Donegan said in a statement that he made his decision after reviewing the findings of the recently completed investigation. The Jan. 12 incident was considered an embarrassment for the Navy, with the sailors detained overnight and Iran subsequently releasing numerous propaganda videos about it.
“Several weeks ago, I had initially taken what I felt was appropriate administrative and corrective action involving Capt. Moses based on the preliminary results of the investigation, which I began immediately after we recovered our Sailors,” Donegan said. “However, after thoroughly examining the findings of the final, comprehensive investigation, I determined that this additional action was necessary.”
Moses was the commanding officer of Task Force 56, a unit whose missions include explosive ordnance disposal, diving, construction, riverine operations and military intelligence collection. Capt. Richard M. Meyer, who recently served as Donegan’s chief of staff, has been named as the new commander of the task force on an interim basis.
Cmdr. Mike Kafka, a Navy spokesman, said in a statement that the investigation has been completed and the results were “referred to appropriate commands for adjudication.” That could range from criminal charges and a court-martial trial to administrative punishment, but any courts-martial do not appear likely.
A Navy official, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to speak about internal service discussions, said that Richardson plans to announce what actions the service has taken against the officers and enlisted sailors involved after they are completed.
“I haven’t heard anything criminal,” the official said.
Another Navy official said most punishments “are likely to be administrative,” but declined to say that no criminal charges are possible.
The boats and sailors were captured in the Persian Gulf near Farsi Island, where the Revolutionary Guards have a naval base. The sailors were taken into custody overnight, and released the following day after Secretary of State John F. Kerry intervened.
Prior to Moses, Cmdr. Eric Rasch was removed from his job in May due to a “loss of confidence in his ability to command” because of the detainment, according to the Navy. He was the No. 2 officer in the squadron affected at the time of the capture, and elevated to become its commander afterward.
The incident occurred as the sailors were traveling southeast from Kuwait to Bahrain. A defense official said then that the boats departed Kuwait about 9:23 a.m. local time and were approached by the Iranians about 2:10 p.m. A search was launched afterward until the Iranians informed the Americans about 6:15 p.m. that the sailors were in their custody.
This story was originally published June 23 and updated June 24 with more details.