Today’s post is going to cover the SUTA Certificate. If you are not familiar with the SUTA Certificate, you should be after reading this article. For those who are familiar, you may want to read this, as SUTA is an often misunderstood and misused Army National Guard tool.
Terms and Definitions
The Army National Guard mandates that anyone who joins must commit to training for certain time periods throughout each year they are a member. These usually consist of 1 weekend each month and one yearly two week annual training.
Weekend training drills are broken into what are known as Unit Training Assemblies (UTA). A UTA is a drill that lasts up to 4 hours. As UTAs are added together, they become Multiple Unit Training Assemblies (MUTA). 2 UTAs can be held in 1 day’s time. Most weekend drills are considered MUTA-4. This would be 2 UTAs held on Saturday, and 2 held on Sunday.
So what is SUTA?
SUTA stands for Split Unit Training Assembly. Essentially, what this means is that one or more individuals are allowed to perform their UTAs at a different time, and possibly location than the others.
Circumstances Where SUTA Is Utilized
Naturally, Unit Commanders desire a large percentage of their Soldiers at MUTAs. There are cases where equipment needed for one part of the weekend training is not available. Some Commanders have found it necessary to schedule a SUTA so training can be true and complete. By doing this, the equipment will be available.
When this happens, the commander will provide the individual with a SUTA Certificate which shows the person’s civilian employer that they have orders to attend. Laws state that employers must honor all military orders, so they are obligated to allow the Soldier time off to attend the drill.
Another circumstance that occasionally happens is a Soldier has a conflict either in some form or another. A unit commander has the ability to authorize a SUTA for this Soldier. Some examples of situations that have arose where SUTAs are used may be:
A wedding of a close family member
Hospitalization of a close family member
A business conflict
These situations are dependent on the unit commander. Where one commander may give a Soldier leeway, another commander may not.
Overuse and Misuse of SUTA
This is where SUTA has many issues. A Soldier may transfer from an armory where he/she used SUTA often for multiple circumstances. They find out the new commander very seldom hands out SUTAs and the Soldier gets angry. Do they have the right to be angry?
In this writer’s opinion, the Army National Guard probably needs to put some more directives into place on allowing or disallowing SUTAs.
As I was researching some of the many military forums, I found individuals claiming that because they go to college, they should be allowed a SUTA during certain times such as just before finals. They also stated that the 2 weeks annual training hurt their college grades.
One answer was to not take classes during the annual training dates, and the Soldier screamed foul. Personally, I agree with the NCO that provided that answer. When an individual signs the dotted line and joins the Army National Guard, there is an understanding that the Army comes first. Most commanders will be understanding if a wife or child is in the hospital, something drastic like that. Many are even understanding if you have a business situation, as long as you don’t regularly request SUTAs, but when a Soldier is always asking for them, commanders will start questioning if that Soldier even wants to be in the Army National Guard.
Before you consider requesting a SUTA, it is wise to use empathy. Just put yourself in your commander’s shoes for a moment. If you were the commander, would you grant the request? Keep in mind that they have a duty and an obligation to make sure that each and every Soldier is fully trained. At any given moment, all hell could break loose and the unit may be deployed. If everyone in the unit is not trained properly, we all know the terrible things that can happen.
Chain of Command
I also found an individual who had recently started a new job. The job was demanding, and the person was finding it difficult to be able to leave for drill weekends. Her commander would not agree to a SUTA, so the Soldier was asking a retired military lawyer his recourse.
The attorney was blunt and told her, “You agreed to put the Army first, and your commander has every right to say no. Your employer, by law has to release you for drill weekends. You can follow the chain of command and go to the battalion level, but the odds are they will agree.”
I followed the whole story and the Soldier didn’t go to drill. She was marked as AWOL, and there are no more posts following.
The moral of all of that is to remember that when you start a new job, you need to tell them immediately about your Army National Guard duty. Yes, the economy is in tough shape now and jobs are hard to find, but your contract with the Army still comes first. You can request a SUTA, but it is always wise to not expect it.
Commanders, please be willing to have an open door policy. Your Soldiers will usually respect you if you listen. Be fair with SUTAs. If you provide one for the Soldier who has band practice, but not for the Soldier who has a sick child, you are losing respect, and you will lower morale. It is my opinion that you should let all your unit know immediately what you will allow and what you won’t.
I know that SUTA Certificates are a much debated subject. What do you think they should be allowed for? If you were a commander, how did you treat the SUTA situations that arose?
Soldiers, when and why do you think commanders should allow SUTA?
All opinions are welcome. Please comment below. Thank you for visiting. Remember that answers to many of your questions can be found in National Guard Regulation 350-1: Army National Guard Training.