Terry Mutchler and Matthew Olesh Win a U.S. Military Appeal
Terry Mutchler and Matthew Olesh won a U.S. Military appeal on behalf of a 15-year veteran of both the U.S. Marines and the U.S. Air Force, where he now serves. The Airman was charged in a military tribunal with open and notorious insubordination to a superior noncommissioned officer. He was demoted, lost pay, and was barred from promotions for two years as a result of what the military calls a non-judicial punishment or NJP. Mutchler and Olesh had all of those punishments reversed and the client’s military rank restored.
The charges stemmed from foul language used in the closing minutes of a 48-hour drill. The drill sergeant conducting the exercises introduced a new complicated exercise in the last 14 minutes of the engagement, prompting groans from the tired Airmen. Our client shouted out an obscenity to the drill instructor, who is a longtime friend who went to boot camp with our client. Nobody present at the unit exercise objected or complained about the exchange or the language. Yet, the unit Commander, who happened to be walking by the room took it upon himself to take action. Despite several members of the unit rejecting the enticement to complain about the language, the unit Commander ordered the drill sergeant to file military charges against our client triggering the NJP.
Under the Pennsylvania Code of Military Justice, a hearing was held and the head of the naval base ordered that our client be stripped of a stripe, demoting him to Staff Sgt, E-4, and loss of pay differential between those ranks. The punishment also meant that our client was not eligible for promotions for two years. Mutchler and Olesh filed a written appeal with United States Brigadier General Michael J. Regan Jr., who serves as the Deputy Adjutant General for the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.
In July, Mutchler argued before a three-military judge panel that our client’s behavior did not constitute open and notorious insubordination, rather instead the incident was banter among two guys as close as brothers at the end of an arduous drill, and that the charges were brought in violation of military procedure. Lastly, she asserted that if the military starts taking stripes for using foul language, there will be a lot of bare sleeves on military bases.
On Sunday, November 5, 2023, the three-judge military panel agreed with Obermayer’s lawyers. The NJP is set aside in full, and the incident will not appear on our client’s military record. He will be restored to his full rank of Staff Sgt. E-5, along with his pay. He will be eligible for promotions immediately. Most significantly for our client, the Air Force captain who ordered the filing of the NJP has been transferred to another unit and no longer supervises our client. Our client will however receive a letter of reprimand for using foul language.