SEAL Killed Fighting al-Qaida in Yemen Identified

Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, 36, of Peoria, Illinois (DoD photo)
Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, 36, of Peoria, Illinois (DoD photo)

The Navy SEAL killed Jan. 28 during a raid on al-Qaida in Yemen was a 36-year-old chief petty officer, the Defense Department said Monday.

Chief Special Warfare Operator William "Ryan" Owens, of Peoria, Illinois, was killed during an intelligence-gathering operation on al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula that left six additional troops wounded or injured, defense officials said.

Owens enlisted in August 1998 and made chief in December 2009, an official told His awards included three Bronze Stars -- two with a "V" distinguishing device signifying combat valor.

While multiple outlets have reported that Owens was a member of the elite Naval Special Warfare Development Group, better known as SEAL Team Six, officials would confirm only that he was a member of an East Coast-based special warfare unit.

"I extend my condolences to the family and shipmates of Chief Petty Officer William 'Ryan' Owens," Defense Secretary James Mattis said Monday evening in a statement. "Ryan gave his full measure for our nation, and in performing his duty, he upheld the noblest standard of military service. The United States would not long exist were it not for the selfless commitment of such warriors."

Owens is the first U.S. service member to be killed in action since President Donald Trump took office Jan. 20.

The raid was also noteworthy in that it pitted SEALs against female combatants. At least 14 AQAP-affiliated enemy fighters were killed, some of them female, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said in a statement.

Three other SEAL team members were wounded in a firefight during the raid, and three more were hurt in a hard landing by a V-22 Osprey that was providing troop transport for the operators, officials said.

Trump called the raid a "success", and Davis said it would provide the Pentagon with further insight into planning within AQAP, which has taken responsibility for the 2015 "Charlie Hebdo" terror attacks in Paris.

"I thank our gallant troops and their families for their dedication to protecting this nation, and I pass our respects to Ryan's family in this most difficult time," Mattis said.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at@HopeSeck.

Story Continues