A Central Command (CENTCOM) investigation has found that a highly decorated Marine Raider, who was killed in Iraq earlier this year, died from enemy and not friendly fire.
Gunnery Sergeant Scott A. Koppenhafer, a Marine Raider assigned to the 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion (2nd MSOB), was killed on August 10 during combat operations in Iraq.
CENTCOM had initially reported that Gunny Koppenhafer had been killed by enemy fire. Soon thereafter, however, they retracted the statement saying that he was killed “after suffering fatal wounds while supporting Iraqi Security Forces.” The retraction added fuel to the friendly-fire theory. But now an investigation has found that the Marine Raider was indeed killed by enemy action.
In a statement to the Marine Corps Times, officials with Operation Inherent Resolve, the joint task force charged with destroying ISIS, said that “there is no evidence that suggests Iraqi Partner Forces engaged U.S. or Coalition forces on this operation. The deaths and injuries were incurred in the line of duty.”
During the fateful day, Gunny Koppenhafer’s Marine Special Operations Team (MSOT) was assisting and advising the local Iraqi SWAT team. They were operating in Qanus Island, targeting Islamic State targets.
The operation in which Gunny Koppenhafer was killed proved to be a costly one for the Iraqi and U.S. forces. In addition to the Marine Raider, an American military contractor and two Iraqi SWAT officers were killed. Another Marine Raider was also wounded that day.
Gunny Koppenhafer’s Silver Star citation offers a glimpse to the calibre of man that he was: “Throughout the day, he supported his partner force from a series of over-watch positions while enduring enemy machine-gun fire, small arms attacks, and an attempted dynamic armored vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attack that detonated several hundred meters from his position,” reads the citation.
Gunnery Sgt. Scott A. Koppenhafer
The Marine Raider had been with Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC) for almost a decade. In addition to the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest award for valor in combat, the Marine Raider had earned two Bronze Stars for valor in Afghanistan.
Gunny Koppenhafer had been selected as the Marine Raider’s 2018 Critical Skills Operator of the Year.
MSOTs are comprised of 14 Marine Raiders and are based on the Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) concept. They can be divided into two “mini-teams” of seven men each. MSOTs specialize in Direct Action (DA) and Foreign Internal Defence (FID) missions.