You may have heard about Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (“UCMJ”). Servicemembers experienced in the realm of military justice may reference Article 15 punishment under numerous terms: punishment by the commander, non-judicial punishment (“NJP”), getting ninja punched, captain’s mast, or admiral’s mast. Essentially an Article 15 proceeding is where a commanding officer determines if a military member has committed a relatively minor infraction of the rules governing military servicemembers. In my Army service I have witnessed Article 15s for many different circumstances, including soldiers being repeatedly late to formation, a soldier being absent without leave (“AWOL”) for a short period of time, a soldier reporting drunk to duty, a soldier involved in a bar fight, a soldier that got a DUI, a soldier breaking curfew, insubordination, and a soldier falling asleep while on guard duty. More serious crimes under the UCMJ will go straight to a court-martial and not be adjudicated under Article 15. Article 15 proceedings are much more common than courts-martial.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice is the law that applies to U.S. military servicemembers.¹ This includes all branches of the uniformed services in the United States: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and the Coast Guard. However, the UCMJ does not apply in all circumstances. For example, National Guard and Air Guard Soldiers are only subject to the UCMJ when activated in a federal capacity. Military reserve components, servicemembers, and service academy cadets are governed by the UCMJ. ROTC cadets are exempted from the UCMJ even while on active duty for training.²