The Language of Command

Non-Judicial Punishment Article 15

Language of Command
Crisp Military Law recently represented a military member at their in-person appearance for Non-Judicial Punishment pursuant to Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. While not a complete victory, the outcome was highly favorable for the client and resulted in suspended punishment. This allowed the service member to keep their rank and earn back the trust and respect of their chain of command.

This success and other positive outcomes in recent Non-Judicial Punishment proceedings has caused me to consider whether or not there is a common thread in these cases or lessons learned that can be used to benefit other clients in the future. Based on a review of some of these cases it does seem like there are some important things to keep in mind when responding to Non-Judicial Punishment proceedings.


Know the Decision-Maker.

Unlike a court-martial, in Article 15 proceedings the Commander is the Judge and Jury. I have learned that it is critical to learn as much about the Commander as possible before a personal appearance.

  • Read the Commanders official bio
  • Look for any interviews they have given
  • anything else you can find written by or about them.


Understand what Motivates Military Leaders.

A decision in a Non-Judicial punishment proceeding is one of many important decisions a military leader will make in their day. In order to advocate effectively to a military leader, it is critical that you understand…

  • their training
  • the culture of their branch of service
  • their career field or military occupational specialty.

Mission success, order and discipline are a driving force for all effective military leaders but there are cultural differences between pilots and infantry officers. Understanding these differences most often comes from years of experiencing practicing military law and interacting with military leaders. It is important to keep in mind when developing an effective response strategy that takes these differences into consideration.


Focus on the Future.

The military provides some of the most advanced and effective leadership training available today. Military leaders that embrace that training are disciplined and mission focused while understanding that people are their most valuable asset. Using the language of military training from Command and Staff College and War College helps Commanders understand how their decision in a Non-Judicial Punishment proceeding impacts good order and discipline, the mission, and the future of their Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine. This future focus helps the Commander understand the utility of Non-Judicial Punishment as a rehabilitative tool.


Do not Shoot the Messenger.

Crisp Military Law have worked with and trained many new military counsel who tend to adopt a scorched earth mentality when it comes to responding to allegations. While it is important to be aggressive and zealous, attacking or criticizing the process or the decision to impose Non-Judicial Punishment often simply results in the Commander becoming defensive and entrenched in a position.

  • Understand that JAG drafts the forms and advises the Commander to serve Non-Judicial Punishment.
  • Do not assume that the Commander has all the facts before you respond.
  • Instead approach your presentation to the Commander as your opportunity to provide him with the rest of the story and their opportunity to consider all the facts before reaching a decision.

Time and time again I have been impressed by military leaders who are willing to listen changing their minds and reaching a fair decision when they are approached with the appropriate tone and information.

Ultimately, these points all circle back to the importance of knowing and speaking the language of command when representing military members facing administrative, Article 15 or court-martial proceedings.

The attorneys of Crisp and Associates Military Law are the worldwide leaders in military justice and court-martial defense—period. Our attorneys consist of former military judge advocates, a law enforcement officer, and others all of whom have served in the Army, Navy, and Air Force, or worked closely with the other Uniformed Services. Our attorneys have handled every military law matter from a simple non-judicial counseling to defending Soldiers who appeared on the front pages of newspapers and magazines worldwide. They have been on both sides of the aisle: prosecution and defense. We have handled matters from Seaman Recruit to general and flag officers. They have served at every level of the chain of command from a platoon, ship and squadron to the Office of the Secretary of Defense. If you are facing adverse action, Non-Judicial Punishment, or court-martial, call Crisp and Associates, LLC for a free consultation and learn what it is like to have and advocate on your side that speaks the language of command.

Read more about Non-Judicial Punishment under Article 15.