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U.S. Navy Punishes Additional Sailors Over Iran Capture In January

August 11, 2016

Four U.S. Navy officers and two enlisted appeared before the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) commander, Rear Admiral Frank Morneau for “Captain’s Mast” (non-judicial punishment [NJP] under the Uniform Code of Military Justice) for their conduct regarding the Iranian capture of two U.S. Navy vessels near Farsi Island that resulted in 10 sailors being captured and exploited by Iran and its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy.

A total of six service members appeared before Morneau, four officers and two enlisted. Two of the four officers were found guilty of disobeying a superior officer and dereliction of duty. They were given punitive letters of reprimand according to a statement by the NECC. A third officer was found not guilty of dereliction of duty. The fourth officer’s disposition wasn’t noted due to the officer’s window to appeal the NJP has not yet expired.  The two enlisted received punitive letters of reprimand for dereliction of duty.  Names of the sailors involved were not provided by the NECC due to privacy concerns for those involved.  

A U.S. Naval investigation completed in June and briefed by Admiral John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations, outlined several errors that were made on that fateful day in January.  

The investigation netted these key findings:

-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 investigation laid blame directly on the leadership of these two vessels, whether directly involved or not.  What isn’t mentioned is the direct effect that the $5b in budget cuts for the Department of Defense FY 2016 budget had on any of these vessels’ equipment being in – or not in – proper working order.

Lt. David Nartker was the most senior of the ten soldiers seized by the Iranian military. He is currently awaiting this punishment for the incident to be announced.