Fraternization in the military is a hot topic and one that can get you into real trouble.
There are several punitive articles relating to relationships and professional conduct including Articles 92, 93, 93a, 132, and 134, Uniform Code of Military Justice, depending on a person’s status.
It’s not necessary to reflect on the details of professional relationships that enhance morale, unit cohesion, good order and discipline and improve the operational environment while, at the same time, preserve proper respect for authority and focus on the mission.
It’s the unprofessional relationships that get people into trouble. Relationships are unprofessional, whether pursued on or off duty, when the relationship detracts from the authority of superiors or results in or reasonably creates the appearance of favoritism, misuse of office or position, or the abandonment of organizational goals for personal interests. Fraternization in the military includes unprofessional relationships can exist between officers, between enlisted members, between officers and enlisted members, between military personnel and civilian employees, or between Air Force members and contractor personnel.
Fraternization is a unique form of unprofessional relationship. Countless instructions, regulations, guidance, brochures, pamphlets and letters provide a multitude of observations about the effects and resulting consequences of fraternization. I think the best and most consolidated guidance that can be offered would simply to avoid the practice or appearance of fraternization. There are just too many circumstances where it can be exposed, intentionally or unintentionally. Most of those that I have worked on result from lover’s quarrels and the next thing is someone is being charged with an offense. Surrounding circumstances plays a big role in what is or what isn’t fraternization. Officers involved with enlisted personnel are big issues and the officer will be the person held primarily responsible. There are lawful orders dictating prohibitions against fraternization. There are dereliction of duty issues. There are issues related to conduct unbecoming an officer or senior enlisted members. And fraternization comes into play if there is any possibility of a compromise in the chain of command,
Fraternization might even include sharing of living accommodations, engaging in business enterprises with subordinates or other activities that might reflect on good order and discipline.
Good order and discipline is a term that potentially causes real problems for military members. Until recently there have been few, if any, court cases that clarify what this means. What is the definition of “good order and discipline”? Specifically, how can it be quantified? How can it be demonstrated that a person’s actions caused problems and negatively affected “good order and discipline”? Courts have ruled that the government must prove that there is a “direct and palpable connection between speech and the military mission” and failing that requirement cases have been overturned.
If you are charged or about to be charged with an offense similar to those concepts noted above, then you need a good lawyer. If you call me I’ll refer you to a good lawyer that can actively and aggressively help you such as Joseph Jordan.