PETER G. OSWALD, CDR, USN

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Peter Oswald '84

Date of birth: March 22, 1961

Date of death: August 27, 2002

Age: 41

Lucky Bag

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Loss

From Naval Special Warfare Group Two Public Affairs on August 28, 2002:

LITTLE CREEK, Va. (NNS) -- A U.S. Navy SEAL died after sustaining injuries in a training-related accident in El Salvador at approximately 5:45 p.m (Eastern Standard Time) on Aug. 27.

Cmdr. Peter G. Oswald, USN, commanding officer of Naval Special Warfare Unit FOUR based at Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, was pronounced dead by El Salvadoran and American medical officials after being evacuated to a local hospital in San Salvador.

Oswald was killed after exiting a U.S. Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter using a standard fast roping technique. Fast roping is used to quickly lower personnel and equipment from a hovering helicopter and is routinely practiced by special operations forces.

An investigation to determine the cause of the accident is underway.

Naval Special Warfare Unit FOUR plans and executes all Naval Special Warfare operations and training for U.S. Southern Command, which encompasses 32 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Obituary

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From Seattle PI on August 30, 2002.

Cmdr. Peter Oswald was the decorated leader of an elite Navy SEAL unit and the youngest son in a Bellingham Navy family.

But he told friends that despite his SEAL training, which only the strongest, most determined men get through, his most challenging and rewarding job was being a father. "He was a Gulf War veteran, and a platoon commander, but he always said that was a breeze compared with raising three energetic young girls," said Brian Thurston, who grew up with Oswald. "He was very much a family man, and very involved in the outdoors -- fishing, bird-hunting and hiking. "He had a unique ability to switch from the military side of things to just being a regular person, which was amazing considering his responsibilities," Thurston said.

Cmdr. Oswald, 41, died during a training accident in El Salvador earlier this week. Cmdr. Oswald, who was head of a Puerto Rico-based special warfare unit, fell to his death while "fast-roping" out of a hovering Blackhawk helicopter, a technique routinely used by special forces for getting to the ground quickly. The Navy is still investigating the accident, but the family has been informed that the rope separated during the fatal exercise.

Cmdr. Oswald grew up in Bellingham, graduating from Sehome High School. A star student and athlete, he played football for the Naval Academy, and was a center on the NCAA, Division 1A All East Football team in 1983. He graduated in 1984 with a degree in ocean engineering. In 1988, he graduated from Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL School.

As a SEAL commander, he was a respected leader. "He was on the fast track to being one of the top leaders in the community," said Lt. Cmdr. Darryn James, spokesman for the Naval Special Warfare division in San Diego. "This is a tight-knit community," he said. "Most of the SEALs knew him and are devastated by his tragic loss."

Cmdr. Oswald's unit of about 50 SEALs was training outside Comalapa, a city 25 miles south of San Salvador, when the accident occurred. The unit, which was in charge of naval special operations missions and training for the Southern Command, had arrived in El Salvador for exercises with Salvadoran military forces last Saturday. The accident occurred over land on Tuesday, and was a practice run for an exercise scheduled to take place over the Pacific Ocean later in the week.

"As a commander, he was automatically the best of the best," James said. "He was a warrior, and in this community, that's all that matters."

Before his latest command, Cmdr. Oswald had served as the aide de camp to the commander in chief of the Atlantic Command, and was an Olmsted Scholar at Kyoto University in Japan, where he studied the Japanese language and Asian cultures as part of a military assignment.

In Bellingham, Cmdr. Oswald was remembered as one of three high-achieving sons. His oldest brother, Stephen, now an admiral in the Navy, was a space shuttle astronaut who flew two missions and commanded a third. He heads Boeing's shuttle program. His brother, Michael, is a dentist in Bellingham. Their father, Harold, also a dentist, is a World War II veteran and former Navy pilot.

"Anybody who knew an Oswald just hoped they could achieve the level of quality they all insisted on in their lives," Thurston said. And yet the family never bragged of their achievements. "You usually had to find out about them from someone else," he said. "Pete was a humble guy. It's a family tradition."

Cmdr. Oswald, who was living at Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in Puerto Rico, is survived by his wife, Jennifer, and three daughters, Sarah, Alicia and Margaret; his parents, Harold and Dorothy; and brothers, Stephen and Michael.

Remembrances

From the Naval Academy Alumni Association's updated "In Memoriam" page:

Pete was a quiet gentleman or even a modern-day Renaissance Man off of the [football] field. On the field, he was a skilled technician. He was always prepared. He embraced a life that we all idolize: top physical condition, genius-level IQ, tenacious competitor, humble victor, dependable friend, loving husband and completely-captured father of three beautiful little girls. You can take any one segment of his life and reflect on ways to emulate and improve your own. He was truly special. Steve Peters '84


Class of 1984

Peter is one of 9 members of the Class of 1984 in Memorial Hall.