The Navy SEAL killed during combat in Somalia on Friday was Kyle Milliken, 38, a Falmouth native, the Department of Defense announced Saturday.

Milliken, a senior chief special warfare officer, was killed during an operation against the terrorist group al-Shabab in Barii, about 40 miles west of Mogadishu, the Somali capital. Two other service members were wounded, the Pentagon said Friday.

In a statement released through the Department of Defense, the Milliken family thanked the community for its interest but asked for privacy.

“He was a devoted father and son, a true professional and a wonderful husband,” the family said.

Milliken grew up in Falmouth and graduated in 1998 from Cheverus High School, where he was one of the school’s top track stars. He and three teammates set the record for the 1,600-meter relay for Class A schools in 1998, according to the Maine Principals’ Association.

“His former teachers, administrators, coaches and friends pray that eternal rest be granted to him, perpetual light shine upon him and that he rest in peace,” said the Rev. George E. Collins, president of Cheverus.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, who represents Maine’s 1st District, which includes Falmouth, said in a statement that Milliken was “an amazing athlete who could do flips on skis and run for miles.”

SPECIALIZED IN FREE-FALL PARACHUTING

Milliken enlisted in the Navy in 2002 and quickly joined the special operations forces. He underwent special warfare training in Coronado, California, and specialized in free-fall parachuting.

He was based out of Virginia Beach, Virginia, starting in 2004. Milliken served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and earned four Bronze Stars, among at least 30 medals and commendations.

“We were a nation at war when he enlisted,” said Capt. Jason Salata, spokesman for the Naval Special Warfare Command. “He has four Bronze Stars. You don’t get that from sitting at home. You’re getting those kind of awards for valor.”

According to Pingree, Milliken operated for many years with SEAL Team 6, an elite counterterrorism unit.

“May we never forget his extraordinary bravery and incredible sacrifice,” Pingree said.

Another member of Congress, Rep. Scott Taylor of Virginia, a former Navy SEAL whose district includes Virginia Beach, described Milliken as a “great friend, family man, and teammate” in a Facebook post Saturday afternoon. The fallen SEAL was “brilliant, witty and fiercely loyal,” Taylor wrote.

In a written statement late Saturday night, Gov. Paul LePage expressed condolences from himself and his wife, Ann, to Milliken’s family.

“On behalf of all Mainers, to the family and loved ones of Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Kyle Milliken, there are no words that may provide comfort during this difficult time, but know he is a man we are forever indebted (to) for his service, sacrifice and protection of the freedoms we hold dear,” LePage said.

In a joint statement, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King of Maine said they were deeply saddened to learn about Milliken’s death.

“He defended our nation with bravery and with distinction, and his sacrifice will never be forgotten,” the senators said.

Milliken was assigned to an East Coast-based special warfare unit that was supporting Somali National Army-led operations.

He was the first U.S. service member to die in Somalia since 1993, when 18 U.S. servicemen were killed after two helicopters were shot down over Mogadishu. Among them were two Mainers: Army Master Sgt. Gary Gordon of Lincoln and Army Staff Sgt. Thomas Field of Lisbon. The incident was recounted in the book and film “Black Hawk Down.”

“Senior Chief Kyle Milliken embodied the warrior spirit and toughness infused in our very best Navy SEALs,” said Rear Adm. Timothy Szymanski, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command.

“We grieve his death, but we celebrate his life and many accomplishments. He is irreplaceable as a husband, father, son, friend and teammate – and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and teammates,” Szymanski said. “His sacrifice is a stark reminder that Naval Special Operators are forward doing their jobs, confronting terrorism overseas to prevent evil from reaching our shores.”

MILITARY TARGETS AL-SHABAB COMPOUND

Milliken was killed during a raid Friday on an al-Shabab compound. A firefight broke out after U.S. aircraft delivered Somali troops to the target area and U.S. troops were a distance back from the buildings, The Associated Press reported. The compound was targeted because it had been associated with attacks against U.S. and Somali forces.

Al-Shabab militants have been fighting the Somali government and foreign forces for almost a decade and are responsible for numerous terrorist attacks, including assaults against civilian targets in Kenya.

A Somali intelligence official told the AP that U.S. forces killed at least six people in the raid that targeted a building housing al-Shabab’s radio station and the dead included al-Shabab journalists.

The battle comes as the U.S. is intensifying military operations in Somalia. In late March, President Trump authorized expanded offensive airstrikes against al-Shabab and the deployment of dozens of regular troops to the country, the largest deployment in decades. The Pentagon had increased special forces activity and airstrikes in Somalia under President Barack Obama.

Somalia has been plagued by civil war since the government was overthrown in the early 1990s. The current national government is supported by the U.S. and an African Union peacekeeping force that is scheduled to leave the country in 2018.

Staff Writer Megan Doyle contributed to this report.

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