When a Soldier comes into the Inspector General’s Office, one of the first questions the IG staff asks the person is, “Have you spoken to your chain of command about this issue?” More often than not, they find that Soldiers did not communicate with their leaders.
The majority of issues brought to the IG Office are fixable at the unit level. Many times when an IG contacts the commander to address a situation, it is the first time the commander has heard of the issue. If he or she knew the problem existed, the leader may have been able to find a solution within their means prior to the issue coming to the IG office.
In accordance with Army Regulation 600-20, “Army Command Policy,” dated March 18, with a Rapid Action Revision date of Sept. 20, “Commanders will establish an open door policy within their commands,” and “An open door policy allows members of the command to present facts, concerns and problems of a personal or professional nature or other issues that the Soldier has been unable to resolve.” The open door policy should be a Soldier’s first avenue of approach when he or she has an issue.
There are two steps which need to be taken for successful use of the open door policy. First, the commander is responsible for ensuring Soldiers are aware of the command’s open door policy. Second, the Soldiers are responsible to ensure the commander is made aware of problems that affect discipline, morale and mission effectiveness.
The IG staff has found that, even though commanders have an open-door policy in place and are willing to listen to a Soldier’s concern on a one-on-one basis, a few first-line supervisors or noncommissioned officers feel undermined if they are not informed of the Soldier’s issue. Some go to the extent of not authorizing the Soldier to use the open-door policy. Even though the IG Office staff recommends Soldiers seek help or counsel by talking to their first-line supervisor first and use the NCO channels to try to resolve issues at the lowest echelon, first-line supervisors and NCOs need to understand that going straight to the top is an option Soldiers have under the open door policy. Impeding Soldiers of the use of such policy is a violation of a regulation.
Everyone must be involved in this area. Soldiers, communicate your concerns to your chain of command, starting at the lowest level, and if necessary, take the issue up the chain in the order of company commander, battalion commander and brigade commander, as appropriate.
Soldiers with questions or concerns should call 533.1144. The IG staff is here to help.