An Air Force veteran accused of being a mercenary was just freed from detention in Libya

Bullet Points

Jamie Sponaugle in video released by the Libyan National Army on May 8, 2019

(Twitter/Libyan Address Journal)

A U.S. Air Force veteran held captive for six weeks by the Libyan military amid allegations that he was a hired mercenary was freed by the U.S. government on Tuesday, the Washington Post first reported.


  • Jamie Sponaugle, a 31-year-old mechanic who served on active duty between 2006 and 2013, was captured by the Libyan National Army after his aircraft "went down" near the country's capitol of Tripoli on May 7, several unnamed U.S. government official told the Washington Post.
  • Sponaugle served as an active-duty airman from November 2006 until April 2013, and he went on to serve in the Air National Guard from December 2013 to February 2017, according to the Air Force Personnel Center.
  • His Air Force Specialty Code was command and control battle management ops and he left the service as an E-5 staff sergeant. When he left active-duty, he was serving as an airspace technician with 6 Medical Support Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.
  • Sponaugle's military awards include the Air Force NCO Professional Military Education Ribbon, Air Force Good Conduct Medal, Combat Readiness Medal, Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon with Gold Border, Iraq Campaign Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Air Force Longevity Service Award, Meritorious Unit Award, National Defense Service Medal, and Nuclear Deterence Operations Service Medal.
  • He was accused by the LNA, one of the two major political factions currently locked in a civil war for control of the country, of "piloting a Mirage F1, a French-made combat jet, while conducting bombing missions against its forces in the area," according to the Washington Post.
  • On May 8, the day after Sponaugle's reported downing, LNA claimed it had shot down a Portuguese mercenary "flying a Mirage F1 warplane of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord," the LNA's main political rival.
  • The Washington Post confirmed that video footage published by an Libyan media outlet that same day showed a bloodied Sponaugle receiving medical treatment and identifying himself as a 29-year-old Portuguese national named "Jimmy Rees."
  • "It's not clear whether Sponaugle violated U.S. law by working for or fighting with any party in Libya," the Washington Post notes. "Many countries including the United States employ foreign security contractors, who can play a variety of roles and are sometimes armed."
  • Read the whole story at The Washington Post
Task & Purpose reporter Jeff Schogol contributed to this story.
(Task & Purpose photo illustration by Paul Szoldra)

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The two airmen's names are being withheld pending next of kin notification.

A total of four airmen were onboard the aircraft at the time of the incident, base officials had previously announced.

The medical conditions for the other two people involved in the crash was not immediately known.

An investigation will be launched to determine the cause of the crash.

Emergency responders from Vance Air Force Base are at the crash scene to treat casualties and help with recovery efforts.

Read the entire message below:

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – Two Vance Air Force Base Airmen were killed in an aircraft mishap at approximately 9:10 a.m. today.

At the time of the accident, the aircraft were performing a training mission.

Vance emergency response personnel are on scene to treat casualties and assist in recovery efforts.

Names of the deceased will be withheld pending next of kin notification.

A safety investigation team will investigate the incident.

Additional details will be provided as information becomes available. #VanceUpdates.

This is a breaking news story. It will be updated as more information is released.

Photos: 1st Cavalry Division

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