Cmdr. Gerald Michael Vanderwier, the former commanding officer of a Navy frigate convicted in 1983 of engaging in homosexual acts with a member of his crew, is appealing the verdict to the U.S. Court of Military Appeals, the highest court in the military justice system.

Vanderwier, believed to be the first Navy officer found guilty of engaging in such a relationship with a member of his command, petitioned the court Jan. 10 to review the case, according to Vanderwier's military lawyer, Cmdr. David C. Larson.

If the court decides to take the case, it can order briefs prepared on issues it deems important plus further argument, Larson said. If the court does not take the case, the conviction stands. Another of Vanderwier's lawyers, E. Lynn Dougherty, said he expects a determination within five months.

Vanderwier, 43, who has had a 19-year career in the military, which included a Bronze Star for service in Vietnam, was found guilty of three counts of sodomy by Capt. Maitland G. Freed. He was accused by a hospital corpsman aboard his ship, who kept a detailed diary of their purported affair during a Mediterranean cruise.

Capt. Freed chose not to give Vanderwier the maximum 15-year prison term. Instead, Vanderwier was ordered dismissed from the military and to forfeit $1,200 in pay. If the conviction stands, it will strip Vanderwier of retirement benefits valued at more than $500,000.

According to Cmdr. Robert Prucha, a Navy spokesman, Vanderwier is on appellate leave. While he remains a Navy officer, he has no assignment and is receiving no military pay or allowance, Prucha said.