By Capt. Patrick Burke and Capt. Gary Stanley, Hawaii Field Office, U.S. Army Trial Defense ServiceFebruary 3, 2012
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- The U.S. Army Trial Defense Service, or USATDS, is set up to provide free legal advice and representation to Soldiers facing court-martial, nonjudicial punishment, Article 15, administrative separation and other adverse actions.
Similar to a civilian public defender's office, USATDS is staffed by Army judge advocates, or JAs, who are licensed as attorneys, as well as enlisted paralegal specialists. USATDS is an independent stovepipe organization that does not fall under the chains of command of the Soldiers the JAs represents. This separation ensures candid legal advice and zealous representation is given with only the client's best interest in mind.
Because of necessary Department of Defense budget cuts and planned reduction of forces, commands have placed a greater emphasis on pursuing administrative separations.
These separations are not considered punishment, but are instead a tool by which the command basically determines whether Soldiers should or shouldn't be retained in the Army for the duration of their contract and, if separated, what characterization of service they receive.
Enlisted separations are governed by Army Regulation 635-200, "Enlisted Separations (Discharges)." Soldiers have rights when facing a separation action and should seek legal advice from USATDS. Explanations of some of those rights follow:
Q: What kind of administrative separation am I entitled to?
A: As an enlisted Soldier, you are entitled to have your case heard by a separation board if you have more than six years of service, or are being considered for an other than honorable conditions discharge. The board is typically made up of two officers and a senior-enlisted Soldier. The unit's prosecuting attorney will present evidence on behalf of the command, and a Trial Defense Service, or TDS, attorney will represent you free of charge. You also can pay out of pocket for representation by a civilian defense attorney. If the board recommends separation, it goes to the commanding general for approval.
Q: I have less than six years in service and am being recommended for a general, under honorable condition separation. What can I do?
A: As you aren't entitled to having your case heard by an administrative separation board, your only real recourse is to submit something in writing to your command. Unlike at a board, the assisting you in preparing a rebuttal if you desire. In this letter, you can explain any mitigating circumstances and respectfully request appropriate recourse. This will aid the command in making the final determination in your case.
Q: If I am being recommended for a general, under honorable condition separation, what about my Post 9/11 GI Bill?
A: You're entitled to this educational benefit only if you received an honorable discharge. A case-by-case determination is made when you are discharged with a general, under honorable conditions discharge. Application is made on U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs form 22-1990, "Application for VA Education Benefits." Call the Schofield Barracks Education Center at 655-0800/0805.
Q: I have heard that after six months I can apply to the Army Discharge Review Board, or ADRB, and get my chapter upgraded. Is this true?
A: Yes. Former members of active duty, the Reserves and Army National Guard may submit DOD Form 293, "Application for the Review of Discharge From the Armed Forces of the United States," to the ADRB. Visit http://arba.army.pentagon.mil.
When facing an administrative separation or any other adverse action, Soldiers should immediately seek the advice of the USATDS staff. The TDS Hawaii Field Office is located in Building 2027, Aleshire Blvd., Schofield Barracks, and can be reached at 808-655-6000.