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The Mentor - A Comprehensive Guide to Army Counseling and Leadership

Don’t I deserve a clean start?

I have not been a great Soldier in the past. I admit I have a loud mouth, but I am trying to correct my performance. Unfortunately, my chain of command will not cut me any slack. I have decided to do my best, but my Platoon Sergeant won't allow me to recover.

Example: A Specialist gave me a monthly counseling statement. The counseling was positive and I was glad someone was finally realizing that I was trying to improve. My Platoon Sergeant came by during the session and read my counseling statement. He then told the Specialist he could not counsel me because he was inexperienced and the PSG completed the counseling himself... needless to say the counseling was bad. I have also been given an invalid Article 15 while with this unit. I appealed it to the Battalion Commander who overturned the entire Article 15--further upsetting my chain of command.

Current Situation: We were in the field. My supervisor (the Specialist) was not in the field with us. He also went home on leave later that month. When we returned from the field, I was presented with a counseling statement that had been written by the Specialist who had not seen me for the majority month. The NCO who presented it to me stated he was just following orders. I was infuriated. I felt that the Specialist could not counsel me because he did not observe my performance for the month. I wrote "Whatever" in the Comments section of the counseling out of anger. Naturally, the chain of command is upset with me again. Here are my questions:

  1. Is the counseling invalid because the SPC was absent for the majority of the month?
  2. Does any regulation prohibit disrespect to a SPC?
  3. Does any regulation prohibit me from writing anything I want on a counseling?

Army Counseling Software - Include over 250 Army Counseling Examples

It appears you have taken ownership of your previous mistakes. It is good that you have decided to change. That being said, the difficult part will be living with the consequences of your previous actions. You must recognize that you have a number of obstacles to overcome. That does not mean, however, that you should be treated unfairly or unprofessionally.

Is the counseling invalid because the SPC was not present for the majority of the month?

If the counseling statement only addressed issues for which the Specialist was present, then I would have to say the counseling is valid. You could make the argument that the counseling is not a complete picture of your monthly performance. With that said, there is nothing in writing that demands that the individual who conducts a counseling session must be the individual who observed the performance.

Also, consider the implications of being given a counseling statement written by someone who is not present. You have no ability to discuss the material or to ask questions of the counselor. This is an issue you should discuss with your chain of command. Counseling is a two-way process. I would advise you to keep a copy of this counseling statement (you are entitled to have a copy).

Does any regulation prohibit disrespect to a SPC?

Yes, disrespect applies to anyone who outranks you. However, article 15’s are rarely given for disrespecting a SPC–this is usually reserved for NCOs and above–unless the SPC is in a position of authority. AR 600-20 lays out the foundation for this policy but does not specifically call it out.

Does any regulation prohibit me from writing anything I want on a counseling?

You can write anything you want on your counseling statement. But you need to realize that you are responsible for it. If I saw “Whatever” written on a counseling statement I would likely take it as an act of disrespect. It could indicate a lack of discipline or an unwillingness to correct substandard behavior. These aren’t the reactions you want to provoke when you are trying to turn over a new leaf.

You have several options:

  1. Approach the SFC and/or CDR/1SG and tell them that you have had a change of heart and desire to become a better Soldier. Openly ask them to allow you some room to breathe so you can begin to rebuild. You may also have to convey the specific examples you cited in your question so they understand why you feel you are being treated unfairly.
  2. You could ask for a rehabilitative transfer to another unit within the Battalion on the grounds that you do not think you are getting a fair shake in your current unit.
  3. As a last resort you could approach the IG and ask for a rehabilitative transfer. However, the best place to find the answer is with the chain of command. It worked for you in the past: Article 15’s are not often overturned.

I only have half of the information, but my advice is to pursue a rehabilitative transfer. I  suggest that you sit down and prepare a well-written statement that outlines the facts. Include the examples you have cited. Solicit statements or support from any witnesses who will back you up. This is your best chance to start over. Your counseling records will follow you to your new unit, but most units will give you the benefit of the doubt and allow you a relatively clean slate. Realize that this is probably your last chance. If you screw up at your new unit, they will likely separate you from service.

No matter which option you pursue, it is critical that you maintain absolute honesty and professionalism. Do not become emotional. Now is the time to check your smart mouth. If you sincerely want to be given another chance, then you have to perform and act like a professional Soldier. Remember that leaders usually get in trouble when the try to “get a Soldier” rather than handling the matter professionally. If you handle this situation in a professional manner, use the facts, tell the truth, and do not get emotional you have a good chance of being reassigned.

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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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The Mentor - A Comprehensive Guide to Army Counseling and Leadership

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