This post has been updated with additional photos and a map of where the fighting took place.
The Pentagon: The Navy SEAL who was killed in a shootout Tuesday with Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria was part of a quick reaction force sent to assist a US military. advise and assist team and Kurdish peshmerga forces that have been overwhelmed by a surprise Isis offensive in northern Iraq, a spokesman for the operation’s inherent resolve told reporters on Wednesday.
special warfare operator 1st class charles keating iv, 31, was part of the quick reaction force (qrf) that responded to a request for help from a small group of us soldiers. forces near the town of tel askuf, some two miles away from the front lines between peshmerga and isis forces, the us spokesman said. uu. Army Col. Steve Warren said Wednesday morning.
united states advise and assist team: made up of less than a dozen US advisers. troops—was in the town of tel askuf when the force of more than 120 isis fighters entered the area. The ISIS force was made up of 20 so-called “techies” (commercial vehicles converted into ad hoc troop carriers and crew-served weapons platforms) and at least one bulldozer, Warren said.
The Isis break in the peshmerga line happened around 7:30am local time on Tuesday, and 20 minutes later the advise and assist team reported that they were in contact with Isis forces.
“After the enemy forces [pounded] through the forward lines there and moved toward tel askuf, our forces automatically became drawn into the ensuing battle,” warren said. “They quickly called in the quick reaction force and continued the fight until a service member was shot and then evacuated.”
in support of the advice and assistance team, usa. uu. the military had pre-assembled a qrf in case the team ran into trouble.
The fight continued for two more hours between the us. and peshmerga forces and isis fighters before keating was attacked around 9:32 a.m. warren did not reveal how long it took for the qrf force to enter the fray.
keating “was hit by direct fire, and although he was medically evacuated within the all-important golden hour, his injury was not survivable,” warren said. “no other coalition or US forces were injured, although both medevac helicopters were damaged by small arms fire.”
It is unclear how long the Americans were engaged with Isis forces before they gave up the firefight. however, the firefight between peshmerga and isis fighters continued long after the us qrf and advise and assist team were extracted and coalition air assets arrived.
“We were able to put a lot of planes on stage. there were f-15s, f-16s, there were drones, we had some b-52s and some a-10s that, towards the end, got into the fight,” warren said.
“Coalition air responded with 31 strikes carried out by 11 manned aircraft and two drones. air power destroyed 20 enemy vehicles, two truck bombs, three mortar systems, one bulldozer [and] 58 [isis] terrorists were killed. the peshmerga have regained control of tel askuf.”
In total, the fighting lasted 14 hours and ended at 9:30 p.m. local time.
warren said there were peshmerga casualties as well as keating, but he didn’t have the figures to hand. he said it was the biggest clash between isis and coalition forces since at least december.
“This was a great fight, no question about it,” Warren said.
According to a Tuesday report from Reuters, the first indications from Peshmerga forces that Keating may have been hit by sniper fire, but Warren said the situation was far from clear.
“He was killed by direct fire. but this was a shootout, you know, a dynamic shootout, so he was hit right in the course of his shootout, it’s not clear if he was a sniper or a fighter with his ak,” he said. “This was a shooting, so there were bullets everywhere.”
After Warren’s briefing with reporters, the service released additional details about Keating’s service.
joined the navy in 2007 and dropped out of indiana university, where he was a long-distance runner. He graduated from basic underwater demolition/sealing training in 2008 and participated in two deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and one tour of Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“He then served as the lead noncommissioned officer for the West Coast sniper/reconnaissance training cell. Upon completing his tour as an instructor, Keating re-registered with a West Coast-based seal team as a platoon lead petty officer in February 2015,” read a statement from Naval Special Warfare Group 1. “He was deployed to iraq for the third time time in support of the resolution inherent in the operation when he was killed.”
His decorations included: the Combat “V” Bronze Star Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, National Defense Medal, and Rifle and Pistol Expert ribbons, depending on the service. Keating was the grandson of Charles Keating Jr. The elder Keating served time in federal prison after the bankruptcy of an Arizona savings and loan company in the 1980s.
Keating’s death follows the death march of Sgt. louis f. Cardin, from Temecula, Calif., assigned to 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, who was killed at a fire support base near Mosul in a rocket attack from the isis.