So, you messed up. That sucks. It’s time to absorb whatever punishment your command team is about to drop on you like an adult and carry on with your career. “But wait,” you hear from the corner of the smoke pit, “according to the regulations, you can’t get in trouble for that thing you did!”
We’ve all seen this happen. That one troop — the one who thinks they know how to help you — is what we call a “barracks lawyer.” They’re not actual legal representation and they don’t have any formal training. More often than not, this troop catches wind of some “loophole” via the Private News Network or Lance Corporal Underground and they take this newfound fact as gospel.
For whatever reason, people routinely make the mistake of believing these idiots and the nonsense that spews from their mouths. Here’s just a brief look at why you shouldn’t take their advice:
Think about it for more than half a second. If everyone knew all the stupid loopholes, there wouldn’t be a court martial system.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kathleen Polanco)
They think they found a loophole… They didn’t.
The actual rules and regulations have been finely tuned over the course of two hundred years. It’s very unlikely that some random troop just happened to be the only one to figure out some loophole. And, realistically, that’s not how the rules work. There’s a little thing known as “commander’s discretion” that supersedes all.
If the commander says it, it will be so. It doesn’t matter how a given rule is worded.
What they’re suggesting isn’t real. Want to know what is? Troops breaking big rocks into smaller rocks in military prison.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jessica Collins)
What they’re suggesting is often insubordination.
Advice that these pseudo-lawyers offer often involves a line that often starts with, “you don’t have to follow that, because…” Here’s the thing: Unless a superior is asking you to do something that’s profoundly unsafe or illegal, you have to do it. That’s not just your immediate supervisor — that’s all superiors.
The advice that they’re offering is a textbook definition of insubordination. Disregarding an order comes with a whole slew of other legal problems down the time.
If they’re on in the first sergeant’s office after every major three-day weekend, they’re probably full of sh*t.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret)
They’re usually not the best troops in the formation
If they do know what they’re talking about, it’s for good reason. They probably got in trouble once, talked their way out of that trouble, and got let off the hook because the command stopped caring to argue.
It’s not like there’s an entire MOS field dedicated to solving such issues… oh… wait…
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton)
They don’t know what the f*ck they’re talking about
There are 134 articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice out there and countless other rules and regulations that pop up from time to time. There’s no way in Hell that some private in the barracks has spent the time required to study each and every one of them and how they interact with each other.
If they have, by some miracle of time management, spent the effort required to learn all of this, then why the hell have they been squandering their profound talents in your unit rather than going over to JAG? Which leads us perfectly into…
If you live with a lower enlisted troop who’s in JAG, they’re still a barracks lawyer if their head is firmly up their own ass about how they can help you. Catch them on the clock.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Mark R. W. Orders-Woempner)
There are actual military lawyers who will advocate for you.
They exist and aren’t that uncommon. They’re often found at the brigade-level or installation-level. It’s their job to take on your case and see how the military judicial system could work for you. Unlike your buddy in the barracks, these lawyers have spent years in military (and often civilian) legal training.
Don’t waste your time placating the barracks lawyer. Actual military lawyers in JAG will take care of you.