I was Given a Letter of Reprimand

By | November 19, 2023

[November 19, 2023]  It was a red-letter day.  On March 17, 2008, I took command of a Brigade in a U.S.-based unit.  Brigade is the level of command that truly separates the best from the very best.  The change of command was terrific, with hundreds of soldiers, mentors, family, and friends present.  Immediately after I sat down with my new Division Command, he promptly handed me a Letter of Reprimand.

Once all the ceremonial piece of the day was complete, it was time for me to discuss priorities with the Division Commander and seek his guidance.  All four Brigade Commanders were present; obviously, I was the new man on the block.  Having just returned from Iraq only a few days before, I was ready to get back to work and see more of my family.

My Division Commander was a no-nonsense two-star Major General.  Like me, he believed that when you are put in charge, you are immediately responsible from that moment forward.  An old rule in the military says when in charge, take charge.  And that means immediately.  There is zero grace period and no honeymoon.

I was given a Letter of Reprimand because my unit had not performed up to the standards he had set.  I just happened to be in charge at the time.  Let me be clear, a two-star letter of reprimand can be career ending, but not in this case.  Some of my family were upset; I was not.  They feared the letter was unfair.  But, I understood that the person in charge was in charge and fully responsible and I was in charge.  Civilians usually don’t understand.

I had five Battalion Commanders working for me, and it was clear that their units had not performed to standard.  That is why the Brigade had failed.  I sent a copy of my Letter of Reprimand to each of them with a note that said:

“Today, I received a two-star Letter of Reprimand.  I am not upset or concerned whatsoever.  I know where the problem lies.  I will not give you a Letter of Reprimand because I know my letter is sufficient to motivate you to perform up to standard.”

For the next couple of years in command, my brigade achieved all Division standards and ranked first place throughout the Division.  We all remain friends to this day.  The reason was that we worked together as a close-knit team.  And everyone understood that I was in charge on the first day.

I was reprimanded on my first day.  And that was okay.


Please read my books:

  1. “55 Rules for a Good Life,” on Amazon (link here).
  2. “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

28 thoughts on “I was Given a Letter of Reprimand

  1. Fred Weber

    A letter of reprimand as a colonel. WOW. I didn’t know they gave them out at such a high rank.

  2. McStompie

    Good one, Gen. Satterfield. Thanks and have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day with your family.

    1. Jeff Blackwater

      McStompie. Thanks for the note to Gen. Satterfield and yes “happy Thanksgiving” so that we may all be thankful for what we have and for our families, community, and for God. Too many leave out God and live a life regretting it, even if subconsciously. I will add to this note that I hope that Gen. S. continues with his website. I know this has been going now for 10 years or more. Everyday that I wake up and read his latest article, I feel better that there are people like him out there that is standing up for us and for those who cannot defend themselves.

  3. The Observer

    This article took me by surprise but a wonderful outcome. I hope the Army today is able to teach its leaders how to be better.

  4. Eddie Gilliam

    Excellent article my friend. What happened to you was you turned your lemon 🍋 into lemonade. You didn’t reprimand the problems leadership your leadership show them their mistakes. You were there to help. Doing this made a positive impact on the commanders to get the issues resolved. I had the pleasure to be faced with the same thing. I used the same approach. It works. When in charge take charge. Excellent advice and blog.
    Bob Reilly Excellent feedback my friend

    1. ZB Two Two

      Hi Eddie, always wonderful to read you sage comments and to know that you are a friend of Gen. Satterfield. We always appreciate his approach to leadership and to being a good person. Have a wonderful day.

  5. mainer

    I love these kind of stories and Bob Reilly (comment below) tells another one too. This is one of the main reasons I keep coming back to this website by Gen. Satterfield.

  6. Bob Reilly

    Reminds me of a US Army reprimand a bit ago:
    My next assignment after Nam was Ft. Benning. Blew a tire in Virginia and had to lay over.
    Reported 1 day late. Assigned to the AWOL barracks, docked 1 day pay, 1 day quarters allowance, and 1 day was added extra for me to make up the lost service day.
    Recruiting Sergeant said he had bad news- you can not reenlist with that on your record, but good news is I can fix that for you.
    Bad news for you Sarge is: LEAVE IT THE WAY IT IS. So I served 2 years plus 1 day.
    And on my DD214 separation papers in remarks:
    1 day lost under 10, US Code 972 from 12-12 Mar 70

    1. Watson Bell

      Bob, great story to tell. The military doesn’t take sh## off any one. Well that is the way it used to be.

  7. Army Captain

    For those who are new to the military or have never served, what Gen. Doug Satterfield is writing about it pretty serious. Reprimands are a form of judicial punishment, albeit at the lower level. These can be “career ending” in some cases and regardless looks pretty bad. But in this case, anyone with smarts could see that the reprimand was issued the same day he took commend so he was clearly not at fault. The way Gen. S. used the letter to encourage his subordinate commanders to do better is the real story here in my opinion. This is what real leadership looks like in action.

    1. Jerome Smith

      Yes, well said Army Captain. It is “real leadership in action.” Take the punches and use them to help others be better.
      “Leadership is getting other people to do things they would not ordinarily do. Great leadership is getting them to do it becuase they want to.” – Gen. Doug Satterfield
      This explains his ideas of caring for his troops but also accomplishing the mission.

  8. North of Austin

    POW —
    “Today, I received a two-star Letter of Reprimand. I am not upset or concerned whatsoever. I know where the problem lies. I will not give you a Letter of Reprimand because I know my letter is sufficient to motivate you to perform up to standard.”
    Now that is how to make yourself known as a caring leader. That you did not take the punishment out on your commanders (who were at fault). You showed them you could be magnanimous and that accounts for a lot more than most folks give it credit.

  9. Yusaf from Texas

    Great article that gets to the heart of responsibility quickly. A lesson we should all take.

  10. Lynn Pitts

    Excellent article. I’m sure some civilians with zero understanding of senior leadership will ever understand.

    1. Navy Vet

      Yeah, and this one tells the story of leadership and how to properly react when met with an unexpected problem. I’m sure that COL Satterfield (at the time a full colonel) was a bit surprised but from this it looks like he took the letter of reprimand in stride. I know from experience that a Letter of Reprimand normally is a slap on the wrist, but a Major General LOR can have dire consequences.

      1. Adolf Menschner

        Civilains don’t understand because they don’t know or have lived the military culture. 👍

    1. Douglas R. Satterfield Post author

      Army Vet, good to hear from you again and thanks for the comment. Actually I wasn’t shocked. There was nothing the Army could do to me. I’d already was qualified for retirement and as long as I did nothing illegal, immoral, or unethical, I was fine.

      1. Karl J.

        Well said. If you ever get to be a Brigade Commander, the last thing your troops want is someone worried about their career. You MUST be FEARLESS.

          1. Eye Cat

            old warrior, I just love your comments because each time they cut to the core of the conversation and do so in a funny way. Sometimes I have to be careful when I see your name because I put down my coffee. I don’t want to snort my coffee out my nose from laughter. ❤ Or scare my dog.

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