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How to Submit a Complaint Against Your Commander Under the Article 138 Process

The comprehensive guide to the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP)


The purpose of this Article is to walk you through the Article 138 process.  This will help you understand if the Article 138 process is appropriate for your situation and explain how to construction your complaint.


Army Regulation:  AR 27-10


An Article 138 complaint is a process by which you can attempt to remedy a wrong committed against you by your commanding officer.  A “wrong” may be an action the commander has taken (an act), or the failure of the commander to  take an action that should have been taken (an omission).  A “wrong” is something that affects you personally, and is either in violation of a law or regulation, beyond the legitimate authority of the commander, an arbitrary act or an abuse of the commander’s discretion, or materially unfair.  The “wrong” may be a deprivation,  restriction, or limitation of any right, privilege, benefit, or entitlement. 


The Article 138 process is not appropriate when the Army has provided alternative channels for resolving the complaint.  Examples include:
a.  Complaints relating to a court-martial or Article 15 proceeding.
b.  Complaints arising out of most board actions, such as officer or enlisted elimination boards, flight evaluation boards, reduction boards, or formal AR 15-6 investigations.
c.  Actions for which Army regulations specifically authorize an administrative appeal (for example, complaints relating to officer or NCO evaluation reports, findings of financial liability as the result of a report of survey, or filing of written reprimands or other adverse information in official personnel records).
d.  A commander’s recommendation or initiation of an action listed above. For example, if your commander  recommends you receive a field grade Article 15 for missing a formation, you may not file an Article 138 complaint.



If you feel you’ve been wronged and want that wrong “fixed,” you must first submit a written request for redress (fixing of the wrong) through your chain of command to the commander who has committed the wrong against you.  A request for redress must contain the following information:
(1)  Name and unit of the commanding officer against whom you are making the request for redress;
(2)  An explanation of the nature of the alleged wrong committed against you;
(3)  The remedial action you desire.


The commanding officer normally has 15 days from the date of receipt to respond to your request for redress.  If more time is needed, the commander should provide you an interim response indicating the estimated date of the final response.  In acting on your request, the commander may take remedial action or refuse your request.  If no final response is received within 15 days through no fault of yours (and no interim response has been provided), you may assume your request for redress has been refused.


If the commander refuses your request for redress, the next step is to pursue the matter through a formal Article 138 complaint.  An Article 138 complaint must be in writing, signed by you, and contain the following information:

  1. Statement that you are a member of the Armed Forces on active duty (or a reservist on inactive duty for training and subject to the UCMJ),
  2. Your current military organization and unit address,
  3. Your military organization and unit address at the time the wrong was committed against you,
  4. The name of the commanding officer who wronged you,
  5. The date you submitted a request for redress to the commander and a statement that the commander either refused it outright or failed to provide a final response within 15 days,
  6. A statement that your complaint is submitted under the provisions of Article 138, UCMJ, and Army Regulation 27-10,
  7. A clear explanation of the complaint, including why you believe the commander’s action or inaction is a wrong, and
  8. A statement of the specific remedial action you seek and why you consider it appropriate.


You must attach to the Article 138 complaint your request for redress to the commanding officer and any supporting information, documents, or statements you want to have considered in support of your Article 138 complaint.


Deliver the Article 138 complaint and all supporting documents to your immediate superior commissioned  officer.


You must submit an Article 138 complaint to your immediate superior commissioned officer within 90 DAYS from the date you discovered the wrong.  The 90 -day limit excludes any period of time your request for redress was in the hands of the commanding officer against whom you submitted it.

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Mark is a Retired Command Sergeant Major with 26 years of military leadership experience. He held 3 military occupational specialties (Field Artillery, Nuclear Weapons Tech, and Ammunition Ordnance). Mark is one of the leading military authors in the fields of leadership, counseling, and training.

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