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As a Master-at-Arms (MA), you will be involved with all aspects of nonjudicial punishment (NJP). NJP is better known in the Navy as captain's mast, or just mast, a term from the early sailing days when the usual setting for this type of naval justice was on the weather deck at the front of the ship's mainmast. In this chapter, we will discuss the duties and procedures required before, during, and after NJP proceedings.

Both commanding officers (COs) and officers in charge (OICs) can conduct mast. For a discussion on the differences between masts held by COs and OICs, see Article 15, Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and part V of the Manual for Courts-Martial (MCM).

The terms nonjudicial punishment and NJP are used interchangeably. They refer to certain limited punishments that can be awarded for minor disciplinary offenses by a CO to members of command.

Article 15 of the UCMJ, part V of the MCM, and part B of chapter 1 of The Manual of the Judge Advocate General (JAGMAN) cover the basic law on NJP procedures. The legal protection afforded an individual subject to NJP proceedings is more complete than is the case for nonpunitive measures, but, by design, is less extensive than for courtsmartial. Unlike courts-martial, NJP is nonadversarial in nature. When punishment is imposed it is not considered a conviction, and when a case is dismissed it is not considered an acquittal.

The word mast also is used to describe three different types of proceedings: request mast, meritorious mast, and disciplinary mast. Request mast is a hearing before the CO, at the request of a member, for making requests, reports, statements, and for airing grievances. Meritorious mast is for the purpose of publicly and officially commending a member of the command for noteworthy performance of duty. This chapter discusses disciplinary mast.

Mast is a procedure where the CO may (1) inquire into the facts surrounding minor offenses allegedly committed by a member of their command; (2) afford the accused a hearing as to the offense(s); and (3) dispose of such charges by dismissing the charges,

imposing punishment, or referring the case to a court-martial.


LEARNING OBJECTIVES: Identify who may impose NJP and persons on whom NJP may be imposed. Explain the right to trial by court-martial. Discuss punishments under Article 15, in terms of circumstances surrounding the offense, cases previously tried, and off-base offenses.

Nonjudicial punishment is a disciplinary measure more serious than administrative corrective measures, but less serious than trial by court-martial. Nonjudicial punishment provides commanders with an essential and prompt means of maintaining good order and discipline and also promotes positive behavior changes in service members without the stigma of a court-martial conviction.


Authority to impose nonjudicial punishment under Article 15, UCMJ, may be exercised by a CO, an OIC, or by certain officers to whom the power has been delegated by the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV).

In the Navy and Marine Corps, billet designations by the Bureau of Naval Personnel and Headquarters Marine Corps identify those persons who are COs. So the term commanding officer has a precise meaning and is not used arbitrarily.

An OIC is a commissioned officer appointed by departmental orders, tables of organization, manpower authorizations, orders of a flag or general officer in command, or orders of the senior officer present.

The power to impose NJP is inherent in the office and not in the individual. Thus, the power may be exercised by a person acting as CO, such as when the

CO is on leave and the executive officer (XO) succeeds to command.

Ordinarily, the power to impose NJP cannot be delegated. But one exception is when a flag or general officer delegates all or a portion of his or her Article 15 power to a principal assistant. A principal assistant is a senior officer on a flag or general officer's staff who is eligible to succeed to command. This delegation must be made with the express approval of the Chief of Naval Personnel or the Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Another exception exists when members of the naval service are assigned to a multiservice command, The commander of a multiservice command may appoint one or more naval units and for each unit designate a naval commissioned officer as CO for NJP purposes over the unit. A copy of such designation must be furnished to the Commander, Naval Military Personnel Command or the Commandant of the Marine Corps, as appropriate, and to the Judge Advocate General.

No officer may limit or withhold the exercise of any disciplinary authority under Article 15 by subordinate commanders without the specific authorization of SECNAV.

If a CO determines that his or her authority under Article 15 is not enough to make a proper disposition of the case, he or she may refer the case to a superior commander for appropriate disposition.

This referral situation could arise either when the CO's NJP powers are less extensive than those of the superior officer, or when the status of higher authority would add force to the punishment, as in the case of a letter of reprimand or admonition.


A CO may impose NJP on all military personnel of his or her command. An OIC may impose NJP only upon enlisted members assigned to his or her unit.

At the time punishment is imposed, the accused must be a member of the command of the CO (or of the unit of the OIC) who imposes the NJP. A person is "of the command or unit" if he or she is assigned or attached to it. This includes temporary additional duty (TAD) personnel. Personnel on TAD may be punished either by the OIC of the TAD unit to which they are assigned, or by the CO of the duty station to which they are permanently attached. Note, however, that both the OIC and the CO cannot punish an individual under Article 15 for the same offense. In addition, a party to a JAG Manual investigation remains of the command or unit that he or she was attached to at the time of his or her designation as a party for the sole purpose of imposing a letter of admonition or reprimand as NJP.

Personnel of Another Armed Force

Under present agreements between the armed forces, a Navy CO should not exercise NJP jurisdiction on Army or Air Force personnel assigned or attached to a naval command. As a matter of policy, these personnel should be returned to their parent service for discipline. If this is impractical and the need to discipline is urgent, NJP may be imposed, but a report to the Department of the Army or Department of the Air Force is required. See MILPERSMAN, Article 1860320.5a, 5b, for the procedures to follow.

Express agreements do not extend to Coast Guard personnel serving with a naval command, but as a matter of policy, the naval command should not try to exercise NJP over such personnel assigned to their unit. Refer to section 1-3(c), Coast Guard Milita~ Justice Manual, COMDTINST M5801.1.

Because the Marine Corps is part of the Department of the Navy, no general restriction extends to the exercise of NJP by Navy commanders over Marine Corps personnel or by Marine Corps commanders over Navy personnel.

NJP of Embarked Personnel

The CO or OIC of a unit attached to a ship should refrain from exercising his or her power to impose NJP and refer all such matters to the CO of the ship for disposition. This policy does not apply to Military Sealift Command (MSC) vessels operating under masters or to organized units embarked on a Navy ship for transportation only, Nevertheless, the CO of a ship may permit a CO or OIC of a unit attached to that ship to exercise nonjudicial punishment authority.

NJP of Reservists

Reservists on active duty for training, and under some circumstances inactive duty for training, are subject to the UCMJ and are, therefore, subject to the imposition of NJP.

The offense(s) that the CO or OIC seeks to punish at NJP must have occurred while the member was on active duty or inactive duty training. However, it is not necessary that NJP occur (or the offense even be discovered) before the end of the active duty or inactive duty training period during which the alleged misconduct occurred. When a CO imposes NJP on reservists, the following options apply: l Impose NJP during the active duty or inactive duty training when the misconduct occurred l Impose NJP at a later period of active duty or inactive duty training (not to exceed 2 years from the date of the offense)

. Request an involuntary recall of the accused to active duty or inactive duty training to impose NJP from the regular component officer exercising general courtmartial jurisdiction over the accused 

. Impose NJP after the period of active duty or inactive duty training, if the accused waives the right to be present at the NJP hearing

Punishment imposed on a person who was involuntarily recalled for imposition of NJP may not include restraint unless the SECNAV approves the recall.

Right to Trial by Court-Martial

Article 15a, UCMJ, and part V, par. 3, MCM, 1984, provide another limitation on the exercise of NJP. Except for a person attached to or embarked in a vessel, an accused may demand trial by court-martial instead of NJP.

This right to refuse NJP exists up to the time of imposition of NJP (that is, up until the CO announces the punishment). This right is not waived by the accused having previously signed a report chit showing that he or she would accept NJP.

The category of persons who may not refuse NJP includes those persons assigned or attached to a vessel and those who are on board for passage, or assigned or attached to an embarked staff, unit, detachment, squadron, team, air group, or other regularly organized body.

The key time factor in determining whether or not a person has the right to demand trial by court-martial is the time of the imposition of the NJP and not the time of the commission of the offense. There is no provision for a CO or OIC to impose NJP on a civilian.

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