On 22 February, 2014, The Golden Anchor Society and Norwich University’s Naval ROTC Unit held the 2nd Annual Brian R. Bill Memorial Challenge. Brian R. Bill was a midshipman in the Norwich Naval ROTC Unit and a distinguished graduate of the university. Upon graduation, Brian enlisted in the Navy with the resolute intention of joining the ranks of the special warfare community as a Navy SEAL – a title many seek and few ever achieve. In 2003, he received his designation as a Navy SEAL, and what followed was a distinguished career befitting of the title he had earned. He achieved the rank of chief petty officer, and for his accomplishments as a SEAL, he was awarded four Bronze Stars with Valor, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, two Combat Action Ribbons, and three Good Conduct Medals. Brian was loved by all, respected by his peers and fellow SEALs, and idealized by every midshipman and cadet who attended Norwich University.
On 06 August 2011, Chief Petty Officer Brian Bill was tragically killed, while assigned to the Special Operations Development Group (DEVGRU), deployed to the Wardak province, west of Kabul, in Afghanistan. Tasked as a member of a quick reaction force attempting to reinforce an engaged unit of Army Rangers, the U.S. Boeing CH-47 Chinook Helicopter carrying Brian and 37 others was shot down by Taliban forces. Brian was a man imbued with uncommon valor, unyielding courage, and a deep devotion to the service of his community and nation. The loss of a young man of such stature and rapport hit hard for his family and the Norwich University community. His sacrifice was known by many, and inspired all who have come to believe in the values he had so fiercely sought to protect.
The love surrounding Brian’s life was evident Saturday morning prior to the start of the Memorial Challenge, as Brian’s father spoke of his son’s accomplishments. He called all present to continue the life of service his son had led and to embrace the warrior sprit his son had adopted, and which this challenge was designed to embody.
The Boston Naval ROTC Battalion sent three teams to represent the Consortium at the Memorial Challenge. Each team gave a valiant effort to overcome the twenty-three obstacles encompassed in the grueling eight-kilometer challenge. The Boston Consortium midshipmen who participated were MIDN 1/C CJ Curtis and Christopher Greco; MIDN 2/C Vadim Reytblat and Erik Klatt; MIDN 3/C Luis Cruz; MIDN 4/C Matthew De La Ossa, Brendan Koch, Beryl Fischer, Zach Scholz, Patrick Lavin, and Josh Zins; and Midn 4/C Tyler King. All performed admirably at the event. The true test of the challenge occurred as midshipmen and cadets traversed a towering mountain, nicknamed by Norwich midshipmen and cadets as, “Mount Pain”. The name was truly well deserved as each Boston NROTC midshipmen felt the pain of marching up the ice and snow covered mountainside. Throughout the event, racers could be heard shouting words of encouragement to opposing teams. While a feeling of fierce competition was evident, the sense of camaraderie was even more present — both characteristics befitting of Brian’s memory.
All proceeds of the Challenge were donated to the Brian Bill Memorial Fund. The fund was started in order to help perspective Navy SEALs and the families of current special warfare operators to attend college to further their education and service in the armed forces. For all midshipmen considering this evolution in the future: it is a must! Nowhere else will you be able to push your physical and mental capabilities to limit, while honoring the service and sacrifice of those who have gone before us. I would like to congratulate Norwich University on a job well done, and thank the Bill family for allowing us to honor the memory and heroic sacrifice of their son. Hooyah, Chief Petty Officer Bill and Hooyah, Navy!
Written by: MIDN 1/c Christopher P. Greco