The US Navy handed down punishments to two officers and two enlisted sailors in charge of the riverine boat crews who surrendered in Iranian waters earlier this year, causing an international incident and bringing embarrassment on the navy for the litany of errors that led to their arrest and their violations of regulations while in custody.
All four received letters of reprimand on Thursday, enlisted for dereliction of duty and disobedience of superior commissioned officers, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command announced, according to a Friday report by the US weekly newspaper Navy Times.
The officers were charged with disobedience for failing to follow 5th Fleet guidance for how to conduct themselves in that area of responsibility, where they could expect to interact with Iranian forces, according to a navy official who was not authorized to speak about the incident on the record.
“They did not follow the commander’s guidance,” he said. “If they had, they wouldn’t have had this problem.”
The US Navy declined to release the punished sailors’ ranks due to privacy concerns.
“In order to be a navy that successfully maintains the trust and confidence of the American people, the chain of command and our sailors, we have an obligation to self-examine and hold ourselves accountable when necessary,” Rear Admiral Frank Morneau, NECC’s commander, said in a statement.
The sailors are the first four to receive punishment for their involvement in the January incident, including three of the boat crew members, the commanding and executive officers of the riverine squadron, the commodore and chief of staff of the group in charge of the riverines and two members of the shore support staff. Ten crew members were detained.
A five-month investigation found top-to-bottom errors and negligence led to the sailors’ being detained.
“Across the navy, around the globe, hundreds of commanding officers and hundreds of thousands of US sailors are making tough decisions and performing their duties in a way that should make every American proud and strike fear into anybody who would want to take us on,” Admiral John Richardson, chief of naval operations, said in a June 30 press brief of the report’s findings.
“Those sailors also clearly know our actions in this incident did not live up to our expectations of our navy.”
Those failures included: The sailors from Coastal Riverine Squadron 3 did not brief or even plan their route from Kuwait to Bahrain. While the original route would have avoided Iran’s territorial waters around Farsi Island, the crew immediately deviated from their original course to make up for a late start.
The crew did not report to their operational handlers on shore when they sighted land unexpectedly or report the mechanical failure.
Task Force 56, the riverine squadron’s immediate superior in 5th Fleet, tasked the sailors beyond their capabilities and limitations and fostered a “can do/will do” culture.
The tactical operations center charged with tracking the transit failed to do so and reacted poorly when things started going wrong.
The navy specifically called out the lieutenant in charge of the boats and one of his senior enlisted sailors for failing to defend their crews, as well as others from the crew for their conduct while detained.
“The investigation also found some crew members did not meet code of conduct standards while in custody,” Vice Admiral John Aquilino said in the Pentagon press briefing, adding that the specific violation was making statements that were either harmful or disloyal to the United States in an apology video filmed by Iranian naval forces.
“Final decisions are still ongoing for the other sailors implicated,” NECC spokeswoman, Lieutenant Commander Jennifer Cragg, confirmed.
By Financial Tribune