running up that hill
- Jan 3, 2007
- in Wonderland, with my Alice
Navy identifies SEAL killed while parachuting in Arizona
The Navy on Thursday identified a decorated Navy SEAL who was killed during a parachute training exercise in Arizona.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Thomas Valentine, 37, died Wednesday morning during a planned, pre-deployment training jump in Casa Grande, Ariz. Valentine was a member of the highly selective Naval Special Warfare Development Group, sometimes known as SEAL Team 6, based at Dam Neck Annex in Virginia Beach.
"Tom was one of the guys you could count on," said Master Chief Petty Officer Steve Studdard, a SEAL and close friend of Valentine's for 10 years. As a leader, Studdard said, "he was always there for the guys."
Valentine, a native of Ham Lake, Minn., settled in Hampton Roads after graduating from SEAL basic training and advanced course in November 1990, according to the Navy. He is survived by a wife and two young children - a boy and a girl - and his parents and brother and sister.
Valentine deployed several times to the Middle East, earning three Bronze Stars with "V" for valor, two Joint Service Commendation Medals, and three Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, among other decorations.
The veteran SEAL and his unit arrived Monday in Marana, Ariz., for routine parachute training, said Lt. David Luckett, spokesman for Naval Special Warfare Group Two. SEAL teams have used a facility in Marana for about 10 years, he said.
The mission was conducted early Wednesday morning, with between 15 and 30 commandos jumping from a C-130 plane, he said. Other SEALs recognized that Valentine was in trouble during the mission, he said. Within minutes of the jump, a bystander discovered the SEAL on a green at the Mission Royale Golf Course in Casa Grande at 7:14 a.m. local time. Police arrived and determined the sailor was dead.
Casa Grande is a bedroom community between Phoenix and Tucson, about 50 miles from the training facility. The Navy is investigating the accident, Luckett said.
It's the second fatal training accident for the SEALs in two weeks. Petty Officer 2nd Class Alex Ghane was a struck and killed Jan. 30 during a live fire exercise at a private training facility in Lake Cormorant, Miss.
Three locally based SEALs have been killed in combat in Iraq since December: Chief Petty Officer Mark Carter, a 27-year-old from California; Chief Petty Officer Michael Koch, 29, of Pennsylvania; and Chief Petty Officer Nathan Hardy, 29, of New Hampshire.
Valentine was a part of the elite and secretive special warfare development group. Made famous by retired SEAL and author Dick Marcinko, the group evaluates and develops tactics and tests equipment for Navy and other military special forces.
Studdard said he and Valentine were fast friends, sharing family outings and excursions to ski and rock climb.
Valentine was an extremely talented operator who loved his family and his job, Studdard said. Both knew the dangers of their work. "We do train hard," he said. "We have to."