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'He gave his life for his teammates': Jason Finan is first US casualty of Mosul battle

Chief Petty Officer Jason C. Finan, 34, of Anaheim, California, was identified Friday as the servicemember killed by an improvised explosive device while serving in an advisory role with Iraqi coalition troops.

U.S. NAVY PHOTO

By AMY B WANG | The Washington Post | Published: October 22, 2016

Jason C. Finan, a 34-year-old chief petty officer, is the first American killed in the current battle for Mosul, a military push to reclaim the city in northern Iraq from the Islamic State, the Defense Department announced Friday.

Finan is survived by his wife, Chariss, and their 7-year-old son, of Imperial Beach, California, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

The Pentagon said Finan died Thursday, after sustaining wounds in an improvised explosive device blast. He was supporting Operation Inherent Resolve in its fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

Finan, a native of Anaheim, California, was assigned to the Navy's Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 3, based just 100 miles to the south in Coronado, California. Finan enlisted in the Navy in August of 2003 and had earned several commendations throughout his lengthy military career, a Navy spokeswoman confirmed to The Washington Post on Saturday.

"Chief Finan was extremely proud of his service to his country [and] he was deeply respected by his peers and teammates," Capt. Dean Muriano, commander of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group Unit 1, said in a statement Saturday. "His family and brothers in arms are mourning and grieving the loss of this respected and talented Sailor."

"He gave his life for his teammates and was committed and loyal to the country he loved," Muriano wrote. "In return I ask that to best honor his memory and service, we give both his family and his fellow Sailors the time they need to heal so they can mourn his loss."

According to the Orange County Register, several flags in Finan's mother's Lake Forest neighborhood were lowered to half-staff on Friday, as news spread of Finan's death.

"It's the only thing we can do," one of her neighbors, Steven Beck, told the newspaper through tears. "When I think about the military and the sacrifices it makes, it deeply touches me."

Rep. Scott Peters, D-California, who is the chairman of the Congressional Special Operations Forces Caucus, offered his "deepest condolences and prayers" to those close to Finan in a statement on Friday.

"I also offer my condolences to the entire Naval Special Warfare community, which is enduring the loss of another of its finest as it occupies the frontlines in the fight to destroy ISIS and preserve our freedom and security," Peters wrote. "Chief Petty Officer Jason Finan is a hero who represents the best of San Diego, the best of our special operations community, and the best of America - he will not be forgotten."

Finan was part of a U.S. team advising and assisting Iraqi Kurd fighters known as Peshmerga, according to the Associated Press.

His death marks the fourth U.S. combat death in Iraq since U.S. military operations against ISIS began in that country in August 2014, the AP reported.

The "multipronged attacks" to retake Mosul, which has been under ISIS control for more than two years and is the last major Iraqi stronghold for ISIS militants, started last Monday and quickly escalated, as The Post's Loveday Morris and Kareem Fahim reported from Iraq last week:

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Iraq's elite counterterrorism units advanced to within six miles of Mosul on Thursday as Kurdish forces opened a new front to the north - in a significant escalation of the fight for the Islamic State-held city.

Plumes of dust and smoke rose over the majority-Christian town of Bartella, east of Mosul, as Islamic State militants sent a barrage of car bombs to repel the advance of the counterterrorism forces. But by nightfall, the militants' resistance had crumbled and the Iraqi flag had been raised over the town's main church, commanders said.

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The battle for Mosul is further complicated because it involves "not just regular Iraqi army forces but also Sunni tribal units, powerful Shiite militias and the Kurdish troops of the northern semiautonomous region - forces that are often at odds with the Baghdad government," The Post reported.

In addition to Finan's death, there were reportedly also heavy casualties among Kurdish peshmerga forces in their push for Mosul.

"Regrettably a number of peshmerga have paid the ultimate sacrifice for us to deliver today's gains," the peshmerga's general command said in a statement. U.S. coalition support and air cover "were not as decisive as in the past," it added.

Since enlisting in the Navy in 2003, Finan trained in explosive ordnance disposal and as a naval parachutist, an enlisted surface warfare specialist and a diver, according to a Navy spokeswoman. Finan's 18 awards and decorations included the Navy Marine Corps Commendation with Combat V, the Army Commendation Medal and the Joint Meritorious Unit Award, among several others.

There are currently more than 5,000 U.S. troops deployed in Iraq.

Mosul has been the site of numerous battles over the past 13 years. On April 11, 2003, after the United States and allied forces invaded Iraq, Mosul fell when forces allied to Saddam Hussein abandoned the city and later surrendered. But numerous American service members were killed in subsequent attacks by Iraqi militants. And two years ago, Mosul fell under the control of the Islamic State, when Iraqi forces surrendered the city.

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