The Defense Department on Tuesday released new details about a Navy explosive ordnance disposal technician killed Oct. 20 in northern Iraq while supporting the Iraqi-led offensive on Islamic State militants in Mosul.
Chief Petty Officer Jason "JJ" Finan, 34, died of wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device blast near Bashiqa, Iraq, Pentagon officials announced.
Finan, who was assigned to the Coronado-based EOD Mobile Unit Three, had been attached to a SEAL team at the time of his death, Military.com reported Monday.
He was operating behind a forward line of troops who were advising Kurdish Peshmerga forces as they assaulted Mosul when his team was targeted by small arms fire, according to the announcement. Finan, who was in a Humvee, was moving to a better position when his vehicle hit the roadside bomb.
The commander of the joint fight against the Islamic State, Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, told reporters in Iraq this weekend that Finan had spotted another IED and was working to warn troops and civilians away from it at the time of the blast.
Finan's teammates provided immediate medical care while a helicopter was dispatched to Medevac the wounded sailor out of the area, officials said. He received care en route to a troop hospital in Irbil from flight medics, and received further aid from the forward surgical team once he arrived at the hospital. But he ultimately succumbed to wounds received from the blast, officials said.
"His sacrifice will not be in vain," Townsend said in a statement. "Our troops are in harm's way supporting our partners in their fight against ISIL, which presents a very real danger to not only the region, but the United States and our friends and allies around the world as well," he added, using another term for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. "This barbaric ideology must be defeated and I thank God every day that we have warriors like Chief Finan who are willing to take up that fight."
Finan was the first U.S. service member to die in support of the Mosul offensive. A decorated 13-year sailor, he is survived by a wife and 7-year-old son.
Iraqi forces are now within 10 miles of Mosul, the last major stronghold for the Islamic State in Iraq. En route, the Iraqi and Peshmerga forces have cleared and reclaimed dozens of villages and towns formerly held by the militant group.
More than 100 U.S. troops are reportedly traveling with the assault force to serve as advisers and to help call in airstrikes, officials have said.
In Tuesday's news release, the Pentagon called the liberation of Mosul a key step in the fight to eradicate the Islamic State.
"The fight will be hard but the Coalition remains resolute in its support and confident in the training and ability of the Iraqi security forces to militarily defeat ISIL," officials said in the release. "The defeat of ISIL in Iraq and Syria will provide greater security to the region, Europe and the United States."