The Department of Defense on Sunday night identified a Marine who was killed while supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.
Gunnery Sgt. Scott A. Koppenhafer, 35, of Mancos, Colorado, died Saturday after being engaged by enemy small arms fire while advising and accompanying Iraqi security forces on a planned operation in Ninewah province, Iraq, according to military officials. This incident is under investigation.
Koppenhafer was assigned to the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, Marine Forces Special Operations Command, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
“Our most sincere thoughts are with the family and teammates of Gunnery Sergeant Koppenhafer during this difficult time,” Maj. Kristin Tortorici, a MARSOC spokeswoman, said in a command release.
Koppenhafer joined the Corps in 2005 and was awarded two Bronze Stars and two Combat Action Ribbons over his nearly 14-year career, among other awards, according to a Marine Corps release.
He spent the past 10 years operating as a Marine Raider, where he deployed four times with the elite special operations unit. During his first deployment to Afghanistan as a Raider, Koppenhafer was meritoriously promoted to staff sergeant, according to a Marine release.
He was an honor graduate of the Raiders’ arduous Individual Training Course, and he was selected as MARSOC’s 2018 Critical Skills Operator of the Year.
Before earning the 0372 occupation as a critical skills operator with the elite Raider outfit, Koppenhafer was a machine gunner with 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, and later served as a scout sniper, a Marine release detailed.
Koppenhafer was part of the Inherent Resolve coalition at the time he was killed, which is tasked with ensuring the defeat of the Islamic State.
Since ISIS’ territorial defeat in eastern Syria, the terror group has shifted back to insurgency tactics in the region. U.S. forces in northeastern Syria faced a car bomb attack in January, for instance, in an area that was liberated from ISIS back in February 2016.
Army 3rd Cavalry soldiers helped defeat the Islamic State during their recent deployment.
American forces have suffered two hostile deaths during the Inherent Resolve mission this year, and 16 over the course of the entire operation, according to the Defense Casualty Analysis System.
A suicide bomber killed an Army special operator and Navy cryptologic technician in Manbij, Syria, in early January. A DoD civilian was also killed in the blast.
A British and American special operator were killed in March 2018 by the accidental detonation of explosives carried by coalition forces, rather than in a roadside bomb as previously believed.
There have been nine U.S. troops wounded in action this year, and 79 over the course of Inherent Resolve, according to the Defense Casualty Analysis System.
“MARSOC is providing care and support to Gunnery Sergeant Koppenhafer’s family; we urge respect for their privacy as they grieve this incredible loss," Tortorici said in the release.
Koppenhafer is survived by his wife and two children.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.