Pilot Labeled As "Mercenary" Captured In Libya Said To Be US Air Force Veteran

The US media identified Jamie Sponaugle as a fighter jet pilot that was shot down and captured by one of Libya's rival governments on May 7, according to a new report from RT. The pilot had been previously reported as a Portuguese national.  

The pilot was captured by the Libyan National Army (LNA) near Tripoli when his Mirage F1 was shot down. The LNA claims he was "conducting bombing raids against its troops on behalf of Libya’s internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA)" and referred to him as a mercenary. 

He was called a Portuguese national named Jimmy Reiss at the time of his capture, when the LNA released photos of him.

The Washington Post said that Sponaugle enlisted as an airman in 2006, worked as a mechanic until 2013 and served in the Florida Air National Guard before retiring in 2016. The paper claims that he didn't have pilot training and that U.S. officials didn't know what he was doing in Libya. 

He was released with the help of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, though the Saudis have said they did not pay for his release. He was flown to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to meet with US officials and undergo medical examination. 

Task and Purpose gave a different spin on Sponaugle's service record, claiming merits that indicate deployments to Iran and South Korea, as well as involvement with the US Air Force’s nuclear deterrence operations.