A former American Navy SEAL was killed this week during Russia’s assault on eastern Ukraine while fighting alongside Ukrainian forces, a Navy official tells TIME.
Daniel W. Swift, a Navy Special Warfare Operator First Class who had gone AWOL, died Jan. 18 after suffering injuries with a unit under attack by Russia, the official said.
The Navy confirmed that Swift has been in “an active deserter status since March 11, 2019,” but did not provide any additional information. It wasn’t yet known how long Swift was in Ukraine and why he was fighting there.
Swift, who is from Oregon, first enlisted in 2005, according to his releasable service records obtained by TIME. The records don’t detail any of his deployments or SEAL teams he may have served on. They list assignments with a Naval Special Warfare “Cold Weather Detachment” out of Kodiak, Ak. in 2007 and separate stints with two “West Coast-based Special Warfare Unit(s)” from July 2007 to January 2014. Beginning in August 2017, Swift was with a “West Coast Special Warfare Unit.”
Special operations forces, like Navy SEALs, conduct dangerous and secret missions throughout the world. Swift’s records list several awards that imply combat deployments, including an Iraq Campaign Medal, an Afghanistan Campaign Medal, a Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and a Legion of Merit. But the records do not provide any additional information related to Swift’s 2019 classification as an “active deserter,” which caused him to lose his status as a Navy SEAL.
Since Russia first invaded Ukraine last February, the Biden Administration has insisted that U.S. troops will not fight in Ukraine and encouraged Americans not to travel to fight there. But thousands of people from dozens of countries have gone to Ukraine to join the fight against Russia.
The U.S. State Department wouldn’t confirm Swift’s identity Friday but acknowledged in a statement that an American was killed in action.
“We can confirm the recent death of a U.S. citizen fighting in Ukraine,” the statement says. “We are in touch with his family and providing all possible consular assistance. Out of respect for the privacy of the family during this difficult time, we have nothing further to add.”
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