Home » News & Analysis » 10 Riverine Sailors Detained by Iran Returned to San Diego For Debriefings, Reunions With Family

10 Riverine Sailors Detained by Iran Returned to San Diego For Debriefings, Reunions With Family

Capt. Gary Leigh, center right, commander, Coastal Riverine Group One, greets the 10 U.S. Navy Sailors assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron Three, upon their return to Naval Air Station North Island on Jan. 22, 2016. US Navy Photo

Capt. Gary Leigh, center right, commander, Coastal Riverine Group One, greets the 10 U.S. Navy Sailors assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron Three, upon their return to Naval Air Station North Island on Jan. 22, 2016. US Navy Photo

The 10 Navy sailors who were detained by Iran have returned to San Diego to be reunited with their families and continue debriefings in a Navy investigation.

The Coastal Riverine Squadron 3 sailors are in good health and will soon complete the final phase of their “reintegration” after being held by the Iranian naval forces from Jan. 12 to 13. In that final phase which can last several days, sailors reunite with their families, continue debriefings, and receive any ongoing medical care and support as necessary, according to a Navy statement.

“Our sailors are being reintegrated with dignity and professionalism,” Rear Adm. Frank Morneau, Commander of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, said in the statement.
“My top priority is the health, welfare and well-being of our shipmates as they return to duty.”

The first phase of reintegration was to ensure the immediate health and safety of the 10 sailors. In the second phase, individuals completed a medical exam and critical decompression, which included mental and physical coping strategies that will enable them to return to duty.

The debriefings will help inform a Navy command investigation that was initiated on Jan. 14. According to a preliminary timeline of events the Navy released based on early debriefings, two NAVCENT Riverine Command Boat (RCB) crews were tasked with the mission of relocating two RCBs from Kuwait to Bahrain, with a planned refueling en route alongside the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Monomoy. They departed Kuwait at 9:23 a.m. (GMT) on a planned path down the middle of the Persian Gulf and not through the territorial waters of any country other than Kuwait and Bahrain. At approximately 2:10 p.m. NAVCENT received a report that the RCBs were being queried by Iranian; at 2:29 p.m. NAVCENT was advised of degraded communications with the RCBs, and at 2:45 p.m. NAVCENT was notified of a total loss of communications with the RCBs.


A screenshot from video Iran released of the detention of two U.S. Navy riverine command boats and their five-man crews.

NAVCENT immediately initiated an intensive search and rescue operation using aircraft from USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) and the U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Coast Guard, U.K. Royal Navy and U.S. Navy surface vessels. At 6:15 p.m., U.S. Navy cruiser USS Anzio (CG-68) received a communication from the Iranians that the sailors were in Iranian custody and were “safe and healthy.”

The RCBs were escorted at gunpoint to a small port on Farsi Island, where the sailors were detailed for about 15 hours. The Navy command investigation will focus on the sailors’ treatment while in custody, though the Navy’s timeline said there was no indication the sailors were physically harmed during the detainment. The sailors and their boats were released the next morning, with the Iranian naval forces returning all equipment except two SIM cards from handheld satellite phones, according to the preliminary timeline.

  • JB

    Now it’s time for the fantasy stories to be given by management to the sailors…. Gotta maintain the fable given to the talking heads by the Administration, et al.

  • DefTactics

    This whole episode does not pass the smell test ! Lots of the right questions need answered !

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  • Erik Polcrack

    Why has there been no comment on the fact that the Iranian Navy ensign was displayed on the boats while they were at the docks on Farsi Island? (Check the Iranian video showing them laying out the weapons.) Doesn’t that show the boats were considered prizes of war?

  • publius_maximus_III

    Hmmm — “reintegration” and “debriefing” — perhaps code words for “tongue locks installed” and “State Dept. gag order implemented”? I’m just sayin’…

    • Secundius

      @ publius_maximus_III.

      Probably like the One Imposed on the USS. Liberty Crew in 1967. After the Israeli’s nearly SANK HER…

      • publius_maximus_III

        “The One” — you mean LBJ? He was Commander-in-Chief in 1967, and based on a Wikipedia article about the incident, the U.S. and Israeli officials didn’t do too good a job of keeping things hushed up.

        • Secundius

          @ publius_maximus_III.

          What the DIFFERENCE, What about USS. Pueblo in 1968. The Beirut Bombing in 1983. When in the Interest of National Security. “GAG” orders are Set In Place. The Balloon Bombings of Oregon in WW2. The Refinery Attack in California, by the JAPANESE in WW2. ETC???!!!

          • publius_maximus_III

            Was a gag order (assumed) issued for this Persian Gulf Riverine incident in the interest of National Security, or to prevent political embarrassment?

            Among the other gag examples you cited, the ones about Japanese attacks on the U.S. mainland during WW-II should definitely have been kept under wraps, to prevent a panic along the West Coast and maintain civil order — in other words, for National Security. The others, not so much.

            That’s the DIFFERENCE.

          • Secundius

            @ publius_maximus_III.

            I suspect that SR-71 overflights of the Soviet Union, weren’t of National Security Issues. Considering that they were DIRECT Violations of Flying into another Countries Sovereignty AIRSPACE..

          • publius_maximus_III

            I think you lost me on that one, Secundius. Let me see if this reply is responsive.

            It is only “sovereign” airspace if a nation can defend it. The SR-71 Blackbird flights were too high and too fast to be repelled, even by an advanced nation like the Soviets. They could simply outrace any SAM sent in their direction.

            Ole Dizzy Dean used to say, “It ain’t bragging” if you can do it.” I say it isn’t sovereign airspace if you “can do it” (violate it at will).

          • Secundius

            @ publius_maximus_III.

            It’s STILL a Violation of their Sovereign Air Space, Sir. No matter how you “Spin It”…

          • publius_maximus_III

            So, just how far does their Sovereign Air Space extend above the earth’s surface, all the way up to Uranus, Secundius? The SR-71 flies pretty high. Is the International Space Station in gross violation of hundreds of Sovereign Air Spaces with each passing orbit? Better shoot ‘er down.

            As for the Soviets and those pesky Blackbirds, if they didn’t like it, I’d tell them what the Greeks once told invading Persians: Molon labe (Greek: μολὼν λαβέ), meaning “come and take them…”

      • publius_maximus_III

        Sorry, misread your comment — capitalization threw me off. You meant “The Gag Order” by “The One”.

  • muzzleloader

    So let me get this straight. These sailors are in custody for 15 hours? If they were captured at 7:am, they were released by 10:00 pm. And they are being given decompression, mental and physical coping strategies?? Good God, we are not talking about the U.S.S. Pueblo here. What has our Navy come to? What if they had been detained for a sustained period under brutal treatment? By the way, I agree with those who say there is more to this than we are being told. Under this traitorous president anything is possible.

    • On Dre

      “traitorous president”
      Don’t you have a bird sanctuary that you should be occupying? Maybe looking for a birth certificate? What other ridiculous things do you think? Did you know your mom was lying to you about the tooth fairy?

      • muzzleloader

        I don’t waste my time on talking to liberal trolls. By the way, you might want to change your bird sanctuary remark, it is getting old.

      • Secundius

        @ On Dre.

        Just Exactly, WHAT WAS THE ACT OF TREASON? Because I Can’t Find ANY Treasonable Act…

    • gro

      traitorous president
      = = = = = = = = = = = = =
      Don’t you mean traitorous pResident?

      You are correct, something isn’t jibing here.
      I can see having a ‘stressful period’ as in not knowing what your fate may be but less than a day hardly supports ‘PTSD’ conditions.
      Also, I didn’t readily recognize the ‘female’ involved in the top picture.

      Much was made of pictures with her in ‘corner’ or back row or with shawl etc on.

      Hmmm. Wonder if the 3 days P&P I managed to ‘win’ many moons ago qualifies me for the PTSD section?

  • JimtheSSO

    I want to see where the investigation goes. When I first heard this story my first thought was why are boats intended for river/harbor patrol transiting on their own that kind of distance – Kuwait to Bahrain? Even if they’re technically capable, nice way to add unnecessary wear and tear to the engines (and crew). Is this a normal SOP? They’re small enough to easily be floated into a well deck, hoisted on deck of a freighter or flown in the back of a C17. If you did think open transit was the best plan, why wasn’t there an escort the entire route? Okay, they were supposed to meet up with a CGC for fuel, but why wasn’t their a PC, armed helo or a cutter assigned the entire transit? It’s no secret that the PG is for all purposes contested waters….it’s like operating around the ROK/nK maritime boundaries/DMZ.

    As far as the reported comms failure, engine failure, ROE (like why didn’t they at least fire some warning shots….they’re small, but pretty heavily armed and manned compared to the IRG boats)…who knows. This is not going to be a good fitrep bullet for somebody.

  • 02144pomroy

    Geez. I wonder if the transvestites partying on Kadena would have put up a fight.