Mayport-based warship continues missile-attack defense in Middle East; US offensive expected to ramp up this weekend

Local servicemembers are increasingly in the line of fire.

On Friday, President Joe Biden attended the dignified transfer of three American soldiers killed in Jordan this week – in a drone strike. They were all from Georgia.

MORE: ‘I’m still in disbelief’: Parents grieving loss of daughter killed in Jordan drone strike receive call from Pres. Biden

This comes as a Mayport-based warship, the USS Carney, shot down another missile attack and three drones. US commanders and the president are vowing to strike back.

The USS Carney shot down an anti-ship ballistic missile which the Pentagon said came from Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Minutes later, sailors shot down three Iranian drones, and by News4JAX’s count, that makes at least 27 shootdowns this deployment.

Naval ships are in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea and the US said the attacks are coming from Yemen. But there are also threats near Somalia and the three Georgia servicemembers were killed in Jordan.

“My biggest concerns are trying to maintain the control. I think the administration is trying to not let this thing get blown up to a larger, wider scale, engagement or slash war for us,” said Ret. Admiral Robert Natter.

Natter is a retired commander of the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet. News4JAX has been talking to him throughout the past several months as tension and attacks have risen in the Middle East. The US, with fighters from our area, and its allies are in the area protecting trade routes and fending off rebel missiles aimed at large trade ships.

Some have asked, why is the US there and in harm’s way?

“Well, first of all, is freedom of the seas, freedom of free navigation by the international commerce, we’re dependent on it, quite frankly, the Chinese are dependent on it, and a lot of other nations are as well, we’ve got an international economy right now. It’s very strong, it helps our societies endure and also progress,” Natter said.

Sergeant Kennedy Sanders, one of the three killed in the drone attack, grew up in Waycross. Before that two Navy Seals went missing in a nighttime raid of a boat off Somalia and this week a Houthi missile got within a mile, seconds from impact, from the USS Gravely before defense systems shot it down. President Biden is vowing swift punishment for those behind the attacks but he must do it carefully.

“I don’t think we need a wider war in the Middle East. That’s not what I’m looking for,” Biden said.

Admiral Natter fears more servicemembers could be killed in a dangerous and delicate scenario.

“Well, I’m not calling the shots, but my move would have been a few days ago, really serious strike on not only the launch sites of these missiles in UAVs, but also the radar sites and command and control sites and leadership sites. To me, that would be the obvious selection. And quite frankly, I’m certain that the Pentagon and Central Command has had some contingency plans in place for quite a while in that regard,” Natter said.

An American offensive could come as soon as this weekend.

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