FORT KNOX, Ky. (Army News Service, April 24, 2007) - It could happen to anyone on a military installation: You decide to buy a car, negotiate for a price, purchase one at a lot near post and wind up with a lemon.
Are you stuck?
Not by a long shot, as it turns out. Fort Knox - and every Defense Department installation - has a system in place to help Soldiers and Family Members who've been treated unfairly by merchants. It's called the Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board.
"This program does a lot of things," said Lt. Col. John Davidson, Fort Knox's provost marshal.
As the post sheriff, Davidson sits as the head of the Fort Knox board, whose membership includes representatives from many post agencies.
"The reason for the board is because the CG (commanding general) is concerned about the health and welfare of the Soldiers and Family Members under his command," Lt. Col. Davidson said. "Any issue that has bearing on their health and welfare, he wants to look into."
The board, governed by Army Regulation 190-24, can recommend that the commanding general take a broad spectrum of actions "if a Soldier feels like they've been slighted or that they've been discriminated against," Lt. Col. Davidson said.
And it's not just shady business practices the board looks into and attempts to correct. Complaints to the Disciplinary Control Board come in many shapes and sizes, and range from unfair interest rates to discrimination to sexually transmitted diseases, Lt. Col. Davidson explained.
In addition to the provost marshal, the board is composed of representatives from the Staff Judge Advocate, alcohol and drug control, the community health nurse, Army Community Service, the Criminal Investigation Division, the Inspector General, Staff Chaplain Office, MWR and the Public Affairs Office - all of whom provide expert advice from their respective fields.
"Each different discipline will have input," Lt. Col. Davidson said. "Anyone can say, 'Hey, do we need to look into this?'"
Complaints are usually submitted to the board in writing, but the victim of an alleged offense can also elect to appear before the board to make his or her case.
"If we think the case is valid, we will send a letter to the company, individual or enterprise in question," Lt. Col. Davidson explained. "They'll have the opportunity to come before the board and plead their case or negate what was said about them."
Working through post agencies and their civilian counterparts in the community, the board can initiate investigations into complaints it decides have merit.
For a sudden outbreak of a sexually transmitted disease, for example, health officials can look into patterns of behavior among the people who have contracted the infection, including where they've been spending their off-duty time and who they've been spending it with.
The findings are returned to the board, which meets quarterly, or more often if required.
"We make a decision, and then we'll make a recommendation to the garrison commander," Lt. Col. Davidson said.
The board's "neutron bomb" is the recommendation that the commanding general place an area or business on the "off-limits establishments list," which is posted prominently in every unit area in the local command.
The ban carries the weight of a general order, and the effects of having Soldiers barred from frequenting an establishment close to post can have drastic negative effects on a business.
But the board can recommend other actions, as well. The only limitation its members have is the scope of the commander's authority.
"There are other avenues we can recommend without resorting to placing someone off-limits," Lt. Col. Davidson explained.
However, the board can't act on issues it isn't made aware of, Lt. Col. Davidson said.
"If you've been wronged, get it into somebody's hands," he said.
Normally, complaints are vetted through a Soldier's chain of command, so the best place to start is usually a first-line supervisor.
But information can reach the board through any of its members' directorates as well.
"Get it to somebody," Lt. Col. Davidson said, "so we can make the determination whether to take action."