Another historic event took place yesterday (Tuesday, December 5, 2006) in the 201st Corps, they conducted their first official NJP (Non-judicial punishment). It’s a way to discipline soldiers without having to refer the case for court-martial. We use it in every branch of service in the US.
It was a case where the S4 (logisitics/supply) officer in the 2nd BDE, (yes that’s the "problem child ANA brigade" but what do you expect with mentors like Ken, Trooper, Aaron and the rest of the crew? - KIDDING!!) who attempted to steal fuel from the fuel point and when the SGT wouldn’t give him any fuel, he assaulted the SGT.
The ETT’s wanted this guy fired, placed in pre-trial confinement and court-martialed. They knew he was a worthless supply officer and was suspected of being corrupt. The day of the attempted theft/assault, Ken had told him that he was being watched and to not screw up. So what does he do? He goes out and does this. Not a very bright guy.
Well I was recommending to the SJA that this guy be court-martialed. COL Karim then said that MG Mangal wanted to talk to me about this case. I knew right then that this case was not going to be court-martialed.
Once again I found myself in MG Mangal’s office discussing this case. He explained that he wanted to have mercy on this officer because of his family situation. I won’t tell you yet what it was as I want to build up some curiosity. He said that he wanted to handle this case through NJP. I was excited to hear this only because it was a first step towards actually using the official process. MG Mangall said that he was going to give the officer a letter of reprimand that would go in his personnel file. He said that the letter would be there for the officers career.
The day of the hearing, I met with Karim to discuss the details. I had previously provided him with copies of the forms so we went over them, how to fill them out and what to do with them. We then discussed possible punishments. I said that I already knew what punishment MG Mangall was considering and that in addition to a letter of reprimand, he should forfeit some of the officers pay but then suspend the actual forfeiture. That way the officer would know that if he screwed up in the future he could actually lose money. Karim said that he was going to recommend that he actually forfeit 5 days of pay. I thought that was a good idea but I had my doubts that Karim would actually recommend that but hoped he would.
Well 3:00 p.m. came and found Wais, Merrill, Karim and I, along with the investigator, the victim and the accused in MG Mangall’s office. The accused looked like he was about to either wet his pants or cry; maybe both. As MG Mangall read him his right, the accused kept looking at me. I guess I’m a scary guy or something. Actually I think the ANA think that the American’s are the ones running their military justice system, and you know what, they’re right!! OK, not really.
When MG Mangal asked the accused if he wanted to make a statement, the accused admitted to everything, turned to the victim and said that he was “like a son” and that he was sorry for what he had done. MG Mangall looked to me, again – he kept looking to me instead of his own SJA for guidance – I guess that means I’m the greatest SJA ever!!!!! – and asked if we needed to hear the witnesses. I said that we should hear from the victim, if he wanted to make a statement. The victim said “no” and that he had forgiven the officer for beating him.
Then came the punishment. I was ready for the written letter of reprimand to come out. I was ready for Karim to recommend 5 days forfeiture of pay. Instead, came a very kind, smiling, fatherly advice to be a better soldier. I couldn’t believe it. Actually I could. I had a sneaking feeling that this is what would happen. MG Mangall said that the reason for the verbal warning only was because of the officer’s family. No, I’m not going to tell you yet. He said that he expects this officer to be a better officer in the future and that he, Mangall, doesn’t want to hear any unfavorable reports about him in the future.
Me, being the mean prosecutor that I am, just had to get in a barb. I wanted this guy to know just how lucky he was. I told him that MG Mangall had shown him mercy but that in addition to the verbal warning he could have received the written letter of reprimand, could have been restricted to base for 20 days, had to perform hard labor for 10 days and forfeit up to 20 days of his pay. I was hoping to instill a fear in him to never do something like this again. I’m so mean! I love it!!
So what was it about his family that persuaded MG Mangall to have “mercy?” He’s got 2 wives and 14 children!! Can you even imagine?
So there you have it. If you have 2 wives and 14 children, you can attempt to steal fuel for your personal vehicle and beat up a soldier and only get a kindly delivered verbal warning.
Lest you think I’m too cynical about it I’m not. It’s at least a step in the right direction and for that I’m grateful.