Thanks for checking in!

I started this blog to keep in touch with my family and friends during my time attending Commissioned Officer Training (COT) and the Judge Advocate Staff Officer Course (JASOC) at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. Now I'm done with training and back in the "real" world, but I'll keep updating this blog with any interesting developments from my JAG career.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

JASOC Week 2, Part 1: How to Fire an Airman

The start of our second week at JASOC addressed more civil law issues, including government liability under the Federal Tort Claims Act, protections for military members under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, and the process of administratively discharging an airman.  This last subject was really interesting to me because of the parallels and differences between military administrative discharges and civilian employment law.

Just like in the civilian world, the question whether an airman should be discharged from the Air Force depends to a great extent on the kind of documentation the airman's commander has.  There are a number of ways to officially document an airman's poor performance or bad conduct short of court-martial, including bad enlisted performance reviews (EPRs), letters of counseling (LOCs), letters of reprimand (LORs), and Article 15 nonjudicial punishment actions (NJPs).  In the Air Force, all of these documents are called "paper."  The more paper you have on someone, the easier it is to get them discharged. 

Although the civilian world doesn't have as much structure, it works much the same way.  The first thing you do is look at an employee's personnel file and see if there are records reflecting the employee's poor performance.  With enough there, the employer can be pretty confident in making a decision to let someone go.

We put our lessons into practice by doing a counseling exercise.  My client was a squadron commander who was fed up with a series of disciplinary infractions by one of his airmen.  I had to research the applicable Air Force Instructions and related documents and explain the process to him, including whether there was a basis for discharge (there was), who make the final decision regarding discharge, and what his options were with respect to recommending a specific characterization (honorable, general, or under other than honorable conditions (i.e., UOTHC), which is the modern equivalent of a dishonorable discharge).  It felt a lot like how we would advise a client in the civilian world (except for the discharge characterization part).

It was all really interesting, both from a legal standpoint and from a personal standpoint, since all of us jags, who are tasked with enforcing Air Force rules, are governed by those same rules.  This stuff makes or breaks careers.  As if to drive home that point, one of our instructors told us about someone who went through JASOC with her in 2001, then went to his base and hatched a plot to kill his wife so that he could collect her life insurance and be with his mistress.  (Needless to say, that guy got a UOTHC discharge.)

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