Posted on Jul 30, 2018
SSG Michael Hathaway
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I get it, once we sign the contract, we waive some rights to a degree. Freedom of speech is chief among these. A service member cannot say disparaging remarks about our Command-in-Chief, nor can they call senior ranking officers and NCO’s names, and so much more. But where is the line in free speech? I know service members curse and have bad language, sadly I am guilty of it too at times dropping the SH or F bomb when upset at work. I know we have to be cognizant of those around us, we have to keep in mind EO and SHARP and many other things in our speech patterns. We should stay professional.

However, what about when in civilians? All too often I have heard music depicting sexual graphic nature or use of the F word, and even worse the N word. And no, its not just rap I am talking about. There are plenty of rock songs that are just as bad. The issue is that to me the N word is vulgar, doesn’t matter if it ends in ‘a’ or the hard ‘er’. It is just vulgar. And yet it is used as a greeting in place of old word such as dawg, dude, ‘G’, etc. It grates me when I hear it and I feel as though I may be encroaching on people’s rights. Am I too old fashioned or am I trying to uphold an imaginary standard? If I am right though and the use of that word is not tolerable in uniform or civilian attire, is this EO and Article 134 or what would be the best reference approach for counseling and punishment?

I am reminded of an incident a couple of years ago I was at the PX in Grafenwohr with my daughter and clearly overheard two men in civilians in front of me at the checkout line saying the F word and other ‘bad’ language. My daughter asked me why they had potty mouths. I asked them to stop or at least lower their voices so that my daughter does not have to hear their language. They see my rank (SGT) and they said that they were officers. I asked for their ID to prove their rank (hoping they were not privates or something lying to get out of talking to an NCO), one said they didn’t have it. I asked him if he was in line to purchase something, of course he said yes. I then informed him that the PX was for ID card holders and don’t be surprised if he won’t be able to purchase anything. The other gentleman produced his ID and sure enough, he was a 1LT. I then tactfully told him that he does indeed need to watch his language, especially around children as it is unbecoming of an officer and could bring discredit upon the service as detailed in Article 134. He told me to stay in my lane, officer outranks an NCO. I just smiled and reminded him that UCMJ applies to all, and I was exercising my general military authority. I voluntarily gave him my name and unit designation and told him if he has an issue with me, then please get in touch with my chain of command. He of course did not reciprocate the gesture nor did he give me that information when I requested. I never did hear about the incident after that.

Eit: grammar
Posted in these groups: Leadership-abstract-007 LeadershipChecklist-icon-2 Standards
Edited 2 y ago
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Maj John Bell
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Edited 2 y ago
You were right. The Officers were wrong. Yes we may slip. We should be corrected, no matter the rank correcting us. The only appropriate response when we are corrected is an apology, both to you and your daughter, followed by an affirmation to her that vulgar language is inappropriate and that Dad has moral courage. Then we clean up our act.
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SSG Warren Swan
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You seriously did a good thing in checking those individuals. Rank be damned. Using certain words in and out of uniform don’t make it right when you’re a SM 24/7. Saying the N word is wrong, and don’t let what you hear compromise your beliefs. You know it’s wrong, you know it’s unbecoming, and as long as you’re in the right Charlie Mike. ‘No one is more professional than I’. Walk it like you talk it.
You’re going to hear bad language more as your career goes. You’ll even be the one to use it. It also comes down to knowing your audience. I found it easier to tune out a person who’s cursing me out for a mistake compared to one who chewed my ass with a level and call voice. I’m going to echo what that 1LT said with a caveat....stay in YOUR lane. Your ‘LANE’ is taking care of the troops. That includes that 1LT. Continue to be the solution. You’ll be able to fix the problems as they pop up. Taking care of Soldiers is NCO business and business has never been better.
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AN Eric Lewis
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I agree with your actions. The officers were clearly in the wrong. Profanity can be offensive to most people, especially in public when children are present. It is called profanity because most find it profane. My experience in post-military life is that it paints a very negative picture of the military for civilians. It makes servicemen and women appear rude, unintelligent, uncouth, undisciplined, and crude just to name a few words I've heard civilians use to describe military personnel after being around some who use vulgar language with frequency. I've often heard, "I'd never let my child go in the service if that's what they're recruiting or what they turn them into." Or, "What a horrible, vulgar, undisciplined representative of our nation's military." Civilians can be harsh when you're not present and they see YOU as the face of the military, regardless of your branch.
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