Off-limits memo protects Soldiers
August 8, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (August 8, 2013) -- Many businesses near military installations benefit from the patronage of Soldiers and Families, but occasionally a business may create an atmosphere that is detrimental to the wellbeing of Soldiers.
If a business seeks to take advantage of or neglects the safety of Soldiers who utilize its facilities or require its services, the violations don't go unnoticed on Fort Rucker and there are steps in place to protect Soldiers and their Families.
"There is an off-limits establishment memorandum for all service members," said Capt. Elizabeth Boggs, trial counsel at the office of the staff judge advocate. "The memorandum's intention is to prevent service personnel from being exposed to or victimized by crime-conducive conditions. Anything that is going to make the service member be vulnerable to being taken advantage of or themselves getting in trouble are reasons for the list."
Boggs said that businesses that get put on the list provide an unhealthy or dangerous atmosphere for Soldiers, and that they don't maintain good business practices to ensure the wellness, morale and safety of service members.
Businesses that go on the list have unsafe conditions in their area of responsibility relating to any of the following: disorder and lack of discipline, prostitution, sexually transmitted diseases, liquor violations, racial and other discriminatory practices, alcohol and drug abuse, drug abuse paraphernalia, criminal or illegal activities involving cults or hate groups, illicit gambling, areas susceptible to terrorist activity, unfair commercial or consumer practices, and other undesirable conditions deemed unsafe, which may adversely affect the health and wellbeing of military personnel or their Families.
The recommendation to put an establishment on the list rests on the shoulders of the disciplinary control board, and a detailed process is taken to ensure fairness for the business and safety of Soldiers, said Boggs.
The board is made up of representatives according to the needs of the command, but often include: legal counselors, law enforcement, health officials, public affairs officers and chaplains.
According to Boggs, there are many steps to the process, but, generally, information is submitted to the board alerting them to the conditions considered detrimental. The information is reviewed by the board and it asks the business owner to fix necessary problems. If the problems are not corrected the board invites the owners to attend a meeting where they can discuss the case and where the owners can ask questions. The board then deliberates again.
If the board decides that the conditions are still not satisfactory, the recommendation goes to the commanding general of the installation to put the establishment on the off-limits list. The commanding general decides whether to agree with the board or with the off-post establishment. If the commanding general goes with the board's recommendation then the business is placed on the off-limits establishment list and the memorandum is distributed throughout the installation, she said.
"The Army is looking out for its members," said Boggs. "The board went through a lengthy investigation and gave the establishment a chance to fix things, and if they didn't it is not a good place that Soldiers want to be. It is ultimately protecting Soldiers."
The CG may also temporarily place an establishment off limits on an emergency basis. In those cases, after the CG places the establishment off limits, the board will still meet to consider whether to recommend that the CG lift the emergency order or that the CG should keep the off-limits order in effect, she added.
"It's not the Army trying to control Soldiers; it's the Army looking out for their mental, physical and even financial welfare. It is in their best interest not to be there or do business with them," she continued.
The memorandum is also one way that the command team notifies incoming Soldiers of places that could be dangerous to their wellbeing.
"(New Soldiers) don't know the area," said Boggs. "It gives them the heads up that certain places in the community are not suitable places to be either seen or to do business with."
Business are not put on the list permanently and can be taken off if things change, she said.
"If a business wishes to be taken off the list it must clean up its act, apologize and petition the board to reconsider with proof that the establishment no longer has conditions that are detrimental to the good order and discipline, health, morale, welfare, safety and morals of the Army," said Boggs.
The memorandum, though only a suggestion for civilian employees and contractors, but prohibits Soldiers from entering the establishments or areas declared off-limits, according to the regulation.
"It is a rule," said Boggs. "If we go against this order we are punishable under Article 92 under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. There is a wide range of things that could happen to a Soldier."
Possible consequences include Articles 15, non-judicial punishment, adverse administrative action and even being court-martialed.
The legal assistance office recommends all NCOs and commanders to keep their Soldiers informed and educated about the off-limits establishment memorandum for Soldiers' safety and well being.
For more on the off-limits list or to make a complaint against a business, call 255-3308.