Board investigates off-post issues
October 10, 2013
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Fort Jackson Soldiers who have a dispute with an off-post business concerning safety, health, welfare or discrimination can get help from the installation's Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board.
"If Soldiers feel like they're not being treated fairly, or if there are safety hazards or unsafe or unsanitary conditions where they live or in the community -- all those kinds of things are things that we address," said Patrick O'Connor, deputy director of Emergency Services, who has been on the board for six years.
"If, say, a Soldier tries to rent a trailer or an apartment somewhere, and believes that he or she was denied that apartment for a reason of race, sex, origin or any of those things, and he or she has some kind of evidence -- that Soldier can come to the board and give the board information, 'Here's what happened to me at this location.' ... And we'll look into it. If we find it is factual or truthful, then there's mechanisms for us to notify the owner of that apartment and say, 'Here's what we discovered,' and give him an opportunity to fix it."
If a business is unable or unwilling to fix the issue, the senior commander has the option of putting that business off-limits to Fort Jackson service members.
"When a location is placed off-limits by the command, it's only enforceable to Soldiers (or other service members), who are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice," O'Connor said. "It can't be forced upon civilians, but it would be encouraged for them not to go there."
Currently, no businesses are off-limits -- a fact that O'Connor attributes to an excellent working relationship with the Columbia community.
"Not only do we work with the owner of the facility, we work with community leaders like the Chamber of Commerce or the city ... . We try to enlist all the agencies to help us resolve the issue," O'Connor said. "As far as Columbia is concerned -- they're excellent partners. Everyone that we work with ... they're all very accommodating and willing to help us."
Although off-limits rules are only enforceable to service members, all other members of the Fort Jackson community are invited to present issues to the board.
"Anybody in the community -- family member, civilian employee -- can bring an issue to the board that they think is a matter of safety, health, welfare or discrimination with an off-post organization," O'Connor said. "There are several ways how you can lodge a complaint. We have an email (address) where you can do it anonymously if you wish. You could take it to your chain of command or, if you're a civilian, you could take it to your boss and have him or her bring it forward. Or you could come to the board itself and present in person, if you wish to do that."
The board consists of representatives of various organizations on post -- such as the Staff Judge Advocate's Office, the Provost Marshal's Office, the Public Affairs Office, Housing and the Inspector General's Office -- and meets quarterly. Meetings are open to the public. The next meeting is scheduled for 10:30 a.m., Dec. 6 at the DES conference room. The board's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.