24 August 2015

General Counseling and Military Justice

The single most important thing in the military justice system is accurate evidence. The General Counseling Form and written statements, whether formal or informal, are important to any military justice file and therefore important to any counseling file. Maybe I should clarify this a little bit more by adding that, of course, they must be properly completed.
Why are they important? These documents are important in order to have an accurate reflection on any noteworthy event such as monthly counseling or event oriented counseling. Why is it important for them to be properly completed? Should the occasion arise that these general counseling files are required to be submitted to your legal office, these documents serve as evidence to a certain degree. Should they be improperly completed, they will be useless to your legal office and will likely be returned to the unit to be filed there and remain unusable no matter how much you argue with them.
Why would they be useless? Let’s take a sworn statement as an example. On the sworn statement, there are places to insert date and time data. It’s important to establish a required timeline with the correct information. An Election of Rights Form should accompany a sworn statement when someone is being accused of doing something wrong. When you look at these two documents together, the timeline needs to make sense. The date and time data on the Election of Rights should be within about 2 hours of the date and time data on the sworn statement. This is in order to show that these two forms go together, and that the service member was afforded their rights prior to making a sworn statement. If the timeline doesn’t make sense, the evidence isn’t any good and likely will not be used.
Another example is the date and time data on a general counseling statement when a company commander decides to separate a service member for being overweight. There are mandatory timelines that need to be met as well as accompanying document requirements. If any one of these required documents is improperly completed or missing altogether, it will reset the entire timeline back to the beginning, invalidating several months of paperwork and testing. The commander and first sergeant will be looking to separate those that didn’t take the time to do things right the first time. These are just two examples of what can happen if legal paperwork is not properly completed. Contact your unit’s legal section to find out more about completing these forms and others like them. It will save you a lot of headaches in the future.

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