Erik S. Kristensen
|Erik S. Kristensen|
|Born||March 15, 1972|
|Died||June 28, 2005 †
|Allegiance||United States of America|
||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1995–2005|
|Unit||U.S. Navy SEALs|
|Battles/wars||Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Red Wings
War in Afghanistan
Bronze Star with Valor device
Erik S. Kristensen (March 15, 1972 – June 28, 2005) was a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy SEALs who was killed in action during Operation Red Wings. He and several other SEALs set off as part of a search and rescue mission, hoping to assist a four-man SEAL team that was engaged in a firefight with Taliban fighters.
Kristensen was born into a military family of partial Danish and Norwegian ancestry. His father, Edward Kristensen, is a career officer in the United States Navy who rose to the rank of Rear Admiral. As his father was in the military, Erik traveled widely with his family as a child, living in such places as Japan, Guam, California, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., among others.
Erik Kristensen graduated from Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C. in 1990, and continued his education at Phillips Academy (Andover, Massachusetts) before moving on to the United States Naval Academy where he majored in English. After graduation in 1995, he was commissioned an Ensign and served in the engineering, and Combat Systems department of USS Chandler in Everett, Washington. He attended the Graduate Institute at St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, while he taught English at the U.S. Naval Academy. He left both his graduate studies and teaching at the Academy to pursue a career as a Navy SEAL training. He reported to Basic Underwater Demolition/Sea, Air, Land training (BUD/S) at Coronado, California at age 27, one of the oldest in his class. Kristensen graduated with class 233 in March 2001 followed by completion of Parachute Training and SEAL Qualification Training. His first assignment was to SEAL Team EIGHT as a platoon commander.
Operation Red Wings
On June 28, 2005, a four-man Navy SEAL reconnaissance and surveillance team was assigned to keep eyes on Ahmad Shah (nom de guerre Mohammad Ismail), who had no affiliation with the Taliban other than fighting against Anti-Coalition Forces but who was responsible for operations in eastern Afghanistan and the Hindu Kush mountains. The SEAL team was made up of Matthew Axelson, Danny Dietz, Marcus Luttrell, and Michael P. Murphy. Luttrell and Axelson were the team's snipers; Dietz was the communications officer and Murphy the team leader. The four SEALs engaged local Taliban forces, they were engaged in an intense gun battle against a force of approximately 30-40 enemy fighters. Murphy risked his life to get off an emergency message to his command. Of the four-man team, only Luttrell would survive.
Upon hearing the distress call, an MH-47 Chinook helicopter was dispatched with a force consisting of SEALs including Kristensen and 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment "Nightstalkers" to rescue the team, but the helicopter was shot down by an RPG; all 16 men on board the Chinook including Kristensen were killed. The battle was later called "the worst single day loss of life for Naval Special Warfare personnel since World War II." In interviews Ahmad Shah maintained that his forces had set a trap for the American forces: "We certainly know that when the American army comes under pressure and they get hit, they will try to help their friends. It is the law of the battlefield."
Days after Kristensen's death was announced, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger released a statement stating his deepest condolences to his family and friends and announcing that flags at the California State Capitol would be flown at half-staff in his honor.
Kristensen's funeral mass (Mass of Christian Burial) was performed on July 19, 2005. His mother told the press her son would be buried in his Birkenstock sandals. He is interred at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery.
Awards and decorations
Erik Kristensen Eye Street Klassic
A charity, the LCDR Erik S. Kristensen '90, USN, Memorial Scholarship Fund, was created in Kristensen's honor after his death. The fund seeks to assist a Gonzaga College High School student whose family serves in the U.S. armed forces. The Erik Kristensen Eye Street Klassic is held annually to raise money for the scholarship fund.
- Lengel, Allan (July 6, 2005). "Navy SEAL From the District Died Leading Rescue Mission". Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-12-14.
- Naylor, Sean D. (2007-06-18). "Surviving SEAL tells story of deadly mission". Army Times. Retrieved 2008-07-21.
- "Interview with Luttrell". Pritzker Military Library. May 19, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-10.
- "Interview with Matt Lauer". The Today Show. June 12, 2007. Retrieved 2008-12-10.
- Lisa Myers & the NBC Investigative Unit (December 27, 2005). "An interview with a Taliban commander". MSNBC. Retrieved 2008-12-10.
- "Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of San Diego Navy Officer: Lt. Cmdr. Erik S. Kristensen". Schwarzenegger. 7/05/2005. Archived from the original on 2008-10-26. Retrieved 2008-12-14. Check date values in:
- Info re Erik Kristensen's funeral
- "Navy SEAL from San Diego killed in Afghanistan". Associated Press. 2007. Archived from the original on 2008-12-10. Retrieved 2008-12-14.
- "kristensen klassic". kristensenklassic.com. 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-14.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-12-02. Retrieved 2012-12-02.