Patrick O'Connell serves as the U.S. Navy’s chief of naval personnel and draws on past leadership experience as interim program and strategy director with High Speed Two (HS2) Ltd. In this position, he set in place an ambitious high speed rail project that is set to be completed in 2033. With nearly two decades of experience living abroad, Patrick O'Connell has made his home in countries such as Japan, France, and Spain, and he seeks out authentic cultural experiences wherever he is.
One of Spain’s most unique traditions is La Tomatina, which is held annually in the village of Bunol in eastern Spain each August and includes “tomato battles.” The roots of this festival are said to extend to 1945, when a food fight broke out involving gigantes y cabezudos (giant-headed parade figures) and young revelers. The next year the animosity repeated itself in another massive tomato confrontation, which law enforcement officers ultimately gave up trying to quell, and it soon after became a signature regional event.
With “fun” the operative word, La Tomatina now centers on a massive tomato fight that brings in 22,000 visitors each year, and requires tickets reserved in advance. With strict rules in place that all tomatoes must be crushed before being thrown to avoid injury, some revelers go so far as to wear a snorkel mask to protect their face as some 150,000 kilograms of tomatoes are flung.
The chief of naval personnel for the United States Navy, Patrick O’Connell has more than three decades of public and private senior executive experience.