Navy IDs two SEALs who died during sea mission off Somalia

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The Navy identified Monday the two Navy SEALs who died after they went missing during a Iranian weapons seizure mission this month.

Navy Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Christopher J. Chambers and Navy Special Warfare Operator 2nd Class Nathan G. Ingram were both part of a mission to board an “illicit dhow carrying Iranian advanced conventional weapons” on Jan. 11 when they went missing off Somalia, according to U.S. Central Command.

CENTCOM announced Sunday that search and rescue operations for Chambers and Ingram had concluded, and both were considered deceased.

Chambers, originally from Maryland, enlisted in 2012 and graduated from SEAL qualification training in Coronado, Calif., in 2014.

Gage, originally from Texas, enlisted in 2019 and graduated from the same SEAL training in 2021. They both were assigned to West Coast-based SEAL units.

“We extend our condolences to Chris and Gage’s families, friends, and teammates during this incredibly challenging time,” Capt. Blake Chaney, the commander of Naval Special Warfare Group 1, said in a statement Monday. “They were exceptional warriors, cherished teammates, and dear friends to many within the Naval Special Warfare community.”

Those aboard the dhow, which did not have a country flag, were planning to transfer the missile parts, including warheads and engines, to another boat off the coast of Somalia, the Associated Press reported earlier this month, citing a U.S. defense official.

The Navy recognized the boat as one with a history of transporting illegal weapons from Iran to Somalia, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss details not made public.

The SEALs traveled in small special operations combat craft driven by naval special warfare crew to get to the boat. As they were boarding it in rough seas, around 8 p.m. local time, one SEAL got knocked off by high waves and a teammate went in after him.

Neither the Navy nor CENTCOM has indicated which SEAL first fell into the water, but the combatant command said that the mission resulted in the successful seizure of Iranian weapons.

“Seized items include propulsion, guidance, and warheads for Houthi medium range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) and anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), as well as air defense associated components,” CENTCOM said in a statement on Jan. 16. “Initial analysis indicates these same weapons have been employed by the Houthis to threaten and attack innocent mariners on international merchant ships transiting in the Red Sea.”

The Navy has regularly conducted interdiction missions in the region, also intercepting weapons on ships that were bound for Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen.

Officials have said that the SEAL mission was not related to Operation Prosperity Guardian, the ongoing U.S. and international mission to provide protection to commercial vessels in the Red Sea, or the retaliatory strikes that the United States and the United Kingdom have conducted in Yemen in recent weeks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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