In a statement, the Pentagon said Owens was assigned to an “East Coast based Special Warfare unit,” a turn of phrase for the elite Navy SEALs, including Naval Special Warfare Development Group or SEAL Team 6.
“Ryan gave his full measure for our nation, and in performing his duty, he upheld the noblest standard of military service,” Secretary of Defense James Mattis said in a statement. “The United States would not long exist were it not for the selfless commitment of such warriors.”
The Pentagon billed Saturday’s raid as an intelligence-gathering mission against militants from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a group the United States has targeted since 2002. While the last U.S.-led ground operation against the militants was in 2014, the Obama administration has sporadically targeted the group with airstrikes in the years since.
In a statement Sunday, after Owens’s death was announced, President Trump said the operation was successful and 14 fighters were killed.
Local reports said that more than a dozen civilians were also slain in the battle, including the daughter of the radical Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in 2011 in a U.S. drone strike. On Monday, the Pentagon said it was assessing the civilian casualty claims.
Owens enlisted in the Navy in 1998, serving his first enlistment with naval intelligence before volunteering for the SEALs in the months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to a limited service record provided by the Navy. He finished basic SEAL training in 2002 and was sent to his first unit, located on the West Coast, in 2003.
Owens was previously awarded two Bronze Stars with Valor distinguishing devices and had eight Sea Service Deployment ribbons when he was killed. He will be posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.
Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.