Mancos native and ASU grad dies in Iraq

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Scott A. Koppenhafer, 35, of Mancos and ASU graduate died while serving in Iraq Aug. 10.

IRAQ — The Marine Forces Special Operations Command on Sunday announced the death of Marine Gunnery Sgt. Scott A. Koppenhafer, 35, of Mancos.

He died after being injured during combat Saturday in Iraq, according to Maj. Kristin Tortorici, a communications officer with the Marine Corps’ Special Operations Command.

Koppenhafer, a critical skills operator with 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, suffered fatal wounds after becoming engaged in gunfire while supporting Iraqi Security Forces, Tortorici said.

In an earlier statement, the U.S. military said a service member had died during an Iraqi Security Force mission in Ninewah province, Iraq, while advising and accompanying the ISF during a planned operation. That statement was released before the Pentagon released Koppenhafer’s name.

The incident is under investigation, Tortorici said.

Koppenhafer was assigned to the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, Marine Forces Special Operations Command, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

He is survived by his wife and two children.

“Our most sincere thoughts are with the family and teammates of Gunnery Sergeant Koppenhafer during this difficult time,” Tortorici said Sunday in a news release. “MARSOC is providing care and support to Gunnery Sergeant Koppenhafer’s family; we urge respect for their privacy as they grieve this incredible loss.”

According to Tortorici, Koppenhafer was deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. Inherent Resolve is a coalition tasked with defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which has reverted to insurgency tactics in the region.

Koppenhafer was assigned to the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, Marine Forces Special Operations Command, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

He joined the Marine Corps in 2005 and spent the past 10 years as a MARSOC critical skills operator. Before joining the Marines special operations, he was a machine gunner with 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, and later as a scout sniper, completing deployments with both the 31st and 11th Marine Expeditionary Units.

Koppenhafer completed special operations training in 2009 as an honor graduate, and during his first MARSOC deployment to Afghanistan was promoted to the rank of staff sergeant. He completed three additional deployments as a member of 2nd Marine Raider Battalion and was selected as MARSOC’s 2018 Critical Skills Operator of the Year.

His personal decorations include: two Bronze Star medals with Combat Distinguishing Device, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals with Combat Distinguishing Device, one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, one Humanitarian Service Medal, two Combat Action Ribbons, four Good Conduct Medals, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and six Sea Service Deployment Ribbons.

Adams State extends sympathy for the fallen Marine to all his family and friends.

Koppenhafer wrestled for Adams State for three years and graduated Cum Laude in 2005 with a degree in business administration. He joined the Marines soon after graduation.

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