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The Mentor - A Comprehensive Guide to Army Counseling and Leadership

Can I be forced to counsel a Soldier?

Counsel Quick - Army Counseling Software
This response is provided based on the information you shared and should not be used as the sole source for making a decision. You should seek guidance from the chain of command, IG, JAG or other certified agencies before making any decisions. How you chose to use this information is totally up to you and is your sole responsibility.

It depends this is a gray area. Let’s look at a couple of examples.

You have no knowledge of the events concerning the counseling other than hearsay and you are ordered to counsel the Soldier. You could counsel them by stating something like: I have been directed by the chain of command to counsel you for being late to formation on _(ENTER DATE). It is my understanding that the facts of the incident include……then you provide the following explanation of this event as the chain of command understands it and has relayed to you……. The chain of command has directed the following action (if any)….then complete the remainder of the form as you normally would with a plan of action and leader responsibilities. Using this method allows you to tell the truth and record the incident as directed but makes it clear you did not observe the behavior and you are simply formalizing the incident in accordance with the actions directed by your chain of command.

You have direct knowledge of the event but don’t feel this requires a counseling session. Discuss this with the chain of command. If they still require this action use our best judgement in how you counsel the Soldier and what action you will direct in the plan of action. It is up to you as to what you put on the counseling form. If the chain of command directs you what to write that is a different issue and should be resolved before the Soldier is counseled because ethically you cannot be ordered to write something you do not agree with or believe is inappropriate. In this case the individual ordering the counseling should be the one conducting the counseling. Many times they will not want to counsel because they are trying to prove they are a disinterested party in case a complaint is made. If you must counsel the Soldier counsel them the way you believe they should be counseled. Make your plan of action. If something is directed by the chain of command and you are forced to counsel the Soldier state the facts. Something like “:I was given an order by , to counsel you concerning the following incident ________. I have been directed to take the following actions.

Keep in mind you need to decide what battles you want to fight and if you should fight them at all. Bottom-line if the chain of command is going to use this counseling to reduce or punish the Soldier you need to decide where you stand. If you do refuse to counsel the Soldier what action will the directing official take against you in the future? Are you willing to take this chance? Or are you willing to stand up to the directing official because you see their directive as either illegal, unethical, immoral, unsafe or a combination thereof. If this is the case you could consider writing a memorandum for record about the situation. Make sure it is detailed, covers just the facts, identifies witnesses, and any violations of regulations, is unemotional and provides potential solutions. Or write a memorandum as stated above and provide it to the directing official along with what your recommendation are for corrective action.

The key is to make sure that the action taken will be seen as fair, reasonable, and legal by a disinterested third party using the reasonable person rule.

Finally before taking any action, examine your reasoning for not wanting to counsel the Soldier. Are you inappropriately protecting the Soldier? Does the Soldier deserve the counseling? Is the counseling really going to hurt the Soldier? Why does the chain of command really want this counseling to take place? Is their reason unethical, illegal, immoral or unsafe? Is this worth asking to see the 1SG and/or CDR on open door policy. Just understand by refusing or taking action to prevent the counseling you will make some enemies. In these cases you have to choose between what is correct and just and how much pain you are willing to suffer. Put yourself in the shoes of the Soldier and in the shoes of the Chain of command. If after careful examination you believe it is unfair only you can decide how to resolve the issue with the chain of command.

Hopefully I have provided you some useful information!

Feel free to email me directly at Mark.Gerecht@Mentorinc.us

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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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