Navy Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Christopher J. Chambers, 37, and Navy Special Warfare Operator 2nd Class Nathan Gage Ingram, 27, are presumed dead, according to the Navy. The military searched for over a week and called it off after failing to locate the men.
The two young men are the first known U.S. fatalities in the Biden administration’s effort to thwart attacks from Iranian-backed Houthis, who have been attacking ships in the Red Sea since November, sending global commerce into disarray. The United States began responding to the Houthi attacks earlier this month with multiple strikes aimed at destroying or degrading the Houthis’ abilities to continue launching attacks.
Chambers and Ingram were both assigned to the West Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit. Chambers enlisted in the Navy on May 17, 2012, and served with West Coast-based SEAL units since graduating from training in Coronado, California in 2014. Ingram enlisted in the Navy on Sept. 25, 2019, and served with West Coast-based SEAL units since graduating from training in Coronado, California in 2021.
“We extend our condolences to Chris and Gage’s family, friends, and teammates during this incredibly challenging time. They were exceptional warriors and cherished teammates and dear friends to many within the Naval Special Warfare community,” Capt. Blake L. Chaney, commander, Naval Special Warfare Group 1, said in a statement.
The two were part of an operation aimed at boarding a vessel transporting weapons to the Houthis via the Arabian Sea off the coast of Somalia; one fell or slipped overboard in rough waters, according to The New York Times. Another jumped after him to try to rescue him.
The incident remains under investigation.
The U.S. military was able to seize the weapons that were destined for the Houthis, though, according to U.S. Central Command. It was the first seizure of Iranian weapons supplied to the Houthis since they began their attacks last year.
The operation successfully seized propulsion, guidance, and warheads for Houthi medium-range ballistic missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles, according to CENTCOM. The initial analysis indicates these are the same weapons that the Houthis have been using to conduct attacks on sailors in recent weeks, CENTCOM said.
“It is clear that Iran continues shipment of advanced lethal aid to the Houthis. This is yet another example of how Iran actively sows instability throughout the region in direct violation of U.N. Security Resolution 2216 and International law,” General Michael Erik Kurilla said at the time in a statement.