How to Write a Good Rebuttal to a GOMOR, Page 11, or Other Military Letter of Reprimand
This guide provides an overview of the key components of a persuasive rebuttal memo to a GOMOR, Page 11, or other military letter of reprimand or negative military counseling. It also provides examples of things not to do when drafting a rebuttal memo.
Two Types of Letter of Reprimand RebuttalsRebuttal responses to GOMORs, Page 11s, or other types of reprimands and adverse counselings, come in two forms. In one, the service member denies that any misconduct occurred and the written rebuttal matters attempt to compellingly show that. In the other, the service member concedes that some misconduct took place but argues that mitigating circumstances, including the service member’s prior exemplary service, demand that the reprimand stand alone and that no further adverse action be taken against them.
Three Critical Pieces to a Good Letter of Reprimand RebuttalThere are three critical pieces to any compelling letter of reprimand rebuttal:
(2) Supporting Documentation or Other Evidence
(3) Character References
Each of these pieces have to be carefully woven together so they support each other. Facts that a military member points to should be backed up by supporting documents or other evidence and character references should be used in a way to support the overall message being conveyed.
Character references are almost always the most important part of a good rebuttal to a GOMOR or other type of reprimand. If the military member is denying that any misconduct occurred, then character references should be crafted to support that denial in the best way possible. On the other hand, if the service member is conceding that some misconduct took place but is arguing that there are mitigating circumstances, the best character references will highlight the member’s otherwise exemplary service, their ability to move past the misconduct in a positive way, and that the person writing the reference desires to continue to serve with the member because they believe the misconduct to be a one-time mistake.
A Letter of Reprimand Can Have a Devastating Effect on a Military Service Member’s CareerLetters of reprimand that become a permanent part of a military service member’s record will more than likely cause one or more of the following:
(1) Administrative Separation Processing
(2) Non-selection for Promotion
(3) Detachment / Relief for Cause
(4) Adverse Evaluation Report
(5) Non-selection for Re-enlistment or Continued Service.
As a result, it is imperative that a service member’s written rebuttal to a letter of reprimand be drafted as professionally as possible. Many make the mistake of submitting a rebuttal stuffed with irrelevant or weak matters. Others make the misstep of just attaching a litany of commendatory material, thinking that they have shown the commander what a great Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airman, or Coast Guardsman they are. But this won’t work—a different approach is needed, discussed next.
Submitting Rebuttal Matters is Much Like Going on the TV Show “Shark Tank”If you’ve seen the TV show for entrepreneurs, "Shark Tank," you know that the people who appear on that show have just a few minutes—that’s it—to pitch their product idea to potential investors. A wandering, disjointed, or weak presentation results in no deal. An organized, confident, and persuasive presentation gives the entrepreneur a shot. The same principles apply to rebuttals.
You have to quickly get the commander’s attention (and his staff who will read the rebuttal first) and swiftly convince them that there is merit in what you’re saying. In our experience at Liebenguth Law, a 3 to 10 page rebuttal (not including enclosures) is generally the best length for accomplishing this, with most falling in the 4-7 page range. Yet we’ve seen many rebuttal packages that, although neatly organized and error free, are 20, 30, 50 pages or more of material that has almost zero chance of being meaningfully read by a commander and his staff, and even less chance of actually being successful. THEY ARE JUST TOO LONG AND UNPERSUASIVE. Yet these voluminous rebuttal packages are often submitted because they are easier to compile—it’s a lot harder, and takes a lot longer, to sift through everything and craft a persuasive argument that will actually have a chance at success. Don’t make this mistake if you want to have any real chance at a winning outcome.
Improving Your Rebuttal Odds – Requesting a Meeting With the CommanderIn some circumstances, rebuttal matters should include a request to meet with the commander to discuss the allegations. This sends a strong message that the service member has absolute faith in their rebuttal position. However, there are dangers associated with such a request (e.g., the request is granted and the commander then determines that the service member is lying, making things worse). As a result, our firm only pursues this course of action when the service member fully supports it and all of the circumstances dictate that it’s the right move.