Army commanders, in a new message, have been reminded they have the power to revoke a soldier's awards and ribbons if their subordinates fail to maintain professional standards.

Commanders with award approval authority can prevent their soldiers from receiving everything from a valor medal to a Parachutist badge. The move not only takes away decorations, but could also negatively impact a soldier's chances at promotion.

Human Resources Command sent its reminder via a Jan. 5 MILPER message, providing clarification of the rules to assist commanders wanting to exercise their revocation authority.

It's no coincidence the message comes at the same time the Army is going through a wrenching drawdown that has seen a renewed emphasis on standards and discipline. Similar hard-nosed policies have been applied to recruiting and retention programs, promotions and reduction in force boards.

The existing rules, spelled out in Army Regulation 600-8-22 (Military Awards), are expected to get even tougher in the future. The next revision will likely contain a provision that would prohibit most awards for soldiers who fail the Army Physical Fitness Test. Such a rule already exists for soldiers who are not in compliance with weight control standards, and soldiers who are flagged for adverse personnel actions.

In some cases, once the soldier meets the Army standard and a flag is lifted, he or she again is eligible for career-enhancing actions, such as promotions and awards.

Awards are important as they can result in promotion points for sergeant and staff sergeant, and can provide a leg up for officers and senior NCOs being considered by centralized promotion boards.

The existing policies apply to the revocation of personal decorations such as the valor medals, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Army Commendation and Achievement Medals, and to combat and special skill badges and tabs, such as the Combat Infantryman Badge, Combat Action Badge, Special Forces Tab, Parachutist Badge, the Marksmanship Badges and the Ranger Tab and Sapper Tab.

Revocations typically can be triggered by a dismissal from service, dishonorable discharge or conviction by courts martial based on such actions as desertion in time of war or cowardice.

The regulation does not allow a commander to indiscriminately and retroactively strip all of a soldier's medals. But if the commander learns a soldier acted criminally, or even unprofessionally, during the same period of time he or she performed actions meriting an award, the soldier could lose his decoration.

Approval authorities can "revoke, or recommend the revocation, of an award that would not have been originally approved if subsequent facts had been known at the time of the original approval," HRC stated in its memo.

Photo Credit: John Bretschneider/Staff

The rules work differently for badges. For example, Aviation Badges can be revoked when a soldier refuses to fly or has a fear of flying or combat, while the Parachute Rigger Badge can be revoked if a soldier refuses an order to make a jump with a parachute he or she has packed.

The guidance also states:

• When commanders have substantiated evidence of a soldier's unfavorable character of service, they should initiate a request through channels to the award approval authority to revoke the approved award.

• The award approval authority will inform the affected soldier, in writing, of the revocation of the award that the soldier received during the period of misconduct.

• Soldiers who have an award revoked will be notified that they can appeal that decision to the HRC commander, a two-star general. The revocation, recommendation, referral and appeal (if submitted by the soldier) will be forwarded to the HRC commander for a final decision.

• Revocation orders will be filed in the commendatory section of a soldier's official personnel file.

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