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The Army let hundreds of soldiers rejoin the service after being kicked out for ‘adverse reasons’

Paul Szoldra 

The U.S. Army allowed hundreds of soldiers to rejoin the service after being separated for “adverse reasons,” according to an internal document obtained by Task & Purpose.

“This latter population confirms previously identified gaps in the Army transition processes by allowing offenders to depart active duty with an inappropriate characterization of service and with a reentry code allowing them to reenter the Army,” notes the Army Crime Report for Fiscal Year 2018, a non-public document published in Sept. that highlights criminal activity in the service and gives commanders’ tips on how to address it.

“Commanders should note that administratively separating soldiers titled with egregious felony-level offenses, without conviction by general or special courts-martials, may result in the lack of a criminal record of these soldiers’ actions in Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) criminal databases,” the report says, using the word titled, which, according to an Army legal guide, is a law enforcement term for a soldier being named as the subject of an investigation.

The Army Crime Report only gives stats on “founded” or current investigations of soldiers as of Oct. 2018, which it defines as having “reasonable grounds to believe that an offense has been committed and that the person to be identified as the offender committed it,” though that does not necessarily indicate guilt.

Still, some Army leaders seem to have opted in favor of administrative action or waited for a problem soldier’s enlistment to run out, therefore “creat[ing] risks to public safety,” according to the report, by not subjecting them to a legal process that would likely see them entered into a criminal database or flagged so they would be kept from rejoining the military.

“It’s what they do when they can’t kick you out but still want to torpedo your career,” an Army officer told Task & Purpose on condition of anonymity, referring to the use of titling as an “unofficial problem child list.”

The crime report, however, shows how this can backfire: “These soldiers, once back in society without court-martial convictions, may be able to purchase weapons, assume jobs in positions of trust, or, in some cases, reenter military or government service,” the report says.

 FY2018 Army Crime Report

While historical trends show the number of soldiers still serving with “multiple felony cases” has trended downward in recent years, according to the report, “soldiers who are repeatedly titled in felony-level cases, especially those who are accused of committing violent crimes yet continue to serve, are a threat to the readiness of the Force.”

As one example, the report detailed the example of one soldier with an “extensive criminal history” who ended up influencing two other soldiers since he was an “informal leader” — which resulted in the Army losing three soldiers due to drug use instead of one.

Per the report:

In FY2018, a witness notified CID a PVT (PVT #1) was in possession of cocaine, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia at his on-post quarters. While attempting to make contact with the PVT at his quarters, investigators encountered a second PVT (PVT #2) and a PV2, both residing at the quarters, and observed marijuana paraphernalia in plain view. Consent to search the quarters was obtained and cocaine, marijuana, and paraphernalia for use and distribution were collected as evidence.

PVT #1 was titled with Wrongful Use of Cocaine, Wrongful Use of Marijuana, Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute, and Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Distribute. He was administratively separated for Misconduct (Drug Abuse), under Other Than Honorable Conditions.

Prior to this case, PVT #1 was the subject of three previous investigations. The most recent of the previous incidents occurred in early FY18; PVT #1 was titled with Wrongful Use of Marijuana. PVT #1 received a Field Grade ART 15, 45 days extra duty, 45 day restriction, forfeiture of pay for the duration of two months. Separation proceedings were initiated and underway when the incident at his quarters occurred.

PVT #2 was titled with Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Distribute, Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute, Wrongful Use of Cocaine, Wrongful Use of Marijuana, and Wrongful Use of Amphetamine/Methamphetamine. He was found guilty at a Special Court-Martial and was sentenced to nine months of confinement and a Bad Conduct Discharge.

The PV2 was titled with Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Distribute, Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute, AWOL, Wrongful Use of Cocaine, and Wrongful Use of Marijuana. He was separated In Lieu Of (ILO) Court-Martial under Other Than Honorable (OTH) conditions.

Despite the junior ranks, PVT #1 had more experience in the Army and exercised a level of influence with his peers. The fellow Soldiers were junior in age and did not have the extensive criminal history of PVT #1. While peer pressure may be a powerful tool in the collective development of a small unit, leaders must be aware that informal leaders may emerge that actively encourage behaviors that negatively influence readiness and Soldier welfare. Commanders must take swift actions against these negative influencers.

Although some soldiers who were titled and reflected in the crime stats may have been found not guilty at court-martial or acquitted at non-judicial punishment, a “significant number” — 429 — were still serving in uniform as of Jan. 2019, despite being credibly accused of three or more felonies, the report said.

“Additionally, 27% (631 soldiers) of the 2,367 soldiers still serving were previously separated yet allowed to reenter the Army,” it added. At least 207 soldiers allowed to serve again were kicked out for “adverse reasons.”

“That doesn’t sound wrong,” the Army officer said after being shown the report data. “207 is a low number and appealing your [Other Than Honorable discharge] characterization is very common.”

Ninety-four of those soldiers were booted from the service with a “dropped from the rolls” designation — an administrative action that drops an “unauthorized absentee or incarcerated soldier” from a unit’s roster. Eighty-one others were booted for unspecified “misconduct,” while 32 were separated in lieu of or after being court-martialed.

 FY2018 Army Crime Report

Among soldiers titled for at least one offense, most were for non-violent crimes such as drug crimes or failure to obey a general order, which include use of synthetic drugs, possession of drug paraphernalia, or violations involving weapons or standards of conduct. Within violent felonies, the report says, “the most frequently occurring offenses were violent sex crimes (14%) and aggravated assault (12%).”

 FY2018 Army Crime Report

“The percentage of violent sex crimes and aggravated assault offenses committed by this cohort is substantial considering violent felonies compose 4% of crime across the active duty population,” the report says.

The Army declined to comment to Task & Purpose.

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