Article 15 Impact on Honorable Discharge: What to Know

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Facing an Article 15 in the military can feel like a career-defining moment. You might worry about the long-term impact it’ll have on your service record and the type of discharge you might receive.

It’s a common misconception that an Article 15 is a career-ender, but that’s not always the case. You might be surprised to learn that it’s possible to bounce back and still leave the service with your head held high. Let’s delve into how an Article 15 could affect your discharge status and what you can do about it.

Understanding Article 15 in the military

Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is a disciplinary action used by commanding officers to address minor misconduct within the ranks. Non-Judicial Punishment is another term you might hear in this context. This mechanism allows for an expedited process to maintain discipline without the need for a formal court-martial.

If you’re faced with an Article 15, it’s essential to recognize that it’s not inherently a career-ender. It’s designed to deal with violations like insubordination, tardiness, or failure to follow orders—issues that don’t necessarily warrant more severe legal action. It’s not equivalent to a criminal conviction; rather, it’s a corrective tool within the military structure.

When you’re presented with an Article 15, you have certain choices. You can accept it and the accompanying punishment, or you can decline and request a trial by court-martial. Choosing the latter can be risky since, if convicted, you might face harsher penalties. However, accepting an Article 15 doesn’t mean you agree with the allegations; it simply means you’re opting for the less formal process.

While receiving an Article 15 is serious, it’s crucial to know that it doesn’t automatically translate to a negative discharge status. The nature of the infraction and your complete service record play vital roles in determining how it affects your career and discharge potential. Good conduct, strong performance evaluations, and commendations can significantly mitigate the consequences of receiving an Article 15, demonstrating your overall value and integrity as a service member.

Steps to Take After Receiving an Article 15

Upon receipt of an Article 15, it’s advisable to:

  • Seek legal counsel immediately from a military defense attorney to understand the implications.
  • Collect character references and any awards or recognitions that display your commitment and performance.
  • Prepare your case thoroughly if opting to challenge the Article 15, ensuring you have a strong defense strategy.

By understanding the potential fallout and taking proactive measures, you can actively work towards maintaining a positive service record despite this hiccup. Remember, an Article 15 doesn’t have to define your military career; it’s often how you handle the situation that shapes the future of your service.

Impact of an Article 15 on your service record

When facing an Article 15, you’re likely concerned about how it will affect your military service record. It’s crucial to understand that an Article 15, while a disciplinary action, is part of your non-judicial punishment and does not automatically equate to a black mark on your record. However, the repercussions of this disciplinary measure can vary depending on the severity of the offense and how you choose to respond to the situation.

Military paperwork, particularly the DD Form 214, summarizes your service and discharge status. An Article 15 alone won’t reflect on this form, yet patterns of misconduct or additional infractions could. Repeated offenses might lead to more severe disciplinary actions, which can influence the characterization of your discharge. Characterization ranges from honorable to general, other than honorable, bad conduct, or dishonorable. The latter two can only be assigned through a court-martial, not an Article 15.

During your service, superiors review your conduct regularly, and these evaluations are vital components of your service record. An individual incident resulting in an Article 15 might be mitigated if followed by positive evaluations and demonstrated good conduct. Here’s how an Article 15 might manifest in your evaluation:

  • Mention of Incident: An Article 15 could be referenced in your evaluations, particularly if it’s related to your ability to perform your duties.
  • Overall Performance: If you show substantial improvement or excellence in performance thereafter, the impact of an Article 15 may be lessened.

Additionally, an Article 15 becomes part of your Official Military Personnel File (OMPF), but not all parts of this file are permanent. While the OMPF is a comprehensive record, certain documents can be removed over time, and with due process, under some circumstances. For instance, a filed Article 15 usually drops off your record after two years if you’ve committed no further offenses and have performed well.

Networking and building professional relationships also play a significant role in your career development. Peers and superiors who can vouch for your character and growth post-Article 15 can help mitigate its impact when considering promotions or special assignments.

Types of discharges in the military

When you’re in the military, understanding the types of discharges is crucial as they determine the nature of your exit from service. Your conduct and performance are critical factors in deciding which category you fall into.

The types of discharges are as follows:

  • Honorable Discharge: This is what every service member aims for. It means you’ve met or exceeded the required standards of service. Receiving an honorable discharge can open doors to a multitude of veterans’ benefits, including educational benefits and preferential employment opportunities.
  • General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions: Not quite as crisp as an honorable discharge, this one indicates acceptable service but perhaps some minor disciplinary actions or failure to meet certain standards. It’s generally still viewed positively but with a few reservations.
  • Other Than Honorable (OTH) Discharge: This type results from serious misconduct. An OTH discharge might involve situations like security violations, use of violence, or criminal conduct that warrants a strong administrative reaction. The repercussions can be significant, affecting your post-military life and benefits.
  • Bad Conduct Discharge (BCD): Handed down by a court-martial, this type of discharge reflects that a service member has stepped significantly outside the bounds of expected military conduct. BCDs can have severe impacts on civilian life and may render you ineligible for most, if not all, military benefits.
  • Dishonorable Discharge: This is the most severe form of military discharge and is reserved for the most heinous offenses, such as desertion, murder, or fraud. It’s the result of being convicted at a general court-martial for violation of the UCMJ. Those with a dishonorable discharge face daunting obstacles when returning to civilian society, including the loss of all military benefits and societal stigma.

Your discharge classification ultimately hinges on multiple factors. As such, the presence of an Article 15 in your service record doesn’t automatically disqualify you from receiving an honorable discharge. However, repeated infractions or severe misconduct could certainly influence the outcome. Remember, your overall performance, conduct, and the nature of the behaviors leading to any Article 15s are taken into account. Keep your record as clean as possible and seek guidance if you find yourself facing disciplinary action.

Can you still get an honorable discharge?

If you’ve faced an Article 15, you might worry about your ability to receive an honorable discharge. While it’s true that an Article 15 indicates non-judicial punishment for misconduct, having one or even a few on your service record doesn’t necessarily preclude you from being honorably discharged. Several factors come into play when the military determines your discharge status:

  • The severity of the infraction
  • The circumstances surrounding your misconduct
  • Your overall service record
  • The potential for rehabilitation

Service members with an Article 15 retain the opportunity to prove themselves worthy of an honorable discharge by demonstrating change and commitment to military standards. Actions taken after an infraction can heavily influence your commanding officer’s recommendations during the discharge process.

For instance, if you’ve received an Article 15, but afterward, dedicate yourself to exemplary conduct and receive positive evaluations, your chances of securing an honorable discharge can increase significantly. Your command may weigh your entire service history instead of focusing singularly on your infractions.

Consistent improvement and a demonstrated commitment to rectifying past behaviors can reflect positively on your discharge status. Add to that the successful completion of all assigned duties and training, you could very well be on your way to an honorable discharge despite your previous Article 15.

Remember that the military values redemption and improvement as much as initial conduct. Showing that you’ve learned from your experience and have since upheld the values and standards expected of all service members is crucial.

In some cases, you may even qualify for an upgrade of your discharge status if you’re found to have been unjustly penalized or if your post-service conduct has been exemplary. Applying for a discharge upgrade through the Discharge Review Board requires compiling a substantial case, but it can be a viable option for those seeking to rectify their service records.

Factors that may affect your discharge status

When you’re dealing with the repercussions of an Article 15, you might worry about how it’ll impact your discharge status. Keep in mind that a variety of factors are assessed to determine the final characterization of your service.

Performance and Behavior
Your overall performance and behavior in the service are critical. A single Article 15 does not define your entire military career. Your command will consider:

  • Length of service
  • Conduct before and after the Article 15 incident
  • Awards and decorations you’ve earned
  • Any previous record of disciplinary issues or commendations

If your service records show positive trends and the Article 15 is an isolated incident, you might still be eligible for an honorable discharge.

Severity of the Infraction
The seriousness of the offense committed plays a major role. Lesser offenses can be viewed as correctable mistakes:

  • Minor Infractions: These might include being late to muster or minor altercations.
  • Major Infractions: These would involve actions that are in direct violation of the UCMJ and have a greater impact on unit morale and safety.

Units often look for patterns of behavior, so a one-time mistake is treated differently than repeated offenses.

Command Discretion
Discretion at the command level cannot be understated. Commanding officers have the authority to weigh the circumstances and evidence. They’ll consider:

  • Your potential for rehabilitation
  • Any mitigating or extenuating circumstances surrounding your misconduct

If you’ve taken responsibility and shown genuine efforts toward improvement, your commander might be more inclined to recommend an honorable discharge.

Legal Consultation
Legal advice is always recommended. Talk to your JAG officer or defense counsel to understand how your case may be interpreted and to present the best possible defense or argument for an honorable discharge consideration.

It’s crucial to stay proactive and engaged in your defense and rehabilitation process. Work closely with your command and legal counsel to navigate the situation effectively. Remember, your long-term commitment to the military’s standards plays a significant role in the outcome of your discharge status.

Steps to improve your discharge status

Facing an Article 15 can be daunting, but there are definitive steps you can take to improve your chances of securing an honorable discharge. The military, after all, values effort and commitment to rectifying mistakes.

First and foremost, you’ll need to embrace behavior that positively reflects military values. This means adhering strictly to all regulations, showing respect to superiors and peers, and going above and beyond in your duties. A pattern of exemplary conduct following any misconduct can significantly influence your commanders’ perception.

Maintain a strong performance in your responsibilities, which includes being punctual, reliable, and dedicated to your unit’s mission. Excellence in your routine duties sends a powerful message about your commitment to military standards. Consider the following strategies:

  • Take on additional responsibilities or volunteer for challenging assignments.
  • Consistently seek feedback from superiors on how to improve your service.
  • Engage in ongoing professional development and military education.

Gathering character statements from peers and supervisors can also support your case. These statements should outline your positive contributions to the unit and provide evidence of your character rehabilitation. They serve as testimonials to your dedication and growth since the incident that prompted the Article 15.

Another key step is seeking legal counsel. A military defense attorney can offer guidance tailored to your unique situation and help prepare a robust defense if you’re up for review by the Discharge Review Board. They can also advise you on the processes involved in challenging or upgrading your discharge status.

Continuous self-improvement is vital. This can include:

  • Attending counseling or therapy sessions if required.
  • Participating in service-related community events.
  • Completing relevant courses that contribute to your military career.

Remember, the road to recovering your standing within the military is a marathon, not a sprint. Your consistent efforts to demonstrate change and adherence to military regulations are what will pave the way towards the possibility of an honorable discharge.


Navigating the aftermath of an Article 15 can be challenging, but it’s clear that an honorable discharge isn’t out of reach. Your path forward hinges on your ability to show genuine improvement and adherence to military values. Remember, your service record and actions post-infraction have substantial weight in final discharge evaluations. If you’re committed to change and take proactive steps toward rehabilitation, you stand a good chance of achieving a positive outcome. Don’t underestimate the power of a strong defense and the impact of continuous self-improvement on your military career. Stay focused, seek support when needed, and keep striving for excellence. Your efforts can pave the way to an honorable discharge, reflecting your dedication to service and resilience in the face of adversity.


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