Mayday! Stand Down?

Appalled by recent images of American Sailors held like hostages by the Iranian Navy, Americans are bewildered. What happened to the world’s mightiest military? Why didn’t they resist? Why weren’t they rescued? Where is all that international respect President Obama was crowing about?

Aside from the pressing big picture questions, this whole sad sea story is beyond bizarre. Having released few details, a Pentagon and Navy investigation is in progress, so any judgments must wait. However, there are plenty of puzzling questions that need answers. But will we ever get answers? Benghazi is still short on answers 3+ years on.

First off, the story kept changing, so there are several versions. The first report stated one of the boats had engine trouble, so they drifted into Iranian waters. Not uncommon, but the other boat would have simply towed the lame vessel to safety.

When that tale turned to bilge water, the Navy claimed navigational malfunction. Barnacles! All navigational redundancies on TWO boats failed? Yet, another report said they had just refueled from a US Coast Guard Cutter. Navigation had to be working for them to find one another on that great watery plain without signposts.

Even without GPS, land paints on a surface radar, so they could tell when they were within 12 miles of land. They had to know they were in a rough neighborhood.

Kuwait to Bahrain is a pretty big journey (~300 miles) for relatively small boats in open water, but quite doable since one only need follow the Saudi coast. But Farsi Island really isn’t on the way; they had to really tack east of the obvious track. Further, stumbling into any foreign territorial waters is a huge no-no and exponentially worse when it’s an enemy state. The Navy has always been very sensitive about that, so what the heck were those US Navy boats doing anywhere near that island?

Were they on a mission? The press keeps calling them riverine patrol boats, but the official designation is Mark V Special Operations Craft because they are primarily used to support “special operations,” like inserting or extracting Navy SEALs. They operate with all manner of Special Forces. They also conduct other missions like coastal patrol or maritime interdiction (stopping and searching ships).

These mean boats are armed to the teeth with a combination of heavy machine guns, automatic grenade launchers, and man portable anti-air missiles. Much more formidable than any comparable vessel the Iranians are paddling around.

Quite likely to see combat supporting SEALs, they earn the Navy’s Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewman (SWCC) designation; these are trained and experienced war fighters. This crew undoubtedly could handle a skirmish with Iranian bad boys, so why didn’t they resist?

No one likes second guessing the guy in the arena, but our armed forces are trained in the Military Code of Conduct which teaches “I will never surrender” and “never surrender the personnel assigned to me while they still have the means to resist.” Further, every Navy vessel is treated like American territory, so why would that young Lieutenant ever allow a hostile force aboard his boats?!

Those two Navy boats could have held off Iranian Navy patrols. If they needed help, there was a Coast Guard Cutter in the area and an Aircraft Carrier. Why didn’t they send some Navy air power to assist them?

Is this another Benghazi shirking of duty? Was everyone ordered to stand down? Were they ordered to surrender because Obama didn’t want to jeopardize his sweet nuke deal or inconvenience his Iranian pen pal? With what we know thus far, that’s the most logical explanation.

Our troops voluntarily risk their lives for our freedom. They deserve our loyal support and certainly competent and honest leadership. Isn’t it time we give it to them?

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 23:1

Pete Riehm is the host of Common Sense Radio heard 8pm every Thursday on FMTalk106.5 or streaming at Email him at or on Twitter @PeteRiehm or visit


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