U.S. Navy Officer Fired After 10 Sailors Were Captured At Gunpoint By Iranian Military, ‘Misnavigated’ Into Iranian Waters

U.S. Navy Commander Eric Rasch was fired after an investigation into the capture of 10 American sailors in Iranian waters near Farsi Island. The 10 sailors, nine men and one woman, were captured at gunpoint and forced to kneel with their hands behind their heads while Iranian military took them in for questioning. The embarrassing debacle was televised across Iran showing the American sailors surrendering to the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (ISRG). The capture not only caused embarrassment to the United States government, but also threatened to destroy the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal.

The Daily Mail reports that U.S. Navy Commander Eric Rasch has formally been fired following an investigation into the capture of the American sailors. Rasch was fired after it was determined he did not provide “effective leadership” to his squadron that was captured after “drifting” into Iranian waters. The former commander was determined unfit to train sailors and removed from his post as commander.

Rasch was charged with the training and readiness of approximately 400 sailors, including the 10 who were captured in the Iranian waters off the coast of Farsi Island. The Navy says following an investigation into the event, they determined that Rasch was guilty of failed training, ineffective leadership, complacency and an overall failure to maintain standards in the unit. These failures by Rasch were considered contributory factors in the embarrassing Iranian capture. Though Rasch was a commander at the time of his firing, he was actually promoted to commander after the Iranian capture took place. Prior to his rank advancement, Rasch was executive officer of the Coastal Riverine Squadron 3 that was captured at sea. The investigation into the incident caused the review committee to question his ability to effectively train sailors which lead to his firing.

Sailors captured

Though Commander Eric Rasch was relieved of his training duties, he was not removed from the Navy. Rasch has reportedly been reassigned to another area of service. It is not just Rasch that is being blamed for the incident in Iranian waters. Numerous other sailors have also been reprimanded following the incident and more are expected to receive reprimands as the investigation continues.

The incident took place in January of 2016, the same day that President Barack Obama gave his last State of the Union address. The issue began after two U.S. Navy ships “misnavigated” into Iranian waters near a top secret military base. The Navy units say that they “drifted” off course and did not realize they were in Iranian waters until their capture. However, the damage was done as video of the guns, ammunition, capture and seizure of property were displayed across the globe via Iranian television showing the American sailors turning themselves over to the Iranian military. Additionally, other photos of the incident showed the female sailor being forced to wear a head scarf while being detained and questioned.

The capture led Secretary of State John Kerry to proclaim that he was “furious” about the embarrassing video of the incident being leaked to Iranian television stations and ultimately the world. Kerry noted that he immediately contacted his counterpart in Iran to detail his disgust of the video.

“I was furious about it, and I immediately contacted my counterpart. And we indicated our disgust.”

The incident caused tensions between the United States and Iran at a time that the two countries were working on signing an official nuclear deal. Fortunately during the time of the sailors capture, Kerry was working closely with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and was able to secure the release of the sailors, all of which were safely returned.

[Photo by Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Photo]