The Navy’s top officer said the performance of 10 of his sailors leading up to and following their capture by Iranian forces in January did not meet the high standards expected of them.
“Those sailors clearly know our actions on that day in January, and this incident did not live up to our expectations of our Navy,” said Admiral John Richardson during a press briefing with reporters Thursday announcing the findings of an investigation into the incident.
One of Richardson’s top deputies said some of the sailors violated the long standing “code of conduct” that requires all service members to “I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country,” among the five articles. [read the code here]
According to the report, some of the Navy sailors gave up their passwords to their laptops, cellphones and sensitive data about their ships to their Iranian captors.
“The investigation also found that some crew members did not meet code of conduct standards while in custody,” said VICE ADMIRAL CHRIS AQUILINO (USN), DEPUTY FOR OPERATIONS, PLANS AND STRATEGY
Aquilino said the rules of engagement dealing with Iranian forces in the Persian Gulf “may not have been understood by the crews.”
Among the findings of the investigation was the crews failed to report they were off track after beginning their transit from Kuwait to Bahrain four hours behind schedule. To make up the time, the two Navy patrol boats decided to take a short cut, taking them inside Iranian territorial waters near Farsi Island, centrally located in the Persian Gulf.
Richardson said that Iran violated international law in their treatment of his sailors by taking the sailors at gunpoint.
“The investigation concluded that Iran violated international law by impeding the boats' innocent passage transit, and they violated sovereign immunity by boarding, searching and seizing the boats and by photographing and videotaping the crew,” he said.
Richardson said when the boat crew was reported missing “alert launches” of F-18s from the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman as well as US Air Force F-15s launched from bases on land nearby. A US Navy cruiser, USS Anzio was dispatched near Farsi Island where the US sailors were taken.
Richardson said the task force commander for Task Force 56, who oversaw the two patrol boats has been relieved. Richardson also said the commanding officer of the riverine squadron has been relieved.
Another officer in charge of the boat detachment in Kuwait was also let go. Six other people face punishment as well, Richardson says.
“Big incidents like this are always the result of the accumulation of a number of small problems. And so it's just the nature of these things,” said Richardson describing the incident.
Richardson said the lessons learned from the incident would be taught to sailors around the fleet and also to future generations of officers and enlisted sailors.
“So this will be something that we can mine for a lot of lessons,” said Richardson.
Admiral Richardson said he had not spoken to his Iranian counterpart to voice his displeasure over the incident.