Renton man is sailor who went missing, says Pentagon

WASHINGTON - A Renton man has been identified by the Pentagon as a sailor who went missing last week in Afghanistan and is presumed to be in the hands of the Taliban.

The Pentagon lists Petty Officer 3rd Class Jarod Newlove, 25, as “whereabouts unknown.” The Pentagon is not confirming that Newlove was captured.

The Taliban have said militants captured the U.S. sailor after a firefight in a Taliban-controlled area. A fellow sailor died in that incident.

A massive search continued Tuesday in eastern Afghanistan for Newlove.

The military is monitoring Afghanistan’s eastern border in an effort to keep Taliban fighters from moving Newlove to neighboring Pakistan, defense officials told McClatchy Newspapers, and in leaflets dropped throughout the area, the military says it’s offering a $20,000 reward for information about the missing sailor.

Newlove’s military records show that he’s been an active-duty seaman for five years; the records list him as a “culinary specialist.”

Property records indicate Newlove owns a house in Seattle, and he’s listed as an alumnus of Chief Sealth High School in Seattle. He describes himself on his Myspace page as being from Seattle.

The sailors were in Afghanistan as auxiliary support staffers and were helping to train Afghan soldiers in counterinsurgency.

While Afghanistan is a landlocked country, the military has increasingly called on Navy and Air Force personnel to support the ground effort, and it appears that Newlove received some additional training.

The Pentagon also confirmed the name of the sailor killed in the same incident, Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin McNeley, 30, of Wheat Ridge, Colo. His body was found during a search patrol Sunday in the area where officials found the two sailors’ bullet-ridden SUV. McNeley was assigned to Assault Craft Unit One (ACU-1), San Diego.

His remains arrived Tuesday morning at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

“The deepest sympathy of the entire Navy is with the family and friends of Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin McNeley, who died from wounds sustained in Logar Province, Afghanistan, Friday,” Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations, said in a statement Tuesday. “We appreciate all the coalition forces have done to bring our shipmate home, and we know they continue to do everything they can in the search for Petty Officer 3rd Class Jarod Newlove, who remains missing.”

Officials in Washington and Kabul said they still don’t know why Newlove and McNeley left their base in Kabul on Friday in an armored SUV and headed toward one of Afghanistan’s most volatile regions.

That evening, they were caught in an ambush in restive Logar province, 60 miles from the Afghan capital.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Sunday, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said that one sailor had been killed and the second had been captured during a firefight as the men drove through the village of Dasht in Charkh district.

Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the movements of the sailors an “unusual circumstance,” but he didn’t elaborate.

Newlove is the second U.S. service member whose whereabouts in Afghanistan are unknown.

Spc. Bowe Bergdahl of Hailey, Idaho, disappeared June 30, 2009, in eastern Afghanistan’s Paktika province.

He was last seen in a Taliban video in December.