01 November 2004

A Bad Link

There's an interesting article in today's Post concerning a lieutenant who is charged with AWOL for checking himself into a civilian psychiatric facility after being refused care at a military facility. Although the article does not discuss the matter, it's pretty clear that he did the right thing from the perspective of one set of people: Those who serve under him. Having a nutcase in the ranks is bad enough; having one in a leadership position in a combat zone is unacceptable.

I find the lacunae in the article more telling than what it says, though. It mentions that Lt Goodrum made a number of IG complaints, but it does not mention what he did inside the chain of command. It implies, but does not state, that his company commander had severe personality conflicts with him and did not respond to or join in Goodrum's operational concerns, but nowhere does it even mention the chain of command above company level. It doesn't even mention who the battalion or brigade commander who preferred charges was, or the colonel or flag officer who referred them to a court-martial, let alone whether there was ever any communication concerning either Goodrum's conduct or Goodrum's concerns. No doubt some of that material is part of the Article 32 record. Speaking of which, there's another thing that is not said: That only the Army allows nonlawyers to function as Article 32 officers (the equivalent of grand juries) outside combat zones.

All in all, what was described does not justify judicial action. So, again, I am forced to conclude one (or, I suppose, more) of three things: that there is substantial misconduct alleged that was not reported in the story; that the SJA and higher-level commander performed no real investigation or chose to misinterpret Article 92; and/or that outside pressure after a couple of admittedly inappropriate statements to the press and heavy usage of the IG system resulted in overreaction. Bluntly, what was described here merits at most nonjudicial punishment under Article 15, and more probably merely a letter of reprimand (a fairly serious matter for an officer—it's one of the few things that could keep a lieutenant from making captain, or a lieutenant (jg) from making lieutenant in the Navy). So it's pretty clear to those of us with experience with the system that the article is not telling very much of the story—which I find rather disturbing for such a long piece. It's also pretty clear that whoever wrote/edited the article was not all that familiar with the system… which speaks to a different problem entirely, and not one that makes me very comfortable.