Losing US Navy SEALs at sea is extremely rare and has only happened a few times

The remains of Scott A. Wirtz, a Defense Intelligence Agency civilian and former U.S. Navy SEAL, at Dover Air Force Base, Jan. 19, 2019, in Dover, Delaware.
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

  • Two US Navy SEALs were lost at sea during an operation in the Red Sea last week, according to US Central Command.
  • Search and rescue operations are still ongoing, but time is running out.
  • Losing US Navy SEALs at sea during overseas operations is extremely rare, experts said.

Two US Navy SEALs are feared dead after disappearing during a night raid off the coast of Somalia more than a week ago.

US Central Command said in a statement that the two men were helping to confiscate Iranian warheads for missiles that were sent to Yemen when they were lost at sea. statement Tuesday.

The Associated Press reported last weekCiting unnamed American officials, the couple was climbing aboard a ship when high waves threw them into the water. She added that the second soldier, following protocol, jumped in to help. They both disappeared.

A defense official told Business Insider that search and rescue operations for the two personnel were still continuing as of Friday morning.

Although rescuers have not yet stopped searching, experts said their chances of survival are very slim.

A military analyst and three retired naval officers said such an incident was extremely rare.

“It's something that doesn't happen very often,” Joe Buccino, former director of communications for US Central Command, told BI.

However, he said special forces are deployed on such dangerous missions “and when you have the speed and they are operating at sea, sometimes something tragic happens.”

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“It is a difficult situation. They have been trained at the highest level,” he added.

Bradley Martin, a retired surface warfare captain who served in the Navy for 30 years, said he had to deal with people-on-board situations during his career, “but there wasn't anything I can recall that was special forces on operations.”

He added that Special Forces operations at sea are “high risk”, but Special Forces “receive significant training before they attempt them, with the result that casualties are relatively rare.”

Seals that fell in the past

Veterans Tribute Site Lists 140 US Marines killed in action or died on duty since its establishment in 1962.

Over the years, the US Navy has experienced numerous incidents of Special Forces being lost at sea during overseas operations.

Four people went missing in a rainstorm off the coast of Grenada during the US invasion of the Caribbean island in 1983. Their bodies were never recovered. According to the National Navy SEAL Museum.

In 1989, four Special Forces personnel were killed during the invasion of Panama. They were on a mission to disrupt the boat of the then President of Panama, National Maritime Museum said.

In 2013, Matthew John Leathers, a 33-year-old private warfare operator first class, disappeared at sea after training exercises off the coast of Hawaii. According to the Daily Democrat. It was never found.

The Navy SEAL Foundation, a Virginia-based nonprofit, has existing It is among 125 SEAL service members it says have died since 2002 while on active duty, diplomatic service or from service-connected injuries.

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Sometimes, the cause of their death is not mentioned.

Buccino told BI that some missions are top secret and that the exact number of Special Forces personnel lost at sea, killed or wounded during overseas operations is top secret.

Jack Keller, a US Navy lieutenant, died at the age of 29 in February 2023, according to his statements. Obituary. No cause of death was given.

Michael Ernst, a Navy veteran and father of two, died last year during skydiving training in Marana, Arizona. united statesmilitary.com And USNI News.

Special Forces Commander Robert Ramirez III, 47, was found dead in his California home last December. Command officials did not suspect foul play He told the Navy Times.

“Every day, around the world, on every continent, SEALs work for our security, ensuring our way of life,” retired Navy SEAL Rick Kaiser, who served in the SEALs for more than 34 years, told Business Insider.

“Most of them will never know the extent of this training, service and sacrifice — sometimes at the expense of their larger lives,” he added.

Losses could be higher

Sam Tangredi, a retired US Navy captain, confirmed that it is “very rare” for a SEAL to be lost at sea.

“I have never heard of a similar incident before,” he told BI.

But he added, “All marine activities at sea are inherently dangerous.”

Participants must face difficult conditions, such as staying on lookout as the ship pitches and rolls in a violent storm, or making an amphibious landing at night, Tangredi said.

“People who have never done this before can't realize how dangerous it is,” he said, adding: “Having a SEAL pull himself onto an enemy ship that some enemy might shoot at — that's a mission that has no margin for error.”

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Tingredi also said that given the risks they face, “it is surprising that such losses do not happen more frequently.”

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