Five Reasons to Relieve a Subordinate Officer or NCO in the Army

Today, I want to talk about five different reasons to relieve a subordinate in the Army. You don’t hear about too many cases of people being “officially” relieved from duty. It does happen from time to time (formally), but normally people just get switched from one job to another job, and then they get a sub-par evaluation report. Normally, people won’t get relieved from duty “officially” unless they mess up terribly.

For the purpose of this article I want to share some “situations” that might cause someone to get relieved from duty. I also want to share some tips with you so you don’t get yourself in trouble.  I spent a couple hours “searching through the regulations” online and really couldn’t find any specific examples that “require” someone to be relieved of their duties.  Maybe I missed something so, if you are an expert, please share a resource I can reference to find this information.

I’m going to step out on a limb here. As a quick disclaimer: I would recommend that you sit down with your JAG Officer and supervisor to “educate” yourself before you ever relieve someone officially. The last thing you want to do is get yourself in trouble because you didn’t do it the right way.  That being said, here are five reasons to relieve someone of their official duties.

# 1 Fraud/Theft – If a subordinate blatantly steals property or money from the government and you have proof, this could be ground for a relief for cause.

# 2 Falsifying Paperwork – If a subordinate falsifies a document and you can prove it, that would be a reason to relieve them from duty. This might include an OER, an inventory, pay, travel voucher, or inspection results.

# 3 Improper Relationships – If one of your officers or NCOs is having improper relationships with a subordinate, that could be grounds to relieve them.

# 4 EO/Sexual Harassment – If one of your subordinates has EO or Sexual Harassment complaints, that could be grounds to relieve them.

# 5 Workplace Violence – If one of your subordinates is being violent at work and creating a hostile environment for one of their subordinates, that could be a reason to relieve them.

Tips for Success

Before you ever officially “relieve” someone from their duty position, make sure you dot your i’s and cross your t’s. What I mean by that is that you should consult with JAG and your supervisor beforehand. Get their input. In addition, make sure you reference the pertinent regulations to make sure you have your information correct.

Another great piece of advice is to wait until you have “cooled down” before you make a decision. In other words, don’t make a hasty decision while you are angry or upset.  It’s easy to make the wrong decision when you are emotional or angry.  If possible, sleep on it or at least step back from the situation and think about it for a few hours. This will give you clarity.

Also, please understand that the accused Soldier has rights too. In many cases, you will need to do a formal 15-6 Investigation or at a minimum, a Commander’s Inquiry to collect all the facts, before you make a decision. I cannot stress this enough: talk to JAG before you do officially relieve someone. The last thing you want to do is get yourself in trouble.

However, once you have the proper advice, sit down with the Soldier face-to-face, do the counseling, and relieve them of their duties. Have a witness with you and put everything in writing.  The sooner the better.

On a side note, if you have expertise in this subject, I would love to hear from you. Please share any tips or advice you have about “officially” relieving someone from their military duties. On the other hand, if you have been relieved or have relieved someone, I would love to hear your story. Just leave a comment below to share your story with the rest of our community. Thanks for visiting.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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14 thoughts on “Five Reasons to Relieve a Subordinate Officer or NCO in the Army”

  1. Hi Chuck. Great service you’re providing here. Thank you. What type of documentation do you need before firing someone for dereliction of duty? And what if none exist? Can I call my E-7 in my office and fire him/her because s/he didn’t attend a meeting, even though they’ve been doing a great job?

    1. You would need more than one counseling statement that you did for the person, especially to fire a senior NCO. You would want your initial counseling in writing, all quarterly counseling, plus any poor performance counseling to show a paper trail. Plus, you would need approval all the way up through the chain of command.

  2. What about drug use? I would of thought that would make the list. Can a leader pop hot but in the right circumstances not be fired?

  3. These are all good reasons to fire someone. While it might not be easy or fun to do, you have a responsibility as a supervisor to hold your people to the standards. As long as you document everything and do your job properly, I can’t think of any reason you wouldn’t be able to fire someone.

  4. I don’t think it would ever be fun to fire a subordinate, but I can see how important it is. The reasons you give are all good reasons to relive someone. Hopefully, I will never have to do that!

  5. Could the subordinate in the improper relationship also be fired? What about if the subordinate is sexually harassing or abusing someone in leadership whether NCO or other types of supervisors? These may seem like silly question, but I wonder. As I read through the posts on this blog, I notice many mentions of writing everything down on the job as soon after a related experience or incident occurs as possible. So true.

  6. Neil O'Donnell

    It is never easy firing someone. However, in certain circumstances, there is no other choice. Especially in instances where a subordinate is falsifying documents or he/she is harming others, the commanding officer has no choice in the matter. I definitely think consulting with JAG before acting is a wise decision. Having everything documented and a witness present to the meeting when you confront the subordinate is a good idea as well. It is important to also realize and accept that delaying the firing of an individual could allow for a more severe dereliction of duty by the subordinate.

    1. Firing people is an important part of a leader’s job. There’s nothing worse for morale than seeing an incompetent person move up through the ranks. If someone is bad at their job, give them a chance to fix it first. If that doesn’t work, fire them quickly. The longer you take to fire someone, the worse things get. Be quick to fire and slow to hire.

  7. It’s never easy or fun to fire someone, but sometimes it’s what needs to be done. The best leaders use tact and professionalism whenever they have to relieve a subordinate NCO or Officer. And they do it quickly and don’t drag it out.


    1. Good points, Artell. I’ve had to fire people and I rarely ever enjoyed doing it (unless it was a real dirt bag Soldier). But the sooner you can do it the better. Thanks for the comment.


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