The Marine Corps order 1900.16 contains the Separation and Retirement Manual, which outlines the procedure, regulations and policies governing the administrative separation of enlisted members of the United States Navy. Administrative separations are not punitive discharges and they are based on the quality of service that has been demonstrated by the enlisted member of the Navy.


When there is strong evidence to suggest that a Navy man cannot conform to the discipline, conduct or performance standards expected in the Navy, or that he does not do so for some reason, this could be a strong reason to consider separation. Apart from this, separations may be considered when the Navy man's ability to carry out his duties does not justify the cost of the resources that have been invested in him in terms of training and equipment. Fraudulent or erroneous enlistment parenthood, debilitating mental/ physical conditions, misconduct or poor performance may be the reason for separation of enlisted personnel in the Navy.


Separation process with board action starts with a written notice being sent to the respondent telling him about the process being initiated against him.

The notice should contain:

  • Basis for considering the separation process
  • Possible service characterization and its effects on re-enlistment
  • Impact on veterans benefits (copy of Appendix D is to be given to the respondent)
  • Impact on civilian employment prospects

The separation should be completed within 50 working days of the respondent's receipt of the notice. If the matter is being sent to the Secretary of the Navy, it must be forwarded to him within 55 days of the receipt of notice by the respondent.

The respondent has a two-day time period to respond after he receives the notice. His response is reviewed by the commanding officer who then decides whether or not to proceed with the discharge process. Apart from mandatory separation, in all other cases, reasonable efforts at rehabilitation have to be made before the proceedings are taken any further.

When rehabilitation efforts have failed, the commanding officer initiates the separation proceedings after due notice to the respondent. The enlisted member has a right to get copies of all the documents that will be forwarded to the separation authority. He has a right to hire military counsel to represent him or represent himself during the hearing. An enlisted member with 6 or more years of service can request an administrative board for the hearing. Nonmilitary counsel may also be hired by the respondent at his own cost. Apart from these rights the respondent also has the right to call upon witnesses to substantiate his statements and he can question all the witnesses who are called during the proceedings.


The command officer makes his own recommendation when he forwards the relevant documents to the separation authority and this recommendation bears weight. His recommendation covers discharge or retention of the enlisted member and the service characterization. The Marine officer holding the general court martial convening authority (GCMCA) is the separation authority. Unless the enlisted member waives his right to a Board, the separation authority convenes one to determine whether or not the respondent should be separated.

The separation authority should ensure that at least three warrant, commissioned or non- commissioned officers form part of the board. The majority of the officer on the board must be drawn from the ranks of commissioned or warrant officers. The voting member must belong to a cadre that is above that of the respondent.

The board determines if the evidence presented substantially indicates that the allegations outlined in the separation notice are justified. After due assessment of all facts, the board members make a recommendation regarding separation and a recommendation for service characterization.


The characterization of service for purpose of separation plays a critical role in determining what benefits the respondent enjoys post separation.

The following characterizations are possible:

  • Honorable discharge- Highest quality of characterization, denotes that the respondent's performance has matched Navy standards
  • General discharge (under honorable conditions)- Second highest characterization which indicates that some negative aspects in the enlisted member's performance/ conduct overwhelm the positive ones in his record.
  • Discharge under other than honorable conditions- Least favorable characterization which indicates that the enlisted member's act/ acts significantly depart from the Navy's rules of conduct.

Characterization is recognition of how well the enlisted member has performed his duties. When the separation is characterized by an honorable discharge, the respondent not just enjoys all veteran benefits but also finds it easy to find employment post Navy life. Joseph Jordan, experienced military lawyer has won honorable discharges for many clients at U.S. Navy establishments across the country and abroad.

To ensure that fair characterization is done and the enlisted member can enjoy all the benefits he deserves, it is imperative to hire experienced counsel to safeguard his rights.

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Joseph L. Jordan is a UCMJ lawyer who travels around the globe to represent service members in military criminal defense matters. He is an accomplished, experienced military attorney who specializes in defending ALL service members against violations of the UCMJ.