "Secrets").
  • The Goa'uld also sent a large meteor with a core of solid naquadah on a collision course for Earth, an attack disguised as a natural disaster to try to circumvent the Protected Planets treaty with the Asgard. SG-1 was sent to blow it up, but upon discovering the core properties and how disastrous exploding it would be, and using an idea from Daniel, Carter figured a way to use the Tok'ra cargo ship they were using to tow the meteor through the Earth via a hyperspace window (5.17 "Fail Safe").
  • Anubis attacked Earth through the Stargate by using the gate itself as a weapon. Jack successfully towed the gate into space and sent it through an unstable hyperspace window, so that when it exploded due to an energy overload, it was far distant from the planet (6.01 "Redemption Part 1", 6.02 "Redemption Part 2").
  • Thor unintentionally brought the Replicators to Earth after they attacked and seized control of his ship, the Biliskner. Summoning Jack aboard for help, the colonel, along with Carter and Teal'c, successfully prevented the Replicators from infecting the planet; however, it took a second try once the alien devices took control of a Russian submarine and killed the crew. O'Neill and Teal'c destroyed the "mother bug" when they blew up the sub (3.22 "Nemesis Part 1", 4.01 "Small Victories Part 2").
  • Anubis was in orbit of Earth with his entire attack fleet, ready to destroy the planet. Jack used the download of the Ancients' knowledge he had taken days before to lead his team to an Ancients' outpost beneath the ice of Antarctica. The station housed a fearsome weapon only he could operate, and he activated it and wiped out Anubis and his entire fleet (7.22 "Lost City Part 2").
  • The replicators were on the verge of overrunning the SGC and escaping to the surface, where they would spread across Earth. The SGC was preparing to set off a nuclear bomb to stop them while Jack and the others worked to hold back the replicators for as long as possible. Knowing they did not have enough time, Jack ordered the last evacuation helicopter to leave without him and asked for the bomb to be detonated as soon as it was ready. The SGC was spared by the activation of the Ancients' weapon, or Jack would have perished in the explosion in order to save Earth (8.17 "Reckoning Part 2").

He helped save Atlantis from invasion as well, by the Pegasus version of Human Form Replicators. He nearly drowned opening an underwater hangar to let Sheppard's Puddle Jumper into the city and was captured as a result. He withstood torture by the Replicators while Sheppard's team hatched a plan to overcome them (SGA 3.11 "The Return Part 2").


Office Medals

With grateful thanks to Torvac for identifying all of the medals framed and hanging in Jack's office, and their significance.

Jack O'Neill's medals are listed here in order of precedence, beginning with the highest.

Air Force Cross Medal. This is the Air Force version of the Distinguished Service Cross. It is awarded for extraordinary heroism, not justifying the award of a Medal of Honor, to any person, while serving with the U.S. Air Force while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force, or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in conflict against an opposing Armed Force in which the United States in not a belligerent party.

Distinguished Service Medal. This decoration, established by Congress on July 6, 1960, is awarded to members of the United States Air Force who distinguished themselves by exceptionally meritorious service to the government in a duty of great responsibility, in combat or otherwise.

Silver Star Medal. The Silver Star is currently awarded by all branches of the Armed Forces to any person who, while serving in any capacity, is cited for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force, or while serving with friendly forces against an opposing Armed Force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

Bronze Star. This decoration, authorized by Executive Order No. 9419 on February 4, 1944, is awarded a person in any branch of the military service who, while serving in any capacity with the Armed Forces of the United States on or after December 7, 1941, shall have distinguished himself by heroic or meritorious achievement or service, not involving participation in aerial flight, in connection with military operations against an armed enemy. The award recognizes acts of heroism performed in ground combat if they are of lesser degree than that required for the Silver Star.

Purple Heart. No doubt he has several of these, due to the number of times he has been wounded in action. The Purple Heart is the oldest military decoration, awarded to members of the armed forces of the U.S. who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action. It is specifically a combat decoration.

Air Medal. This medal is awarded to U.S. and civilian personnel for single acts of heroism or meritorious achievements while participating in aerial flight and foreign military personnel in actual combat in support of operations. Required achievement is less than that required for the Distinguished Flying Cross, but must be accomplished with distinction above and beyond that expected of professional airmen. Jack earned this medal for saving Earth from an attack by Apophis (2.09 "Secrets").

Air Force Commendation Medal. This medal was authorized by the Secretary of the Air Force on March 28, 1958, for award to members of the Armed Forces of the United States who, while serving in any capacity with the Air Force after March 24, 1958, shall have distinguished themselves by meritorious achievement and service. The degree of merit must be distinctive, though it need not be unique.

National Defense Service Medal. It is awarded for honorable active military service as a member of the Armed Forces of the United States including the Coast Guard, between June 27, 1950 and July 27, 1954, (Korean War Period), between Jan. 1, 1961 and Aug. 14, 1974, (Vietnam War Period), and 2 Aug. 90 to 30 Nov. 95 (Desert Shield/Storm Period). Based on his age, Jack must have received this medal for service during the period of Desert Shield/Storm.

Biography Articles

--Michelle 10:46, 4 Jul 2004 (PDT)