Defense language school pays tribute to Shannon Kent, Navy linguist killed in Syria
A Navy linguist killed in Syria earlier this year had a section of California’s Presidio of Monterey, home of the Defense Language Institute where she trained, named in her memory.
The small area, which includes several Navy barracks on a wooded hillside overlooking Monterey Bay, was dedicated last week in honor of Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent, a 2005 graduate of the language school’s Arabic course, who was among four Americans and over a dozen locals killed in a January suicide bombing in the town of Manbij.
Dubbed “Kent Navy Yard,” the area is shown in photos from the Navy’s Information Warfare Training Command Monterey to include a training stage, a mast with a U.S. flag and a boulder bearing a memorial plaque inscribed with Kent’s image and a brief biography.
The 35-year-old mother of two and cancer survivor, who spoke seven languages and was considered a “badass” by many of her peers, spent much of her career working alongside special operations troops.
Her death while deployed in support of an operation to hunt down remnants of the Islamic State group brought attention to the work female servicemembers have been doing alongside elite front-line units. It has also prompted changes to a flawed Navy commissioning and waiver process that led to her deployment in lieu of attending a doctoral program.
Kent did not shy away from danger and served selflessly throughout her career, said Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott Welker, a guest speaker at the dedication ceremony. He used as a refrain in his remarks a phrase Kent spoke after being told of a risky assignment earlier in her career: “Send me.”
“You will be asked to push your abilities to their limits, and beyond,” he told the gathering of mostly language students. “Not for you, but for those who will never know you. This is the legacy into which you are being baptized. This is the legacy of Senior Chief Kent. ‘Send me.’”
Kent’s story has motivated sailors at the school, one of the Defense Department’s most academically challenging, the Navy training command said.
“She began her career here and she exemplified everything we expect of our students and more,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Christopher Stevens, the command’s senior enlisted leader. “Now she will continue to be a role model for all future generations of Navy linguists.”
There is no accurate count of how many DLI graduates have been killed in combat, though nine of its earliest students were killed in World War II and 295 more died fighting in Vietnam, wrote former DLI student, instructor and administrator Ben De La Selva in a 2017 book.
At least 11 graduates killed in conflicts since WWII have been honored with buildings named after them at the school, he said. He also listed 30 graduates killed in hostilities since 9/11.
Kent was the latest DLI graduate killed in combat, following the June 2018 death of Army Staff Sgt. Alexander Conrad, a 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) member shot by militants in Somalia.
Kent deployed into combat four times in support of SEAL teams 4 and 10 in Iraq and Afghanistan, before deploying to Syria last November, the Navy’s memorial plaque states.
“Shannon was a rare breed,” said Sgt. Maj. Clint Rowe of the 75th Ranger Regiment’s regimental military intelligence battalion at Fort Gordon, Ga., who attended DLI with her and crossed paths with her later. “A female in a male dominant [signals intelligence] world. She was top tier.”