Good Military Order and Discipline?

Discussion in 'Military Discipline' started by kennys-go-nad, Feb 24, 2006.

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  1. I know the redress system very well. Very good points made here. The CDS Should read this.

    Good Military Order and Discipline?

    I have decided to hand this post over to a soldier who wrote to me following my previous post, and last week's Sunday Times article, raising questions over the role of officers in some of cases of alleged wrongdoing in Iraq. This soldier wants to highlight the way in which good servicemen and women with excellent confidential reports can find their lives and careers destroyed when someone above them takes against them - and the victims can themselves be officers of course. It is not a problem that just affects the lower ranks.

    This is something that happens in "civvy street" too of course but the difference is that superior officers have immense power over someone in the armed forces that would not be possible in civilian jobs and so the effect is that much greater. Don't get me, or this anonymous soldier, wrong. The disciplinary powers available within the forces are absolutely vital to what is known in the forces' jargon as "good military order and discipline", particularly during military operations, but the ability to abuse those powers can be devastating.

    When I was on the Daily Telegraph I covered a number of such cases, most notably the case of a paratrooper called Paul Biddis. That was an horrific case and it is unlikely to go away. I understand that his wife Debbie is now writing a book on the incidents that led to their son Chandler becoming disabled. MPs on the Commons committee looking at the Armed Services Bill currently before Parliament could do worse than ask to be able to interview Debbie or even Biddis himself about his experiences in the army's internal appeals process, which is now known as Redress of Complaint - I seem to remember it was redress of grievance in my day. The problems with that system are addressed here by a soldier who not only has experience with his own redress process but has helped others pursue their complaints as well - the sort of role that the Armed Forces Federation recently mooted on the Army website ARRSE might usefully perform. Here is the soldier's article:

    Army Redress Problems

    "Over the past few weeks I have seen and discussed much on the pros and cons of an Armed Forces federation. Many aspects of service life were discussed at length in the Mess. Kit shortages, scoff (food), their terms of service. One point that would be raised from a few who dared was the fairness of the internal Army complaints system known as “redress” but just raising the issue in the mess, made some feel uncomfortable.

    "Having helped a number of soldiers put in their redress and myself having been on the wrong end of a redress - and when I say wrong end I mean daring to complain against an Officer – I can see one of the arguments as to why an Armed Forces Federation might be effective.

    "For a so-called modern Army, we have some antiquated working practices. A few years ago, soldiers would have been to scared to have even considered submitting a redress. Nobody believed it was worth the effort. The system would never rule against itself, so what was the point? If they did put in a redress, they would be actively hounded. No way would a commanding officer (CO) allow for it on his watch and regimental, or company sergeant-majors would have taken great joy in making sure that the soldier “changed his mind”. The same still happens today but in a more sinister and clandestine way.

    "I have seen soldiers who have made a complaint see their own promising career cut dead as a result. Some officers would accuse the soldier making the complaint of trying to ruin the accused officer's career. Often of course the officer accused of bullying would be a friend of the CO, and even if he or she was not, the fact that such bullying takes place would reflect badly on the CO himself. Some in the chain of command would try to dismiss it as some sort of weakness on the soldier’s part, and the bully would try to charm everyone else, and threaten/bribe the soldier to drop his complaint. We who saw it happen could not say much or we would suffer the same fate. Some who were wise saw a mobbing culture brewing from the start and steered well clear. The company commander and company sergeant-major would get others to join in the destruction of the soldier’s credibility and mentally bully him into submission.

    "There is often disbelief by senior officers that someone they know, went to Sandhurst with, worked on a ward with, drink in the Mess with, is capable of bullying. There is also the fact that when bullies are finally exposed their superiors often feel foolish because they are in a double bind - if they knew what was happening why didn't they take action; if they didn't, why not. "Crap. Let’s try to bury this before its get to a higher level, or my job will be on the line too for not having control of my subordinates."

    "Later, I was the victim of such tactics and it opens your eyes when Officers blatantly lie to hide their mistakes. Quite a rude awakening for me. Before I raised my complaint, I never got less than an “A” grade annual report. Suddenly my grade dropped, all because I decided to intervene against bullying in the ranks. I complained that the officer in charge did nothing to resolve the problem when he could have. I was perceived as the guilty party, trying to squirm whilst the poor, innocent officer was to be believed at every turn.

    "I learnt over time that the system has inherently sought to protect the officer against the complaint is made and the length of the redress process is deliberately spun out and the guide lines abused. You also learn who your real friends are. I witnessed first hand the mobbing culture, and the soldiers who steered clear of anyone who put their head above the parapet so as to protect their career. I was married and even my wife and kids were treated like lepers.

    "The consequence of this seems to be that the redressee seems to get away with it, while the redresser is still battling against a buggered career and reputation years after. The officer would carry on, get promoted and later be given his own regiment and even join the staff.

    "The main flaw in the system was that you were unable to see what was being reported up the chain about you, and defend yourself against it, until your complaint had gone through three levels of investigation, within the unit and at higher levels, a period that could extend to as much as three years.

    "Regardless of your previous good record, the chain of command would seek to protect itself by painting you in a very bad light to the point of making false statements about you. This would then be contained in the brief to the Army Board as fact. You would then have a chance to comment on the brief, but the case officer would pay lip service to what you said in your own defence and mostly ignore what you have to say even when you could prove the brief wrong. You would find out only then, that people you had mentioned as witnesses were never interviewed and what hope would a soldier have of paying for independent legal advice when the redress was dragged out so long?

    "I have personally helped a number of soldiers with a redress over the years since my complaint. I have seen a change in the way the redress is managed in the past year. But still the guide lines contained in AGAI 70 (the redress guide) are abused by the officers in charge. If such abuse occurs there are no guide lines or points of contact in AGAI 70 for the soldier to appeal to. The Chief of Defence Staff and others constantly argue that soldier has a confidential support telephone line. However the support line cannot actively get involved. Officers in the soldier’s chain of command still try it on, repeatedly telling the soldier that he has no chance, “you cannot beat the system, just take it on the chin.”

    "Some will shout from the roof tops that the army can keep its own house in order, but more of these stories keep coming out. Officers forging documents or covering up bullying is the norm in today's press. Some in the military community accuse the press of only putting one side of a story or distorting the facts against the Army, but from my experience some of the reporting against complainants made by officers from the parent unit to the Army Appeals Wing in Glasgow could put the most vindictive in Fleet Street to shame.

    "During the last Comprehensive Attitude Survey it was stated that only 10% of soldiers surveyed had complained about bullying. But 85% of soldiers asked believed bullying did exist. The reasons for this apparent disparity are clear when soldiers are asked why they did not complain about ill treatment. The survey found that 31% believed such a step might adversely affect their career, 34% thought that it would cause problems in their workplace and 33% did not believe that anything would be done if they did complained.

    "Why do soldiers feel that nothing would be done or it would affect their career? The Attorney General said there was evidence which could be taken to show a concerted attempt by the chain of command to influence and prevent an investigation into the death of Sgt Roberts. This was of course far more serious than a redress but if true it shows how officers are willing to abuse the system when it suits their purposes.

    "There is still a prehistoric attitude towards internal complaints, particularly when its about bullying within the military. The CDS’s gut reaction to the federation last week and what he perceived it would stand for, did not surprise me in the slightest. He can argue that the existence of such bodies will be to the detriment of the organisation as a whole. That may be so, but the organisation only has itself to blame when it comes to problems with recruitment, retention, trust and, more importantly, loyalty in the ranks."

    An Anonymous Soldier

    *If anyone can provide me to a link to the actual survey I will post it, Mick

    Posted on February 24, 2006 at 02:37 PM in British Army | Permalink
  2. well writen
    Now where have a heard that before :evil: I know someone who has had that told to them on this week
  3. I wish I could stand on here and shout that it isn't true. But it sounds about right to me.
  4. I did my 22+ and I have been out 22, I see bugger all has changed, its just like the " Will you accept my award or elect to go forward to a courts martial?" Damned if you do and damned if you don't.
  5. So far I have not viewed any real defence against this problem with the Service Redress. Over the years I have listened to the same lines as in the article. I have been around the block to know who the genuine cases were and who was pulling the wool, but in all cases the redress was open to abuse, and In the cases where the wool was being pulled the complainant would win an out of court settlement mainly due to the poor handling of the case from the case officer at AAW. However the main culprit in the case management being the cocky adjt who thought he could bluff the system and cut corners or the crusty LE who thought he could use his contacts to apply the right pressure on the complainant to drop the case. I have talked to the odd witness who asked if they could have their name hidden as they felt they would suffer. I have also talked to officers who were also disgusted when watching fellow officers plot their lines in the mess. Officers who were sent to coventry just because they were going to stick to the truth and tell it as it happened and not toe the party line because it was the CO who was in the wrong.

    As in the comments made by mr Smith in his opening lines

    Would the CDS be that brave to alow this? And if not, why not?

    I noticed a thread on the signals board. Again bullying and how it is managed is the subject. Here is the text

    Then the advice

    Could an Army Federation make a difference on this subject?

    I’m just waiting for Witmong to say it’s not true and all is well and Morals top dog

    You really don’t like me do you

    Well for the thousandth time here we go - my point of view in a nutshell

    Every thing is not perfect

    We do have problems with our redress system

    Their are bullies in the Army


    It may not be perfect but it’s a lot better than it was and in a lot of ways is far superior to what you can find in Civvie Street

    The redress system requires work but mostly on making it more visible to soldiers and in making commanders less suspicious of what is purely an administrative matter

    Their are bullies in the army but the problem is overstated
  7. Sorry if I have missed it, but I am not sure if anyone has mentioned yet the changes to "Redress of Grievance" proposed in the Armed Forces Bill currently going through Parliament.

  8. In which areas is it better than it was and in which areas is the redress system far superior to what you can find in Civvy Street?
  9. Ever been a civvie ? Because you're talking utter arrse. The current civil legal system may not be perfect but it is head and shoulders above the way the military operates. If an employer stalled on a tribunal case the way the Army routinely stalls redresses they lose by default. If an employer leaned on potential witnesses the way the chain of command does on squaddies they'd be in the dock for perverting the course of justice. If a civvy firm fails to pay me correctly for a while I can, quite legally, walk out and take them to court. And win. Compare that to the squaddies last resort on pay matters, writing a letter to Soldier magazine.

    Please, I want to know, in what areas does the military system treat soldiers better than their civvy equivalent ?
  10. I think it is an over-simplification to say that the only real change is that the system becomes tri-service. Don't get me wrong - for all I know the proposed changes may be completely inadequate. The explanatory notes to that part of the Bill are HERE - scroll down to "Redress of individual grievances" and following paragraphs.

    If a Federation was already in being, I could imagine it closely monitoring the Bill and offering considered and constructive evidence. Obviously those resources are not yet in being, but if anyone has any considered comments based on what is actually in the Bill, 'we' would be glad to hear from you as soon as possible. If you simply feel the new system is going to be 'just as bad' as the existing system, I can understand that point of view but there is nothing 'we' can do with that.

    Links to pdf and html versions of the actual Bill can be found HERE - look for sections 330 to 333.

    Unsurprisingly it is heavy stuff, but don't forget that ARRSErs are already having a constructive and widely welcomed influence on the development of electoral legislation, which is equally complex if not more so.
  11. Like Biscuits and OneOfTheStrange, I can't think of an area where the military welfare or legal systems are superior to the civilian system. Even the dogs in the street (thank you NI for that expression) know that to be an insane claim.

    I've seen the way that people are treated like traitors as soon as they run into difficulty. I remember lads suffering PTSD after various stuff in the late 80s/early 90s and they were hung out to dry. The army (especially the infantry) love to emphasise the family ethos and team-spirit but many guys become persona non grata in the blinking on an eye. Once those ranks close it can be a nasty business.

    I personally applied to rebadge from one mob to another in the early 90s. It seemed to take ages and I hadn't even had an interview with an officer of that corps after 12 months. Admittedly I was a bit naive at the time and didn't know how long such things are supposed to take. Eventually I went to the see the chief clerk, who calmly explained that my paperwork had all gone diffy in the post. Everything was lost - my 2066 (report book, now superseded) with great reports in it, my conduct sheets and all the forms that had been done - the bloody lot! He said c'est la vie, never mind, and asked if I wanted to start the application again from scratch. I was absolutely gutted and I realised that the mob can seriously f*** you off if they want and you haven't got a leg to stand on. Fortunately I'm a bloody idiot, accepted that life was sh** and carried on regardless to become the demi-god that I am now.

    BUT....civvy street can be just as brutal. It's just a bit more transparent - commercial business are quite clear that performance and profit are everything. Whereas in the Army we says that we're a family and we look after our own, but it depends. Once someone decides that you're not in the team anymore then it's an uphill struggle. At the end of the day, if "the man" decides that recorded facts have to be altered then that's exactly what will happen.

    I think the Army has come on in leaps and bounds in the past 10 years, but the organisation is still stuck too far back in the past, with a suspicion of anyone who's not a physically fit WASP right-wing heterosexual male. I'm on the lookout for an ethnic albanian muslim lesbian single parent dwarf in a wheelchair to be the next CGS. Huzzah!

    Wow...that was pretty negative wasn't it. Must be the whiskey (yes the spelling's correct, as I'm on Bushmills Malt).

  12. Having viewed the relevant subsections. The point has been missed in the bill is that delay is normally caused by unit level.

    Below are extract from the Times article


    And here is where a federation could come in. I and others on this site have witnessed and been subject to the blatant distortion of facts by Officers when compiling information about the complainant. The complainant only gets to read what has been said or any mitigating facts that have been put across by the CofC after the Brief to the Army Board has been completed by the Case Officer at Army Appeals Wing. That is after two levels of investigation. So you could imagine. You read something about you that is not true and your unit are purporting you are a waste of space ect. You are going to want an explanation and to put the record strait. Case Officer then has to write back to unit and Div with the bullet points and ask for an explanation. Explanation then sent back to complainant, explanation still a distortion as unit has to dig its heels in and it carries on. Time is wasted justice denied Fed rep would also act the as the reality check for Soldier if Soldier is in the wrong.

    Now a Federation rep comes in here. He or she could act as middle man/woman for the complainant from the very start, This would help negate the need for a solicitor. He/She would be Completely outside the C of C and would not have held a queens commission unless the Complainant wishes otherwise. Only the complainant can make the first contact with this person. The Fed rep would have the powers to ask for all documentation during the soldiers redress. The Service Redress interpretation of the Anderson principles only extend to when a complaint has got to the appeals wing. This should extend to unit and Div. At this stage any misleading comments could be thrashed out there and then. If unit digs its heels in and is being uncooperative, Fed Rep would have points of contact to kick CO of unit up the backside. This is not to be confused with an assisting officer who is offered to the Complainant by the soldiers Cof C and who only acts at unit level.


    Sir Kevin Tebbit last year revised the way the Army Boards now view evidence, hearsay is now discarded and not taken into account.

    From CO during complaint.
    Soldier B was always a bad soldier he was always unfit and he had a drink problem and always got out of things..

    ACR before complaint.
    Soldier B is a well liked hard working soldier who has very high standers.ect

    Now before this change, the Army Board would have taken what the CO said more or less as the gospel truth because the CO signed it. However when challenged I,E where was the three months WO. where was this stated in MYA/ACR ect before, you would get a nil reply back from CO, manly because the soldiers was being slated as CO was part of the complaint and CO would never do that, would he? The Army Board members would see it, as it was a plain as the nose on their face. but would not comment on it or pretend they did not read it. dispite what it said in AGAIs :roll:

    Again if such things were to slip the net the Fed rep would be able to sit on the board on behalf of the complainant and point such things out and kick up a stink if Army Board played the three wise monkeys.
  13. I'd just got back from that holiday camp in Colchester, when I was charged (wrongly) with failing to attend a duty. The BC came out with those immortal lines, thinking that I would roll over and accept his award. His chin hit the desk when I said I'll go for court marshal. "BSM march this man out and talk some sense into him" Stuck to my guns and had the charge dismissed. Apparently a Co can only have so many dcms before the sh*t hits the fan. :lol:
    • Like Like x 1
  14. kgn

    Thanks for that. Food for thought indeed.

    I should make it clear that I just cannot envisage a future Federation getting imvolved in the conduct of redress cases in the way suggested. You make some very clear points and I would be interested to see further debate on this very important subject.
  15. I always thought it was "Good Order and Military Discipline." Anyway shouldn't this be in another area? Personnel Pay and Discipline perhaps?