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Can I be counseled for not answering my phone when my squad leader calls?

I was out fishing in the evening (after duty hours) and my squad leader tried to call me. I did not hear my phone ring and did not know that he had called until about an hour later when I happened to pick up my phone to call my wife. I returned the squad leader's call ASAP. Now my squad leader has written me a derogatory counseling statement for "ignoring him." This doesn't seem fair to me.

If you had a reasonable expectation that you were on call or on duty, you had an obligation to answer his call. If you were not in a recall status and you weren’t specifically  instructed by your leaders to be available via phone, then there is no expectation that you should immediately answer a phone call. If you received a negative counseling statement and were not in an alert or recall status then simply disagree with the counseling statement and write your comments in the session closing box of the counseling statement. This will document your side of the story so the chain of command has the best possible understanding of the issue.

posted on 11/11/2011 under Q&A
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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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  • SGT Johnson

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    Under what regulation can i counsel my soldier for answering cell phone calls

    • Mark Gerecht

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      There is nothing really specific to cell phones. Your authority to counsel comes from the NCO guide, AR 600-20, and the Manual for Courts Martial. You might find these articles of interest.

      http://asktop.net/q-and-a/can-army-commands-restrict-on-duty-cell-phone-use/

      http://asktop.net/articles/can-i-require-my-soldiers-to-answer-the-phone-or-respond-to-text-messages/

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    • Mark Gerecht

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      AR 600-20 provide General Military authority, You also have the UCMJ, Manual for Courts Martial, and the NCO Guide. All of which support your authority. There is no specific regulation that specifically discusses cell phones on this subject. Consider going to ASKTOP.net and search CELL PHONES. There are several articles that might be of assistance.

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      This response is based on the information you provide. My comments do not represent the US Army or US government positions. Furthermore my comments should be used for information purposes only.

      My apologies for the leate response!

      Respectfully
      TOP

  • SGT Warner

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    Im on leave and have my personal cell phone turned off. I am now being called back in from leave to sign a derogatory counceling for not answering my phone. Am I required to answer my phone while on leave. I did however return his call after turning my phone back on and seeing his missed calls. And can I be called back from leave to sign a counceling on a saturday

    • Mark Gerecht

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      If you were told that you were in a recall status then yes your phone should be on at all times. Otherwise it is difficult for a unit to say you must be 100% available on leave. While the unit needs to be able to get in touch with you there is nothing that states you must be 100% available unless you are in a recall status. You cannot control cell phone coverage, perhaps your battery ran out, and other items that may impact your cell service. It may not be appropriate to call you in for leave to sign a negative counseling. Are they cancelling your leave? What if you were in another state would they call you back to sign a counseling? Probably not. Depending on how long you are required to be in at work you may be able to reduce your leave time by one day since you were called into work while not in a duty status but in a leave status unavailable for duty. You could consider disagreeing with the counseling statement and telling your side of the story. While a good Soldier would make sure they are available or checking in if you only had a land line at your house and went camping for the weekend the unit would not be able to reach you and you are in a leave status and therefore in my opinion not in a duty status. You should also read AR 600-8-10 on leave and passes. This will provide you the knowledge about leaves and your duty status. Keep in mind this is based on the information you provided.

    • SGT NICK

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      Usually you will be counseled for being on recall status when the unit is within a certain deployment time frame. If this was block leave before deploying then they could have said something about being accountable at all times, but this usually follows after block leave. Like TOP said what if you were in another state or something, asking you to come sign a counseling statement would be out of the question. Nevertheless depending on how long of a time frame you were not accounted for can be a factor as well, this is why a working phone number is required on most leave forms.

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