At the time of his death, Falmouth native Kyle Milliken had spent 15 years in one of the most elite special operations forces in the U.S. military.

Milliken, 38, enlisted with the Navy SEALs in 2002. A chief special warfare officer, he was killed Friday during an operation against the terrorist group al-Shabab in a remote area about 40 miles west of Mogadishu, the Somali capital.

The SEALs – the Navy’s Sea, Air and Land forces – go through what is considered by some to be the most rigorous military training in the world. There are just 2,800 SEALs, which is less than 1 percent of the Navy’s active-duty personnel.

“To become a Navy SEAL is the most arduous training in the country,” Capt. Jason Salata, a spokesman at the Naval Special Warfare Command, said Saturday.

In a statement Saturday, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine said Milliken had served for many years with the elite SEAL Team 6. Salata would not confirm that information Saturday. One of the military’s most famous and secretive units, SEAL Team 6 does not officially exist and operates under the name “Naval Special Warfare Development Group.”

SEAL Team 6 is best known for killing al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011. Other missions have included the 2009 rescue of Richard Phillips, the American cargo ship captain captured by Somali pirates and, more recently, the January raid on the home of an al-Qaida leader in Yemen that resulted in the death of one team member. It is overseen by the Joint Special Operations Command, which also oversees the Army’s Delta Force and other special operations groups.

Established by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, the SEALs conduct covert missions by sea, air and land around the world. According to the Navy, their responsibilities might include capturing high-value enemy personnel and terrorists, collecting information through reconnaissance missions, and demolishing underwater natural or man-made obstacles prior to amphibious landings.

Initial training to become a SEAL requires more than one year of basic underwater demolition school, parachute jump school and other qualifications. Additional training before a deployment takes more than 18 months.

Milliken held one of the highest ranks for enlisted SEALs and received a number of high-level qualifications, including in parachuting. He had also received four Bronze Stars and a number of other awards.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Salata said 58 SEALs including Milliken have been killed in action. He was not certain when Milliken’s remains would be returned to the United States.

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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