Navy SEAL Killed in Yemen Will Get Posthumous Promotion

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)

A Navy SEAL who died in a costly raid on al-Qaida militants in Yemen will receive a posthumous promotion to senior chief petty officer, the Navy announced Thursday.

Chief Special Warfare Operator William "Ryan" Owens, 36, of Peoria, Illinois, was killed Jan. 29 during an information-gathering operation that left six more troops killed or injured.

A seasoned operator, he had served in SEAL units on the East and West Coasts since 2003, and had been promoted to chief petty officer in 2009, according to information provided to

He was highly decorated, earning three Bronze Stars, two with combat "V" device, and two Joint Service Commendation Medals with combat "V" device over the course of his career. An official with Naval Special Warfare Command could not say if additional medal recommendations are pending.

Owens had been eligible for the fiscal 2018 active-duty senior chief selection board, due to convene in April, said Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a spokesman for the chief of naval personnel.

But after his death, the Navy approved an exception-to-policy request, allowing him to be promoted, effective the day he died. The exception to policy memo, reviewed by, was signed by Rear Adm. John Nowell, director of personnel, plans and policy for the Navy.

In a statement Monday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis gave condolences to Owens' family and unit members.

"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," he said.

The commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski, also paid tribute to the fallen SEAL's legacy.

"Ryan was an exceptional SEAL -- an experienced warrior and a highly respected teammate who served silently, nobly and bravely through several combat deployments," Szymanski said. "... For NSW, Ryan's legacy strengthens our own resolve and commitment to this crucial fight. We hope his family can find comfort in the love and support of family, friends and teammates."

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

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