Officer who oversaw sailors captured by Iran fired

The U.S. Navy officer who oversaw the 10 sailors captured and briefly detained by Iran has been relieved of his duties.

Tags: Iran US Navy
Ben Ariel ,

US navy patrol boat (file)
US navy patrol boat (file)

The U.S. Navy officer who oversaw the 10 sailors captured and briefly detained by Iran earlier this year has been relieved of his duties, the Navy announced Thursday, according to CNN.

Cmdr. Eric Rasch was fired from his job as the commanding officer of Coastal Riverine Squadron 3 due to "loss of confidence" in his ability, the report noted. He has been temporarily reassigned, but these type of personnel actions typically result in the officer then retiring from active duty, noted CNN.

Rasch had recently taken command of the unit after serving as the No. 2 during January when the incident occurred.

Capt. Gary Leigh, the commander of the overall group, made the determination after a preliminary Navy investigation into the incident near Iran's Farsi Island in the Arabian Gulf over January 12 and 13.

CNN has not yet reached out to Rasch for comment.

Iran released the 10 navy sailors a day after detaining them, with Iranian media claiming the 10 were released after it was determined they had entered Iranian waters "unintentionally," and after the U.S. "apologized" for the incident, as per Tehran's demands.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest later denied the reports, saying he was not aware of any discussions between Washington and Tehran about an American apology for the incident and noted one "certainly" had not been given.

Iran took advantage of the incident to publicly humiliate the United States, publishing embarrassing photos of the American soldiers in tears while in captivity.

The results of the wider investigation into the incident have not been released by the Navy, but CNN previously reported that the crew of 10 sailors on two riverine boats made repeated mistakes that led them into Iranian territorial waters and to ultimately being captured.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter had at one point indicated that the sailors strayed from their course due to a “navigational error” but did not provide further details.

Navy officials emphasized that other personnel, including the sailors involved, could still face discipline. Some other naval personnel have already received administrative discipline, essentially reprimands, but those types of actions are not made public. The full investigation is expected to be completed at the end of May, according to CNN.

Rasch has served as commanding officer since April 4 and the second in command from August 1, 2014 to April 3. In the latter capacity, he was responsible for the training and readiness of more than 400 sailors. He was promoted recently to the higher-ranking job before the results of the preliminary investigation were available.