Bottom-line: Based on the information provided in the references above there is a case and information to support the relationship being perceived as inappropriate because it can cause a perception issue. However the interaction between Father and Child is a clear violation of AR 600-20 paragraph 4-15 by definition which deals with interaction of trainess and permanent party Soldiers. Was that the intent of the regulation? Probably Not! It was most likely intended to prevent situations that could lead to trainees being placed in o inappropriate relationships and potential violations of the UCMJ including inappropriate sexual contact, mistreatment, special treatment, favoritism,etc.
2. Was the intent of the policy/regulation on fraternization intended to be applied to family relationships?
There is nothing I can find that leads me to believe or interpret that the purpose of the fraternization policy was designed in whole or in part to prohibit a relationship between a child and their parent. However as stated previously AR 600-20 paragraph 4-14d specifically states:
These prohibitions are not intended to preclude unit based normal team building or activity based on interaction which occurs in the context of… Family Gatherings.
Therefore there is room within the regulation that a parent/child relationship could be exempt from the requirements of the policy on fraternization.
3. How can this relationship possibly adversely impact the good order and discipline of the unit and/or Army?
The only impact I can see is the perception by other trainees. I believe if left unchecked and given the proper environment it could be an issue concerning good order and discipline. Therefore it is in the best interest of the Commander of the Training Unit to take proactive measures as discussed later in this article.
4. Who if anyone should be held accountable/responsible?
AR 600-20 paragraph 4-14e states:
All military personnel share the responsibility for maintaining professional relationships. However, in any relationship between Soldiers of different grade or rank, the senior member is generally in the best position to terminate or limit the extent of the relationship. Nevertheless, all members may be held accountable for relationships that violate this policy.
So very clearly both individuals could be legally accountable and responsible for this issue. However the ethical question becomes is it fair to punish the enlisted Soldier and nothing happens to the Officer? Wow, now we really have a situation of unfair treatment and perception of issues as they pertain to the good order and discipline of the Army and unit. Imagine the enlisted Soldier gets an Article 15 and the Officer walks. Is that not a violation concerning perception? Double standards?
5. What are some reasonable solutions to this situation?
The Commander of both individuals have extensive discretion in this situation. AR 600-20 paragraph 4-14f states:
Commanders should seek to prevent inappropriate or unprofessional relationships through proper training and personal leadership. Commanders have a wide range of responses available should inappropriate relationships occur. These responses may include counseling, reprimand, order to cease, reassignment, or adverse action. Potential adverse action may include official reprimand, adverse evaluation report(s), nonjudicial punishment, separation, bar to reenlistment, promotion denial, demotion, and courts martial. Commanders must carefully consider all of the facts and circumstances in reaching a disposition that is warranted, appropriate, and fair.
Notice the Bold sentence above. I believe we just found the answer! The Commander has the ability to determine how, when, and if they should respond to this issue. What actions or exceptions should be made, if any?
1. Counsel Both Individuals:
Have the Commanders of both units counsel their respective Soldier (Trainee and Officer) regarding the importance of avoiding the perception of an inappropriate relationship.
2. Write an SOP
Have an SOP that applies to pick up, drop off procedures for all parents including Soldiers who have parents that are senior members of the military service. Include something about the commander having the ability to review and if necessary revoking parent visitation if there is a perception of unfair treatment, fraternization, etc. If the relationship causes problems with perception, good order and discipline the command take appropriate action.
3. Counsel the Soldier Upon Arrival to the Unit:
These enlisted Soldiers could be given a specific counseling statement detailing how they may interact with their parents to avoid the perception of an inappropriate relationship. The counseling could also detail procedures for visitation. Specifically the Soldiers could basically be told to keep their private lives private. If they choose to make comments about having a senior military parent and the discussion leads to a problem with good order and discipline then the privilege to see the parent could be revoked. When training reaches the point in which visitation or passes are allowed this information should be presented as a reminder and the Soldier should sign a counseling statement and code of conduct that applies while on pass.
6. What should be done in this case?
My personal and professional opinion is that the Soldier and Leader should be allowed to see one another without restriction just as any other parent is allowed to see their child within the guidelines of unit policy. The individuals should be given counseling statements detailing how their relationship may be causing a problem within the unit and direct the Soldiers to follow specific guidelines to remove the perception. The trainee unit commander can also contact the permanent party commander and request their assistance in counseling the Soldier and resolving the issue. Another way to reduce the perception problem is to specifically restrict the military members from arriving at the unit location in military uniform thereby advertising the issue.
Other Options that May Assist in Problem Resolution
1. Contact your local JAG office