- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This letter arrived this morning. I am running it with the author’s permission:
My name is Major Charles V. Slider III and I am currently stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. I am an African-American armor officer, proud father, and husband and graduate of Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri. I was selected for the recently convened Officer Separation Boards for the Department of the Army for a mistake over eight years ago. The mistake was a DUI in which I received a General Officer Memorandum for Record in 2006. Since this incident, I strived for excellence in every job that I performed.
I trained soldiers for deployments to Iraq as part of the surge into theater from 2006-2008. From 2008-2011, I attended and completed Ranger School, Air Assault School and earned the Expert Infantryman Badge. I commanded troops in combat in Afghanistan where I earned the Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal for Valor, and the Purple Heart for actions against a determined enemy in RC East. After the deployment, I was selected as the executive officer for the deputy commander for the Combined Arms Center of Training at Fort Leavenworth serving in the capacity as the daily assistant for a general officer. The following year I was selected among a field of majors to attend the Commanding General and Staff Officer College at Fort Leavenworth, as well as the school of advanced military studies. Both prestigious institutes serve as the educational nexus for field-grade officers. Upon graduating from SAMS in May 2014, I was notified that I would not receive an assignment due to being assessed as high risk the GOMAR in my restricted file.
On August 1, I was notified of my removal from active duty service. Although I accept this fate, this is not justifiable due to the sacrifices that both my family and I have endured.
As a resident ILE/SAMS graduate, my interpretation of this entire process is that it involved no critical thinking about the types of officers maintained in the current military structure. In certain cases, specific skills, attributes, and character traits are required in order to provide a balance of the warrior scholar. To this end the board process chose individuals for elimination that met all of the requirements, but possessed one black mark. Instead of using judgment and common sense in determining the number of officers required for service, an arbitrary number was provided. This created a system in which officers were selected based on a mistake rather than their overall contribution to the Army. One lapse in judgment does not constitute a pattern of misconduct, nor a judgment of overall character. These types of decisions knee-jerk reactions within the Army have the potential to erode trust within the lower ranks.
As an officer, I believe that we should be judged on our body of work, not one isolated incident. Furthermore, this act to remove me from service serves as a blunt example of how stoic and regimented the board process is as a system. As a Purple Heart recipient and proud member of the service, my family and I have given the Army our never-ending faith and commitment. However, the Army has seen it fit to remove my services as an officer from its ranks. Although the details of the board instructions will remain hidden, this also serves as ironclad proof that these awards are merely a method to provide credibility to a force that has integrity issues and morally barren for true sacrifices. This letter is an attempt to highlight the issues residing within an unfair system and to provide context to others within the system. As a combat veteran of two theaters, Iraq and Afghanistan, I do not expect to be treated differently or to receive any sort of pat on the back. However, my actions after 2006 prove my family’s enduring faith to an ever-evolving conflict and requirements to serve. I have served this great nation with distinction and honor and deserve a valid explanation of why its leaders choose to remove my services from the American people. I accomplished every mission presented to and went above and beyond what is expected of an Army officer. I hope that this letter finds you in good faith.
MAJ Charles V. Slider