The Navy SEAL killed in direct combat with ISIS in northern Iraq has been identified as an Arizona native, the state’s governor says.
Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Charles Humphrey Keating IV, who went by Charlie Keating, was killed Tuesday morning, Governor Doug Ducey said in a press release.
Keating, 31, was a graduate of Arcadia High School in Phoenix.
“His death is a tragic reminder of the daily sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform – fighting evil and extremism on the front lines to protect freedom and democracy at home and throughout the world,” Ducey said. “Our thoughts, prayers and eternal gratitude are with Mr. Keating, his family, his fellow SEALs, and all of the brave Americans who’ve answered the call to serve.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Keating Was Killed Trying to Rescue American Military Advisers Trapped When ISIS Forces Broke Through Peshmerga Lines
Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Charlie Keating IV was part of a rescue team attempting to save American military advisers trapped when ISIS forces broke through the Kurdish Peshmerga lines, the Navy Times reports.
“The Department of Defense has indicated that initial reports are that this servicemember died when ISIL terrorists penetrated a checkpoint that was manned by Iraqi forces,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said during his briefing Tuesday. “Those terrorists, after breaking through the line, went on to attack a Peshmerga position, where this U.S. servicemember was advising our partners on the ground. U.S. forces responded right away with airpower to stop the attack, and our Iraqi partners are engaging the remnants of those forces.”
About 100 ISIS fighters were involved in the “coordinated and complex attack,” that included multiple vehicles, suicide car bombs and bulldozers to break through the checkpoint, CNN reports. The attackers then drove two miles to the Peshmerga base, where the American military advisers were located.
Keating was part of a quick reaction force that was on standby and was called in for assistance. Keating died in a gun battle.
“This sad news is a reminder of the dangers our men and women in uniform face every day in the ongoing fight to destroy ISIL and end the threat the group poses to the United States and the rest of the world,” Cook said in a statement. “Our coalition will honor this sacrifice by dealing ISIL a lasting defeat.”
2. Keating, a Star High School Runner, Left the Indiana University Cross Country Team to Become a SEAL
Charlie Keating, nicknamed “C-4,” was a star athlete in high school at Arcadia High School in Phoenix, KNKV-TV reports.
He was an all-state long distance runner, according to the news station.
He graduated in 2004.
When he was a freshman in high school he appeared on the Discovery Kids Channel’s Outward Bound TV.
He traveled to Costa Rica, spending three weeks in the jungle eating only beans and rice and paddling a canoe up to 40 miles a day, according to the Arizona Republic.
After high school, Keating ran cross country at Indiana University, according to the school’s website. Keating left the school after two seasons, heading to California for Navy SEAL training.
“When Charlie left IU to enlist and try to become a SEAL, I don’t think it really surprised any of us,” Robert Chapman, an IU professor who was Keating’s coach, said in a statement. “You could tell he was a guy who wanted to be the best and find out what he was made of, and serving as special operations forces for his country embodied that.”
3. He Was Based in California & Was Set to be Married in November
Keating was based at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in California, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.
He was engaged to a Coronado woman, the newspaper reports.
Robert Whitley, a friend of the family of Keating’s fiancee, Brooke Clark, wrote on Facebook, “Charlie and Brooke were engaged to be married in November. Brooke was supposed to buy her wedding dress this week. Charlie, a Navy Seal on a dangerous mission in Iraq, was shot and killed last night. I can barely speak. I am devastated that my good friends have suffered this tragedy. Brooke, the Clark and Keating families, and our extended wine competition family have lost a beautiful person and a brave soldier. We salute your service, Charlie. RIP.”
4. His Grandfather Was an Arizona Real Estate Developer Known for His Role in the ’80s Savings & Loan Scandal
Charlie Keating is the grandson of Charles Keating Jr., an Arizona real estate developer who was known for his role in the late 1980s savings-and-loan scandal, according to the Arizona Republic.
Charlie Keating defended his grandfather in his youth, despite the fact he was made fun of by other children for having the same name. He told the Arizona Republic in 2004, “I’m really close to him. What happened in the past, I really don’t care.”
Charles Keating Jr. died in 2014 at the age of 90.
Charlie Keating comes from a family of athletes.
Charles Keating Jr. was a champion swimmer at the University of Cincinnati. Charlie Keating III, Charlie’s father, swam in the Olympics in 1976. He also swam competitively at Indiana University.
Charlie Keating’s cousin, Gary Hall Jr., is an Olympic gold medalist swimmer from Arizona.
5. He Is the 3rd U.S. Servicemember Killed During the Fight Against the Islamic State
Keating is the third U.S. servicemember killed in direct combat with the Islamic State since Americans began their fight against the terror group in 2014.
Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler was killed in October 2015 during a raid in Iraq to free dozens of ISIS-held hostages, NBC News reported. He was a 39-year-old Delta Force commando. Marine Staff Sergeant Louis Cardin was killed in a rocket attack in northern Iraq in March 2016, according to CNN.
American servicemen are in an advising role with local forces in Iraq and Syria. President Barack Obama announced last week an additional 250 special operation forces would be dispatched to Syria.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest spoke about Keating’s death during his press briefing Tuesday:
Well, I think what is true is that Iraq and Syria are dangerous places. And our men and women in uniform who are engaged in a mission to offer training, advice and assistance to Iraqi forces that are fighting for their own country, are doing dangerous work. They are taking grave risks to protect our country and we owe them a deep debt of gratitude.
Today’s incident is a vivid reminder of the risks that our servicemembers are taking. And some of them, three of them now, have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. But the President has been clear, time and time again, exactly what their mission is. That mission is to support Iraqi forces on the ground who are taking the fight to ISIL on the frontlines. Iraqi forces must fight for their own country. United States forces cannot be a substitute for those Iraqi forces. The United States can use our military firepower. And some of our special operators, in fact, are offering them important support, but that support comes in the form of offering advice and assistance. And this is the core of our strategy, which is to build up the capacity of local forces to fight for their own country.
We have learned important lessons in the last decade. We know that the United States will not be successful if it’s U.S. troops acting essentially as a substitute for local forces, fighting for the security situation in Iraq. Iraqi security forces must be do that for themselves. They can count on the support of the United States, they can count on the support of the 65 nations that have signed on to this coalition to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL. This is a fight that the United States is committed to because we under the consequences for our national security.
But, ultimately, it is Iraqi forces that are on the frontlines. It’s Iraqi forces that must fight for the security situation in their own country.
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter called Keating’s death a “combat death.”