A young Green Beret staff sergeant from Pasadena who was killed in an apparent friendly-fire incident in Afghanistan was being remembered by his teachers Wednesday as a tenacious competitor and strong leader.
Scott Studenmund, 24, was identified by family as one of five troops killed Monday night in the Zabul Province. A coalition jet mistakenly fired on U.S. special operations forces members after the aircraft was called in to stop a Taliban attack, military sources said Tuesday.
A Pentagon spokesman said investigators were looking at whether “friendly fire” was responsible for the deaths.
A sniper stationed in Clarksville, Tenn., Studenmund had been sent to Afghanistan in January and was expected to return home in August, according to his high school, Flintridge Preparatory Academy, which announced his death Tuesday.
His family was devastated and not speaking on camera to media, but had authorized a friend and the school to release information about the young man.
“He was beloved by his classmates and teachers,” the school said in a statement Wednesday. “His smile could light up a room.”
Studenmund’s family was expected to head to the East Coast, where his body was set to arrive at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Thursday, father Woody Studenmund said Wednesday.
Pasadena’s mayor ordered flags flown at half-staff until Tuesday in Studenmund’s honor.
Family spokeswoman Mary Lyon said Tuesday evening that Studenmund strived to be the best at whatever he did.
“He was just a force to be reckoned with,” Lyon said. “He was tenacious, he was fierce, he was super athletic, super smart, but just dedicated. From a very early age, he knew he wanted to serve this country.”
Studenmund ran cross-country and played football though he didn’t have the typical build for either sport, coaches said. He was an All-Area and All-League football player, and a “standout quarter-miler,” according to Flintridge Prep.
“He was solid and strong, not lanky and tall,” said his cross-country coach and history teacher Ingrid Herskind. “He was tenacious and strong and a great leader for the younger runners. … I’m sure he was a fine leader for his troop mates and served them with all of his humor and support.”
Though he was “undersized” for a defensive football player, he made Flintridge Prep’s defense “go,” football coach and science teacher Glen Beattie said.
“He was aggressive, quick and wouldn’t let anyone block him or dominate him,” Beattie said. “He would fight through anything and would not let himself be defeated.”
After graduating from Flintridge Prep in 2008, Studenmund attended Pitzer College in Claremont for a year before enlisting in the Army and successfully pursuing his dream of becoming a Green Beret.
After two years of training, during which he learned Arabic, he became a Green Beret. He then completed a grueling seven-week training at the Army’s combat dive school in Key West, Florida, according to Flintridge Prep.
“He was always enthusiastic about his combat assignments and felt it a true honor to serve his country,” the school’s statement read.
Studenmund is survived by his father Woody, chairman of the economics department at Occidental College; mother Jaynie, a business executive; his sister Connell, a 2012 Flintridge Prep graduate and Dartmouth College student; and a half brother who lives in Seattle.