July 27, 2010 -- The sailor believed to have been captured by the Taliban was identified by the Pentagon today as Jarod Newlove and said his slain companion was another sailor, Justin McNeley.
Newlove, 25, of Renton, Wash., is listed as Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown. The Taliban has claimed to have captured a U.S. sailor and holding him in a "safe place."
The two men disappeared last Friday while traveling in an armored SUV in an area that is a known Taliban stronghold. A firefight erupted and McNeley was apparently killed in the shootout and During the confrontation with the Taliban,and Newlove overpowered and captured.
The Pentagon's identifications of the two sailors confirmed statements by the family of McNeley, who is 30 and the father of two young boys. He had been assigned to Assault Craft Unit One out of San Diego.
McNeley's identity was first announced by his uncle Jim Kerr, a Colorado state legislator who told the Denver Post that McNeley was a noncommissioned officer slated to return to the U.S. in August.
"He was young, full of energy, a good kid and a patriot defending his country," said Kerr, a Republican lawmaker from Littleton, a Denver suburb.
"To me it's like a flashback to when my cousin was killed in Vietnam. It brings back all those memories," Kerr told the paper. "My wife is very distraught as is Justin's mother. The family is very close."
McNeley's father, a deputy fire marshal with the city of Encinitas, Calif., sent an e-mail to colleagues Monday confirming his son's death.
"I regret to pass this information on, but I was informed by the U.S. NAVY this morning that my son was the one that was killed in the conflict," George McNeley wrote, according to the North County Times, which obtained the email.
Calls seeking comment from the senior McNeley or the Encinitas Fire Department were referred to the Navy. A Fire Department spokeswoman confirmed the authenticity of the email and said George McNeley had taken an indefinite leave of absence.
Justin McNeley, 30, was raised in Colorado but moved to Kingman, Ariz., in 2004. According to the Denver Post, he is the father of two young boys.
Calls to McNeley's uncle and parents for comment were not returned.
McNeley Was Teaching Counterinsurgency Tactics to Afghan Army
McNeley and the other soldier were instructors at a counterinsurgency school for Afghan security forces. The two men disappeared Friday in the eastern province of Logar, an area known to be a Taliban hotspot.
The Navy has not said why the men were travelling without a stronger military force far from the training school, which is located near Kabul. They were last seen by locals in an armored sport utility vehicle. U.S. service members travelling in what is considered a dangerous part of Eastern Afghanistan typically travel in larger convoys.
The Taliban have said they killed one of the two men in a firefight, captured the other and are holding him in a "safe place."
In a statement, the NATO-led command said the body was recovered Sunday and that the coalition "holds the captors accountable for the safety and proper treatment of our missing service member."
Coalition forces have distributed hundreds of fliers with the missing sailor's picture throughout Logar province. NATO is offering $20,000 for information leading to the missing soldier.
There is currently one other American serviceman held in captivity by the Taliban. Spc. Bowe Bergdahl of Hailey, Idaho, disappeared June 30, 2009, in Paktika province, also in eastern Afghanistan, also when traveling on his own. Bergdahl's whereabouts are unknown but he has appeared in several Taliban propaganda videos posted online.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.