Three American Soldiers Killed in Jordan Were Part of the Anti-ISIS Operation

By Patrick Goodenough | November 7, 2016 | 4:22am EST
U.S. Special Forces trainers watch a rehearsal by Iraqi, Jordanian, and Lebanese special forces troops in Zarqa, Jordan in June 2013. (AP Photo, File)

( – More U.S. deaths linked to the anti-ISIS military operation: The three U.S. special forces soldiers killed in Jordan on Friday were deployed as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the mission aimed at destroying the jihadist group, according to the U.S. Army.

The three were killed in as-yet unclear circumstances, after the vehicle came under fire as they entered the King Faisal air base in al-Jafr, about 150 miles southeast of Amman in the south of the kingdom, a close U.S. ally.

“The three service members were in Jordan on a training mission, and the initial report is that they came under fire as they were entering the facility in vehicles,” said Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook. “We are working closely with the government of Jordan to determine exactly what happened.”

The three have been identified as Staff Sgt. Matthew Lewellen, 27, of Lawrence, Kansas, Staff Sgt. Kevin McEnroe, 30, of Tucson, Arizona, and Staff Sgt. James Moriarty, 27, of Kerrville, Texas.

All three were with the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), based in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. According to the U.S. Army, Lewellen had more than six years of service in the army and was on his second overseas tour; McEnroe had more than eight years of service and was on his third overseas tour; and Moriarty had more than five years of service, and was on his second overseas tour.

According to Jordan’s Petra news agency, two of the three Americans were killed at the base entrance, and the third died subsequently of injuries sustained in the shooting.

It said a Jordanian non-commissioned officer was also injured in the shooting, although it was not clear whether he was in the vehicle too, or had himself been involved in firing at the Americans.

Jordanian television claimed they had tried to enter the base without paying heed to guards’ orders.

Government spokesman and minister for media affairs, Mohammad Momani, told the Jordan Times the killings were “unfortunate.”

He extended the government’s condolences to the families of those killed, and stressed that Jordan values its relationship with the U.S. and was investigating the incident.

Although the facts remain unclear, the deaths of Lewellen, McEnroe and Moriarty take to seven the number of U.S. military personnel killed in combat circumstances since President Obama announced the anti-ISIS mission in September 2014. Five of the seven were special operators, including a Delta Force commando and a Navy SEAL.

Another 22 U.S. personnel have died in non-combat-related incidents since Operation Inherent Resolve began.

The three U.S. Special Forces soldiers killed in Jordan on Friday were, from left, Staff Sgt. James Moriarty, Staff Sgt. Matthew Lewellen and Staff Sgt. Kevin McEnroe. (Photos: U.S. Army)

In a Facebook post Moriarty’s sister, Melissa, described her slain brother as a proud soldier who loved his job.

“But he was sent to fight a war that we shouldn’t be fighting,” she wrote.

“The war in Afghanistan began in fall 2001. It goes on. Iraq cranked up in early 2003. Libya, Sudan and Syria, who knows when they started. Now our brothers and sisters are being killed in Jordan, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Melissa Moriarty. “How much is enough?”

Almost exactly a year ago, a Jordanian police officer shot and killed two American government contractors, as well as a South African and two Jordanians, working in Amman on a training program linked to the State Department's bureau of international narcotics and law enforcement. The government said the Jordanian police captain, who was shot dead during the incident, acted as a “lone wolf.

President Clinton declared Jordan a major non-NATO ally in 1996 – a move seen by some as being based less on national security considerations than on the Clinton administration’s desire to reward the kingdom for the peace treaty it signed with Israel two years earlier.

The four earlier U.S. combat fatalities in Operation Inherent Resolve were:

-- Delta Force commando Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler of Roland, Oklahoma, shot and killed during a joint U.S.-Kurdish raid on an ISIS-run prison in Iraq’s Kirkuk province in October 2015.

-- Marine Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin of Temecula, California, killed on March 19, 2016 when ISIS fighters attacked a base in Erbil.

-- Navy SEAL Charles Keating of San Diego, Calif., killed in a firefight in Ninawa province on May 3, 2016.

-- Navy Chief Petty Officer Jason Finan of Anaheim, California, an explosive ordnance specialist who died of wounds sustained from a roadside bomb blast north of Mosul on October 20, 2016.

MRC Store