Her Title: Cryptologic Technician. Her Occupation: Warrior.
Cryptology is code breaking; sigint is signals intelligence, like intercepting and interpreting phone calls and other communications; humint is human intelligence, the art of persuading people, against their instincts, to provide information.
At 35, Shannon Kent was expert in all three. Her husband credits a knack for gleaning information picked up from her father, a lifelong police officer.
“She understood how all the pieces came together,” he said. “She wasn’t just relying on local informants. She knew how to fill in the gaps through her knowledge of different intelligence capabilities. She was kind of a one-stop-shop for finding bad guys.”
Chief Kent spoke a half-dozen Arabic dialects and four other languages. She was one of the first women to complete the rigorous course required for other troops to accompany Navy SEALs on raids. She could run a 3:30 marathon, do a dozen full-arm-hang pull-ups and march for miles with a 50-pound rucksack.
She did this while raising two boys, now ages 3 and 18 months, and, for a time, battling cancer.
She used her five overseas combat deployments to master the collection of human intelligence, gaining the trust of tribal leaders, merchants, and local government officials who confided in her, often at great risk to themselves.
That is the kind of mission she had been on Jan. 16, when a bomber killed her and three other Americans at a restaurant in Manbij, Syria. The Islamic State claimed credit for the attack. She became the first female service member to die in Syria since American forces arrived in 2015.
More than 1,000 people attended Chief Kent’s memorial service on Friday at the United States Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis, Md., where she was posthumously promoted to senior chief petty officer and awarded five medals and citations. The awards described her Special Operations work and also said she had been the noncommissioned officer in charge at the N.S.A.’s operations directorate for four years.