First Navy SEAL killed in Iraq
Ramadi, Iraq 2006
In 2006, Naval Special Warfare (NSW) was heavily involved in the Iraq War, specifically in Ramadi. Since the fall of Fallujah in 2004, the violent capital of Al Anbar Province, Ramadi, had become an epicenter for insurgency groups. Task Unit Ramadi (TU-Ramadi) was stood up to disrupt insurgency groups and Al Qaeda as part of a bold, new “Seize, Clear, Hold, Build” strategy to establish a series of footholds piece-by-piece in the most heavily contested areas of Ramadi. In the spring of 2006, Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class (SEAL) Marc A. Lee and his teammates from SEAL Team THREE, Charlie Platoon (TU Bruiser) deployed to Iraq and attached to TU-Ramadi, under Task Unit Commander Lieutenant Commander (SEAL) John Willink.
In order to establish a Combat Output (COP) into the heart of the insurgent-dominated battle space of South Central Ramadi, TU Bruiser led a Brigade Task Force Operation in one of the most dangerous enemy-controlled areas of Ramadi. TU Bruiser SEALs, along with a team from US Marine Corps 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, a sniper element from US Army 1st Brigade 1st Armored Division, and “Team Bandit” of the 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, inserted from four US Marine Corps Small Unit Riverine Craft boats from the Habbaniyah Canal. Charlie PLT SEALs led the patrol, established overwatch, and cleared what would serve as the COP headquarters. After encountering dozens of heavily armed insurgents and enemy fire, SEAL snipers rallied and coordinated counter-attacks, which resulted in 17 confirmed enemy kills and dozens wounded, directly and effectively disrupting the enemy and establishing a US and Iraqi Army presence in a once enemy-controlled area. This operation and the efforts of SEAL Team THREE Charlie Platoon and AO2 (SEAL) Lee were critical in the establishment of COP Falcon.
Over the course of the next three months, COP Falcon and Special Operations Forces served as a base of operations for Charlie Platoon, and their many operations, patrols, and direct action targeted raids directly impacted the course of the Iraq War.
Battle of Ramadi
On the night of August 2, 2006, during a cordon and search operation of the heavily-contested “J-Block” area 1.5 km east of COP Falcon, Charlie Platoon SEAL combat advisors, with their Iraq Army Partner Force and Team Bulldog, engaged in one of the most ferocious firefights with enemy forces in what would become known as “The Battle of Ramadi.” While providing cover with his MK 48 machinegun from a rooftop position for his SEAL Teammates maneuvering in the street below, AO3 (SEAL) Ryan Job took an enemy sniper round to his face, and was critically wounded. Immediately, Ryan’s Teammates from SEAL Team THREE Charlie Platoon, including AO2 (SEAL) Marc Lee, and members of SEAL Team EIGHT, responded to their wounded comrade on the exposed rooftop. AO2 (SEAL) Lee fearlessly stepped directly into the position where AO3 (SEAL) Ryan had been shot just moments before, and exposed himself to enemy fire to enable himself and his Teammates to lay down a heavy barrage of suppressive fire. This allowed the Team to recover AO3 (SEAL) Ryan and carry him off the rooftop to a casualty evacuation vehicle below.
After successfully getting AO3 (SEAL) Ryan to life-saving medical aid, the SEAL element then attacked the enemy, who had engaged their element and were continuing to attack US Army elements. After tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles engaged the enemy positions, the SEAL element entered a compound in pursuit
of enemy fighters. While clearing the compound, the SEAL element was heavily engaged from close range from an adjacent building. AO2 (SEAL) Lee again boldly moved directly into the line of fire to engage the enemy and protect his Teammates, and was struck by enemy fire and killed instantly.
Marc Lee was a beloved Teammate, friend and a fearless and aggressive warrior in the face of enemy fire. HE represented the best of SEAL Teams. The loss of Marc Lee and Ryan Job, who lost his vision but lived for three years before dying as a result of his wounds, was devastating to Charlie Platoon.
Despite the hardship of casualties, Charlie Platoon continued to operate and aggressively pursue the enemy in South-Central Ramadi from COP Falcon and other operating bases. These contributions greatly increased the success of the Ready First Combat Team’s “Seize, Clear, Hold, Build” strategy, which set the conditions for the Anbar Awakening, and enabled a radical turnaround in establishing security and stability in Ramadi, as well as across Al Anbar Province. The results of such efforts ultimately spread across Iraq and achieved victory for US and Iraq Security Forces.
Marc Lee | 3.20.78 to 8.2.06
Marc was born in Portland, Oregon and moved to Colorado when he was a year old with his Mother, Debbie, brother Kris, 4, and sister Cheryl, 3. From an early age he showed an exuberance and zest for life.
When he was 7 his family moved back to Hood River, Or where he was home-schooled until his Junior year. Marc graduated from Baptist Christian School in 1996. His classmates gave him the dubious honor and voted him Class Clown his Junior and Senior year. Marc’s freshmen year he developed a love for soccer and through much determination and perseverance he overcame his lack of skill and became an outstanding soccer player.
Marc did construction work during high school and for one year following graduation. His boss was always amazed that Marc could easily carry several times the weight that anyone else could with not even a hint of energy expended.
In 1997 Marc moved to Colorado to pursue his dream of a career in professional soccer. He was scheduled for tryouts with the Colorado Rapids and in an indoor soccer match the night before tryouts he blew out his knee requiring surgery on his ACL and meniscus. Discouraged and in pain Marc returned home for surgery. While recuperating after his surgery in Jan 1998 Marc read about the Navy SEALs and begin to research what it required. He continued to strengthen his knee and decided to try the College route for soccer.
He decided to attend The Master’s College in California pursuing a major in Bible & Theology and played on their soccer team. His 2nd year he changed his major to Law. During this time Marc continued studying the Navy SEALs.
In May 2001 Marc went into the recruiter’s office and signed a contract to join the Navy with a contract to tryout for the SEALs. He headed for Basic training in Great Lakes, Illinois and after graduating his Aviation Ordinance school in Oct 2001 headed to Coronado for Buds training in class 239. During the notorious “Hell Week,” a medical check revealed he had Pneumonia and Pulmonary Edema. When told he was too sick to continue he replied “No, no I’m fine I can do this.” He was told they had a recruit 2 classes before die from what he had and they wouldn‘t allow it. Marc had almost made it through the torturous week. Had it been a few hours later Marc would have been rolled forward with his class, but he just missed the cut off point so he was rolled back into class 240 and had to start all over again.
During training Marc fell in love and was convinced that the SEAL life wasn’t conducive to family life. Marc “Rang the Bell” on Monday night of Hell Week. He was then assigned to the “USS Eisenhower” which was in dry dock in Virginia Beach so they assigned him to drive a shuttle bus for the Army. This wasn’t why Marc joined the Navy and he was ‘Hating life.” He realized what a mistake he had made and knew the SEALs was where he was supposed to be.
It is very difficult to be accepted back after you have “Dropped on Request.” Yet again Marc overcame the odds and was determined he could prove his worth. It took Marc a year of jumping through hoops to have his package accepted to go back to BUDS, and in March 2004 he returned and joined class 251. Marc excelled and his determination found him in the running for honor man in his class. He learned the day before graduation that he placed 2nd in his class. Marc deployed in April 2006 to Ramadi Iraq with ST-3. The guys called it “The worst piece of real estate in Iraq” or “The hellhole of Iraq.”
They had been in the biggest battle in Iraq up to that point. Marc was up on a rooftop with 3 other SEALs when his buddy Ryan sustained severe shrapnel injuries to the head. They could tell by looking at Ryan that it was serious. Unfortunately they didn’t have a medic on the rooftop with them. Two of the SEALs dropped to their knees to help Ryan. Marc could have made that same choice. He could have stayed below the protective barrier of the cement walls on the rooftop and probably would have been here with me today, but this was a young man who valued other people’s lives more important than his own. I know that Marc didn’t weigh the pros and cons of his decision. He just knew it was the right thing to do, so Marc stood up into the direct line of fire to draw fire to himself and provide cover so that the medic could get up to the rooftop.
The medic successfully got up to the rooftop and evaluated the situation and determined that they needed to get Ryan out of there immediately or there was no chance for survival. So not once, but a second time Marc stood up into the direct line of fire so that everyone could get down off of the roof. They all successfully got down from the roof and returned to the base. I’m proud to tell you that base has been named Camp Marc Lee in his honor.
The chief came in and said they had found 30 of the insurgents who just attacked them. Were they up to going back out? Remember this is Aug 2, the temperatures are 115-120 degrees. They had just been in an intense 2 hour battle. They are hot and sweaty. Marc carried the big gun and with the weapon, ammo, and back pack he carried anywhere from 150-180 pounds in addition to his weight of 200 pounds. I can’t imagine carrying just my own weight in that intense heat running and fighting for 2 hours let alone 350-380 lbs? They’ve just seen their buddy severally wounded and not sure if he will survive. They have to be exhausted emotionally and physically. Yet these are warriors. “The elite of the elite” as the President told me.
Marc looked at his chief and said “Roger that let’s go get’em.” They went back into Ramadi and were doing house to house clearing. They had cleared several houses and went into the last house that Marc would be in. They cleared the bottom of the house and started to go upstairs. Marc was not an officer but he was a leader and he chose to lead the guys up the stairs. As they went up the stairs they took fire through a window and for the last and final time Marc turned into the fire and willingly gave his life. He didn’t just do that to defend his buddies, he did that for you, for me, for this nation that he so loved.
Marc was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his heroic actions on the 2nd of Aug. He was also awarded the Bronze Star with Valor for heroic actions on July 18th when he exposed himself to direct enemy fire to provide cover for his team mates. Marc and his team mates from ST-3 are now the most highly decorated special ops unit since Viet Nam.
Marc will always be remembered for his humor, playful antics, determination, perseverance, courage, selfless attitude, and his faith. His head stone reads “Loved deeply, deeply loved.”
Marc’s name means “Mighty Warrior” and he definitely lived up to his name. He is a hero!
John 15:13 “Greater love has no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends.”