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Adverse personnel actions in the military are serious matters

Despite similarities, a military job is different from a civilian one because of the chain of command. Refusing orders may subject a service member to adverse consequences.

In a recent example, a Navy lieutenant who was serving as a nurse at Guantanamo suffered consequences when he refused to obey an order to force-feed prisoners who were protesting in the form of a hunger strike. The case presented an interesting twist, as the nurse felt bound to both medical professional ethics as well as military procedures.

Initially, Navy prosecutors threatened him with a potential court-martial. That transformed into a formal procedure where the Navy required the lieutenant to explain his actions and why he deserved to keep his commission. That, in turn, was followed by a Department of Defense proceeding that might have ended in a revocation of the lieutenant’s security clearance.

Ultimately, the Pentagon restored the lieutenant back to full duty. He is now serving at a different Navy medical facility. Some commentators believe the restoration suggests that medical professionals in the military have the right to follow their ethical obligation to do no harm.

One thing is certain: Adverse personnel actions in the military should not be approached lightly. They may take several forms, such as memoranda of reprimand, letters of counseling or negative evaluation reports. The circumstances leading up to an adverse personnel action may also vary, resulting from non-judicial punishment or command or Inspector General investigations. That variety translates into potentially different procedures for defending against adverse personal actions. Our law firm can advise you on which course to take.

Source: Military.com, “Navy Reinstates Nurse Who Refused to Force-feed at Guantanamo,” Caro Rosenberg, May 4, 2016

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David P. Sheldon | International Military Law Attorney

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