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Can I order my Soldiers to buy a piece of mandatory clothing/equipment before the mandatory possession date?

My NCOs are refusing to buy the new Army Service Uniform making it extremely difficult to fill spots for funeral details and also looks terrible for inspections to have a mixed uniform. I want to counsel them on a NLT date, but can I do this? I feel that since it is an Army uniform, I can dictate which one we as a squad will wear, which means they have to buy it. Is this correct?

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Thanks for contacting us at ASKTOP.net.

Your questions and concern are a valid and honorable one. I am sure there are numerous leaders struggling with this same issue. First this is probably not the answer you are going to want or like but it is probably the course of action that will get you the most bang for your buck.


Anytime a senior leader told me I had to do something that was their desire but not mandatory I bucked the system and just said “No!”  They could put me on crap detail or whatever they wanted and I would comply and make my case for their violations afterwards which typically was very embarrassing for them.  Now the flip side was anytime a Leader came to me and said “Hey, I need your help with this.  Can you help me out?”  My answer was typically “Yes” How can I help.  I just wanted to be asked if it was something that was optional for me to do.  When you take an optional event and turn it into a mandatory event usually you get push back.  Put yourself in their shoes.  Do you want someone telling you an option is a requirement and trying to shove it down your throat?  Keep in mind their compliance is optional until the mandatory possession date.

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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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  • Xochilt Torres


    My chain of command is putting out a new uniform for pt but the soldiers have to purchase this new uniform and it’s not the pts issued from the beginning it’s more of a squadron uniform , so my question is can they make me buy it , will I get in trouble if I don’t ?

    • Mark Gerecht


      No, the command cannot force a Soldier to buy clothing that is not part of the official issued items. They can make your life difficult in other ways, but you cannot be punished for not buying one. $10 or $15 to one Soldier could mean the difference of having gas or food for his family that pay period.

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  • Charles


    Thank you for the response CSM! Not really the answer I was looking for, but it is what it is! I just feel that buying the ASU actually shows that you are commited to the Army and to the mission when it comes to funeral detail, because the same dudes keep getting screwed with it, because these NCOs refuse to buy them because they know they will be put on the detail.

    • Mark Gerecht


      I totally understand your position and where you are coming from because I have been in the exact same position. I fully agree that individuals that do not pull their weight or are perceived not to be pulling their weight can really bring down the team. However if they are going to ETS, then I fully understand it makes no sense for the Soldier to buy a new uniform they will more than likely never use again and most likely will never be able to sell it for the amount of money they invested in the uniform. However, I believe the unit has options to gamefully employ these Soldiers in other duties. Here are some thoughts:

      1. Consider sitting down with the Soldiers individually and in a professional manner discuss the issue with them. Something like SGT Smith, I need your assistance and support on a sensitive issue. Basically ask the Soldier to look at the issue from the perspective of the other Soldiers that are stuck pulling a lot of duty because the pool of Soldiers to participate in funerals is limited because of the uniform requirement. Ask the Soldier to look at the issue from the point of view of the others Soldiers who are picking up all of the funerals. You have nothing to lose because the worst answer they have is “NO”, the best answer is a “YES”. Like I said in the above post when I was given an order to do something that was optional and my leaders tried to make it mandatory I rebelled because it was wrong. If I was asked to help or support I usually responded in a positive manner. All I wanted was to be treated with dignity and respect. No one wants to be bullied or given an illegal order but most people will response to a request for help or assistance. Now you are asking them to spend a large chunk of change for something they may never use again so the acceptance rate might be low, but getting one or two of these guys is better than zero.

      2. The next option might be to consider finding other duties for these Soldiers to pull. For example maybe there is another post wide duty that requires manpower for support and does not require the new uniform. Use these Soldiers to pull these types of duty. It might even be possible to exempt the funeral detail from all other duty rosters in the company and battalion then assign the Soldiers without uniforms to pick up the slack on the duty rosters. The goal is to spread out the duties and responsibilities equally so everyone is pulling their weight or equal share.

      3. The company may even be able to coordinate with other units in the battalion or potentially another battalion. When units coordinate like this it is usually possible to find suitable details and duties for the Soldiers that are not capable of pulling duties with mandatory specified requirements. For example: When I was in the Personal Reliability Program (PRP) I was required to pull a two man duty that required me to have a security clearance and be certified to decode and encrypt specific electronic messages. Soldiers that did not have a clearance were assigned other duties to ensure each Soldier in the unit pulled their weight. When I was assigned to a Field Artillery unit, once a year we would enter a phase called “Red Cycle.” Basically this was our post support cycle. During this time the unit was basically responsible for funeral details, color guard, flag detail, range control, post guard duty, etc. It was fairly easy to make sure every Soldier pulled their weight. In some cases there were specific requirements like your uniform requirement. We even had a height requirement for the Color Guard. Naturally on Soldiers meeting the criteria could pull the designated duty but this did not prevent the remaining Soldiers from pulling other duties that balanced out the work load.

      Consider looking at alternatives that would allow Soldiers who participate in details requiring specific uniforms or other mandatory requirements like a “Security Clearance”, are removed from all other duties within the company and battalion. Then ensure that the remaining members of the unit that do not have the specific skills for these limited duties are placed on company, battalion, and/or post details in which the Soldier is fully qualified to participate. The key to these actions is to ensure that your actions are not punishment and legal and professional. If you have any concerns, contact the local IG or JAG and have them review the proposed program.

      Hope this Helps!
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