SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- A Naval special warfare operator assigned to SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) Team One at Pearl City, Hawaii died May 7 while conducting training in the waters off of Bremerton, Wash.
Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Eric F. Shellenberger, 36, died following a diving-related incident. He and other SDVT-1 members were in Washington conducting SDV training.
An investigation into the incident has been initiated.
During an SDV training dive in the very early morning hours Thursday, Shellenberger encountered difficulties in the water and signaled for an emergency ascent. Upon reaching the surface, he was non-responsive and rescue breathing was administered.
Shellenberger was taken to Keyport pier where regional emergency medical technicians continued rescue efforts. He was then transported to Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Keyport where heroic advanced life saving efforts (including advanced cardiac life support and treatment in the recompression chamber) continued without success.
"This is a heart-wrenching loss for us and, most assuredly, the Shellenberger family," said Adm. Edward Winters III, commander, Naval Special Warfare Command. "The strength of our small, close-knit community is in our exceptional personnel. Eric was one such individual. He bravely and willingly accepted the risks inherent in training for and carrying out special operations mission. I extend my deepest sympathy to Eric's family and friends. Please know he will not be forgotten."
Shellenberger enlisted in the Navy Nov. 30, 1999, after completing more than eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He transferred from the Transient Personnel Unit, Great Lakes, Ill., in February 2000 to the Naval Air Technical Training Command, Pensacola, Fla., where he served for two months until he reported to Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training at Naval Special Warfare Center, Coronado, Calif., in April 2000. He graduated with BUD/S Class 232 on Jan. 26, 2001 and subsequently reported to Advanced Training Command in Coronado. Shellenberger earned his Trident following graduation from SEAL Qualification Training June 29, 2001.
Shellenberger was assigned to SEAL Team One in Coronado and served there from July 2001 to December 2004.
He subsequently served at Naval Special Warfare Group Advanced Training Det. in Virginia Beach, Va., from January to May 2005 and then attended SDV training in Panama City, Fla., from May to July 2005.
Shellenberger reported to SEAL Delivery Team One in Pearl City, Hawaii, in September 2005.
"God bless Eric and his family. He was a true hero, a great American, a great SEAL. Having him under my command twice as a platoon commander and task unit commander was truly a blessing," said Lt. Cmdr. Robert Byford, executive officer of SDVT-1. "Our country is diminished with Eric's passing, and I have lost a true, life-long friend. He will be sorely missed by all his teammates and anyone whose life he touched."
Shellenberger completed more than seven combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, including deployments as an Assault Team Leader in Ramadi during the Sunni Awakening in 2006-2007, as well as a combat deployment as a Force Reconnaissance Marine to Somalia before transferring to the Navy.
His awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with combat distinguishing device (2), the Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal , Combat Action Ribbon (4), National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal (2), and Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. He was SDVT-1and Naval Special Warfare Group Three's Sailor of the Year in 2007.
Shellenberger is survived by his mother, stepfather, father, two brothers, grandmother, fiance and extended family. They wrote,"Eric will be dearly missed. We always considered him to be a true hero, and he will be in our hearts forever. We love him will and cherish his memory. He will never be forgotten."