• Monday, June 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigerian-born sailor lost at Red Sea, was mental health advocate

Oriola Aregbesola

The Pentagon has identified Oriola Michael Aregbesola as the sailor lost overboard on the USS Mason while operating in the Red Sea on Wednesday.

Aregbesola, 34, was a Florida-based Aviation Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class stationed on the USS Mason in the Red Sea and was part of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group. He was assigned to the “Swamp Foxes” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 74.

The Pentagon announced in December that the US would join forces in a 10-nation military pact to battle threats in the Red Sea after a series of drone and missile strikes on commercial vessels.

The attacks were traced to Houthi rebels, who became a nuisance and a menace on the Red Sea, following the Israel-Hamas war. Their frequent attacks disrupted trade and threatened the global supply chain which triggered responses from the West.

In response, the US government deployed the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (CSG), a US naval ship, to deter the Houthi boys and prevent Lebanon and Iran from joining the Israel-Gaza war.

Aregbesola was among those US naval officers deployed. According to reports, he mistakenly slipped and fell into the Red Sea while patrolling. Before his colleagues could rescue him, he passed away.

Aregbesola’s commander lauded his character and commitment to his job and colleagues.

“Petty Officer Aregbesola fully embodied the selfless character and thoughtful warrior spirit of the United States Navy Sailor…His outstanding performance prior to and during deployment went well beyond aircraft maintenance; he truly saw and valued every member of the ship/air team,” said Commander Eric Kohut.

“He will continue on in the heart of every Swamp Fox and our brothers and sisters in the IKE Carrier Strike Group. Our deepest thoughts and prayers are with his family,” added Kohut.

Aregbesola, like many others, migrated from Nigeria to the US in search of greener pastures. He was recruited into the U.S. Navy in July 2020 and reported to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 74, “Swamp Foxes,” in December of the same year.

Mental health advocacy

Aregbesola was a vocal advocate for mental well-being, initiating a social media campaign on suicide prevention following his own struggles.

In February, he revealed having a mental breakdown that led him to shave his head. He spoke to a friend who told him “Oriola. It’s a job, finish it, don’t let it finish you.”

In his last Instagram post, he candidly shared his thoughts on the consequences of suicide drawing inspiraion from the movie Yellowstone.

“They tell us sailors/soldiers don’t cry but they don’t tell us why. So when tears start to fill up my eyes, I wanna hide. We talk about it like it’s a badge of honour our pride. But guess who is the leading victims of suicide. It’s young men and women who don’t know the way to emote,” he wrote.

Aregbesola’s death was considered a non-combat related incident and is currently under investigation.