The Navy on Monday identified two SEALs who were declared dead after they were lost at sea during a nighttime raid near Somalia.
Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Christopher J. Chambers, 37, and Special Warfare Operator 2nd Class Nathan Gage Ingram, 27, were out on the waters on the night of Jan. 11 seizing "a vessel illegally transporting advanced lethal aid from Iran to resupply Houthi forces in Yemen," the Navy said in a statement.
"Jill and I are mourning the tragic deaths of two of America’s finest—Navy SEALs who were lost at sea while executing a mission off the coast of East Africa last week," President Joe Biden said in a statement.
"Over ten days, the United States military conducted an extensive search and rescue mission. Recovery efforts are still continuing as we grieve this profound loss for our country," he said.
Biden continued: "These SEALs represented the very best of our country, pledging their lives to protect their fellow Americans. Our hearts go out to the family members, loved ones, friends, and shipmates who are grieving for these two brave Americans. Our entire country stands with you. We will never fail to honor their service, their legacy, and their sacrifice."
The search-and-rescue effort was formally declared a recovery mission Sunday as Chambers and Ingram were declared dead, officials said.
“We extend our condolences to Chris and Gage’s families, friends, and teammates during this incredibly challenging time,” Capt. Blake L. Chaney, the commander of Naval Special Warfare Group 1, said in a statement. "They were exceptional warriors, cherished teammates, and dear friends to many within the Naval Special Warfare community."
The mission that cost Chambers and Ingram their lives netted further proof of Iran's support for Houthi militants who have been stepping up regional attacks since the outbreak of the war between Israel and Hamas, U.S. officials have said.
Items seized allegedly included Iranian-made ballistic missiles and cruise missile components. The weapons and parts are some of the same the Houthis use to threaten and attack merchant ships in the Red Sea, U.S. officials have said.
They were assigned to a Naval Special Warfare (NSW) unit on the West Coast.
“Chris and Gage selflessly served their country with unwavering professionalism and exceptional capabilities,” Chaney said. “This loss is devastating for NSW, our families, the special operations community, and across the nation.”
One of the SEALs had tried to board the vessel in rough seas and fell into the water, officials have said. Then the second one dived in after the first before they disappeared into the darkness, officials said.
The incident remains under investigation.