Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Friday, June 20, 2014
Combat diver killed by friendly fire
A graduate of local Army dive school

One of the five Special Operations Forces soldiers killed last week in what the Pentagon described as a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan was a combat diver who recently attended the Army's dive school in Key West.

Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Scott R. Studenmund, 24, of Pasadena, Calif., graduated last year from the Army Special Forces Underwater Operations School on Fleming Key and was assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Campbell, Ky.

The Army Special Forces Command public affairs at Fort Bragg, N.C., released the information Wednesday, but the office declined to comment citing the ongoing investigation into how Studenmund and four of his comrades died.

Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John F. Kirby told reporters on June 10 an Air Force B-1 bomber unleashed an airstrike on their position in the Zabul Province in southern Afghanistan. The men reportedly had been fighting off a Taliban ambush when they called in the airstrike, but were killed when the airstrike hit them.

Special Forces Underwater Operations School commanding officer Maj. Samuel Kline also declined to comment Wednesday citing the investigation.

Also killed in the incident were: Cpl. Justin R. Clouse, 22, of Sprague, Wash.; Spc. Justin R. Helton, 25, of Beaver, Ohio; and Pvt. 2nd Class Aaron S. Toppen, 19, of Mokena, Ill. One Afghanistan soldier was also killed. Studenmund was the only combat diver.

The dive school in Key West is considered one of the toughest schools in the military and the small number of those who graduate are members of an elite fraternity within an already elite fighting force.

The first Special Forces into Afghanistan after 9/11 were combat divers, and they were chosen because of their toughness, both physically and mentally, Special Forces Col. Alan Shumate, himself a dive school graduate, said during a visit to Key West last year.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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