Courts-martial, Article 15s, discharge actions in 2016

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Cameron Green
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Staff Judge Advocate Office

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – Thirteen military members assigned to Vance Air Force Base received Article 15 non-judicial punishments, faced courts-martial or received administrative discharges in 2016.

One airman first class, five senior airmen, and one staff sergeant were given Article 15s for offenses including: failure to go, making a false official statement, disrespect toward a superior non-commissioned officer, failing to obey a lawful order, drunken driving and abusive sexual contact.

In four of the five cases, the individuals received reduction in grade or a suspended reduction.

Two of the individuals punished received forfeitures of pay. The first was garnished $981 for one month. The second individual forfeited $969 per month for two months.

In all seven cases, the individuals received reprimands from their commanders.

An Article 15 is a disciplinary measure used to promote positive behavioral changes in service members without the stigma of a court-martial.

An Article 15 can be given for violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice or violations of state or federal laws. Punishment under Article 15 can affect promotions, assignments and re¬enlistment opportunities.

Commanders tailor decisions on each punishment to the circumstances, seriousness of offenses committed and the member’s past disciplinary history.

Two members assigned to Vance were tried by courts-martial during 2016. One member was tried by special court-martial for a charge of violation of UCMJ Article 121, larceny of military property. The second case was tried before a general court-martial for a charge of violation of UCMJ Article 120, sexual assault.

There are a number of key differences between a special court-martial and a general court-martial.

In a general court-martial, punishments can include dishonorable discharge, confinement for life and capital punishment. This form of trial is limited to offenses that would constitute felony offenses under the civilian justice system.

A special court-martial is convened under the authority of the wing commander. A general court-martial is convened under the authority of a general officer -- normally a Numbered Air Force commander.

In the special court-martial, the accused requested discharge in lieu of trial by court-martial. The request was granted by the convening authority. In the general court-martial, charges against the accused were dismissed.

A request for discharge in lieu of trial by court-martial, referred to as a Chapter 4 request, is authorized in Chapter 4 of Air Force Instruction 36-3208, “Administrative Separation of Airmen.” The request allows an individual to receive a negative service characterization separation from the Air Force as an alternative to facing a trial by court-martial, which avoids a potential conviction on the individual’s record.

There were four administrative discharges in 2016: one discharge for fraudulent enlistment, two discharges as a result of the members committing minor disciplinary infractions and one administrative discharge as the consequence of a sexual assault offense.

Discharge actions are not limited to the enlisted force. A discharge action was initiated for an officer who failed to meet the fitness standards outlined in AFI 36-2905, “Fitness Program.”