Understanding Article 91: Consequences of Disrespecting an NCO

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Understanding military conduct is crucial, and Article 91 stands out as a cornerstone in maintaining the discipline and respect within the ranks. It’s the rulebook for how you interact with Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs), and crossing the line could mean serious trouble. If you’re in the service, knowing the dos and don’ts of Article 91 isn’t just good sense—it’s a necessity.

Ever wonder what happens if you step out of line with an NCO? Article 91 has the answer, detailing the consequences of disrespecting a superior. Whether it’s a heated argument or a willful act of insubordination, this article lays down the law on proper military decorum. Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of Article 91 and why it’s a critical part of military life.

What is Article 91?

When you’re part of the armed forces, Article 91 becomes a fundamental aspect of your conduct. It’s specifically dedicated to the proper treatment of your superiors, focusing on how you should interact with Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs). Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), Article 91 protects NCOs from acts of disrespect, insubordination, and certain types of aggression from subordinate personnel.

Delving deeper, Article 91 outlines a range of behaviors considered disrespectful. This can include verbal assaults, willful defiance, or failing to follow lawful orders given by a superior NCO. The article mandates a level of decorum and respect that enlisted personnel must uphold in their interactions with superiors. The importance of this article cannot be overstressed, as it ensures the chain of command is preserved, which is vital for military effectiveness and discipline.

Behavior that violates Article 91 can result in disciplinary actions, including a court-martial if the act is severe enough. If you’re charged under Article 91, the severity of the penalty often correlates with the rank of the NCO involved and the circumstances leading up to the incident. Penalties can range from a formal reprimand to more significant consequences like reduction in rank, forfeiture of pay, or even confinement.

Understanding the expectations under Article 91 is crucial. Military law is unforgiving with breaches, given the high stakes involved in maintaining discipline and respect. As a service member, knowing the boundaries and expectations of your conduct is not only about self-preservation but also about contributing to the operational integrity of your unit.

The Importance of Military Conduct

Understanding military conduct goes beyond mere protocol – it’s crucial for the functioning of any military operation. Article 91 acts as a linchpin in this complex system, and you’re expected to adhere to it with the utmost seriousness. The smooth operation of military affairs hinges on the respect and orderly conduct among service members, particularly towards NCOs.

Within the armed forces, every role serves a purpose, and disrupting this intricate balance by disrespecting an NCO can have far-reaching consequences. It’s not just about maintaining personal relationships but ensuring that the chain of command remains unbroken. Disrespect towards an NCO can erode trust and reduce a unit’s effectiveness, potentially compromising mission success.

The rules set out in Article 91 are designed to promote discipline and cohesion within your unit. When you show proper respect to your NCOs, you’re not only following orders but also strengthening the military ethos. Discipline is deeply ingrained in military culture, and it all begins with how service members interact with one another.

  • Proper greeting of superiors
  • Following lawful orders without hesitation
  • Addressing NCOs with the appropriate titles

These are just some of the ways to show respect as mandated by Article 91. Following these protocols isn’t merely about avoiding disciplinary action; it’s about contributing positively to your unit’s morale and efficiency.

Insubordination isn’t taken lightly in the military. Violating Article 91 could lead to serious disciplinary actions, including court-martial, which could end your military career and lead to a dishonorable discharge. That’s why it’s vital that you fully grasp the gravity of military conduct and live up to the standards demanded by the service. Remember, the military’s strength is based on unity and discipline, aspects that are tightly woven into the fabric of Article 91.

Understanding Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs)

Non-Commissioned Officers play a critical role in the military hierarchy. They’re the backbone of the armed forces, bridging the gap between the enlisted ranks and commissioned officers. As an enlisted member, understanding the responsibilities and authority of NCOs is paramount to your military career.

NCOs serve as the first line of leadership; they’re mentors, disciplinarians, and key advisors to junior soldiers. Their experience and expertise make them invaluable assets on and off the battlefield. They’re charged with maintaining standards and implementing a commander’s orders with precision. Trust and respect flow both ways in these relationships—you respect your NCOs, and they advocate for you.

Engaging with NCOs requires a certain level of decorum. Addressing them properly is not optional; it’s a basic tenet of military respect. This means using their rank and surname when speaking or responding to them. Whether it’s a casual briefing or a formal setting, your conduct towards an NCO should reflect the respect their position commands.

Given their significant role, it stands to reason that the armed forces do not take disrespect towards NCOs lightly. While you might understand that yelling or acting insubordinate to an NCO is disrespectful, even rolling your eyes or using a sarcastic tone can be construed as disrespect under Article 91. It is important to grasp that nonverbal communication often speaks volumes.

Remember, the successful functioning of military operations heavily relies on the structured and respectful interaction between ranks. NCOs are entrusted with substantial authority to carry out their duties effectively. It’s crucial to acknowledge their contributions and understand the weight of their position. Doing so not only solidifies the chain of command but also fosters a professional and conducive environment for everyone serving.

The Dos and Don’ts of Article 91

Ensuring you’re well-versed with the nuances of Article 91 is paramount for maintaining order and respect within the military. Adherence to this article is not just about following rules; it’s about embracing the ethos that shapes effective soldiers.

Recognize the Importance of Proper Etiquette

Always address NCOs by their rank and surname, as this shows the due reverence for their position. Direct communication should be clear, concise, and conducted with proper military bearing. Saluting, standing at attention, or at ease, depending on the situation, affirms your acknowledgement of their authority.

Understand What Constitutes Disrespect

Disrespect can manifest in various forms—it’s not limited to what you say but also how you act. Eye rolls, smirks, and even a tone of voice that conveys disdain can translate into a charge of disrespect under Article 91. Keep interactions professional, avoiding any behavior that can be interpreted as derisive or contemptuous.

Maintain Composure Under Stress

High-pressure situations test your discipline. No matter how stressful the environment, it’s crucial to maintain composure when engaging with an NCO. Elevated voices or aggressive body language are counterproductive and can escalate to disciplinary action.

Avoid Disrespectful Gestures or Language

  • Foul language or curses directed at an NCO
  • Insubordinate or mocking gestures
  • Disobeying a lawful order in a disrespectful manner

Report Violations Appropriately

If you witness or are a party to a potential violation of Article 91, follow the proper channels for reporting. Jumping the chain of command or gossiping about the incident is ill-advised. Instead, use official reports or speak to the proper military authority tasked with handling such concerns.

By navigating the dos and don’ts of Article 91 responsibly, you bolster the foundational respect inherent to military service. Remember, respecting NCOs aligns with respecting the pillars of military tradition and the honor of the uniform you wear.

Consequences of Disrespecting an NCO

When you fail to adhere to the standards set by Article 91, there are immediate and far-reaching consequences for disrespecting an NCO. The military justice system takes such infractions seriously, and the penalties reflect the severity of the offense.

Punitive Actions can range from formal reprimands to more severe measures. Depending on the extent of the disrespect, consequences may include:

  • Reduction in rank
  • Forfeiture of pay
  • Extra duties
  • Confinement

In more serious cases, service members might face a court-martial. This legal process can lead to a criminal record that impacts your future both inside and outside the military. Such consequences ensure the respect and order necessary for the effectiveness and cohesion of military units.

Professional Impact is also profound. Disrespectful conduct can tarnish your reputation, making it harder to secure advancements or desirable assignments. Your performance evaluations could reflect your conduct, hindering career progression. Promotions may stall or be completely unattainable if your actions demonstrate a lack of military bearing or disregard for the chain of command.

Personal Relationships within your unit could also suffer. Disrespect towards an NCO can create tension and erode the trust essential for team collaboration. Your peers may perceive you negatively, which could isolate you within the rank structure and hinder your ability to function effectively as a team member.

It’s important to understand the gravity of your actions. The military’s structure depends on a hierarchy that’s respected and adhered to. When you compromise this structure, it’s not just a breach of protocol; it’s an act that undermines military discipline and efficacy. Therefore, maintaining respect for NCOs isn’t just about following orders; it’s about preserving the fabric of military unity and function.


Understanding and adhering to Article 91 is crucial for maintaining the respect and discipline that are the bedrock of military life. Remember that your interactions with NCOs can have far-reaching implications for your career and the cohesion of your unit. Upholding the standards of conduct expected by the military isn’t just about following rules—it’s about honoring the structure that keeps the armed forces strong and effective. Always approach your NCOs with the respect they’ve earned and remember the potential consequences of any lapse in military etiquette. Your commitment to respect within the ranks will reflect your dedication to service and your understanding of the military’s core values.


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