Erik S. Kristensen
|Erik S. Kristensen|
|Born||March 15, 1972|
|Died||June 28, 2005
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||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. 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 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 department of the 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 Navy SEAL training. At age 27, he was the oldest in his class to graduate from the program, and his dream of becoming a Navy SEAL was realized.
Operation Red Wings
On June 28, 2005, SEAL Team 10 was assigned to a mission to kill or capture Ahmad Shah (nom de guerre Mohammad Ismail), a high-ranking Taliban leader responsible for Taliban 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 stumbled upon local Taliban forces and within an hour, 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 cry for help a 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, the Taliban leader 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.
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. Retrieved 2008-12-14.
- Info re Erik Kristensen's funeral
- "Navy SEAL from San Diego killed in Afghanistan". Associated Press. 2007. Retrieved 2008-12-14.
- "kristensen klassic". kristensenklassic.com. 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-14.