An Article 138 complaint has two stages:
1. A request for redress in the form of a letter.
Address the initial request for redress of wrongs to the lowest ranking officer in your chain of command who is responsible for the problem; include these four items:
(1) State that the letter is pursuant to Article 138 of the UCMJ.
(2) Describe the problem, along with all available documentation, including statements from witnesses, and if appropriate, reference to military regulations which your commanding officer is violating.
(3) Give specific actions that can be taken to resolve the problem.
(4) Give a reasonable deadline by which the problem must be solved.
Remember that this letter can be seen as a threat. To make it seem less like a threat and more like a win-win opportunity, consider using a tone that politely conveys, “I want to give you the opportunity to do the right thing so I can get this fixed now without having to file a formal complaint.
2. The formal filing of the Article 138.
If the wrong is not addressed and fixed after the deadline in the initial request, you can submit a formal complaint. The law states that you can submit the complaint to “any superior commissioned officer.” Generally your complaint would go up your chain of command to the officer exercising general court-martial jurisdiction over the officer from whom you initially requested redress. This should be submitted through your chain of command beginning with your immediate supervising (superior) officer.
(1) State “I am officially filing an Article 138 Complaint against _______ [the person to whom you wrote the initial letter] because of ________ [restate the grievance].”
(2) State the officer’s response to the initial letter, or lack of response.
(3) State what actions must be taken to redress the grievance.
Be sure to include your initial letter requesting redress and any supporting documentation.