Army Officer Discipline Ideas

Today, I want to talk about some Army Officer Discipline ideas.  I understand this is a bit of a taboo subject to talk about, but that being said, I still believe it’s important to cover.

One of the biggest complaints I heard while I was in the Army was that Officers could get away with things that enlisted Soldiers couldn’t get away with.  Officers could violate UCMJ, policy and regulations and nothing would happen to them.  Yet, when enlisted Soldiers did the same thing they got punished.  It’s as if there was/is a double standard.  This double standard frequently led to animosity, contempt and anger between the enlisted and Officer ranks, and rightfully so.

My goal today is to help Officers who lead/supervise other Officers deal with this issue effectively.

First and foremost, as an Officer, you are held to a higher standard than enlisted Soldiers, especially as you move up through the ranks. People are always watching you, even when you don’t know it or see it.  And you have a big responsibility to always set a strong personal example and to do the right thing, even when no one else is around.  That just comes with the ground.

In addition, you also have the responsibility to ensure that everyone under your authority (including your subordinate Officers) are doing the right thing.  Your job is to enforce the Army standards equally and NOT play favorites.

When you have the opportunity to lead other Officers, there might be times when you have to discipline your subordinate Officers. This is definitely not a common thing to happen, but it could happen.  After all, we are all human and make mistakes.  Of course, some mistakes are forgivable, but there are certain things you can’t tolerate.  And your job as a leader is to follow Army standards yourself and enforce the standards to everyone under your authority.

This is never a fun or easy issue to deal with, but it’s of the utmost importance.  What I want to do below is share a few tips for you to follow when it comes to disciplining your subordinate Army Officers.  Please keep in mind these ideas are just my opinion based upon my experience.

# 1 Address issues immediately – When an issue is brought to your attention, about one of your subordinate Officers, do your due diligence and address the issue immediately.  The longer you put things off, the worse things will get.

# 2 Don’t cover things up – Don’t cover things up and push them under the rug.  When you do that no one wins!  When your Soldiers see you letting your subordinate Officers get away with bloody murder (not literally) it has a negative impact on morale.  If someone does something wrong, you have the responsibility to enforce the standards, not to try and hide things so you don’t look bad!

# 3 Don’t jump to conclusions – It’s easy to jump to conclusions, but before you issue punishment or do anything you will regret, make sure you collect all the facts and hear both sides of the story.  After all, there are ALWAYS more than one side to a story.

# 4 Put things in writing –  When you deal with an issue, put it in writing.  Create a paper trail so you have things to back up your recommendations.  It sounds like common sense here but a lot of Officers mess this up.

# 5 Make sure the punishment matches the crime – This is another important lesson I learned as a young Officer.  Make sure that the crime matches the punishment.  For example, you don’t need to court martial someone who is two minutes late for formation, but you don’t want to “just do a counseling” on someone who is accused of rape, sexual assault or battery.

# 6 Don’t play favorites – When two officers make the same mistake, don’t punish one and let the other one go.  This is one of the biggest mistakes that leaders make.  For instance, if an Officer fails height and weight, make sure you flag them, just like you would your enlisted Soldiers.

# 7 Know the regulations – You have to know the regulations.  Educate yourself about what the Army Standards are.  Policies do change from time to time, so make sure you know what is and isn’t allowed.  By no means do you have to memorize the regulations, but you should have a good, quick place to reference them when needed.

# 8 Consult with JAG/Senior Commanders – Before making a major decision that could negatively affect the entire command, take the time and consult with a Senior Commander and JAG.  This will give you an additional perspective from people who have experience dealing with these issues.

Final Thoughts

While most Officers strive to do the right thing, there will be times when they mess up and do things they shouldn’t do.  When your subordinate Officers do that, you need to follow the advice mentioned above and make sure that the situation is handled promptly and correctly.  Otherwise, it can have a negative impact in your unit.

What are your thoughts on this subject?  Leave a comment below and let us know.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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5 thoughts on “Army Officer Discipline Ideas”

  1. Effective discipline is never taboo – it is a necessary step in ensuring quality and expectations. I would have put Document Everything as #1 though. There are two major points I have learned from experience: 1. when you document even the most menial of infractions then you generate a history from its genesis. Writing everything down will show improvement or document a trend in mistakes or misbehavior. 2. Know the rules and enforce them all the time. It’s no good to play fast and loose with the rules because when push comes to shove and you have to be an enforcer because your superior is watching, then your subordinates will know you are full of crap and inconsistent.

  2. It can be a terrible thing if officers are breaking rules and getting away with it and soldiers see it. I am in full agreement that these problems need to be dealt with immediately. If it is allowed to keep happening, the problems will grow much larger. I really concur with the part about not jumping to conclusions. We need to always hear all sides to a story before we ever render judgement. This was a great post that did need to be covered. Good job!

    1. Candace Ginestar

      I think the perception that officers can get away with things is not good, and should be worked to fix. I agree that problems should be dealt with quickly and professionally.

    2. Towards the end you mentioned knowing regulations. This is very important and knowing right where to look is also important. This is where I have to go along with what is mentioned last, consulting JAG or senior officers is very wise. They will know the regulations, or at least will know where to look. I am glad you covered this taboo subject. It is important that subjects such as this are covered.

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