Resolution to name Navy ship after first female sailor killed in Syria gains support in Congress

Kaylah Jackson
September 14, 2019 - 9:55 am
Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent

(Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy)

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This story originally published on June 14, 2019. It was updated on Sept. 13, 2019, at 10:40 am.

The U.S. Navy could be one step closer to having a vessel named after Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent, the first woman to die in combat in Syria earlier this year.  

In June, Senate Minority Leader and New York Senator Chuck Schumer announced their interest in wanting to memorialize Kent by naming a U.S. warship after her. The amendment was included in the Senate's version of the National Defense Authorization Act which passed in the Senate on Wednesday.

Kent, 35, was a Pine Plaines, New York native. She served was as a cryptological technician and Arabic linguist and was the first women to deploy with Special Operations 18 Forces. She was also the first female to graduate from 19 the hard skills program for non-SEALs.

“Her courageous efforts and groundbreaking achievements have inspired numerous programs for integrating women into Special Operations Forces, with combat jobs and special operations training now open to female service members,” said Schumer (D-NY).

Kent, who was on her fifth deployment, was one of four Americans killed in Manbij, Syria in a suicide bombing in January 2019. She was assigned to Cryptologic Warfare Activity (CWA) 66 based at Fort Meade, Md.

She was also working towards a psychology degree through the Navy's doctoral program. However, after being accepted, the U.S. Navy required her to meet higher medical standards but because of her past medical diagnosis of thyroid cancer, she was disqualified. It was days later that she deployed to Syria. 

In a 2018 letter to the then-chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John McCain, she wrote: “If we are healthy enough to deploy worldwide, why are we not healthy enough to pursue officer programs?”

Not able to realize her dream, the Kent family continues to work to change the regulation in her honor.

Shannon Kent's family says she never should have been in Syria

Sailor is first woman to die in combat in Syria

In February, she became the third woman to have her name added to the National Security Agency’s National Cryptologic Memorial, according to the Capital Gazette. The Senate Minority Leader credited that Kent's work "contributed directly to the capture of hundreds of enemy insurgents and severely degraded enemy combat capability,"

Currently, there are 289 active-duty Navy ships, five of them are named after women but no Navy ship has been named after a woman killed in action.

"Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent deserves to be honored in a manner befitting of her noble service to our country and enduring contributions to the United States Navy,” said Schumer.

The amendment still must make its way into the House version and appear in the final version of the NDAA before any action is taken.

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