U.S. casualty in Iraq was decorated Marine

Koppenhafer was 35 and his death is under investigation.

August 12, 2019 15:25
1 minute read.
A U.S. Soldier surveils the area during a combined joint patrol in Manbij, Syria, November 1, 2018.

A U.S. Soldier surveils the area during a combined joint patrol in Manbij, Syria, November 1, 2018. Picture taken on November 1, 2018.. (photo credit: COURTESY ZOE GARBARINO/U.S. ARMY/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

 The US released details of the death of a Marine killed in northern Iraq’s Nineveh province over the weekend. Gunnery Sergeant Scott Koppenhafer was from Colorado and died on August 10 after being “engaged by enemy small-arms fire while conducting combat operations.” The incident comes as the US has warned that ISIS is increasing its activity in Iraq.

Koppenhafer was 35; his death is under investigation. Initial reports say that he was on a mission as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. He was in the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion of Marine Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC), based out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Created in 2006, MARSOC forces have played a key role in Afghanistan and Iraq over the last decade. A Marine Raider who helped stop an ISIS ambush in 2017 in Iraq was awarded a Bronze Star for Valor.

 A former high school wrestler in Colorado, Koppenhafer joined the Marines in 2005 and served for a decade as a critical skills operator, according to an article at Military.com. He was MARSOC Critical Skills Operator of the Year in 2018. He had previously served as a machine gunner and sniper. Deployed four times, including to Afghanistan, he received commendations and awards, among them two Bronze Stars with Combat Distinguishing Service.

Koppenhafer is one of only a few US causualties in anti-ISIS operations this year. That he was killed by small arms fire will raise questions about the mission and current US role assisting Iraqi forces. It comes amid concerns about ISIS attempts at resurgence in Iraq and also tensions between Shi’ite militias and locals, and between Iran and the US. It spotlights whether ISIS, five years after committing a genocide in Nineveh against Yazidis, is on the rebound.

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