Navy identifies missing sailor who went overboard from carrier in Arabian Sea
By CHAD GARLAND | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 22, 2019
MANAMA, Bahrain — The Navy has identified the sailor who was reported overboard from an aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea last week and remains missing after the end of search and rescue efforts.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Slayton Saldana, an aviation electronics technician assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 5 aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, has been listed as duty status whereabouts unknown, or DUSTWUN, 5th Fleet said in a statement late Sunday.
The search was called off Friday after “extensive attempts to locate the sailor” involving three ships and aircraft from two patrol squadrons, 5th Fleet said. Saldana had been reported overboard Wednesday.
Vice Adm. Jim Malloy, the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces commander, said in a statement on Saturday that the command’s thoughts and prayers were with Saldana’s family, friends and shipmates.
Saldana’s Facebook profile lists him as a native of San Antonio, Texas.
Some of the 24-year-old’s belongings had been found on the side of a ship catwalk early Wednesday morning, his fiancée Lexi Posey told the Bryan (Ohio) Times, her hometown newspaper, last week.
Posey, a Navy petty officer third class serving in Japan, said he was believed to have been wearing his “float coat,” or flight deck life vest.
Officials with 5th Fleet did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation of those details.
The Lincoln, the USS Leyte Gulf, and patrol squadrons VP-10 and VP-40 had been joined by the Spanish frigate Mendez Nunez in searching where Saldana had been reported missing.
Under Navy policy, commanders can list sailors DUSTWUN for 10 days to conduct search efforts or investigate the circumstances of a loss. If the sailor is not recovered alive in that time and returned to the military, commanders can recommend a sailor’s status be changed to “missing,” “unauthorized absence” or “deceased,” based on the available evidence.
The squadron Saldana belonged to, made up of about 200 servicemembers, is part of Carrier Air Wing 7 and is assigned to the Lincoln strike group, which had its deployment to the region expedited in May amid escalating tensions with Iran.
In a Facebook post on Monday, Posey wished Saldana a happy 38-month anniversary since they started dating — her profile lists March 6 as the date they were engaged. “I know I don’t get to celebrate our anniversary together in the physical form,” she wrote. “I at least hope that you’re with me and we get to celebrate it together in spirit.”
Preparing for a flight back to the U.S., she said the anniversary “will be a very long day” as she will travel across the International Date Line.
“I wish I could travel back in time to the start of our relationship over 3 years ago and constantly reassure you how much I have loved you and appreciate all the little things that you did for me,” she wrote.