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Can NCOs trash a Soldier’s room during a Health and Welfare Inspection?

When con­duct­ing a health and wel­fare inspec­tion are NCO’s allowed to trash a room that was neat and in order?

Wear it Right! Army Uniform Guide

No, they are not allowed to do this.

During a Health and Welfare inspection all Soldiers have to be treated exactly the same.  The command can establish that all Soldiers will have their drawers open, cabinets open, etc.  However, they can only look at what is in open view.  They cannot move things around in the drawers, throw property around and/or empty containers without the Soldier’s permission.  It is not an excuse to harass a Soldier.

Hazing or not, its disrespectful

If the NCO’s conducting the inspection are trashing your room during a health and welfare inspection they can be guilty of “hazing” and be in violation of AR 600-20.  AR 600-20, para 4-20a defines hazing as “any conduct whereby one military member or employee, regardless of Service or rank, unnecessarily causes another military member or employee, regardless of Service or rank, to suffer or be exposed to an activity that is cruel, abusive, oppressive, or harmful.”

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Staff Sergeant(R) Douglas “Eck” Eckstein is a former Paralegal NCO with over eleven years of service in the Army. He has served overseas tours in Korea and Iraq. Eck served on active duty for seven years working in the personnel administration field then, after a break in service, returned to active duty in 2009 when he earned the Military Occupational Specialty, 27D (paralegal). He has worked in the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate from Division level down to unit level. He has expertise in all aspects of military law, with extensive emphasis in Administrative Law and Soldiers Rights. “I am not an attorney and any views presented are my own and are not to be interpreted as legal advice. Furthermore, my views do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or its Components.”

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Wear it Right! Army Uniform Guide

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  • Some SPC


    Maybe someone can clarify for me the difference between a room inspection, Health and Welfare inspection, and a search.

    This passed Sunday it was brought to the attention of my unit command that a soldier was in the possession of contraband within the barracks. We had a range on Monday but first thing on Tuesday morning, Health and Welfare inspection. I am unclear if the intent of this was legal, but I have nothing to hide and this isn’t my issue.

    My issue is that during this, “Health and Welfare” inspection I was told to wait outside while four leaders in my company searched through my room. When I was directed to come back inside my mattress was flipped, my sheets were on the floor, my closet was emptied of all my belongings, drawers weren’t just emptied but completely removed and dumped out. Every box was opened, duffel bags were dumped in the middle of the floor, items were removed from a footlocker that was in my closet and toss on the bed frame. I could go on, but the end result I wasn’t able to set foot in my room without having to move something out of the way to avoid stepping on it. Took me 20 minutes just to find my phone underneath the mess. It wasn’t just me, but all soldiers within the company residing in the barracks had their rooms searched the same way. I just happened to have the most belongings so it seemed like the worst. Took me over 3 hours to clean the mess after getting released for the day.

    I believe that this was wrong but I lack any type of official supporting information. I don’t have an issue with room inspections, announced or not. Even if I did it’s the Army. But would this be considered a search? To my understanding a Health and Welfare inspection is suppose to be for leaders to ensure that their subordinate soldiers are living in a clean, healthy, and safe environment. Without probable cause, with the exception of the one soldier mentioned previously, are leaders authorized to open drawers, lockers, etc… without the presence of the soldier residing in the room and conduct a search? Not too mention tossing the room.

    My plan of action is to use the Commander’s Open Door Policy and explain how this inspection was conducted incorrectly and to protect the company, leader’s should be trained on how to correctly do so. I believe this to be the most professional course of action that can be taken. If anyone knows any Army Policies, Regulations, where in the MCM this is covered, please share.

    Not only myself but other soldiers in the unit took pictures of their rooms after the inspection was conducted. I strongly believe that if I bring these photos along with supporting information to my Commander the issue will be resolved without having to involve IG.

    • Some SPC


      Forgot to mention, but I am looking for more information than the two regulations mentioned but for any policy that supports the first paragraph of the answer.

    • Mark Gerecht


      After checking with one of our SME’s. It sounds as if you are being reasonable and your only concern is the trashing of your room. The leaders do not need to trash your room. This sounds as if it was more of a search. If it was truly a search it may have been unauthorized. During an authorized search anything found cannot be used in court. The question becomes who gave the instructions to do this? Also if anything belonging to a Soldier is broken the Soldier can file a loss claim with the servicing claims office. Local unit policy, normally brigade level, establishes how H&W will be conducted. It is possible that there is a violation of the commanders policy and those directing the inspection could be held accountable.If things are as you state there could be a violation of civil rights as well.

      Now what to do. You need to be caution in how you proceed. The commander will probably not react well to a SPC coming in and making a correction. But going in and requesting assistance and explaining how your room was trashed and asking the commander if it would be okay if the cops came in an turned his house upside down and them left. You must proceed with caution and be factual, unemotional, and professional. Another option is to anomalously contact to JAG or the IG and ask for advice. They can also work the complaint if you have concerns of retribution.

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