The question most often asked about military justice is whether justice is ever achieved. After all, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) was created to maintain good order and discipline so that commanders may achieve their mission. The goal of achieving the mission, however, is often inconsistent with personal needs of military members to achieve a just outcome to their legal and administrative problems, whether they are innocent or guilty. Military justice, therefore, is a frequently confusing, alien, hostile, and impersonal process that fails to protect the essential rights of military members unless they have an experienced lawyer who understands the military justice process, the military, and has the courage to fight for his or her client’s rights.
Most military members will be exposed to the notion of military justice during their basic training where they receive classes about the UCMJ, including their duties and obligations and a little about their rights. But real exposure to the military justice process most often happens when a service member faces some sort of charge or accusation. Upon a charge being made, normally with a charge sheet, an investigation, or some other form, the service member is informed that he or she is accused of a violating the UCMJ or some order or regulation. The service member is then either questioned or left to wonder about the future. Sometimes accused service members are read their UCMJ rights and interrogated during the investigation phase. Many times they are questioned without being informed of their rights under Article 31b. This essentially begins the investigatory phase of the military justice process and the service member’s first personal contact with it.