Home » News & Analysis » Final Report on Iranian Seizure of U.S. Sailors Blames Chain of Failures

Final Report on Iranian Seizure of U.S. Sailors Blames Chain of Failures

Riverine sailors detained by IRGCN forces on Jan. 12, 2016 off Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf.

Riverine sailors detained by IRGCN forces on Jan. 12, 2016 off Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf.

CLARIFICATION: According to additional information from the service, only two commanders were relieved of their commands related to the Farsi Island investigation — not three. The officer in charge of the Kuwait detachment of riverine boats served in a rotational capacity and could not technically be relieved of his command position. A total of nine service members have or will face administrative action or relief related to the report. 

THE PENTAGON – Lax standards, poor operational discipline and ignorance of the rules of engagement resulted in the capture of ten U.S. riverine sailors during a routine mission by Iranian forces in January, according to a newly released report on the incident.

The investigation found that crew of the two Riverine Command Boats were not adequately prepared for their short notice trip from Kuwait to Bahrain and several lapses in adhering to procedure found the crews with a disabled boat unaware they were about a mile-and-a-half away from an Iranian Republican Guard naval base.

The report claims the actions of the Iranian forces that intercepted the two RCBs were in violation of international law and acted excessively, however the crews did not fully understand the rules of engagement and had not set up an adequate force protection posture, “that left them with few realistic options to resist detention,” read the report.

Not only was the crew not prepared or trained adequately to perform their mission on Jan. 12 but the investigation also found a “can do/will do” leadership environment in the parent unit, “frequently compromised appropriate risk management and procedural compliance,” read a summary of the report.

While in custody, the Navy found at least one sailor violated code of conduct standards in statements that could be detrimental to the U.S.

The investigation has already resulted in the relief of Cmdr. Eric Rasch — the commander of the riverine squadron to which the two Riverine Command Boats belonged.

The Navy also relieved Capt. Kyle Moses, the commander of Task Force 56, and said he “demonstrated poor leadership by ordering the transit on short notice without due regard to mission planning and risk assessment,” read the report.
“He severely underestimated the complexity and hazards associated with the transit. He lacked questioning attitude, failed to promote a culture of safety, and disregarded appropriate backup from his staff and subordinate commands.”

A third unidentified officer has also been disciplined, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told reporters on Thursday.

“There are six other people that are in the process of being [disciplined] right now…
Those sailors know that clearly those actions on that day in January and this incident did not live up to our expectations of our Navy.”

According to the report, the Kuwait detachment commander had instituted a culture of degraded maintenance, declining standards and poor morale.

The problems that led to the capture of the sailors were localized to the regional commands and the Navy found the riverine units “received adequate pre-deployment training.”

In addition to the nine firings, the Navy is also retooling a training regime for the service’s riverine sailors that will include in-person Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape training for all costal riverine forces that will deploy forward.

The Navy is also examining the roles and responsibilities of the Naval Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) as a result of the investigation to see if it’s adequately manned and equipped to take on the range of responsibilities required of the command, USNI News understands.

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Categories: News & Analysis
Sam LaGrone

About Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He was formerly the U.S. Maritime Correspondent for the Washington D.C. bureau of Jane’s Defence Weekly and Jane’s Navy International. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.

  • Daniel Shenise

    Like the John McKay quote, “We didn’t tackle well today but we made up for it by not blocking.” Apparently we didn’t plan well, then made up for it by botching the execution too.

  • SoItIs05

    The issues here begin way above CTF 56 and the Coastal Riverine Command. They start at NECC and flow through both Groups on each coast. A complete lack of standardized training, haphazard and irrelevant pre-deployment readiness evaluations, and a complete lack of mission resulted in these sailors deploying to an environment utterly unprepared for the “taskings” were asked to undertake. They are lucky nobody was killed and that there wasn’t more of an incident. Firings should begin at the top. Big Navy needs to evaluate the mission of these units and either figure out what exactly it is or give the capability back to the Marine Corps who will execute the training and responsibilities properly.

    • FedUpWithWelfareStates

      Incompetence is NO Excuse!

      This mission should immediately be turned back over to the USMC!

      • SoItIs05

        I agree. The Navy has done an absolutely terrible job managing this capability and mission-set.

    • Kermit Obermeyer


  • MA

    I just wonder how much it has been drilled into these people not to risk an engagement with the Iranians or anyone else for that matter. Instructions straight from the commander in chief and his little leg humping sec. of state

  • FedUpWithWelfareStates

    The U.S. Navy has shown to the world that they are completely incompetent when it comes the Riverine/Coastal Patrol Mission!

    This mission should immediately be turned back over to the USMC!

    • Kermit Obermeyer

      Sounds about right! A sad day …

  • medic5392

    You guys who are guessing at what happened should read the report, it is linked. This was a failure from the NCO and JO level on the boats all the way to the Commodore in charge and Big Navy that mans, equips and trains these guys. It was a total failure in training, leadership and even courage was lacking by one of the sailors who should be put up on charges under the UCMJ. It was a S*&$ show.

  • RobM1981

    I wonder how high this leadership vacuum goes…

    • old guy

      Right up the :cocktail circuit” MY CAREER, my service, my country.


    The whole episode indicates a failed system. From the top to the bottom, poor training, poor leadership and no honor. Perhaps they forgot their name, rank and serial numbers.

  • Qtwo…….

    Give it to the USMC. Return fire. Get a couple of our Marines killed, but sink
    The Iranian boats, but make sure one or two of them get back to tell their generals
    That we do not take their BS against our boats. Sorry, but that is the I feel.

  • John B. Morgen

    Very poor planning and excution of the mission without any air support.

  • Russ Neal

    How could this happen in a Navy that deploys a ‘Great Green Fleet” to run on vegetable oil with airplanes that lack the parts to fly? Isn’t diversity supposed to be our strength?

  • old guy

    Looks like too many officers were taking care of the cocktail party circuit. Benghazi 2 anyone?

  • Mac

    When you make social engineering the main purpose of the Armed Forces, little things like “I have not yet begun to fight,” and “Don’t give up the Ship,” and “As long as one gun will still fire, we will NOT abandon ship,” will just have to make way. Bah!

  • old guy

    I still say that When the riverine boats saw incoming RIBs and motorboats, they could have moved out or engaged, if their position was outside the zone. You mean to say not one Navy guy on either boat had a smartphone with GPS? it was a rigged deal.

  • bass_man86

    Maybe it’s retired Chief syndrome on my part but I will call it the way I see it. The aquaflage Navy no longer stresses discipline or professionalism; PT and comrel projects are much more important. The aquaflage Navy no longer trains adequately and that is not my imagination; when I joined OS”A” school was 17 weeks long, now it is down to six weeks of CBT while MC”A” school is 20 weeks long ’cause writing articles for All Hands is so much more important than working in CIC. The aquaflage Navy no longer expects Sailors to take care of their ships or even bring stores on board so pride and ownership for one’s own ship is not what it used to be. Finally, in the aquaflage Navy it is possible to make “E-7” in 5.5 years so respect for the Chiefs is now a fiction and the phrase “ask the Chief” is totally meaningless. CNO, MCPON, you are reaping what you have sown!!!!