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Article 134 - Sentinel or Lookout: Offenses Against or By

Any service member who disrespects a sentinel or a lookout, or any sentinel or lookout who loiters or wrongfully sits on his post has committed an offense (paragraph 104, Article 134 of the Manual for Court Martial).

The text of statute of Article 134 says that all neglects and disorders in the armed forces, all conduct that can bring discredit to the armed forces, and offenses and crimes not capital, can be punished by a court martial.

Elements of the offense

Disrespecting a sentinel or a lookout

  • A certain person was executing duties of a sentinel or a lookout.
  • The accused was aware that the person was a sentinel or a lookout.
  • The accused used disrespectful language or acted in a disrespectful manner.
  • The language the accused used or the manner in which he behaved was unlawful.
  • The accused used the language or behaved in an unlawful manner, in the sight or within hearing distance of the sentinel or lookout.
  • At the time of the incident, the person was executing the duties of a sentinel or lookout.

Sentinel or lookout who is found loitering or sits on his post

  • The accused was supposed to be a sentinel or a lookout.
  • While he was so posted, he loitered or sat down on his post, wrongfully.

In these circumstances, the accused's behavior was against the discipline and good order in the armed forces or the nature of the act brought discredit to the armed forces.

If the accused commits the offense during war time or when he was being given special pay, the following elements can be added.

  • The accused was fulfilling the duties of a sentinel in a time of war, or he was getting special pay, under 37 United States Code 310 (in the line of hostile fire or hostile mine explosions).

Explanation for the elements

Disrespect: A service member is said to have behaved disrespectfully, if he has detracted from the respect that is due to a service member performing the duty of a sentinel or a lookout. It can consist of language or acts, however expressed. Disrespectful words refer to abusive epithets or any other denunciatory or contemptuous language. In the case of a sentry of a lookout, a disrespectful acts can include a marked disdain, insolence, indifference, impertinence or rude behavior.

Loitering or sitting on post wrongfully: Loiter refers to standing around, moving about slowly, lingering, or lagging behind when it is a violation of instructions or a failure to give a duty the attention it deserves.

Maximum punishment that can levied for this offense

Disrespecting a sentinel or a lookout

3 months of confinement and forfeiture of 2/3 rd of monthly pay, for 3 months.

When a sentry or a lookout is held guilty loitering or sitting on his post

If the accused behaved this way during war time, or when he was getting special pay under 37 United States Code 310.

The service member can be punished with a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all allowances and pay and 2 years of confinement.

In all other cases: The accused can be punished with a bad conduct discharge, forfeiture of allowances and pay and 6 months of confinement.

Two scenarios to show how a service member can attract punishment under these provisions

Sentinels or lookouts perform a very important duty. The safety of the entire command rests on their shoulders and they are expected to remain vigilant and aware of their surroundings, at all time. If another service member comes around and speaks to him in a disrespectful language or behaves in a disrespectful manner, the sentinel or lookout can get distracted.

Consider that a service member is posted as a sentinel or a lookout. Another service member comes by and makes fun of the sentinel's position and calls him names. The sentinel can get demoralized, which will reduce his ability to man the post. This cannot be allowed to happen.

On the other hand, if a sentinel or lookout loiters around, instead of standing at his post or sits down on the post, it is a sign that he is not taking his duty seriously. It may be a momentary lapse but it can jeopardize the life of other service members. This attitude is especially dangerous in war zones, where insurgents may be waiting lapses like this, to ambush US forces.

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