Home » Foreign Forces » UPDATED: U.S. Officials Describe Fight That Killed Navy SEAL Charles Keating IV


UPDATED: U.S. Officials Describe Fight That Killed Navy SEAL Charles Keating IV

Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Charles Keating IV, 31, of San Diego. US Navy Photo

Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Charles Keating IV, 31, of San Diego. US Navy Photo

This post has been updated with additional photos and a map of where the fighting occured.

THE PENTAGON – The Navy SEAL who was killed in a Tuesday firefight with Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militants was part of a quick reaction force sent in to assist a U.S. advise-and-assist team and Kurdish Peshmerga forces who were overwhelmed by a surprise ISIS offensive in Northern Iraq, an Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman 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 U.S. forces near the town of Tel Askuf, about two miles away from the front lines between Peshmerga and ISIS forces, spokesman U.S. Army Col Steve Warren said Wednesday morning.

The U.S. advise-and-assist team – composed of fewer than a dozen U.S. troops — was in the town of Tel Askuf when the force of more than 120 ISIS fighters pushed into the area. The ISIS force was made up of a 20 so-called “technicals” – commercial vehicles converted into ad hoc troop carriers and crew-served weapons platforms — and at least one bulldozer, Warren said.

Photos released by ISIS that show some of the technicals used in assault on Tel Askuf

Photos released by ISIS that show some of the technicals alleged to have been used in assault on Tel Askuf

The ISIS breach of the Peshmerga line occurred about 7:30 AM local time on Tuesday, and 20 minutes later the advise-and-assist team reported they were in contact with ISIS forces.

“After the enemy forces [punched] through the forward lines there and made their move into Tel Askuf, our forces automatically became kind of embroiled in the ensuing battle,” Warren said. “They rapidly called for the quick reaction force and continued on the fight until such time one service member was shot and then medevaced out.”

In support of the advise-and-assist team, U.S. forces had pre-assembled a QRF in the event the team ran into trouble.

The fighting continued for two more hours between U.S. and Peshmerga forces and ISIS fighters before Keating was hit about 9:32 AM Warren would not disclose how long it took the QRF force to enter the fight.

Keating “was struck by direct fire, and although he was medevaced within the all-important golden hour, his wound was not survivable,” Warren said.
“No other coalition or American forces were injured, though both medevac helicopters were damaged by small arms fire.”

It’s unclear how long the Americans were engaged with the ISIS forces before they left the firefight. However, the gunbattle between the Peshmerga and ISIS fighters continued well after the American QRF and advise-and-assist team were extracted and coalition air assets arrived.

“We were able to get a lot of aircraft on scene. There was 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 taken 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 for 14 hours ending at 9:30 PM local time.

Photos released by ISIS that show some of the technicals alleged to have been used in assault on Tel Askuf

Photos released by ISIS that show some of the technicals alleged to have been used in assault on Tel Askuf

Warren said there were Peshmerga casualties in addition to Keating, but did not have the figures on hand. He did say it was the largest clash between ISIS and collation forces at least since December.

“This was a large fight, there’s no question about it,” Warren said.

According to a Tuesday report from Reuters, early indications from Peshmerga forces that said 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 gunfight, you know, a dynamic gun fight, so he got hit just in the course of his gun battle — whether it was a sniper or some fighter with his AK is unclear,” he said.
“This was a gunfight so there were bullets everywhere.”

Following Warren’s briefing with reporters, the service released additional details on Keating’s service.

He joined the Navy in 2007, leaving Indiana University where he was a long distance runner. He graduated from the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training in 2008 and served two deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and one tour in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

“He then served as the leading petty officer of the West Coast sniper/reconnaissance training cell. Upon completion of his tour as an instructor, Keating checked back into a West Coast-based SEAL Team as a platoon leading petty officer in February 2015,” read a statement from Naval Special Warfare Group 1.
“He was deployed to Iraq for a third time in support of Operation Inherent Resolve when he was killed.”

His decorations included: the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V”, 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, according to the service.
Keating was the grandson of Charles Keating Jr. The elder Keating served time in federal prison following in the aftermath of a 1980s failure of an Arizona savings and loan.

Keating’s death follows the March death of Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin, of Temecula, Calif., assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, who was killed in a fire support base near Mosul in an ISIS rocket attack.

  • PRONESE

    Fair Winds And Following Seas Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Charles Keating IV. May You Rest In Peace. Blessings to your Family in their time of grief. GBU

  • flankton

    True hero

  • joeboy

    RIP Hero.

  • Don Bacon

    US troops ten miles north of Mosul, which is supposed (we’re told) to be taken by Iraqi troops from the south? Utterly foolish.

    • USNVO

      Mosul is surrounded, you do know what that means don’t you? Well if not, let me clarify. That means there are “friendly” forces all around the city. So even if it is taken from the South, there are blocking forces in all directorctions to keep the bad guys from getting away. So having US forces in the North with the Kurds who are, try to keep up here, actually covering the Northern side of the city makes perfect sense don’t you think.

      • publius_maximus_III

        Be nice, or our loyal opposition with take flight.

      • Don Bacon

        No. There is no need for US troops isolated with Kurdish “blocking forces” in conjunction with feckless Iraq troops who seem to be having no success causing anything to block. Are they giving blocking advice to the poorly armed and equipped Kurds which incidentally are being bombed by NATO member Turkey? This one casualty probably won’t be the only result of a faulty strategy in the ongoing Operation Iraqi Freedom fiasco.

  • PopperlinRosebud

    RIP. So sad.

  • Anon2012_2014

    Killed by a breakthrough of ISIS “technical” improvised combat vehicles.

    I have to ask why we don’t use our airpower to plonk EVERY vehicle in ISIS territory. Simply deny them the use of motorized transportation and weaponry. We should have done the same in Somalia years ago. If it drives it dies.

    • Don Bacon

      Answer: Because it’s a phony war against ISIS, an entity that was created by the US (along with Saudi Arabia and Turkey) to advance US strategic objectives. Many air combat missions were flown, but most of them were denied attack permission and then the intel was doctored. Even fat targets like oil transport vehicles were given a pass. US casualties like this needless one are deemed necessary to show that the US is “serious” when it’s not. The corruption runs deep.

      • Anon2012_2014

        Answer: [half-assed phony war] “Many air combat missions were flown, but most of them were denied attack permission and then the intel was doctored. Even fat targets like oil transport vehicles were given a pass.”

        It’s morally wrong to put our peoples’ lives on the line without doing effective and 100% certain mitigations like attacking all vehicles behind the ISIS line of control. I blame Obama, just like I blame Bush 2 for not finishing off the Sadr Army in Najif, and Clinton in Somalia, and yes Reagan in Beirut; and even Jimmy Carter in Iran. It’s has to be all in or not in at all. It’s as if our political system prevents us from winning. Politically correct failures where our people die for nothing.

  • SkippingDog

    At the cost of his own life, SO1 Keating restored the family honor sullied by his grandfather.

  • Jay

    Using SEALS as a QRF? What a waste of training and talent. Big propaganda victory for American enemies in the Middle East.

    • USNVO

      I don’t know, but I would guess the QRF was also tasked to do recovery of captured personnel if required. As such, they would be staffed for the most difficult job, rescuing the advise and assist team if they get captured, as opposed to a more conventional infantry role of sealing off a hole in the line.

    • Nate Gapinski

      if losing 58 men and dozens of (makeshift) IFV’s and weapons assets for one Special Forces and likely several Kurdish fighters is a “Victory” enough to be used in propaganda campaigns, then ISIS has seriously been taking a beating lately. Cause not only was the firefight an operational success for the defenders, it’s likely at least a 10:1 ratio of losses was incurred not even counting wounded that won’t get proper medical treatment from ISIS and countless more vehicles that are difficult to replace for the beleaguered Islamic Militants. (really do we have to use terrorists? i mean they would call themselves freedom fighters and patriots and these men fighting face to face in Syria aren’t the same as the ones strapping bombs to themselves or shooting people in Europe. The organization may be terrorist but those are brave misguided men fighting for a cause they believe in and are willing to die for)

    • FedUpWithWelfareStates

      Exactly!

      This lack of appropriate QRF assets can be laid squarely at the feet of Obama, his juvenile advisors, & our weak knee-sycophantic Generals & Admirals…

      It all boils down to NOT having a viable plan to defeat ISIS, piecemealing SOF troops in to seem like we are doing something against ISIS, but in reality, Obama is ONLY enabling ISIS to continue their Islamic Caliphate Expansion…

      • Jay

        Sounds like someone has been watching lots of TV and movies where Presidents micromanage battalion size forces and reach over multiple general officers to play the board game called Combat. You should send your plan to the White House and JCS immediately and await promotion to 5 star (strong kneed) General and deployment to the Middle East. I’m sure you’ll have the entire problem there solved by the end of the year.

  • Robert Hillman

    Another sailor who made the ultimate sacrifice fighting for our country while trying to stop terrorism. RIP you won’t be forgotten for doing your duty.

  • Scott

    Indeed a true HERO. Not sure why the sins of the father are even mentioned here, disgraceful….each person stands on their own merit in this country. That is what makes it great.

  • kostas kladianos

    Hero! R.I.P. from Greece

  • The_Usual_Suspect61

    Sam LaGrone,
    “Keating was the grandson of Charles Keating Jr. The elder Keating served
    time in federal prison following in the aftermath of a 1980s failure of
    an Arizona savings and loan.” You need to edit this out of the story and then delete my comment. The sins of his grandfather have zero bearing on PO Keating’s performance of his duties. This is not the National Enquirer.

    • Grant

      Thank you! I couldn’t agree more.

  • publius_maximus_III

    An article in Military-DOT-com, “Navy SEAL Killed in Iraq Identified as Former Track Star from Arizona”, mentioned that he had attended the US Naval Academy. Was that just a mistake, since he was a non-com, and all Annapolis graduates receive commissions from Congress in either the USN or USMC? Or was it that he attended there, but later dropped out?

    • Pres

      I dropped out only to find myself DRAFTED into the Army two weeks later! I quickly volunteered served our Military very actively.

      • publius_maximus_III

        And I thank you for your service to your country, Pres, despite the somewhat circuitous route initially — Navy > Army > XXXX?

        I was in college during the latter half of the Vietnam War (1970-1975), but had a college deferment from my Draft Board the whole time. That, plus having a pretty high lottery number meant the draft was not a concern. I was thinking about dropping out of engineering school during my sophomore year, but learned about the school’s Co-op Plan and started alternating work quarters (working for a major airline’s engineering groups) and academic quarters over the next three years, finishing my senior year with all academic quarters. The best thing I ever did.

        • Pres

          Being reborn is the best thing that ever happened to me! Thank you, Jesus!
          Serving our armed forces gave me some of the greatest moments in my life. I especially enjoyed Navy Prosthetics Research Laboratory. One of the oddities is the impulsion valve for the BK prosthesis, we invented it. This type of valve is used in the corvette’s rear hatch. The spin off from N.P.R.L.’s work is evident even in today’s modern prosthetics. Thank You United Stated NAVY for being the best for me!

          • publius_maximus_III

            Jesus is Lord.

            Quite an interesting read — an article I found by CPO CHARLES C. ASBELLE about your Navy Lab’s ventilation valve:

            “PERSPIRATION of the stump while a prosthesis is being worn has always been a problem to a sizable segment of the amputee population. As a rule, amputees perspire at a greater rate than is normal even without the prosthesis. The newer, total-contact sockets as designed and introduced offer no provision for ventilation. Although in the case of some patients who sweat profusely during the initial use of total-contact sockets the problem seems to disappear after a period, there remains a sufficient number of cases in which perspiration presents a real problem

            …..the impulsion device (Fig. 1) in its present state is simply a ball-type check valve arranged so that air is drawn into the stump sock during the swing phase of walking, or when the prosthesis is not bearing weight, and the air is expelled through the stump sock when the stump is forced into the socket as in the stance phase of walking. The valve consists of only two parts, the ball and the housing. The ball is made of polyurethane to prevent clicking noises experienced with other materials. Two sizes of the valve accommodate the entire amputee population (Fig. 2). They are available commercially.”

            So I now must thank you not only for your past years of service to your country, but also, for the veterans using your lab’s device long past their years of service, thank you for those years of service, too! The gift that keeps on giving.

          • Pres

            I like you. I forgot the most important part! Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Charles Keating IV, R.I.P..

          • Pres

            Now if I can just get over this sad tangential thing…

          • publius_maximus_III

            Aye, one of the finest of the fine. “No greater love hath a man than he lay down his life for his friends.”

  • Doc Loomis

    His grandfather? Really? Please stop the hit and run journalism; it is beneath us both.

  • Mac

    Folks, let’s remember. LaGrone is a just a reporter. He has never worn the uniform or taken the oath. He’s just being a “journalist” doing journalist stuff. He’s not one of us. But his editors and the management of USNI ought to have caught the cheap shot. Shame on them.

    • Alvaro Neto

      Doesn’t seem to be a cheap shot. It is a matter of perspective on how you take on facts.

      Another way to look at it: his elder sinned, whilst the seed was outstanding.

  • The Petty officer was riding in his SUV which was hit with RPG4 I think.

  • Sounds like this Petty officer was riding in his SUV and they got a lucky shot with their RPG4. RIP