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The Sidebar: October

Graphic used for "The Sidebar" articles from the 30th Space Wing Staff Judge Advocate.(U.S. Air Force graphic/Caroline Lander)

The Sidebar is produced by the 30th Space Wing Office of the Staff Judge Advocate. It provides a monthly update on disciplinary issues on Vandenberg AFB and their consequences.

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Note: The Sidebar is produced by the 30th Space Wing Office of the Staff Judge Advocate. It provides a monthly update on disciplinary issues on Vandenberg AFB and their consequences.

Feedback, Counseling, and Reprimands - Learn the Lessons

In the military justice system, courts-martial and Article 15 actions get much of the attention. However, lower-level actions such as feedback, counseling and reprimands are just as important and often keep a small problem from becoming a big one. Supervisors, first sergeants, and commanders generally apply "progressive" discipline starting at the lower end of the spectrum in order to solve problems at the lowest appropriate level.

One recent Vandenberg case provides a good lesson in how an Airman did not learn the lessons his leaders were trying to teach him. In this case, an Airman arrived at Vandenberg from his first assignment, where he had performed relatively well. However, soon after he arrived here, the member's commander learned he had committed fairly significant misconduct in outprocessing that base. The commander responded to this misconduct by issuing the member a letter of reprimand.

An LOR is designed to be a significant "wake-up call" to a member, and should place the member on notice that he or she has significantly deviated from Air Force standards. Commanders often use an LOR as the last "warning shot" before the member faces nonjudicial punishment for additional misconduct.

In this instance, however, the LOR did not correct the member's behavior. A few months later, the Airman improperly collaborated with another Airman on a group training project, in violation of the training environment's rules. The commander would have been well within his rights to impose Article 15 punishment on the Airman, but the commander exercised restraint and issued another LOR to the member. Right around this same time, the Airman was found to be delinquent on his military Star Card and then lied to his supervisor about it. The supervisor exercised extreme leniency on the member and only verbally counseled him.

The Airman's leadership gave him three chances to correct his behavior by using tools such as counseling and reprimands. Many times, these tools prove effective in correcting behavior. Here, however, the Airman's conduct went from bad to worse. Just a couple months later, in the midst of the wing's extensive anti-DUI efforts, the Airman drove a vehicle on base while under the influence of alcohol. Security Forces personnel apprehended him, and this time, the squadron commander swiftly imposed Article 15 punishment on the Airman, reducing him one grade. The squadron commander then recommended that the 30th Space Wing Commander discharge the member with a "general characterization," and the wing commander approved this recommendation.

A general discharge carries long-term consequences. Airmen discharged with a general characterization are usually not eligible for GI Bill benefits. It also may make finding civilian employment difficult.

Most times, tools such as feedback, counseling, and reprimands turn around the member's behavior. Some people, however, simply don't learn the lessons their leaders are trying to teach them, and suffer the consequences. If you have received negative feedback, counseling, or a reprimand, recognize that your leadership is trying to lead you in a better direction. Learn the lessons before it's too late.

Courts-Martial

Vandenberg has three courts-martial scheduled for the coming months. A special court-martial of a 614TH Air and Space Operations Center member is set for Oct. 10. A second special court-martial of a 614th AOC member is scheduled for Oct.15. A general court-martial involving a 30th Civil Engineer Squadron member is docketed for Jan.7. Courts-martial are open to the public. Anyone interested in attending is encouraged to contact the legal office at 605-6200, as dates and times of proceedings are subject to change.