The Army National Guard is an armed-forces reserve organization with both a federal and state mission. The U.S. Army, including the Army National Guard, has five types of discharges that range from honorable to dishonorable, depending upon the circumstances surrounding the discharge. Discharges can be administrative, which means they are processed by a separation board, or punitive, meaning they're processed by either a general or special court-martial.
An honorable discharge is an administrative discharge given to an armed forces member, including an Army National Guard member, who has met the standards of acceptable conduct and performance, according to the Department of Defense's Defense Human Resource Activity. Someone who has committed a petty offense still can receive an honorable discharge, according to attorney Matthew B. Tully of the Army Times.
A general discharge under honorable conditions is meant for those who generally performed honorably but had issues, such as alcohol or drug abuse, excessive absences, Article 15 violations (petty offenses) or some mental health problems. The Defense Human Resource Activity's Glossary of Legal Terms describes it as an administrative discharge that may be given to someone who's unable to adapt to military service or is otherwise unsuitable. Both honorable and general discharges entitle a soldier to full federal rights and benefits, according to U.S. Army regulations section 635-200.
Other Than Honorable Conditions Discharge
A member of the Army National Guard also can be discharged under "other than honorable conditions" by a commanding officer who is authorized to act as a general court-martial. It is the most severe form of administrative discharge and results in demotion to the lowest enlisted grade, per Army regulation 600-8-19. Soldiers who receive this discharge generally are prohibited from enlistment in any of the armed forces and are not eligible for the majority of veterans' benefits.
"This characterization represents a significant departure from the conduct expected by a service member," according to the Judge Advocate's Office at the Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. "Significant departures include security violations and the use of violence."
A bad-conduct discharge is a punitive discharge, rather than administrative, but it is less serious than a dishonorable discharge. Common reasons for a bad-conduct discharge include incidents related to desertion, assaulting an officer or theft. It may be imposed only by a general or special court-martial. Most veterans' benefits are forfeited by a bad conduct discharge.
Dishonorable discharge is the most serious punitive discharge from military service. It is reserved for those convicted of serious military offenses or what would be considered felonies under civil law, according to the Legal Glossary of the Department of Defense's Defense Human Resource Activity. A dishonorable discharge must be approved by a general court-martial.
Bad conduct and dishonorable discharges can lead to the loss of retirement benefits, medical coverage, unemployment insurance, voting and gun ownership rights and cause problems on future job applications, according to the military criminal defense lawyers at the Texas law firm of Zimmermann, Lavine, Zimmermann, & Sampson.
Dismissal (for Officers)
Commissioned officers are subject to "dismissal" by a general court-martial instead of to a bad conduct or dishonorable discharge, though it is considered the same as a dishonorable discharge, according to the Judge Advocate's Office at the Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.
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