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Friday, June 03, 2005

Throw the bums out! 
Who should have the authority to discharge soldiers?

Phil Carter convincingly makes the case in Slate magazine here:

http://slate.com/id/2120146/

that discharge authority should be retained at the battalion level.

I agree wholeheartedly.

In the National Guard, echelons above battalion have long demonstrated a willingness to hang onto marginal soldiers or "ghost soldiers" and keep them fraudulently on the books in order to make numbers look good, preserve the unit's or the state's readiness category rating, and preserve full-time Guard and Reserve jobs.

I haven't seen any such widespread practices in the last few years -- things got better after Dave Moniz plastered the "ghost soldier" story on the front page of USA Today. But the institutional tendency is there. Company and battalion level leaders are usually part-timers and don't give a rat's ass.

Moreover, currently, as a unit commander, I have article 15 authority over the ranks E-1 to E-4, and provided I provide soldiers with adequate due process and ground my actions in the UCM J, I can bust bad soldiers down to E-1 more or less at will.

As a unit commander, I should also have discharge authority over these guys. For the most part, at the E-1 to E-4 level, I have the ability to transfer these soldiers from platoon to platoon. Sometimes a change of scenery and a new platoon sergeant can make a lot of difference, and turn a marginal performer into at least an adequate one.

If my First Sergeant and I want to DC a soldier, though, it's only because we've already tried a new platoon or section, or because the soldier's psychological make-up is such that his continued presence is outright destructive to the unit. And although I don't know all of my soldiers intimately well, at the company level, we're close enough to the action to be able to make an informed and rational assessment, but still far enough removed so that I don't have to get wrung up emotionally in the decision. For instance, if someone's insubordinate, chances are he wasn't insubordinate to ME, personally, but to his squad leader or platoon sergeant.

I don't tolerate that crap. But I'm far enough removed to be able to ID a problem and be objective about it. (Which a lot of times means I have to coach the NCO about how to build an airtight case next time so I CAN throw the book at the soldier.)

When it comes to getting rid of bad NCOs, then a lot of times you want to first try a transfer to another company. A new 1SG might be able to get through to a marginal performer. I know I've received NCOs that have had problems in other units that turned out just fine for me, and I've let some people go whom I wasn't happy with who turned out to be solid performers elsewhere.

At the NCO level, then, keeping the DC authority at the battalion level makes sense.

Court martial authority for E7s and above rests at the brigade level. In these instances, it may be appropriate to keep DC authority at brigade. But I don't think so.

Commanders know their soldiers best. I'm a company commander, and I've only spoken with my brigade commander a couple of times. To say that he can make a better decision than me about what to do with a problem E-3 is simply absurd.

Splash, out

Jason

Comments:
I am still not real clear what the real issue is that Slate highlighted.So the approval level is now Brigade. I remember when elimination took Division approval. Yep, you had to get all the hacks all the way thru the Div Cdr. In my experience after a rehab transfer, recorded and signed counseling statements, there was never a problem getting a dud out. They knew what they were doing too. Duds, understood the system as well. If I recall the Slate article after scanning it yesterday it implied the Army was going to keep it's drug users and other scumbags...you know that ain't gonna happen!
 
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