When one seeks to explain something, first they must define what they are explaining. In the case of a document or other media, the definition is usually the thing itself. But, sometimes, the ‘by the book’ definition doesn’t do a thing full justice. So, in order to insure full justice, as far as the author is able to provide it, UCMJ Article 92 is defined as the following: Any person serving in the Armed Forces of America, is guilty of violating this article if they, through any means that can be prevented, disobey any order given by a superior, as long as that order is not itself illegal.
Let us break that down into more easily-digested terms. Any person in the Armed Forces. That means, anyone who is currently (currently being at the time of the infraction) serving in any component of the Armed Forces. That means active duty, ready reserve, inactive reserve, training, DEP, shipboard, shore, infantry, deployed, on notification for deployment, or even when attached to a civilian job and not wearing a uniform. Any person who fits those critera is eligible, regardless of rank, duties, time in the service, time remaining until retirement, or history of conduct (either good or bad). Through any means that can be prevented. If the servicemember has any reasonable way to prevent the disobeyal of that order, and failed to, they are guilty. Unpreventable lapses are generally excusable, unless the reason it was unpreventable was the fault of the servicemember. Example: Order is given to belay a line and you go to your bunk instead: Culpable. Order is given to belay a line and the pylon breaks: Not culpable, unless something you did led to the pylon breaking. -As long as the order itself is not illegal.
Any order that, if carried out, would result in a disobeyal of any of the other UCMJ articles, is illegal. Any order that the superior does not have the authority to give, is illegal. Example: Telling a servicemember to commit hazing: illegal. Telling a servicemember to go to another command, when that superior giving the order is not in authority to send servicemember: illegal. Article 92 is perhaps the most important article in the entirety of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It lays down the ground law, the absolute line which may not be crossed.
Everything else in the UCMJ is explanation of the various forms that disobeying an order can take. Without the support given by Article 92, servicemembers would be free to do whatever they want, whenever they want, and wouldn’t be any more accountable than a civilian court. And the Judicial system in this country has been, sadly, much perverted from the goals it was created with. However, military members are held to a higher standard. We are the line that protects this country, we are the defense against the storm. Without us, this country would not exist, could not exist.
And for that, we must be strong, unified, and together. One voice, crying out against the enemy. One team, fighting to keep our countrymen’s dreams untroubled. And if one person is disenting against that, it undermines the entire system. If the captain of a ship can’t count on his orders being obeyed, without question, right away and to the best ability of the servicemember who is given them, then he might as well be sitting out there by himself, shooting his sidearm at the enemy. The military can only function if orders, when given, are obeyed.
And, as much as we would like to trust in the honesty and integrity of the human spirit, of the men and women who made that oath, put their lives on the line for their country, and fight to keep our brothers and sisters free, the sad truth is that there are many out there that, if not given a clear set of rules, a clear set of punishments for transgressions, will not follow the rules, will not care about the punishments, will not be productive, efficient members of the military machine. That is why Article 92, and the entire UCMJ, are necessary.
They reinforce the behavior of those who do the right thing, promoting it and praising it. They punish those who do not do the right thing, undercutting and stamping out such behaviors. With such a system, the bad eggs, those who are unable to fit into the machine, will be ground up by it and spit out. Broken, incomplete, forever bemoaning the lack of foresight and flexibility that would have saved them. When we all work together, we are the most powerful fighting force the world has ever known. When we do not, we are no more powerful than the least cohesive among us.