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I am an Active Duty soldier in AIT graduating this week. I…

I am an Active Duty...
I am an Active Duty soldier in AIT graduating this week. I had gone on Holiday Block Leave in December. We were authorized leave from 17th December till 2nd January. I had filled out my leave form requesting leave till December 26th. I wanted to save my leave. After I reached my hometown I extended my leave till the 2nd. I returned on the 2nd within the time we ere asked to come back. I had misunderstood the restrictions of Holiday Block Leave. To my understanding we could take leave during the entire block and the leave from we filled was for calculating future leave. This is also my very first experience of taking leave in the Army.
When I got back on the 2nd, I was told I was AWOL. I told my Platoon Sergeant I had no idea I was AWOL and if they had contacted me I would have returned as soon as possible. They had me fill out my phone number, the address I was staying at and an emergency point of contact number almost a month prior to leaving for Holiday Block Leave. Obviously they had these numbers when I in processed as I filled them out then too.
I was given a Company Grade Article 15 recommending UCMJ action against me. This happened about 4 weeks ago. I am only now flagged according to my ERB with code AA. The command waited all this time to process an inquiry in the week I graduate.
My Platoon Sergeant said I will have a hearing with the First Sergeant and Commander sometime in after graduation week. MY PCS orders have been cancelled due to the flag. I had been following up with my Platoon Sergeant ever since the first week I got back which was when I was given the Article 15 but he each time said he did not know what was going on.
I have had no negative counselings in BCT and AIT prior to this incident. I am on track to get "Honor Grad" but cannot receive it because of the Article 15. I m in the process of getting good conduct statements from my Instructors and my Platoon Sergeant The Article 5 and the lack of communication from my leaders and command has caused me a lot of stress. The Platoon Sergeant said the Commander would reduce me in rank and give me extra duty because of this.
Can they do this to me because of this situation? I know the provisions exist for such punishments in a Company Grade Article 15. I feel like I am being made an example of because somebody in Battalion found about me being "AWOL" during HBL. This was implied in the first week I got back.
What should my next step be ? Can I challenge this decision if made as too harsh a punishment?
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Answered in 5 minutes by:
2/2/2016
P. Simmons
P. Simmons, Military Lawyer
Category: Military Law
Satisfied Customers: 36,964
Experience: Retired Marine Corps lawyer and Veterans Services Officer (VSO) with 12+ yrs. of experience.
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Hello! My name is ***** ***** I am a licensed attorney with more than 18 years of experience. I am here to assist you with your questions. Please understand that if I ask you for additional information, you are NOT charged again and our communications are NOT timed. So please see this as a relaxed conversation between friends. I am here to help

Also, if you would like to chat on the phone, let me know and I can make that happen.

I am sorry for this dilemma.

I want to make sure I understand....you mention you had you leave extended? Who did that?

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Customer reply replied 2 years ago
Sorry I should have been more clear. I extended my stay till the 2nd of January. I did not contact anyone as I thought I was allowed leave till the 2nd.

Thank you
Did you have your leave leave papers with you? DId they not state the date you had to return?

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Customer reply replied 2 years ago
The papers stated that I had applied for leave till the 26th. I misunderstood the intent of the papers as we were told we were authorized leave till the 2nd. That's where the problem lies.

Thanks

Now I understand. A few mins please and I will type up some thoughts

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First, and foremost, it is important to understand you have an absolute right to refuse Art 15.

So that option remains to you. And, for folks who are clearly innocent? I will typically advise them to refuse (since if they are innocent, it is unlikely the Army would send the case on to court martial)

What you are describing, you were AWOL

Not a big deal...in the scheme of things.

Not good. Not going to help your career in the short term.

But also, depending on how you handle this, not likely to result in your removal from the Army

And that, frankly, should be your focus.

I am assuming you want me to be frank?

If I were you I would accept Art 15, and any punishment they give out.

THere is an adage that your commander is familiar with. It is called "falling on your sword"

If I were you I would do just that.

The Army is incredibly paternalistic.

That can be good or bad...good if you need their help. Bad if you get on the wrong side of the law (which you are now)

Let me address your questions in order

Can they do this to me because of this situation?

Yes, they can reduce you, put you on restriction and extra duty and dock your pay at Art 15.

I know the provisions exist for such punishments in a Company Grade Article 15. I feel like I am being made an example of because somebody in Battalion found about me being "AWOL" during HBL. This was implied in the first week I got back.

That may well be. But that is NOT illegal. The commander can issue the full punishment for your AWOL

But as I mention, if you fall on your sword? Step up, admit you messed this up and gladly accept the punishment?

YOu stand a decent chance of getting through this.

The last thing you want to do is give them the impression you have a chip on your shoulder...that would be a quick way to be discharged for misconduct.

Please let me know if you have more questions. I am happy to help if I can. Otherwise, please rate the answer so I may get credit for my work.

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Customer reply replied 2 years ago
I did accept the Article 15. I am preparing a statement and getting character reference statements from a couple of respected Sergeants in my Battalion for the hearing. I am willing to admit my fault but I would like to know the likelihood of rank reduction. I am an E4 Specialist. I am trying to gauge the mitigating circumstances of my situation based on my conduct in the Army so far which not boasting has been excellent. My Platoon Sergeant said he will vouch for me. I never missed any training as it was Holiday Block Leave, I basically had no duty to return to.My question basically is : Considering the circumstances would reduction in rank be considered to harsh a punishment ?

No. No, reduction in rank would not be considered harsh.

You can certainly request to not be reduced...but, frankly, as an E4 one would expect a soldier to understand how leave works...so it would not surprise me if there is a reduction.

But I would urge you to "recalibrate"...the focus, in my opinion, is off...better to focus on staying in the Army and nothing else...if you do? In my experience? You will do fine through this

Please let me know if you have more questions. I am happy to help if I can. Otherwise, please rate the answer so I may get credit for my work.

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Customer reply replied 2 years ago
I have only been 4 months in the Army and am just about to graduate AIT. I was given an E4 rank as I had a 4 year college degree. My platoon sergeant told me that its unlikely I will get a discharge due to this. My main concern is rank reduction. The honest facts are that I really as unfamiliar with the leave process because of the special nature of HBL. Hopefully it will not come to rank reduction with my good conduct and performance in the Army so far.To reduce in rank an initial training soldier who actually did not miss any working days would not be considered harsh? I ask this because a couple of sergeants I spoke to said this is unusual attention to what they called a 'minor infraction'. I wont be able to see legal services till m hearing day whose date I do not know so wanted an opinion from a legal expert here.Do you still fell rank reduction is not harsh ? I ask this because if it were to happen I am allowed to appeal the desicion as too harsh. I want to know if its worth doing so if it comes to that.

No. It is not harsh.
If the commander was so inclined they could send this to a court martial which could reduce you in rank AND toss you in jail (to go along with the federal criminal conviction)

Be careful in how you tread here...you can file an appeal of Art 15 for excessive punishment or for "unfairness" in the proceeding.

But that would be, in my opinion, a very bad idea.

You would loose the appeal. Again, they can take you to a court martial for this criminal misconduct. It is a crime to be AWOL. So Art 15 punishment, even max punishment will not be too harsh

This is the part of my job I don't like...when the law is not in favor of my customer. I wish I could tell you that this was too harsh and you can appeal, but I can only provide you information based on the law so that you can act on the best available information to you...I wish I had better news, but can only hope you recognize and understand my predicament and don't shoot the messenger. I'm sorry!

Please let me know if you have more questions. I am happy to help if I can. Otherwise, please rate the answer so I may get credit for my work.

P. Simmons
P. Simmons, Military Lawyer
Category: Military Law
Satisfied Customers: 36,964
Experience: Retired Marine Corps lawyer and Veterans Services Officer (VSO) with 12+ yrs. of experience.
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P. Simmons
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Category: Military Law
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Experience: Retired Marine Corps lawyer and Veterans Services Officer (VSO) with 12+ yrs. of experience.

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