A Navy cryptologic technician stationed at Fort George G. Meade has been identified as one of the Americans who lost their lives in a blast set off by a suicide bomber in northern Syria this week.
Chief Petty Officer Shannon M. Kent was among the 16 people killed when an attacker outfitted with explosives targeted troops conducting a routine patrol in the town of Manbij on Wednesday. She is the first female Navy service member killed in the battle against ISIS since the U.S.-led coalition started fighting the group in 2014.
The 35-year-old sailor, a native of Pine Plains, New York, and the daughter of New York State Police Officer Col. Stephen J. Smith, graduated from Stissing Mountain Junior/Senior High School in 2001 and enlisted in the Navy shortly after in 2003.
Stissing Mountain Principal Tara Grieb said Kent was an honor student and described her as a “wonderful person.”
“We are very proud of her service,” she said. “We support her family 100 percent during their time of sorrow.”
Also killed in the attack were Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan R. Farmer, 37, of Boynton Beach, Florida, who was based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky; and a civilian, Scott A. Wirtz, from St. Louis, Missouri. The Pentagon has not yet identified the fourth American casualty, a civilian.
The attack, which also wounded three U.S. troops, was the deadliest assault on U.S. troops in Syria since American forces went into the country in 2015.
Kent enlisted in the Navy in December 2003 and graduated from boot camp at Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois, in February 2004.
She had previously been assigned to the Navy Information Operations Command in Fort Gordon, Georgia; the Navy Special Warfare Support Activity 2 in Norfolk, Virginia; the Personnel Resource Development Office in Washington, D.C., and the Navy Information Operations Command at Fort Meade.
“She was a rock star, an outstanding chief petty officer, and leader to many in the Navy Information Warfare community,” said Cmdr. Joseph Harrison with the Commanding Officer of Cryptologic Warfare Activity 66, where Kent was assigned after the command was established in August.
In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan posted a statement Friday on social media:
“Our hearts go out to the family of Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician Shannon M. Kent who was killed in the attack earlier this week in Syria. Chief Kent was stationed at Fort Meade and made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. We thank her for her service to our state and our nation, and send prayers to her loved ones in this time of grief.”
In New York, flags at both Stissing Mountain and the Pine Plains Town Hall will be lowered in honor of the “town hero” and will remain that way until her burial.
“We mourn the death of Dutchess County’s Shannon Kent in Syria earlier this week,” County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro said.
“May her light shine on through her friends and loved ones, and may her family find peace during this difficult time. Dutchess County will long remember Shannon’s service to our nation and her ultimate sacrifice.”
Kent gained several accolades during her time in service, including the Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon and Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon, according to the Navy.
“Chief Kent’s drive, determination and tenacity were infectious. Although she has left us way too soon, she will not be forgotten, and her legacy will live on with us,” said Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician Denise Vola, CWA 66’s command senior enlisted leader.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also directed that flags at the state government be flown at half-staff to pay tribute to the fallen sailor.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility in the immediate aftermath of the attack, which unfolded less than a month after President Donald Trump declared victory over the militant group.
“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” he wrote in a Dec. 19 tweet
The surprise announcement sent shockwaves through the war-torn country and rattled some of the president’s top aides — including Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who resigned over the move.
There are still some 2,000 American troops in Syria, but the U.S. has already begun the process of withdrawing from the region, pulling equipment from the northeast of the country into neighboring Iraq.
Vice President Mike Pence during an address delivered the same day as the suicide bombing defended the president’s decision to withdraw troops from the region and similarly celebrated the defeat of the Islamic State.
“Thanks to the leadership of this commander-in-chief and the courage and sacrifice of our armed forces, we’re now actually able to begin to hand off the fight in Syria to our coalition partners. We are bringing our troops home,” he announced.
“The Caliphate has crumbled. ISIS has been defeated.”