Military Life

6 effective ways to discipline your troops without paperwork

(Photo by Sgt. John Crosby)

Discipline is of paramount importance to the military's operation. There are so many moving pieces in the armed forces that when one gear goes off course, many others feel the disruption. When a leader inevitably finds themselves in charge of a subordinate that's not pulling their weight, it's time to break out what the military is best known for: ass chewings.

A good leader knows that, even when it comes to discipline, every problem should be solved with the right tool — no using sledgehammers for thumbtack-sized problems. The "sledgehammer," in this case, is paperwork. Paperwork should always be the last resort in a leader's disciplinary arsenal.

For most problems an idiot may give you, there are more effective options outside of paperwork. You can get the same, if not better, results by using methods that don't leave a blemish on a troop's permanent record for being late to formation that one time.


1. Physical training

No single method is more tried and true than making someone do push-ups until you get tired of watching them push. "Sweating out the stupid" (as it was so eloquently put by one of my NCOs) should be the first response to anything that warrants a slap on the wrist.

But don't just stick to the standard push-ups — that's child's play. Break out some of the free weights your supply sergeant has in the locker and really make them feel it.

Any exercise is hard if you add 45 lbs of resistance.

(Photo by Spc. Nicholas Vidro)

2. Show them why it matters

Nobody's perfect and mistakes happen. Most troops don't know what they did wrong because they don't understand why it's wrong in the first place. By telling a troop why what they did was wrong, you're applying the same logic used when the garrison commander places vehicles wrecked from DUI-related crashes near the main gate. That is what happens when people don't follow the rules of drinking and driving and that is the result.

You could have a genuine heart-to-heart with your troop and explain the situation to them on an adult level — or you could take extremes. Say they missed shaving: take them to the CS chamber and they'll quickly understand.

Find a relevant example for every problem. It may be other troops who've failed.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Raughton)

3. A good, old-fashioned ass chewing

Sometimes, the easiest way to show someone they f*cked up is to let them know. When something looks more like a pattern of misconduct than a genuine mistake, it's time to take action: Inform them of wrongdoing with a proper ass chewing.

You're not yelling, you're speaking with your rank. There should be no empathy in your voice. Showing signs of emotion distracts from the point. Don't use body language — but if you do, only use knifehands.

Your knifehand should be sharp enough to make your drill sergeant proud.

(Photo by Sgt. Ken Scar)

4. Inverting the problem

Was a soldier ten minutes late to work call? Make them show up ten minutes early until they get it right. Is someone lacking a proper haircut? Shave their head bald. Did somebody lose their weapon? Make them carry something twice as heavy.

This one takes some creativity — each consequence should directly juxtapose each given problem. The goofier you can make the discipline, the more readily the lesson will stick.

What would really drive the point home is to actually take their ass to the barbershop and dictate the haircut to the barber.

(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jordan KirkJohnson)

5. Extra duty

If there's one thing young troops have, it's time. When it comes time for discipline, take advantage of that fact and fill that time.

Honestly, the more menial an extra duty the better. A troop shouldn't think that what they're doing is just part of the job — it's punishment, and there should be no doubt in their mind of that fact. The reason they're "giving the stones a new paint job" is because of their mistake.

But if the company area actually does need cleaning...

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Austin Livingston)

6. Give them responsibility over others

This may sound like the dumbest idea at first, but hear me out. Troops don't usually see the bigger picture from where they're standing in the formation. The moment someone else depends on a troop is the moment that many would-be NCOs step into the bigger world.

This is the most psychologically deep disciplinary action on this list. When others hold them accountable, any failure is compounded by all the troops who look to them for guidance. If the experiment fails, cut sling-load and take back over. If not, you just set up someone to be a fine NCO some day.

That's what this is all about anyways. Not to hurt your troops but to make them grow.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)