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UPDATED: Leader of U.S. Sailors Captured by Iran Appeals Punishment

Riverine Command Boat (RCB) 802’s boat captain, Lt. David Nartker, assigned to Commander, Task Group (CTG) 56.7, checks his boat’s communications system operating in the Persian Gulf in 2015. US Navy Photo

Riverine Command Boat (RCB) 802’s boat captain, Lt. David Nartker, assigned to Commander, Task Group (CTG) 56.7, checks his boat’s communications system operating in the Persian Gulf in 2015. US Navy Photo

Lt. David Nartker, the officer in charge of the crew of two riverine boats captured and held by Iranian forces, is appealing the punishment issued earlier this month, according to information obtained by USNI News.

Nartker was given a recommended punishment by the commander of Naval Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) Rear Adm. Frank Morneau during admiral’s mast last week for violation of multiple specifications under Article 92 – failure to obey an order or regulation — of the Uniformed Code Military Justice, defense officials told USNI News.

Now Nartker is appealing Morneau’s judgment to the head of U.S. Pacific Fleet — Adm. Scott Swift as part of an appeals process, USNI News. Under UCMJ rules an appeal to a mast ruling is resolved within 30 days.

A NECC spokesperson — reached by USNI News on Thursday — would not confirm Nartker’s punishment, charges or appeal status.

“The standard for an appeal is essentially to review the punishment to determine whether it was ‘unjust or disproportionate.’ An appellate authority cannot increase the punishment, but he can mitigate it, or set it aside, if he thinks it was too harsh or unwarranted,” Rob “Butch” Bracknell, a former Marine and military lawyer told USNI News on Thursday.

The resolution of Narkter’s case will be the last in a series of accountability actions for nine officers and enlisted sailors following a Navy investigation into the January incident.

“Four Navy officers went to admiral’s mast, two have been awarded a punitive letter of reprimand for violating Articles 90 (disobedience of a superior commissioned officer) and 92 (dereliction in the performance of duties) of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice; one Navy officer was found not guilty of violating Article 92 (dereliction in the performance of duties) of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice; and accountability actions for the fourth Navy officer have not yet been completed,” Lt. Cmdr Jennifer Cragg told USNI News earlier this week.
“Two enlisted have been awarded a punitive letter of reprimand for violating Article 92 (dereliction in the performance of duties) of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice.”

In addition Cmdr. Eric Rasch — the commander of the riverine squadron to which the two Riverine Command Boats belonged — was relieved in May. Capt. Kyle Moses, commander of Task Force 56, was removed from his position in June. An enlisted member of one of the two RCBs faced an administrative hearing but was not punished.

The extensive investigation – released in June — found lax standards and multiple failures in adhering to standards and regulations up and down the chain of command leading to the Jan. 12 incident when Nartker and nine other sailors were intercepted and held by Iranian forces at a naval base on Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf.