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5 min read

What Actually Happens When A Soldier Gets Demoted?

 

What Actually Happens When A Soldier Gets Demoted?

 

Have you ever had that nagging feeling when you watch a movie and can't help but wonder how something you just saw works in real life? A few days ago I was watching an army movie where a soldier gets demoted. And that got me thinking about how demotions work. Real demotions happen in the military all the time, but what really happens they are delivered?

In short, nothing has to happen outside of the demotion. Demotions are usually tied to Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. This article can be seen as a mini version of a military court. If a soldier commits a minor offense that doesn't demand a trial, like for example drinking on the job, then their commanding officer can choose if they are guilty or innocent and then punish them accordingly. It just happens that demotion is one of those possible punishments.

However, what I just said is the barebones version. Turns out there is a lot to research on the topic, and some of the jargon definitely is hard to understand if you didn't go through boot camp. So I figure we should go over it step by step. So we can all get a really good grasp on how demotions work out.

Let Go Over Article 15


So let's get back to the movie examples okay? Another classic scene I've seen in movies is when a soldier is taken to military court for misconduct. In movies, this almost always happens because there's a "mean" Drill Sergeant. But military courts are a real thing in army camps.

The thing is that soldiers aren't judged in the same way civilians are. Whether you come from an army camp, a marine camp, or are a GI Joe in the flesh, if you are a soldier you are judged by military law. And honestly, this does make a lot of sense.

Soldiers and civilians have completely different duties. If an accountant messes up at work, the worst-case scenario is that a contract will get revoked. But if a soldier messes up in their job? That can become an international crisis all on its own.

So the country decided that soldiers need their own legal system to protect and punish them as necessary. And all of these unique regulations and laws are packed together in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which I mentioned above. So we are all level on how military law works now right? Bravo, now we can get into what matters, Article 15.

Article 15 is just one of the many rules present in military law, but what makes it interesting is that it deals with minor offenses. Article 15 is used whenever a soldier makes a mistake that is definitely against the rules but isn't going to have serious consequences. So it applies when someone in the army pulls a whoops and has to pay for it. It just happens that their mistake isn't big enough to go to trial.

So we have Joe the Soldier who missed a day of work or got drunk on duty. He made a mistake and will have to pay for it, but since it wasn't that serious of a deal Article 15 gets applied. According to the good old 15, his commanding officer now has the right to judge him innocent or guilty and choose the punishment. Thankfully there's always a hearing and there are other officials present. So if Joe has a beef with his CO he can at least rest assured there'll be a proper discussion before they choose a punishment.

Once all of that is done the CO chooses a punishment and it gets applied. And it just so happens that demotion is one of those possible punishments. But that's how people get demoted in a nutshell.

So What Happens After A Demotion?


Well, technically nothing. A demoted soldier is still enlisted, still has to fulfill his duties, and is still working at the same base. They'll continue working that same day and all, there's no rest in the army even if you get a demotion.

Logically rank is a huge part of the military, so getting a demotion has consequences. Their responsibilities and privileges change in a second, and their job will change completely. But that's the point. The demotion itself is the punishment. Losing credibility, respect, and getting a lower rank is incredibly harsh for a soldier. There's also a reduced wage since those depend on rank, but the idea is that losing your rank is the punishment itself.

Let's get back to Joe the Solider for a second alright? Let's say his CO found him guilty and he got a demote as a result of his drinking. He used to be a Specialist and now was ranked down to Private First Class. This means he'll earn less money, he has less weight to pull around and the kind of jobs and missions he can take on are completely different. But if you compare Joe with any other Private First Class he has the same rights and benefits as them. The lower rank is the whole punishment with a demotion.

Also, nothing is stopping Joe from getting a promotion or his old rank back. In my research, I found two ways in which Joe can go about this. On one hand, he can just go about it the old way. Soldiers become eligible for promotions 6 months after their reduction. So even if Joe lost his rank, he can still be promoted naturally after a while.

And if Joe feels his demotion was unfair (we did say his CO had a beef with him), he can ask for an appeal. With an appeal another hearing takes place and his punishments can get reversed. So all in all, demotions aren't permanent and Joe still has some options left.

Demotions Can Include Other Punishments


When it came to our (hypothetical) friend Joe his entire punishment was the demotion, but that's not quite how it works in real life. If a soldier gets a demotion it doesn't mean that they are suddenly free from any other potential punishments. In fact, if something was serious enough to give a demotion... You can bet your marbles that there'll be more consequences.

Usually, soldiers lose a few days of pay and get assigned to manual labor too. So in the real world, Joe would lose a few days of pay, and would likely get scrubbing duty. But that's completely separate from the demotion itself. It just happens that these punishments stack.


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