Navy officer filmed in Iran detention faces punishment

Riverine Command Boat 802's boat captain, Lt. David Nartker, assigned to Commander, Task Group 56.7, checks his boat's communications system before the crew performs patrol operations in the Arabian Gulf on Oct. 30, 2015.


By TARA COPP | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 10, 2016

Note: This article has been corrected.

WASHINGTON — Lt. David Nartker, the last of nine U.S. sailors implicated in the January seizure of two patrol boats by Iran, will have his punishment for the incident announced Thursday, the Navy confirmed.

Nartker was the most senior of the 10 sailors seized Jan. 12 along with their riverine command boats after the vessels crossed into Iran’s territorial waters. During the sailors’ overnight detention, Nartker was filmed apologizing for the incident, among other images spread on Twitter and Iranian television for propaganda purposes.

The Navy has not said why Nartker is being punished.

An investigation by the Navy into the incident was released June 30 and found a string of missteps led to the seizure, including the crews were not prepared for the mission, had recently failed navigation tests, did not have enough sleep and were using boats with broken equipment such as radios. The nine male sailors and one female sailor aboard the boats were detained overnight and interrogated by their Iranians captors.

On Aug. 4, Nartker and another sailor, who was not identified, appeared before Rear Adm. Frank Morneau, commander of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, to hear the charges against them, according to a defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

All charges were dropped against the unidentified sailor. However, Nartker was notified he will face punishment, which could include confinement to quarters, forfeiture of pay or a career-ending letter of reprimand.

The appearance before Morneau, known more commonly as a Captain’s Mast, is a way to discipline officers or enlisted personnel for minor infringements that would not require a court-martial, according to the Navy. Due to the high-profile nature of the incident, the hearings were elevated to an admiral, a defense official familiar with the hearings told Stars and Stripes.

The fallout from the incident has already resulted in the removal of the commodore and executive officer responsible for the vessels, Capt. Kyle Moses and Cmdr. Eric Rasch. A third officer in charge of the detachment in Kuwait, who was not named, was also relieved of command. Nine Navy personnel were considered for various levels of punishment, said Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, a spokesperson for Naval Expeditionary Combat Command, which oversees the riverine boats.

In a statement provided to Stars and Stripes, Naval Expeditionary Combat Command outlined the completed hearings and the punishments levied to date:

  • Four Navy officers went to Admiral’s Mast. Two received punitive letters of reprimand for violating Article 90, disobedience of a superior commissioned officer, and Article 92, dereliction in the performance of duties, of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
  • One Navy officer was found not guilty of violating Article 92 and accountability actions for the fourth Navy officer have not yet been completed.
  • Two enlisted personnel received a punitive letter of reprimand for violating Article 92.

Twitter: @TaraCopp

Correction: A previous version of this article should have said that Lt. David Nartker was notified he will face punishment, which could include confinement to quarters, forfeiture of pay or a career-ending letter of reprimand.

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