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Can I be verbally counseled and then formally counseled for the same offense?

Can I be verbally counseled for an incident then formally counseled two months later for the exact same thing? To top it off, they told me I will face a reduction board.

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The short answer is Yes.

Verbal counseling is an effective tool. There is no problem with annotating a verbal counseling session on a counseling form. Say that a Soldier is late for formation on 29 Dec, and I verbally counseled him for this incident. If they are late again on 1 Jan, I would prepare a formal counseling statement addressing both incidents.

Example: Soldier was late to morning formation on 1 Jan. I have previously conducted a verbal counseling on 29 Dec for the same offense.

In my opinion, this action would be both professional and acceptable. The date of the formal counseling should be the date in which the formal counseling was conducted.

Reduction Boards

A chain of command does not consider a reduction board lightly. Usually when this action is taken, the offense is significant in nature and they have the documentation to support the action. Read AR 600-8-19 for guidance on reduction boards. In my personal experience a reduction board requires significant work and effort. The same result can usually be achieved with much less effort by using the Article 15 process. The fact that your chain of command is willing to proceed with with a reduction board means: 1) They have sufficient evidence and have a strong case built or 2) They have chosen this path because the offense cannot be satisfactorily addressed under the Article 15 process. I would encourage you to seek assistance from the IG and/or JAG office. They can be very helpful in issues such as these.

Looking at this from the Soldier’s perspective

Do not sign backdated counseling statements. Agree to sign the document with the proper date on the counseling statement or simply line through the date on the counseling, enter the correct date, and initial the correction.

Looking at this from the leader’s perspective

Never ask a Soldier to sign a counseling statement that is back dated. Incorporate verbal counselings into your formal counseling statements. If you are going to consider a reduction board make sure you have your facts together and can document the actions you took to resolve the issue at the lowest possible level.

Summary

If you have made a mistake, take a sincere approach with your chain of command and try to diffuse the issue. If you cannot diffuse the issue, read the regulation and understand how the reduction board works.  Prepare your defense using facts. Do not allow your emotions to cloud your judgment. Seek guidance from the IG or JAG. You can call these individuals anonymously and ask all the questions you may have.  Another alternative is to find a senior leader who you trust and ask if you can seek guidance from them.

posted on 07/21/2011 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.

Disclaimer: Though all content posted on AskTOP.net is reviewed by our qualified subject matter experts, you should not make decisions based solely on the information contained in this post. Use information from multiple sources when making important professional decisions. This is not an official government website.

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    Comments

  • (Anonymous)

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    If you get a counseling for a offense then 48hours later the corporal looses your counsuling can you recive another counsuling for that same offense

    • Mark Gerecht

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      The counseling can be reconstructed and should state what happened with the event and losing the original and then be dated for the day you actually sign the counseling statement not the date of the original counseling session. You might find these posts useful.

      Back Dating a Counseling Statement: Link: http://asktop.net/articles/backdating-a-counseling-statement/

  • Joe

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    CSM, Yes, I understand “double jeopardy” is a legal term but counseling has a legal basis in the fact that NCOs derive their authority from law and regulation (I know you already knew that). The other part of this is, I feel that if the NCO had done his/her job then there wouldn’t have been a need for a second counseling. The problem is it’s a LT doing an NCO’s job With the Army reducing troops this seems like a smooth way to build up a stack of counseling statements to kick a troop to the curb. I’d never heard of such in my 20+ yrs in Uncle Sam’s Army and was trying to provide my daughter some light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you for your time.

    • Mark Gerecht

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      Joe,
      I agree with you but odds are if the chain of command has a disinterested and professional leader anywhere in the chain of command they would see two counselings for the same offense as overkill and should question why it was done. In addition any defense counsel worth their salt would jump on this for the reasons you specified. In addition if the Soldier addresses the double counseling in the session closing block of the counseling form they go along way in diminishing the credibility of the second counseling. If they did not think of writing a statement they can always write the statement and take it to the Counselor and ask to attach the statement. If the Counselor refuses they should annotate that in their statement and take it to the 1SG or CDR. Now with that said this article was discussing a verbal counseling followed by a formal counseling. What we appear to be discussing here is Two written counseling statements for the same offense. This is uncalled for and in my opinion could not be used to build a packet as they relate to the same incident. FM 6-22 specifically states the counseling will be conducted as close to the incident as possible. In this case we are talking 2 months from the event to the counseling. Regardless of the situation two months to a reasonable person would appear inappropriate and would send a message that there may be something else going on within the unit or with this Soldier and unit leadership. If a Soldier is truly facing a reduction board they need to see JAG immediately and also contact a civilian attorney for a second opinion consultation. These are usually fairly inexpensive. Keep in mind that if a reduction board is being prepared it is very important to put your case together thoroughly because based on my understanding of the proceedings if an issue is not addressed during the reduction board it cannot be brought up later. Joe if there is something specific you would like to discuss off line please shoot me an email at Mark@asktop.net and I would be more than happy to see if I can assist. No good leader wants to see a Soldier hurt or be put at a disadvantage. As leaders we need to make sure we are doing the right thing…sometimes emotions get in the way…and as leaders we need to be able to step away and look at the facts. Sometimes that takes a disinterested party to ask some appropriate questions. Joe there is light at the end of the tunnel. My experience has shown me that when leaders go out to get a Soldier typically the leader gets Got! not the Soldier. I provided expert testimony in several situations that turned things around. I hope this added some clarification. As I stated previously if there are some specifics to discuss off line I would be more than happy to do so.

  • Joe

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    Good information but how about that self-same offense, not the same offense committed on different occasions? One can’t be held accountable for the same offense on two separate counseling statements, double jeopardy, just to clarify for your readers out there.

    • Mark Gerecht

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      Joe, for clarification double jeopardy is a legal term and is not applicable in counseling formats. Being counseled twice for the same offense may not be appropriate or the second counselor may add something not covered by the first. While I agree one counseling should be sufficient, double jeopardy applies in criminal prosecution not in counseling. For example: If you get a DUI down town the Army will not give you an article 15 for DUI but they could provide a letter of reprimand (administrative action)or choose to punish you for a related offense from the DUI action. In the not too distant pass a Soldier could receive civilian punishment for a DUI and then face punishment on post for the DUI. This was deemed double jeopardy and the issue was adjusted so that you could not be punished for the same thing. But related offenses stemming from the same offense are a different matter.

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