Navy Releases Results of Riverine Command Boat, Farsi Island InvestigationNavy News Service
Release Date: 6/30/2016 12:02:00 PM
From the Navy Office of Information
WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Navy released the results of the investigation into the seizure of two riverine boats and the detention of 10 U.S. Navy personnel by Iranian forces today in a press conference at the Pentagon.
On January 12, 2016, two riverine boats left Kuwait for a 259 nautical mile transit to Bahrain. After deviating from their intended plan of movement, one of the riverine boats suffered an engine malfunction. Both riverine boats subsequently stopped to troubleshoot. After briefly attempting to communicate with Iranian forces patrol craft that intercepted them, the riverine boats and their crews were taken into Iranian custody. As a result of diplomatic negotiations, the riverine boats and their crews were released the following morning.
Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans and Strategy Vice Admiral John C. Aquilino spoke to members of the Pentagon press corps about the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident.
"The goal of this investigation was to conduct a thorough review of what U.S. Navy actions may have contributed to this incident," said Richardson. "We conduct these investigations to learn what we can in order to prevent similar events from occurring; and where necessary to hold our people accountable where they failed to follow procedures and meet expectations."Additionally, Richardson noted that "the investigation concluded that Iran violated international law by impeding the boats' innocent passage transit and they violated our sovereign immunity by boarding, searching and seizing the boats and by photographing and video recording the crew."
Conclusions of the investigation centered on poor leadership and disregarded risk management and mission planning standards by those directly involved in planning the riverine boat missions.
The extensive report was subjected to comprehensive reviews before the public release in order to ensure that classified information, protected personally identifying information, and other non-releasable information remains protected. The names of the service members involved were redacted from the released materials to protect the privacy of the individuals and because some of them remain assigned to overseas, sensitive or routinely deployable units.
The report also noted that while the investigation did expose particular issues in relation to the training and day-to-day practices of a particular unit, it did not identify a significant problem in the overall Navy methodology and approach to training units and their leaders. Rather, the investigation highlights the importance of proper leadership and the adherence to sound naval doctrine.
Aquilino gave an overview of the event to include actions in theatre that lead to the eventual detainment and release of the RCB crews and what the Navy has done since the incident to mitigate similar occurrences.
"In order to maintain the bonds of trust and confidence amongst ourselves, and with the American people, we have an obligation to continuously examine our personal and professional conduct to ensure we always execute our mission and behave with integrity, accountability, initiative, and toughness," said Richardson.
The released investigation and associated reports have posted online at the Navy's Freedom of Information Act Reading Room.
Click here to view the documents located under the "FOIA Reading Room" tab.
The US sailors who were detained by the Iranian navy last winter provided their name, rank and serial numbers — and pretty much everything else their captors demanded, the US Navy said in a blistering report Thursday.
The 10 crew members, captured at gunpoint in the Persian Gulf on Jan. 12 by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, improperly revealed passwords for laptops and cellphones and even sensitive technical details about their two ships, including their top speed, capabilities and missions, the report said.
“It is clear that some, if not all, crew members provided at least some information to interrogators beyond name, rank, service number and date of birth,” the report said.
The Navy report blamed the incident on a combination of poor planning, clueless leaders who did not properly consider how risky their actions were, a lack of crew oversight and low morale.
Their capture turned into an international incident that rattled nerves days before the controversial Iran nuke deal was about to be signed, and the Islamic theocracy’s mad mullahs exploited the detentions for propaganda purposes — forcing a woman in the crew to wear a hijab — and making headlines for weeks.
Problems had plagued the mission from the beginning as the two vessels were making their way from Kuwait to Bahrain.
The commander of the crews’ task force ordered the 250-nautical-mile transit, the longest the crews had attempted, on short notice, and “severely underestimated” the transit’s risks.
“He lacked a questioning attitude, failed to promote a culture of safety, and disregarded appropriate backup from his staff and subordinate commands,” the report said.
The report redacted names, but the Navy last week identified the commander of the boats’ task force as Capt. Kyle Moses and said he had been relieved of his commandThe boats’ captains and crew did not review or stick to their planned course from the moment they left port, the report said, and inadvertently went through Saudi Arabian territorial waters before entering Iranian waters off the coast of Iran’s Farsi Island in the Gulf.
At one point, the crew members did not realize they were near Farsi Island because they did not zoom into their navigation system’s map.
“Had any crew member zoomed into the purple dot, they would have discovered the purple dot was Farsi Island,” the report said.
Near the island, one of the boats suffered a faulty engine, and the two craft were approached by two Iranian vessels, which pointed their weapons at the hapless Americans as two other Iranian boats arrived on the scene.
The American captains did not order their gunners to put on protective gear or to man the weapons on the boats.
Under the standard rules of engagement, US military personnel are obligated to defend their units.
But in the hopes of de-escalating the situation, the captains directed their gunners to step away from their weapons.
“I didn’t want to start a war with Iran,” one of the boat captains told investigators. “My thought at the end of the day was that no one had to die for a misunderstanding.”
The Iranians forced the sailors to remove their body armor, kneel, and place their hands behind their heads, and took video and pictures of the crew doing so.
At Farsi Island, they interrogated and detained the sailors overnight before releasing them the next day.
The sailors also quickly gave in to Iranian demands that they eat and act happy while being filmed in order to be released, and one captain read an apology prepared by the Iranians.
Unknown to them, the US government had already negotiated their unconditional release.
In addition to Moses, the Navy last month fired Eric Rasch, commander of the squadron that included the sailors.
The report said administrative action had been taken with regard to two personnel, and recommended action be taken regarding six others.
The report also faulted the Iranians for violating international norms.
They replaced an American flag on board with an IRGC one, ransacked the vessels and damaged equipment, the report said.
The United States and Iranian militaries keep a close eye on each other in Gulf waters, with the US naval presence there meant to reassure regional allies of its commitment to their security.
For Iran, which sees itself as resisting US interests throughout the Middle East, the detention was a public relations coup.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei awarded medals to IRGC commanders, and Iranian media broadcast videos of the detainees.
“This event was an act of God, it happened at a good time, and you acted admirably,” Khamenei told the Iranian sailors in January.