One thing that will never change in the U.S. Army is the fact that all Soldiers have the expectation to be treated with dignity and respect. Treating Soldiers with the proper respect they deserve often directly influences how well they perform their duties. AR 600-20, Army Command Policy, directs that all Soldiers will be treated with dignity and respect. Improved unit readiness, higher morale, greater commitment to unit and mission, increased trust and unit cohesion are some of the benefits of treating others as they should be treated in our Army.

The IG office frequently receives complaints from Soldiers alleging mistreatment or disrespect by their leadership. In many instances these Soldiers had committed some type of offense and were about to be, or were already, punished for that offense. Regardless of their culpability for their misdeed or of the disciplinary actions planned, such Soldiers are still entitled to be treated with dignity and respect. Consider a Soldier who tests positive on a urine analysis, receives a Field Grade Article 15 and is waiting to be separated from service. During this preseparation period, it is inappropriate, and a violation of AR 600-20, for anyone to intentionally degrade, humiliate or disgrace this Soldier by calling him a “dirt bag,” “drugee” or any other derogatory word. He or she is still a Soldier and, until officially separated, must be addressed accordingly within Army customs and traditions by his or her rank and last name. Also, having Soldiers do anything with the intent to publicly humiliate them, such as acknowledging their illegal drug use in front of a unit formation, is improper and in violation of AR 600-20.

The IG office also receives complaints from Soldiers who have not committed an offense, but nevertheless believe their supervisors consider them to be “bad” Soldiers. They feel singled out for menial unit details, or possibly receive negative counseling statements for no apparent reason.

Often times these Soldiers complain of verbal abuse by their leadership. They feel constantly harassed by unit members or leadership and, at times, they may be subjected to verbal threats of physical violence. A healthy command climate isn’t fostered by yelling, degrading comments, profanity and verbal threats, all of which do not reflect the Army’s leadership in a professional manner. Additionally, such treatments often are not effective methods to correct a Soldier’s behavior or improve duty performance. Abusive behavior and/or improper punishment may be serious enough to be considered cruelty and maltreatment. The context/use of indecent and offensive language can also be interpreted as abusive. Such actions could be in violation of Article 93 of the UCMJ and may result in adverse action being taken against the perpetuator. Remember, dignity and respect for everyone. This includes the AWOL Soldier who returned and is waiting to be chaptered.

It would be wise to remember Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield’s August 11, 1879, address to the United States Corps of Cadets, as quoted in FM 6-22:

The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an army. It is possible to impart instruction and to give commands in such manner and such a tone of voice to inspire in the soldier no feeling but an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentment and a desire to disobey. The one mode or the other of dealing with subordinates springs from a corresponding spirit in the breast of the commander. He who feels the respect which is due to others cannot fail to inspire in them regard for himself, while he who feels, and hence manifests, disrespect toward others, especially his inferiors, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself.

When in doubt about the appropriateness of corrective training or disciplinary action, as well as dignity and respect, use Army resources or your chain of command. The IG is another resource because we are truly here to help.