U.S. Navy Fires Commander Over Iran's Detention of 10 Sailors

"A loss of confidence in his ability to command" led to Eric Rasch's dismissal.

ByLuis Martinez
May 12, 2016, 8:06 PM

— -- The U.S. Navy has relieved of command the head of a Riverine Squadron who oversaw the 10 American sailors who in January were held by Iran for 15 hours after straying into Iranian territorial waters in the Persian Gulf.

"Commander, Coastal Riverine Group (CRG) 1, relieved Cmdr. Eric Rasch of his duties May 12 as commanding officer of Coastal Riverine Squadron (CRS) 3," said a statement issued by the Navy on Thursday.

According to the statement, "Rasch was relieved due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command."

Rasch has been temporarily reassigned to another unit. He was responsible for the training and operational readiness of the 400 sailor squadron. Riverine boats provide maritime security in harbor areas as well as conducting escort support for U.S. Naval vessels.

Capt. Gary Leigh, commander of Command Riverine Group 1, relieved Rasch after his review of the results of the Navy's investigation into the incident.

On January 12, two Navy Riverine craft and the 10 sailors aboard were detained by Iran after the craft strayed into the territorial waters off of Farsi Island. The two craft were en route from Kuwait to the U.S. Naval base in Bahrain. A Navy investigation found that faulty navigation equipment did not indicate the craft's position in Iranian waters. Furthermore, one of the craft had mechanical problems that delayed their potential transit out of those waters.

The detention sparked concerns by senior American officials over the release of video of taken by Iran that showed the sailors with their hands on their heads while being detained at sea.

The sailors were released after high-level discussions initiated by Secretary of State John Kerry.

At the time of the incident, Rasch was assigned as the executive officer of Coastal Riverine Squadron-3, the San Diego-based unit of the detained sailors.

A Navy official says the Navy's investigation of the incident is currently being reviewed by the Navy's U.S. Fleet Forces Command and U.S. Pacific Fleet.

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