Why Get an Article 15? Impact on Military Careers Explained

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Facing an Article 15 in the military means you’re up against non-judicial punishment for alleged misconduct. It’s a disciplinary action that commanders use to address violations without resorting to a court-martial. But why might you find yourself in this situation?

Often, it’s because you’ve stepped outside the lines of military law—maybe a minor infraction or a string of them. Article 15 comes into play when your actions aren’t severe enough to warrant a trial but still require correction. It’s a wake-up call to get back on track.

Understanding the ins and outs of an Article 15 can help you navigate the military justice system. Whether it’s a wake-up call or a career hiccup, it’s crucial to know why these penalties are handed down and how they can impact your service record.

Examples of Misconduct Leading to an Article 15

Facing an Article 15 implies you’ve engaged in conduct not beholden to the standards set by the military. Examples of misconduct that might trigger an Article 15 range from relatively minor offenses to more severe indiscretions. Understanding these examples can help you better navigate the expectations within your service.

  • Failure to obey orders or regulations: If you’re given direct orders or there are clear regulations in place and you choose to disregard them, your superiors might see fit to impose an Article 15 as a corrective action.
  • Absent Without Leave (AWOL): Short periods of unauthorized absence might not warrant a court-martial, but they can fall under the umbrella of non-judicial punishment.
  • Disrespect toward superiors: Demonstrating a lack of respect towards superiors is taken seriously; it undermines military discipline and hierarchy.
  • Dereliction of duty: Neglecting or failing to perform your duties can have operational repercussions and thus might lead to an Article 15.

In these situations, your commander has the discretion to decide if an Article 15 is appropriate. They’ll consider the severity of the offense, your past service record, and recommendations from others in your chain of command.

For instance, a first-time infraction with otherwise commendable service might be met with a lighter reprimand. However, recurrent issues or a particularly grievous offense could see you facing more stringent penalties under an Article 15.

Offense Likely Trigger for Article 15
Failure to obey Direct disobedience or ignoring protocol
AWOL Unauthorized absence from your post
Disrespect Insubordination towards superiors
Dereliction of duty Failure to perform assigned duties

These potential outcomes reinforce the importance of adherence to military conduct guidelines. Whether you’re new to the service or have been serving for years, it’s crucial to understand what behaviors could lead to non-judicial punishment. Familiarizing yourself with the consequences of misconduct can be instrumental in maintaining a sterling military record.

Types of Article 15s

When you’re serving in the military, it’s crucial to understand that Article 15s come in various forms, each reflecting the severity of the offense. Summarized Article 15s are less severe and serve for minor infractions, while a Company Grade or a Field Grade Article 15 indicate more serious misconduct.

Summarized Article 15s are often handled within the lower levels of command. These procedures are relatively informal and are typically quick to resolve. They usually involve minor punishments such as extra duties or correctional training. Despite their simplicity, receiving a Summarized Article 15 can still impact your military career, so it shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Company Grade Article 15s are a step up in severity and involve intermediate-level commanders, such as those at the company, battery, or detachment level. The punishments here can be more significant, potentially including:

  • Reduction in rank
  • Forfeiture of pay
  • Restrictions of privileges
  • Extra duties

A Field Grade Article 15 is the most intense of the three and involves senior officers, generally those at the battalion level or higher. The consequences of a Field Grade Article 15 are the most severe and can include:

  • Major reduction in grade
  • Forfeiture of a larger amount of pay
  • Confinement to quarters
  • Extra duties for an extended period

It’s vital to recognize that the level at which your Article 15 is adjudicated could drastically affect the outcome. Past service records, recommendations from the chain of command, and the circumstances surrounding the incident influence which category of Article 15 is deemed appropriate. The higher the level of the Article 15, the more likely it is to have a lasting negative effect on your career and post-military opportunities. Knowing this, it’s in your best interest to uphold the standards and regulations of your service to avoid these varied and potentially career-altering reprimands.

Benefits of Article 15 over Court-Martial

When you’re facing disciplinary action in the military, understanding the options and potential outcomes is crucial. An Article 15 proceeding offers several advantages over a court-martial, which might be more appealing depending on your situation.

Speed of Resolution is a significant advantage of Article 15. A court-martial process can be lengthy, potentially dragging out for months. On the other hand, an Article 15 can often be resolved in a matter of weeks, allowing you to rectify your misconduct and move forward more quickly.

Record Impact also varies greatly between the two. While a court-martial conviction is a federal criminal record, an Article 15 is not. It’s considered non-judicial punishment, and although it might still impact your military record, it doesn’t carry the same civilian stigma that a court-martial conviction would.

Flexibility is another factor to consider. With an Article 15, your commanding officer has the discretion to tailor the punishment to fit the offense. This can include a variety of consequences, from extra duties to reduction in rank, but doesn’t necessarily lead to confinement or dishonorable discharge which are possible outcomes of a court-martial.

Lastly, the Burden of Proof for an Article 15 is lower than that of a court-martial. A commander needs only a preponderance of evidence to issue an Article 15, which means they just need to believe you’re more likely than not to have committed the offense. This can be beneficial if you’re hoping for a less severe punishment as the commander may offer an Article 15 to resolve the issue swiftly with clear, though less rigid, evidentiary standards.

Consider your choices carefully and seek legal counsel to explore your best course of action. Understanding the benefits of an Article 15 could lead to a decision that minimizes the long-term effects on your military career.

Process of Receiving an Article 15

When you’re confronted with an Article 15, it’s crucial to understand the process. Typically, commanders issue an Article 15 when they believe a member of the military has committed a minor offense against the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The process is standardized to ensure fairness but allows for some discretion.

Upon suspicion of wrongdoing, your commander will conduct an investigation. If the evidence suggests a minor offense, they might offer you an Article 15. Keep in mind, accepting an Article 15 is voluntary; you have the right to refuse and demand a court-martial instead.

Should you accept the Article 15, a non-judicial punishment (NJP) procedure begins. You’ll receive a written notice detailing the alleged offenses and the proposed punishment. You’re entitled to review the evidence against you and consult with legal counsel, which the military provides at no charge. Take advantage of this to ensure you understand the charges and potential implications.

At the NJP hearing, you’ll have the chance to present your side of the story. This may include testimony, evidence, and witnesses. After considering all information, your commander makes a decision. If they find you guilty, the punishment can range from extra duties to reduction in rank, or even forfeiture of pay.

It’s important to note that punishments under Article 15 are not fixed and can be tailored to fit the specific circumstances of the offense. Additionally, you have the right to appeal the decision if you believe it was unjust or disproportionate.

Remember, an Article 15 is a serious matter that can impact your military career. Fully understand the process and explore your options with the help of legal counsel. Your proactive steps and informed decisions play a critical role in navigating this military justice procedure.

Consequences of an Article 15

If you’re faced with an Article 15, it’s crucial to understand the potential consequences that could impact your military career. The severity of these repercussions typically depends on your rank, the offense, and your commanding officer’s discretion.

At the core, an Article 15 allows commanders to impose non-judicial punishments (NJP) for minor offenses without the need to convene a court-martial. These punishments might include:

  • Reduction in rank
  • Forfeiture of pay
  • Extra duties
  • Restrictions on liberty

While these penalties might seem daunting, they’re intended to correct undesirable behavior and prevent future occurrences. It’s also important to note that an Article 15 does not constitute a criminal conviction, but it does go on your military record.

For enlisted members, a reduction in rank can have far-reaching effects on your military career. Rank signifies your level of authority and responsibilities, and a reduction can influence your credibility and career progression. Furthermore, a reduction in pay can strain your financial stability, especially if supporting a family.

Extra Duties and Restrictions

Being assigned extra duties as a consequence of an Article 15 means more time spent working outside your normal responsibilities. These tasks can be physically and mentally draining, leading to added stress and less personal time. Similarly, restrictions on your freedom can disrupt your social life and take a toll on your morale.

Record of the Offense

A permanent notation on your service record is another potential consequence, which could affect future promotions and opportunities within the military. It could also impact your benefits, like the GI Bill, if the Article 15 leads to an early discharge from the service.

As such, it’s advisable to weigh the consequences of an Article 15 thoroughly and consider all factors before deciding how to proceed. Understanding the range of possible repercussions will help you make informed decisions regarding your military career and future prospects.

Steps to Challenge an Article 15 Decision

Receiving an Article 15 can feel overwhelming, but you have the right to challenge the decision. Knowledge of the process and your rights is crucial for a successful opposition.

First, you’re entitled to consult with an attorney. The military provides a Judge Advocate General (JAG) defense attorney at no cost, and you can also hire a civilian attorney with military law experience. It’s important to act quickly, as your response time is limited once you’ve been notified of the Article 15 proceedings.

After consultation, you can choose to accept or turn down the Article 15. If you accept, you’re agreeing to have your case resolved by your commander rather than a court-martial, but you still have the opportunity to present evidence and call witnesses to mitigate the punishment. Should you decline the Article 15, your case may proceed to a court-martial, where the consequences can be more severe but the due process more formal.

If you opt to accept the Article 15, the next step is the hearing. During the hearing, you have several rights including:

  • The right to remain silent
  • The right to present evidence
  • The right to call witnesses
  • The right to cross-examine any witnesses against you

It’s imperative to carefully prepare for this hearing. Collect any relevant evidence and statements that support your case. You may present character references or show proof of your military achievements to positively influence the commander’s decision.

Should the outcome of the Article 15 hearing not be in your favor, you can file an appeal. Appeals must be directed to the next level of command within a specific time frame, usually five days. To succeed in the appeal, you’ll need to demonstrate that either there was an error in the procedure or the punishment was disproportionately severe.

Throughout this process, maintaining meticulous records and documentation of all interactions and steps taken can be pivotal. These records are often essential if further action is necessary. Remember that every decision made along the way can significantly impact your military career. Therefore, ensuring you’re well-prepared and informed at each juncture is paramount.


Facing an Article 15 can be a daunting prospect, but understanding the implications and knowing your options is crucial. You’ve got the tools to navigate the process, from consulting legal counsel to weighing the decision to accept or decline the punishment. Remember, preparation is key, whether for a hearing or an appeal. Take charge of your situation by staying informed and proactive to minimize the impact on your military career.


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