SAN DIEGO — The captain of the U.S. guided missile cruiser that shot down an Iranian airliner over the Persian Gulf on Sunday has said he does not consider Iran an enemy of the United States.
Capt. Will C. Rogers III, commander of the Vincennes, had regarded the chances of combat for his advanced cruiser as remote and hoped its arrival in the region would head off clashes.
"Let's face it. It's a low-level threat," Rogers told reporters when the ship took up station in the gulf May 28. "We don't consider the Iranians an enemy. We're not at war with them."
The Vincennes left for the Persian Gulf on April 25 from its home port in San Diego, just five days after being notified of its new assignment. The ship had not been scheduled to leave for the gulf until late May but was ordered overseas sooner due to increased tensions in the gulf, said Cmdr. David Dillon, a Navy public affairs officer.
"On April 20 they were out doing exercises off the coast when they got the message: 'Load up. You're going,' " Dillon said in San Diego.
The 567-foot, 9,400-ton cruiser arrived in the gulf with its crew of 385 after making a voyage across the Pacific.
In his May interview, Rogers said he hoped the arrival of his high-technology vessel might even lower the chances of clashes.
"Putting this ship with its radar into the gulf will put a lot of battle management on the scene," he told reporters.
The ship was commissioned in July, 1985, and is one of 10 $1-billion cruisers built by Litton Industries.
Rogers, in his 40s, is one of the Navy's new breed of officers trained to handle the sophisticated weapons of modern warfare.
He was born in Ft. Worth and was commissioned an officer in December, 1965. He is married to Sharon Rogers, also of Ft. Worth. The couple and their son, Will Rogers IV, live in San Diego.
Pentagon officials did not know whether Rogers is related to the great American humorist, Will Rogers.
His previous commands included the destroyer Cushing from 1981-84.
He also served in the office of the chief of naval operations at the Pentagon before taking command of the Vincennes.