The Soldier in this photo is accused of wearing insignia he is not authorized to wear, to wit: the rank of Sergeant (he’s a non-promotable Specialist), parachutist badge (there’s no record of his attendance at Airborne School), and the Combat Action Badge. Most people may not see the problem with this, but there are a few major issues when Soldiers wear insignia they haven’t earned.
This is a clear violation of Article 134, UCMJ – Wearing unauthorized insignia, decoration, badge, ribbon, device, or lapel button. The maximum punishment for violating this Article, if taken to court-martial, can include a bad-conduct discharge. The typical punishment however, is less than that.
SPC Olson certainly isn’t the first Soldier to wear things on his uniform he hasn’t earned, nor will he be the last. There in fact has been an increase in the number of Soldiers who have been caught violating this Article of the UCMJ due to social networking. Nowadays, most Soldiers who get into trouble for this were caught because they posted photos online. The punishment normally depends on how severe the Command believes the situation is; often, Commanders will process the case as a Field Grade Article 15.
Under the UCMJ, there are three levels of non-judicial punishment that can be imposed: Summarized Article 15, Company Grade Article 15, and Field Grade Article 15. A Field Grade Article 15 is only one step below the lowest level of court-martial, and can result in the loss of all rank if the offender is a Specialist or below. These are the possible punishments one can receive from each Article 15:
- Summarized Article 15 — 14 days restriction, 14 days extra duty, written or oral reprimand
- Company Grade Article 15 — 14 days restriction, 14 days extra duty, loss of one rank (if the Soldier is not a Sergeant or higher), forfeiture of 7 days pay, written or oral reprimand
- Field Grade Article 15 — 60 days restriction, 45 days extra duty, reduction to Private if below Sergeant, loss of one rank if Sergeant or Staff Sergeant, forfeiture of 1/2 month’s pay, written or oral reprimand
Obviously, the imposition of a Field Grade Article 15 on a Soldier like SPC Olson has serious implications for his career. If the allegations surrounding him prove true, then he has committed an act that is, quite frankly, stupid. In addition to having done something stupid, SPC Olson would have cheapened the honor and respect these insignia are normally accorded — they take time and effort to earn. I’ve personally processed paperwork on other Soldiers who have done the same thing — the result was always the same… they lost rank and pay, plus they were given the opportunity to help beautify work areas after duty hours for the next 45 days. I suspect that he too, will soon be facing his battalion commander and trying to explain why he should not be reduced in rank.