By Pablo James
(Tampa, FL) On Friday, the Army announced a historic first that will forever change the way women are viewed in the military. For the first time in Army history, a female soldier has been charged under the Stolen Valor Act of 2013 with falsely claiming to be an Army Ranger.
An astute college student observed Peggy Bancroft-O’Neil at a Tampa coffee shop negotiating for a military discount. Bancroft-O’Neil was wearing Army woodland camouflage fatigues adorned with a Ranger Tab on the right sleeve over a 75th Infantry Division patch. The uniform, which the Army discontinued wear of in 2008, also had HALO wings and an upside down Combat Infantryman’s Badge.
Reggie Weaver, a student at the nearby University of South Florida, told Hit the Woodline he was suspicious from the start.
“At first, I just thought she might’ve been wearing her dad’s old Army jacket or something,” said Weaver, 21, “But she kept going on and on about how she served her time in Iran. I was pretty sure we’ve never been in a war with Iran. Anyway, she was getting kind of loud and, you know, making kind of a scene.”
After Weaver asked her to calm down, Bancroft-O’Neil, 37, turned to him, waving a dog-eared copy of Lest We Forget by Leroy Jenkins in his face, and began yelling, “You’re talking to a Goddamned Army Ranger, leg! I suggest you step back…and you’re welcome for my service!”
Jenny Whiteson, who works as a barista at the coffee shop, observed the encounter.
“She was all, like, ‘I didn’t suffer through weeks of hell going through Ranger School at Fort Bragg for THIS shit from a bunch of ungrateful civilian!!!’”, Whiteson told Hit the Woodline. “My boyfriend is a Ranger stationed at MacDill [Air Force Base] and all this week he’s been talking about these two West Point girls who are the first females to get Ranger Tabs. I think this girl was lying or something.”
The Public Affairs Office of the Ranger Training Brigade at Fort Benning, Georgia confirmed the Captain Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver are indeed the first two female soldiers to successfully complete the grueling 62-day elite leadership course.
After Bancroft-O’Neil stormed out of the establishment, Weaver contacted the Tampa Police Department, who suggested he contact officials at MacDill Air Force Base. A source with the United States Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, which is headquartered at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base, spoke to us on the condition of anonymity. He confirmed SOCOM officials are looking into the matter and will consult with Army lawyers regarding a possible Stolen Valor Act prosecution.
We contacted Bancroft-O’Neil by telephone. She told us she did not mean to lose her cool with the coffee shop employee, but she felt she wasn’t being properly respected as a veteran.
“As a veteran, I fought ISIS in the mountains of Afghanistan and I never asked for a thank you, because we Rangers are known as Quiet Professionals,” Bancroft-O’Neil told us, apparently unaware that ISIS forces are active in Syria and Iraq, not Afghanistan.
When asked about her wearing of the Ranger Tab and informed the Army had no records of any previous female graduates, Bancroft-O’Neil replied that her graduation from Ranger School was “kept secret for security reasons.”
“I’m as proud of them as the next girl,” she said, referring to Friday’s female graduates, “But I’d rather they get the media attention. The kind of SEAL Ranger stuff I do isn’t the kind of stuff you talk about to just anyone.”
A records check found that Bancroft-O’Neil served as a Petroleum Supply Specialist in the Army Reserve from 1999 to 2002, having never deployed.