Riverine Boat Officer Stays in the Navy After Separation Hearing

By Faye Higbee

The Riverine Boat officer who apologized to Iran after being captured in January 2016, has been allowed to stay in the US Navy. Lt. David Nartker had been under military proceedings since the incident.

Nartker was up on 3 general order violations  of the Uniform Code of Military Justice at an Admiral’s Mast. Two of the charges were dropped – failure to prepare a paper chart of his intended movements, and failure to conduct a patrol brief.

The third charge, failure to move his ship’s weapons from class 4 to class 3 when leaving port, was the only one left. The admiral’s mast came out with a guilty finding, which moved the situation to a separation hearing.

The hearing also argued an administrative charge of “substandard deportment” which stemmed from videos that showed him apologizing for encroaching into Iranian waters. That charge was thin, and not exactly what the intent of the code was about, according to his attorney, Phil Lowry.

But his commanders vouched for him in the hearing, saying that he was a high performing officer that had not previously displayed poor leadership. Ultimately, the board allowed him to stay in the Navy in spite of the “embarassing” incident.  An investigation reportedly found a “toxic” leadership situation in the Navy at the time.

Stars and Stripes reporter Alex Horton stated,

It remains unclear what will happen to Nartker now or when he can expect his next assignment. Nartker was stripped of his surface warfare qualification and pin following his reprimand, [attorney Phil] Lowry said, and he could re-earn it depending on his future career track. The board did not have the ability to give Nartker the qualification back, Lowry said.

But for now, Nartker is relieved about the decision, Lowry said.

“The system worked as it was supposed to,” he said. “[Nartker] wants to stay in the service. He loves the Navy.”

It will likely be an uphill battle for Lt. Nartker in the culture of the US Military. While the ruling of the separation board is a victory, the videos made by Iran are still out there. His apology, even if done under duress, will likely not sit well with many Seamen or Naval Commanders.

Featured photo: Lt David Nartker in 2015. Photo by JOSHUA SCOTT/U.S. NAVY