Pentagon identifies Marine from elite unit killed in Iraq

The Pentagon identified the American service member killed Saturday in northern Iraq as a decorated veteran Marine from an elite unit and father of two who was lauded for helping to defeat ISIS.

Gunnery Sgt. Scott A. Koppenhafer, 35, of Mancos, Colorado, who was advising Iraqi security forces conducting combat operations in Nineveh province, died from enemy small arms fire, according to the Defense Department.

This is the first combat-related death of an American service member in Iraq this year. Two American service members and a Defense Department civilian were killed in Manbij, Syria in January as part of the US-led coalition fighting ISIS there.

A U.S. contractor was also killed in Saturday's attack, according to a U.S. official. The incident is under investigation.

Koppenhafer was part of the elite 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, Marine Forces Special Operations Command in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

He was named the Marine Special Operator of the Year in 2018 for his role leading Marine Special Operations Team 8223 "to a 'masterfully orchestrated success' of guiding elite Iraqi Special Operations Forces that 'directly contributed to the defeat of ISIS forces in northern Iraq,'" according to the Marine Corps Times.

Koppenhafer joined the Marine Corps in 2005 and has spent the last 10 years as a "highly revered" Marine Corps Special Operations Command Critical Skills Operator, according to the Marine Corps.

"Our most sincere thoughts are with the family and teammates of Gunnery Sergeant Koppenhafer during this difficult time," the Marine Corps said. "MARSOC is providing care and support to Gunnery Sergeant Koppenhafer's family; we urge respect for their privacy as they grieve this incredible loss."

Koppenhafer leaves behind a wife and two children.

Approximately 5,000 troops are currently stationed in Iraq as part of a security agreement with the Iraqi government to train, advise, and assist the country's troops in the fight against Islamic State, which overran large parts of Iraq in 2014.

Iraqi forces have recently launched operations in the country's north to weed out remnants of Islamic State group.
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