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Occasionally Soldiers get into trouble and become subject to some form of formal punishment where he is judged by members outside the unit. Because he or she is being judged by strangers who don't know him, character statements will be required for his defense. A character statement helps judges, Commanders, First Sergeants, and other strangers make fair decisions by providing a factual description of a person's character. The people who will read your character statement don't know the individual personally, want to judge him or her fairly, and are depending on you to accurately and honestly describe the subject's character.
The most effective and meaningful character statements are those written by people who have known the accused person for a long time and who can be considered to be impartial. An NCOIC or manager would normally be considered to be impartial due to the enforced distance and formality required by a supervisor/subordinate relationship and because of the integrity a senior NCO is assumed to have.
If you are asked to write a character statement, don't worry if you can't write well. The important thing is that you cared enough and took the trouble to write. Usually, when things get to the point where character references are requested, the person is in potentially serious trouble and his career is on the line. He will be grateful for any effort on his behalf. And the members who will be judging the case don't care if you use bad grammar. They just want to get an idea of the person's history so that they can make a fair decision based on the evidence.
Type your statement and print it on good quality paper. Your statement will represent both you and the subject and its appearance will have some influence. Make it as presentable as possible. Use plain bond paper and the official memorandum format.
If you are called on to write a character statement on someone's behalf, make sure what you write is 100% factual. To do otherwise would hurt your reputation and possibly make you subject to UCMJ action.
In general, character statements have three sections:
Introduction. Normally a single paragraph of a couple of sentences explaining who you are (rank, place of work, etc) and your relationship with the subject (co-worker, friend, supervisor, etc). This is important. The reader will automatically assign a certain level of credibility to the letter based on the relationship. The more distant the relationship, the more credible the letter will be perceived to be.
Body. The body is the majority of the letter. It can be one or several paragraphs. Here is where you make the case for the subject by describing your experiences with him or her and giving examples of the subject's good qualities. The first sentence should state your overall opinion of the subject and everything else written should support that statement.
Make sure you address the type of behavior that the person is accused of having. If the person who needs the character statement was accused of reckless behavior, you should emphasize aspects of his or her behavior that demonstrate a serious regard for the safety and welfare of others. This will suggest to the reader that the incident was a one-time, out-of-character act, not likely to be repeated. Spend some time thinking this through so that you can come up with material that will cast doubt on the charges. The Army can and has moved surprisingly swiftly to discharge offenders and your statement will have a lot of weight in determining the subject's fate and may just save him or her from being discharged.
Ask the subject of the character statement if they have any information that could help project a positive image such as a list of accomplishments, organizations that he or she belongs to, or any other relevant information. Ask your co-workers too. This is important.
Closing. Normally a single paragraph that reinforces your belief in the subject and summarizes your statement. Expressing a willingness to go further in defense of the subject by providing a phone number or offering to show up at any hearing will double the letter's effectiveness.
An effective character statement focuses on specifics. It can't be a rambling, general statement that "John is one of the nicest guys I have ever met". It must directly describe traits that support the person's character and counters the alleged bad behavior. The prosecution will methodically present arguments proving their case by focusing on specific traits and if you want to have any hope of defending your pal, you must present specific examples in your statement.
If, for example, someone is being prosecuted for dereliction of duty, a character statement on that person's behalf should include information describing your experience with that person's earnest dedication to his assigned responsibilities. Describe incidents where he was encouraged to cut corners or leave his post but refused.
If someone has been accused of insubordination, a character statement for that person should address your direct knowledge of that person's respect for authority and willingness to follow orders with examples if possible. List incidents that you observed where he accepted orders or even punishment without argument.
Of course, along with this focused description, you should also include your subject's other positive attributes. If possible, these additional positive attributes should overlap with or complement your main assertion. For example, a central theme of respect for authority and a natural willingness to follow orders would be supported by additional positive attributes of dedication to duty, an understanding of the need for order, and a positive attitude.
Overlapping positive attributes
I am SSG Ricky Bobby and am writing on behalf of CW3 Walker Texas-Ranger. I have served over eleven years active duty service in our great Army. I am currently a Recruiter in Talladega and an active member of the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club.
I first met CW3 Texas-Ranger in August 2004, when he served as an AIT Drill Sergeant at Ft. Gordon, GA. CW3 Texas-Ranger was never assigned as my Drill Sergeant or Senior Drill Sergeant. Despite this, he had an extremely positive impact on me and the unit. CW3 Texas-Ranger never failed to uphold the Army Values and consistently embodied technical and tactical proficiency. Witnessing CW3 Texas-Ranger s superior leadership and mentorship qualities in such a diverse environment, certainly groomed me into the Leader I am today.
Furthermore, I served with CW3 Texas-Ranger in Fort Hood, TX, and Bagram, Afghanistan. CW3 Texas-Ranger and I were never assigned to the same section at either location. CW3 Texas-Ranger fortified the image of the Leader I knew him as during AIT, as he continuously mentored Soldiers at all echelons. His technical prowess was steadfast and contributions to the G6 team guaranteed overall mission accomplishment.
I aware of the pending review of CW3 Texas-Ranger s advancement to CW4 due to an investigation while he was assigned as a Drill Sergeant. The investigation came as quite a surprise to me, as CW3 Texas-Ranger has never portrayed a Soldier that would derelict his personal or professional responsibilities.
For these reasons, it is my humble recommendation that CW3 Texas-Ranger is advanced to CW4. If you would like for me to elaborate prior to your final decision, I would sincerely appreciate the opportunity to speak further on CW3 Texas-Ranger's behalf. I can be reached at any time on my personal cell, 800-SHK-NBKE, or government cell, 800-BBJ-ESUS.
1 Aug 2014
MEMORANDUM FOR ALL REVIEWING AUTHORITIES
FROM: John S. Smith, SSG, USA
SUBJECT: Character Statement for SGT Jones
My name is SSG Smith and I am writing on behalf of SGT Jones. I have been in the Army for over 11 years and I am currently the NCOIC of Personal Property at the Installation Transportation Office.
I first met SGT Jones in April 2011 at WLC, on Ft Stewart. I had the opportunity to get to know SGT Jones as a peer and as a friend. I know SGT Jones has dedicated her life to the Army is an integral part of it. She embodies her job as assignments manager and places her job and the Army first in her life, and wouldn’t have it any other way.
I have been informed by SGT Jones about the situation that she is currently in. In regards to this situation, I can tell you that this was a one-time mistake and out of character for her. While TDY with her at Ft Meade, I had the opportunity to witness her instructing other NCOs about the GTC, its purpose, and its proper use. Despite numerous TDYs and dozens of uses, she has never misused her card before this instance. And, in her defense, she had the integrity to immediately acknowledge her mistake and take care of it immediately.
I am aware of the punishment that SGT Jones could be given. However, I do not believe the fullest extent of the law should be exercised when determining her final punishment. What I have personally witnessed of SGT Jones' character does not indicate a person that possesses a threat to the professional image and integrity of our Army. It is my belief that people of her character and work ethic are too rare to risk losing over a one-time, out-of-character incident and I earnestly recommend suspending any punishment. If you have any questions or concerns, or if I can be of further assistance, I can be reached at DSN 123-4567.
MEMORANDUM FOR ALL REVIEWING AUTHORITIES
FROM: MARY M. BELLA, CPT, USA,
SUBJECT: Character Statement for SPC Joe J. Smith
1. My name is Capt Mary Bella and I am writing on behalf of SPC Joe J. Smith. I have been in the Army for almost nine years and currently I am the ASF Administration and Occupational Health Element Chief.
2. SPC Smith is one of the technicians who work in the Aeromedical Staging Facility (clinical operations). I have the opportunity to work with SPC Smith when I provide nurse coverage for the ground transportation of patients in the aerovac system. In addition, I have had the opportunity during the last month to interact with him during PT sessions three times a week.
SPC Smith always maintains a very high standard of dress and appearance. His interactions with me, and those I have witnessed with other superiors, are always with good military bearing and keen attention to customs and courtesies. He completes all tasks I ask of him and has often shown initiative and motivation with other tasks. I call upon him frequently during unit PT sessions to assist others with their running and endurance. He does so without question. If he has a concern regarding a task I've given him, he requests clarification.
SPC Smith is a quiet, soft-spoken individual who often keeps to himself. This has not been an issue with me when working with him. I know of a couple of conflicts with his coworkers/peers. However, I must note that SPC Smith was not the cause those conflicts.
3. I am aware of the discharge proceedings against SPC Smith. I recommend supporting him with his request to stay in the Army. At the very least, a suspended discharge would allow SPC Smith the opportunity to continue his service while demonstrating his commitment to the Army. I believe SPC Smith has the potential we seek in our Soldiers. Good mentorship and leadership will provide him the foundation he requires to continue to be an asset.
MARY M. BELLA, CPT, USA
ASF Admin/Occupational Health Element Chief
10 Oct 2012
My name is SSG Wayne and I am SPC Morrison's supervisor. I am writing this character statement in support of SrA Morrison. I understand that he recently got in a fight at the base Club and is now subject to administrative action under the UCMJ.
I have worked with SPC Morrison (as a co-worker and now as a supervisor) for almost two years and in that time I have never seen him lose his temper or even raise his voice to anyone. He is one of the most calm members of our work center. I have always known him to be quietly cheerful and, to my knowledge, he has always had a good attitude and a positive outlook. He does his share of the work without complaint and appears to enjoy his job and being a member of the Army.
I remember one incident that illustrates his non-confrontational nature. One day, as SPC Morrison and I were walking back to the barracks after working all day during a base cleanup detail, we were stopped by a Master Sergeant we didn't know who accused us of shirking our duties. The Master Sergeant apparently thought we were assigned to his work detail and blasted us with insults and even put his hand on SPC Morrison's shoulder as if he was going to arrest him. Despite the unjustified provocation, SPC Morrison remained calm and in a respectful manner, explained our situation, and then just walked away. He doesn't like confrontations and will avoid them if at all possible.
He has never been in trouble before or involved in any kind of altercation. He has not received any kind of discipline here in our work center, not even a verbal counseling. Despite his young age, he is one our most mature Soldiers and never has to be told what his job is or be reminded to do something. In fact, I once heard our Maintenance NCO praise him at a meeting with the NCOIC, saying he wished he had more Soldiers like him.
In summary, I am surprised to learn of the behavior SPC Morrison is charged with. It is completely out of character for him and I can't help but wonder if there were mitigating circumstances. He is one of our best troops and I would not hesitate to recommend him for retention and promotion. I feel certain that our Section Chief would agree.
John S. Wayne, SSG, USA