Whether you are receiving a letter of reprimand from your battalion commander, a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand (GOMAR) or some other adverse administrative action (reduction in rank, bar to re-enlistment, or Article 15), you will be given a chance to respond to the action in writing. The period of time that you will have to submit your response is usually seven duty days from the date you received notification of the adverse administrative action.
Submitting a written response to an adverse administrative action should be carefully done. In many cases, the statements and documents you attach will be the only favorable information about you in the action. For example, in a GOMAR action you should never pass up this opportunity to submit matters to the command. If you are seeking to be retained in the Army, your response may persuade the commander to file the action in your local or restricted fiche as opposed to your performance fiche. This filing determination may mean the difference between you being allowed to continue your term of service or be separated. Your response may also convince the command that the adverse action is too harsh. Even if your response does not persuade your commander to reconsider the adverse action, it may convince him or her to give you a second chance to show that you can perform properly.
If you are thinking about signing a chapter, letter of reprimand, GOMAR, Article 15 or some other adverse administrative action without responding, you should definitely talk with an attorney before making your final decision. If you have questions about what to include in your response, you should either go to the Trial Defense Service and speak with a military attorney, or consider retaining a civilian counsel to assist you in this important matter. In any event, you should always submit a rebuttal because you really have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
To aid you in this process, I have included the following specific tips below. These tips are intended to give you some ideas and guidelines. These tips are not intended as a substitute for the personal legal advice of an attorney. In preparing a rebuttal, consider the following guidelines:
· BE ON TIME. Know when the rebuttal is due and do not miss the deadline. If you do not have enough time, you need to talk to you commander about getting an extension. If your request is denied, turn in what you can and note in your rebuttal when you asked for an extension, why, and that your request was denied.
· BE HONEST AND SUPPORT YOUR POINTS. You can expect everything you say to be compared with what other people think is the truth. Make sure that every claim you make is supported with witness statements or documents, if possible. Your response will not mean much if you do not have any credibility. Be precise in your language and be accurate. Remember, your statement and those of your witnesses lock you into a story; once it is on paper, you cannot change it later without hurting your credibility.
· BE COMPLETE. Your response should usually address every negative point made against you in the adverse action. Every adverse action packet contains Article 15s, counseling statements, or other documentation that “proves and supports" the adverse action against you. You are the only person that can point out why a certain piece of evidence against you is misleading or unfair. You must point out defenses or extenuating circumstances that will make you look better. You must point out any reasons that you believe might cause your accusers to be biased against you. If you think somebody is lying or mistaken, then point out evidence to show a motive to color the truth, or point out why you think a person is mistaken. Be specific and, again, support your statements. You cannot expect to attract much attention by making unsupported accusations. You will have more credibility if you cite specific instances to prove your points and mention the names of witnesses. Again, there is a danger here that if you are wrong, it will be a fairly simple matter of proving this by talking to your witnesses; but if you are right, you need not worry.
· ATTACH STATEMENTS AND DOCUMENTS TO YOUR REBUTTAL. You should support your points with statements from others if possible and refer to those statements and other documents or records in your rebuttal. Each statement should identify the person making it: include full name, SSN and unit. If the statement describes a specific event then it should identify the approximate time, date, and location of the event.
· ATTACH CHARACTER STATEMENTS OF PEOPLE WHO KNOW YOU WELL. People in your present or former chain of command will carry the most weight. Each character statement should be addressed to your commander and signed by the person making the statement. The statement should include information about the following: How long the witness has known you; duty relationship to you; personal relationship with you; evaluation of your duty performance and soldierly qualities; your attitude about military service; and problems that you have had with the unit or in your personal life and your efforts to overcome these problems. Modify these suggestions as needed to have the statements and documents fit your situation.
· INCLUDE AWARDS AND LETTERS OR CERTIFICATES OF COMMENDATION.
· PAY ATTENTION TO THE USE OF TACTICS. It may be advisable to refrain from disclosing the names of certain witnesses or information in your response for tactical reasons. If you are likely to face a show cause board or some subsequent administrative reduction or elimination board based upon the adverse action, you may not want to tip off your commander and the government representative (who acts like a prosecutor at the subsequent board). You may want the element of surprise up to a certain point, and by bringing it up in your written response you will allow the government to prepare a stronger rebuttal. If this is the case, you need to discuss such information in detail with your attorney. While tactics may play a part in actions where you are entitled to a hearing, if you are not entitled to a hearing you should usually lay all your cards on the table, because your written response is your only means of affecting the action in your favor.
The foregoing information has been prepared to assist you in planning your rebuttal to the adverse action pending against you. It is not intended for use as a substitute for the personal legal advice to which you are entitled.