A member of the elite Navy SEAL Team 6 was killed Friday during a raid in Somalia on a building being used by the al-Shabaab terror group, the Department of Defense says.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Kyle Milliken, 38, was based in Virginia Beach and is a native of Falmouth, Maine, the Pentagon said.
He was killed in a gun battle with al-Shabaab forces in the remote area of Shabeellaha Hoose, about 40 miles west of Mogadishu during a Somali-led operation.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Milliken & Other Special Operations Forces Came Under Fire After Escorting Somali Troops to a Raid on al-Shabaab’s Radio Station
Senior Chief Petty Officer Kyle Milliken and other special operations forces came under fire after escorting Somali troops to a raid on a building where al-Shabaab had been operating a radio station, The Virginian-Pilot reports.
Two other American military members, including an interpreter, were wounded, the newspaper reports.
Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesperson, told the newspaper Milliken and the other troops had just delivered the Somali forces to the target area. The troops were “a distance back” from the compound, which Davis said had been “associated with some attacks on facilities that we use and that our Somali partners use nearby.”
An intelligence official told the newspaper the raid killed at least six people who were at the building housing the Andalus radio station on a farm, The Virginian-Pilot reports.
“This is the first combat death in Somalia since the early 1990s,” Navy Captain Jeff Davis said in a statement. “We have been conducting this particular mission to partner with and counter al-Shabaab in Somalia since 2013,. This is part of an ongoing mission there to degrade this al-Qaida’s affiliate’s ability to recruit, train and plot external terror attacks throughout the region and in the United States.”
According to Davis, al-Shabaab is “an al-Qaida affiliate closely tied more specifically to Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which is a group that has murdered Americans, radicalized and recruited terrorists and fighters in the United States, and has conducted and inspired attacks against Americans and U.S. interests around the world.”
Davis said the U.S. will continue “to support its Somali and regional partners to systematically dismantle this al-Qaida affiliate, and to help them achieve stability and security throughout the region as part of the global counterterrorism effort.”
2. He Enlisted in 2002 & Was Awarded 4 Bronze Stars While Serving in Afghanistan & Iraq
Milliken enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 2002 and had been stationed in Virginia Beach with the special warfare group as a member of SEAL Team 6 since 2004, The Virginian-Pilot reports. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan and was awarded four Bronze Stars during his time as a SEAL.
He was also awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal and the Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal, according to the Department of Defense, among more than 30 honors he received during his career.
“We were a nation at war when he enlisted,” Captain Jason Salata, spokesman for the Naval Special Warfare Command, told the Portland Press Herald. “He has four Bronze Stars. You don’t get that from sitting at home. You’re getting those kind of awards for valor.”
3. He Was a High School & College Track Star at Cheverus High School & UConn
Milliken graduated from Cheverus High School in Maine, where he was a track star, in 1998, the Portland Press Herald reports. He was part of a 1,600-meter relay team that set a state record during his senior year.
“His former teachers, administrators, coaches and friends pray that eternal rest be granted to him, perpetual light shine upon him and that he rest in peace,” Reverand George E. Collins, president of Cheverus, told the newspaper.
After graduating from Cheverus, Milliken studied at the University of Connecticut, graduating in 2001. He was also a member of the UConn Huskies track and field team, the Hartford Courant reports. He was a mid-distance runner there.
“Kyle was a glue kid, the kind of kid that didn’t just show up to practice every day, but made those around him better,” UConn track and field coach Greg Roy told the Courant. “His work ethic, perseverance and overall toughness was appreciated by everyone around him.
“Kyle was a great student as well, it really didn’t surprise me when he made the grade as a Navy Seal. The country has lost a great American and UConn has lost an alum who has made us proud. Our heart goes out to his wife and kids,” Roy said.
Milliken was studying at William & Mary, getting a master’s degree in business administration online, the university said in a press release.
“William & Mary has received the very sad news that one of our own, Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Kyle Milliken, was killed in action during an operation May 5 in Somalia,” President Taylor Reveley said in a statement. “A Navy SEAL and 15-year decorated veteran, Kyle was in his second semester as part of our Mason School of Business. He served his country with great distinction. We extend our deep sympathies to Kyle’s family and all those who had the pleasure of knowing him.”
4. Milliken Is ‘Irreplaceable as a Husband, Father, Son, Friend & Teammate,’ the Navy SEAL Commander Says
Milliken, who lived in Virginia Beach, is survived by his wife, Erin, and their two children, a son and daughter. His family issued a statement through the Department of Defense, asking for privacy.
“The Milliken family would like to extend their gratitude to the community for their interest in our beloved Kyle. He was a devoted father and son, a true professional and a wonderful husband. While we appreciate your interest, we ask you respect our need for privacy.” the family said.
“Senior Chief Kyle Milliken embodied the warrior spirit and toughness infused in our very best Navy SEALs,” Rear Admiral Timothy Szymanski, commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, said in a statement. “We grieve his death, but we celebrate his life and many accomplishments. He is irreplaceable as a husband, father, son, friend and teammate – and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and teammates.
“His sacrifice is a stark reminder that Naval Special Operators are forward doing their job, confronting terrorism overseas to prevent evil from reaching our shores,” Szymanski said.
5. Virginia Congressman Scott Taylor, Who Served With Milliken in Iraq, Called Him ‘Brilliant, Witty & Fiercely Loyal’
Virginia Congressman Scott Taylor told The Virginian-Pilot he served alongside Milliken in Iraq and was his instructor for marksmanship and reconnaissance.
On Facebook, Taylor wrote that Milliken, “was a great friend, family man, and teammate. He was brilliant, witty, and fiercely loyal. He will be missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him.”
“It was very clear he was going to be a standout. You knew he was going to do great things – and he did,” Taylor told the newspaper. “He was highly decorated and sacrificed a lot for this nation.”
Taylor described Milliken as a “consummate professional and an incredible warrior,” and said “it was hard not to like him.”
Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree said in a statement, “Today our hearts are heavy with the loss of U.S. Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken—a local hero who died yesterday in the line of duty. Those who knew Senior Chief Kyle Milliken remember him as an amazing athlete who could do flips on skis and run for miles…may we never forget his extraordinary bravery and incredible sacrifice.”
Maine Governor Paul LePage said in a statement, “On behalf of all Mainers, to the family and loved ones of Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Kyle Milliken, there are no words that may provide comfort during this difficult time, but know he is a man we are forever indebted (to) for his service, sacrifice and protection of the freedoms we hold dear.”
Senators Angus King and Susan Collins issued a joint statement, “He defended our nation with bravery and with distinction, and his sacrifice will never be forgotten. We hope that his family and loved ones are comforted in knowing that the people of Maine and our nation are eternally grateful for his selfless service.”