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What are Article 89 and Article 91, UCMJ?

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The military’s emphasis on obedience to orders is rooted in the need to maintain operational effectiveness, discipline, and unit cohesion in high-stakes and potentially dangerous environments. This contrasts with the civilian world, which typically offers more autonomy and decision-making latitude to individual employees within the framework of their job responsibilities. This article defines Article 89 Disrespect to a superior commissioned officer or NCO and Article 91 Insubordination and why the military makes these infractions violations under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice or UCMJ.

How does the military define Article 89 Disrespect to a superior commissioned officer or NCO?

Article 89 Disrespect towards a superior commissioned officer or NCO is generally considered a violation of military discipline and can be addressed under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) or the applicable regulations of the specific military branch.

Disrespect towards a superior officer typically involves behavior or actions that undermine the officer’s authority, dignity, or position. It may include actions or words that are insolent, contemptuous, or discourteous towards the superior officer. Some common examples of disrespectful behavior may include using disrespectful language, ignoring, or disobeying orders, engaging in insubordination, displaying a disrespectful attitude, or showing contempt or rudeness towards a superior officer.

It’s important to note that the specific regulations and guidelines regarding disrespect to a superior officer can vary between military branches and can be subject to interpretation. The UCMJ or the regulations of each branch provide guidance on how such offenses are investigated, prosecuted, and potentially punished within the military justice system.

What is Article 91 insubordination?

Insubordination in the military refers to willful disobedience or refusal to obey a lawful order given by a superior officer or authority. It is a serious offense that undermines military discipline and can have detrimental effects on mission effectiveness and unit cohesion. Insubordination is typically considered a violation of military regulations and can be addressed under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) or the specific regulations of the military branch.

Here are some key points regarding Article 91 insubordination in the military:

Willful disobedience: Insubordination involves a deliberate refusal or failure to follow a lawful order. It requires a conscious and intentional act of disobedience rather than a mere misunderstanding or mistake.

Lawful orders: The order given must be lawful and within the scope of the superior officer’s authority. If the order is illegal, unethical, or contrary to regulations, a service member may have the right to question or challenge it through appropriate channels.

Superior-subordinate relationship: Article 91 Insubordination typically occurs within the hierarchical structure of the military, where a subordinate disobeys the orders of a superior officer. It is essential for maintaining discipline and the chain of command that orders are followed and respected.

Consequences: Article 91 Insubordination can result in disciplinary action, ranging from administrative consequences such as reprimands or non-judicial punishment (such as extra duties or reduction in rank) to more severe punishments under the UCMJ, including court-martial proceedings and potential imprisonment.

It’s important to note that military regulations and guidelines on insubordination may vary between branches and can be subject to interpretation. The specific definitions, procedures, and consequences regarding insubordination can be found in the UCMJ or the regulations of each military branch. As an example, the Army discusses adverse actions in Army Regulation 690–752.

Are Article 89 and Article 91 related?

Although Article 89 and Article 91 are distinct from each other, they can be associated.

Disrespect in the military can potentially contribute to or lead to acts of insubordination, but it is not a direct or guaranteed outcome. Disrespect towards a superior officer or within the military hierarchy can undermine discipline, erode trust, and create a negative command climate, which may increase the likelihood of insubordinate behavior.

When individuals feel disrespected or undervalued within the military environment, it can lead to decreased morale, reduced motivation, and a breakdown in communication. In some cases, this can manifest as acts of insubordination, such as intentional disobedience of orders, open defiance, or refusal to follow established procedures or protocols.

However, it’s important to note that insubordination can arise from various factors, and disrespect is just one potential contributing factor. Other elements, such as disagreements over decision-making, conflicting orders, misunderstandings, personal conflicts, or a lack of clarity in communication, can also play a role in acts of insubordination.

To maintain a disciplined and effective military, it is crucial for leaders to promote a culture of respect, professionalism, and open communication. By fostering an environment where all members feel valued and their concerns are heard, the likelihood of disrespectful behavior escalating into insubordination can be reduced. Effective leadership, clear expectations, and strong command climates can help mitigate instances of disrespect and minimize the risk of insubordinate actions within the military.

Poor leadership climate may be considered mitigating circumstances surrounding a Soldier who is charged with either Article 89 or Article 91. A lack of effective leadership, clear expectations, and strong command climate could lead towards miscommunication between Soldiers and their leaders. An experienced defense attorney can find the distinction between a legitimate charge of insubordination or disrespect and one that has been leveled unfairly.

What are some high-profile media examples of Article 89 disrespect to a superior commissioned officer or NCO?

These examples highlight instances where military personnel, at various ranks, engaged in actions that were considered insubordinate according to military regulations. It’s worth noting that these cases gained significant media attention due to their high-profile nature.

While cases of disrespect to a superior officer in the military may not receive as much media attention as other high-profile incidents, there have been instances where such incidents have been reported. Here are a few notable examples:

General Stanley McChrystal: In 2010, General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and his staff made derogatory comments about senior civilian officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, in a Rolling Stone magazine article. The comments were considered disrespectful towards civilian leadership and led to McChrystal’s resignation.

Sergeant Gary Stein: In 2012, Marine Corps Sergeant Gary Stein was discharged for making disparaging comments about President Barack Obama on social media. His remarks were deemed disrespectful and violated military regulations that prohibit uniformed personnel from engaging in political activities.

Navy Captain Owen Honors: In 2011, videos emerged showing Navy Captain Owen Honors, then the executive officer of the USS Enterprise, producing and participating in controversial and sexually explicit skits that were shown onboard the ship. The videos were seen as disrespectful towards senior officers and crew members and led to Honors’ removal from command.

What are some notable examples of Article 91 Insubordination?

Chelsea Manning: Former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning was convicted under the UCMJ for releasing classified information to WikiLeaks in 2010. Manning’s actions were considered insubordination because they violated military regulations regarding the handling and dissemination of classified material.

Bowe Bergdahl: Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy after leaving his post in Afghanistan in 2009. Bergdahl’s decision to walk away from his unit without authorization was considered an act of insubordination.

Eddie Gallagher: Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher faced charges of war crimes, including murder, for his actions during a deployment to Iraq in 2017. While the murder charge was ultimately dropped, Gallagher was convicted of posing for a photo with a deceased combatant and was demoted for the act, which was considered a form of insubordination.

Douglas MacArthur: General Douglas MacArthur, a highly decorated and influential military leader, was relieved of his command by President Harry S. Truman during the Korean War in 1951. MacArthur had publicly criticized Truman’s policies and advocated for a more aggressive approach, which was seen as insubordination.


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