A Navy SEAL killed during a firefight in Iraq was part of a quick-reaction force that moved in to rescue U.S. military advisers from an ISIS attack, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Charles Keating IV, 31, had been based in Coronado, California. The grandson of an Arizona financier involved in the 1980s savings and loan scandal, Keating is the third U.S. service member to be killed in combat in Iraq since U.S. forces returned there in 2014.
"He was our golden boy and he had a million-dollar smile. And he had the best luck in the world, and he always made it through, so that's why this is so shocking," his mother, Krista Joseph, said during a telephone interview Wednesday.
U.S. Army Col. Steve Warren told Pentagon reporters Keating was shot and killed Tuesday in a complicated attack by 125 ISIS forces in 20 vehicles, with several truck bombs and bulldozers, that raged for hours.
Warren said Keating's team went to rescue a small group of American advisers who had gone to Teleskof, about 14 miles north of Mosul, to meet with Kurdish peshmerga forces.
ISIS fighters launched a large, complex attack on the peshmerga there. It's not clear if they knew American advisers were on the ground, Warren said.
Keating was hit Tuesday morning and evacuated for medical treatment, but "his wound was not survivable," Warren said.
In addition to the American quick-reaction force on the ground, 31 American aircraft — including 29 warplanes and two drones — launched 11 airstrikes, killing 58 ISIS fighters, according to Pentagon officials.
Two medical helicopters were struck by ISIS ground fire. The aircraft returned safely to base, Warren said.
Keating went to high school in Phoenix, then attended Indiana University, where he made a name for himself as a high school and college track star.
"When Charlie left IU to enlist and try to become a SEAL, I don't think it really surprised any of us," said Robert Chapman, professor of kinesiology at IU Bloomington, who served as Indiana men's cross country coach from 1998 to 2007.
According to his mother, Keating had wanted to be a Navy SEAL from a young age and even put a SEAL poster on his bedroom wall at age 8 or 9.
Keating lived in Coronado with his fiancée, Brooke Clark, and her family. The two would have tied the knot in November. Brooke's grandmother told NBC 7 her granddaughter had just bought a dress.
Keating was the grandson of Arizona financier Charles H. Keating Jr., who served prison time for his role in the costliest savings and loan failure of the 1980s. The elder Keating died at age 90 in 2014.
All state flags in Arizona were ordered to fly at half-staff from sunrise to sunset Wednesday in the younger Keating's honor.