I do not know the specifics of the situation with regard to the information your command had with regard to conducting the room searches. There is a difference between a walk through for general cleanliness/functionality and searches. If the unit has removed Soldiers from their rooms to conduct a health and welfare inspection or search I believe they are trying to prevent Soldiers from hiding or removing illegal items. I personally do not see a problem with this method. From the Soldiers perspective I can understand that it can be pretty demoralizing and can lead to feelings of distrust or unfair treatment. The Soldier must also understand the chain of command generally, typically, usually, has a reason for their actions. In most cases I believe the chain of command is doing what they believe to appropriate. It could be that the command is receiving information that there maybe contraband in the barrack and they have a legal responsibility to take action. If on the other hand rooms are being turned upside down and you feel that there are improper searches being conducted that is another issue. Having Soldiers stand ready in the hall could be an option the command may not of thought of or as I stated earlier they may clearly know and understand what they are doing and want to ensure that no Soldier has the opportunity to remove items from the room. You might want to consider approaching the chain of command with your concerns and seek an explanation or understanding of the issue from the senior leaderships’ perspective. Consider asking the 1SG for a mentoring session on the issue. I would caution you to approach the request in a very positive upbeat and professional manner. Rather than in a manner that seems to question their authority. I can fully understand Soldiers do not like being treated as if they are guilty or have done something wrong. The leaders in the unit must do their best to strike a balance in these types of issues. Leaders need to treat Soldiers they way they want to be treated and Soldiers must understand that at times certain actions like removing the Soldier from the area may be appropriate. So I guess my short answer is this: If it is practical and it does not jeopardize the integrity of the search I see no reason why a Soldier should not be present. If on the other hand specifics of the situation require the chain of command to remove Soldiers from the area to protect the integrity of the search then this may also be appropriate. Perhaps the Soldiers could be called into to open their rooms sent to a central location and when the MPS and leadership are about to enter the room they have the Soldiers come to the room and stand in the door way to observe. I know this is most likely not the hard and fast answer you were looking for but I really believe it is situation driven. I will bounce this off of one of our SME’s to get his opinion. Here is some additional information on Health and Welfare: 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. You also might want to check out the following post on ASKTOP.net that are related to this subject: Health and Welfare Posts: I hope I at least put the issue into perspective and provided some insight.
CSM is spot on in his response. It is not required to have a Soldier present during a Health and Welfare (H&W) Inspection or a Search for that matter. Some commands will have a Soldier stand outside their room during a H&W so the Soldier can answer any questions the command may have when walking through. However, when the MPs are used to assist in a H&W, the MPs normally bring the drug detection K-9s through. In my past experience, when K-9s are used, the MPs require the Soldiers be out of the barracks when bringing the dogs through. If something is detected, then that Soldier is normally brought back into the barracks at that time.
I know it sucks to live in the barracks and have to put up with these inspections. However, it is a necessary tool the command uses to maintain good order and discipline in the unit. Unfortunately, the misconduct of a few affects everyone.
“I am not an attorney. The opinions expressed are my own and are not to be in anyway interpreted or inferred as legal advice.”