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How can I convince my chain of command to drop an Article 15?

With the drawdown going strong, the military is looking for discriminators to ensure only Soldiers with good records can reenlist. We now have Brigade Commanders reviewing Soldier performance history to see if they should be allowed to REUP! Team, this is serious when your future is in the hands of a Colonel and not your company commander.

Now more than ever, it is apparent that reenlistment is a privilege and not a right. Negative portions of your records will be reviewed with a fine tooth comb. In the old days a Soldier who made an honest mistake and received an Article 15 usually had the ability to recover from the event. This was especially true if the mistake was brought on by a lack of judgement based on immaturity or lack of experience. Those days are gone… at least for the next 24-36 months. To make a long story short, you need to watch your step. Do you value your career? Avoid Article 15 at all costs.

What can you do to improve your chances of recovery?

If we are talking about a relatively minor offense it may be within your power to take certain measures and prevent the Article 15 from proceeding. You will probably have the greatest chance of success if you take action prior to being counseled, but you can attempt to react after the counseling session as well. I suggest you act as quickly as possible.

Step One: Assess the Situation

Try to think about the situation from an objective point of view. Answer the following questions:

  1. What happened?
  2. Why did it happen?
  3. Are you responsible for what happened?
  4. Did it happen as a result of a lack of discipline, poor judgment, lack of knowledge, etc?
  5. Why do you believe your leader recommended the Article 15?
  6. Does your leader usually recommend Article 15’s?
  7. If you were a leader in the same situation would you recommend an Article 15 if your Soldier did the same thing?

Step Two: Assess the Leader

After you have answered the questions above you need to begin planning how you will approach your leader. Everyone has quirks and tendencies. You will have better chances if you consider your audience:

  1. What type of leader is he/she?
  2. Do they appear to be taking pleasuring in recommending the Article 15?
  3. Are they trying to educate you and correct substandard performance?
  4. Do you feel you can approach the leader?
  5. What is your leader’s personality?
  6. What would be the best time to approach your leader?
  7. How could you best approach the issue with your leader?

Step Three: Consider Human Nature

You must realize that very few leaders take joy or pride in recommending an Article 15. Some may initially make the recommendation out of emotion and then feel they cannot retreat from the decision, others may recommend an Article 15 because they are young and do not know or understand other methods that may be appropriate for dealing with the issue at hand.  Sometimes you deserve to be recommended for an Article 15 because you have overstepped your bounds or have a history of ignoring your leader and he/she has had their fill.

Regardless of the reason the Article 15 was recommended, you need to understand human nature and how it impacts a person’s decision making process. If you approach your leader in a manner that is sincere and humble you may be able to convince them to be empathetic to your cause and seek a suitable alternative to Article 15 proceedings.

Step Four: Plan the Approach

Once you have answered the questions above it is time to contemplate your approach. Do this by placing yourself in the leader’s position and thinking about the issue from his/her perspective. Then come up with an approach you think will satisfy the leader’s desire to correct and educate you with regard to your substandard behavior.

Example:

Let’s say you were disrespectful to a leader in the presence of other Soldiers. Your leader has counseled you and stated he intends to recommend an Article 15 for disrespect.

Allow the situation to calm down a little to ensure emotions are removed as best as possible. Then, approach the leader at an appropriate time and place with the utmost respect using all military protocol and discipline that is appropriate. Be absolutely respectful. The conversation might go something like this:

Soldier: Sergeant, do you have a moment? I would like to speak with you about an important personal issue.

Leader: Yes, proceed.

Soldier: First I want to apologize for my behavior this afternoon. I have thought about my actions and accept full responsibility for my inappropriate behavior. It was not only disrespectful to you but also prejudicial to the good order and discipline of the unit, and I understand such conduct cannot be tolerated. I would like to offer the following suggestions for corrective action on my part: (1) would like to apologize to you and the chain of command in a public apology to the unit during the next formation, and (2) prepare a formal written apology to you. (3) I would like to conduct a class to the unit on why disrespect cannot be tolerated.

There is no excuse for my actions and I will do my best to ensure I never lose my military bearing again in the future I have learned a very serious and valuable lesson from this event.

I fully understand your decision to recommend an Article 15 and respect your decision. I would like to ask for your personal forgiveness in this matter and ask that if you can find it in your heart not to recommend an Article 15 I would be most appreciative and I will give you my word that you will have no other issues with me. I have also realized that my substandard performance will impact my family and most likely my future in the military. While I understand this is completely a result of my actions I hope you will find it in your heart to allow me to learn from this lapse in judgment in a manner that allows me to grow from this situation and become a better Soldier.

Should you proceed with the recommendation for an Article 15 I fully understand and respect your decision and will do my best to execute whatever punishment is given me to the best of my ability. I will also do my best to serve you and the unit the best of my ability until I ETS as I understand with the drawndown in full swing my actions have most likely cost me my military career. I greatly appreciate your time.

Upon hearing a sincere plea like this, most leaders will be taken aback. All of us have been in positions like this. We all want a leader to show us some compassion from time to time. Depending on the specifics of the issue at hand, this approach will give you a good chance of convincing the leader to withdaw their recommendation. Of course the final decision depends on what transpired, how severe the offense was, the overall impact on the unit, how bad the leader was personally offended, and your reputation. Each case will be different, but if it was a minor infraction you stand a good chance at success.

Chances are if you can remove the emotion from the issue, all the leader wants is for you to correct your substandard performance/behavior and be a productive Soldier.

Do not waste your time trying to Manipulate the system

If you are looking at this plan of action as some form of manipulation or as a way to get one over on the chain of command you have missed the point. This approach must be used from an honest, sincere, and humble perspective. If you use it in any other way you can expect it to backfire on you. Your leader will either detect your insincere attitude up front or will fry you when you get in trouble the second time around. At that point, you can bet you are toast because the leadership will feel that you took advantage of their compassion. No one likes to be in that position.

Legal Perspective

If you take this course of action, know that you just admitted guilt. Going to the Article 15 proceeding after doing something like this most likely means you have given up all chance to win the case. The good news is by doing this and conducting yourself in the same manner at the Article 15 hearing you will most likely reduce the possibility of maximum punishment and mostly likely end up with a better chance of getting suspended punishments and extra duty. Choose your course of action carefully. I’m not a lawyer.

Why did I write this Article?

Most leaders truly want their Soldiers to do well. I know it does not always seem this way when you are looking at it from a subordinate perspective. Many times subordinates think leaders lay awake at night thinking of ways to make their Soldier’s lives miserable. I can assure you your leaders have more important things to worry about.

When a Soldier can learn from their own mistakes and be a productive Soldier everyone wins. When a Soldier truly gets it, can take responsibility, and is willing to come up with fitting corrective action (public apology, written apology, teaching a class to the unit), leadership can usually see the humility in the situation and is more willing to be empathic in finding solutions to the issue rather than an Article 15.

Remember, I sat on the other side during the Article 15 process. The words of wisdom I am providing come from many years of experience. Treat people like you want to be treated and you will be surprised at what that does for you from a personal and professional perspective. On a personal note, a leader provided me a second chance once upon a time and I never forgot that leader’s empathy. He instilled a deep sense of loyalty and respect in me because he helped me when he was under no obligation to do so.

Summary

If you are dumb enough or unfortunate enough to get in this type of trouble, be smart enough to understand how to recover from it in the best possible way. Nobody can guarantee success when you are dealing with an issue like this, but it will in most cases improve your chances of having the recommendation revoked and your punishment significantly reduced.

If you are problem child rather than a one-time or occasional offender, odds are this approach will not work for you but neither will denying or fighting the issue unless there are extenuating circumstances. If you are reading this because you are in a jam, I hope this will be a useful document for you and I hope it will assist you in a manner that provides you a second chance with regard to your military career during this difficult drawdown.

If you are reading this article you might also find these related articles useful:

Counseling and Article 15 Leader Responsibilities

Soldier Decisions and Recourse During Article 15 Proceedings

posted on 04/30/2012 under Articles
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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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