Fact Witnesses, Character Witnesses, and Support Memoranda in an Administrative Separation Board or Officer Board of Inquiry

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When you’re facing an administrative separation board or an officer board of inquiry, your defense strategy plays a crucial role in the outcome.

Army Regulation 15-6 lays out guidelines for these proceedings, emphasizing the rights you have in presenting witnesses and supporting documents. Understanding the difference between fact witnesses, character witnesses, and support memoranda can help you build a compelling case. Here’s what you need to know about each.

Fact Witnesses

Fact witnesses are people who can provide firsthand information about events or incidents related to your case. They offer testimony based on their observations, experiences, or involvement in specific situations that form the basis of your noticed misconduct. During an administrative separation board or officer board of inquiry, fact witnesses are critical because they can confirm or refute key aspects of the case.

When choosing fact witnesses, consider those who were present during the events in question or who have direct knowledge of the circumstances. These witnesses can be fellow service members, supervisors, or anyone else with a credible perspective. Their role is to clarify the facts and shed light on the events that led to the command’s decision to require you to potentially face separation or elimination.

When a fact witness testifies, they do so under oath, which means they must tell the truth. They can be cross-examined by the board’s lawyer (called the recorder), so their testimony should be accurate and consistent. If you’re presenting fact witnesses, your lawyer will help ensure they’re prepared to answer questions and remain calm under pressure.

As the board’s respondent (administrative defendant), your job is to suggest which witnesses you believe would be best for in-person testimony or to provide a sworn account of what they known, known as an affidavit. Your job is not to engage in self-help by directly asking these potential witnesses what they know or if they are willing to testify. Let your attorney and the team do this for you, or else you could end up facing additional allegations of obstructing justice or conduct unbecoming. Gather their contact information and use the Firm’s provided excel spreadsheet.

Character Witnesses

Character witnesses play a different role than fact witnesses, although sometimes some witnesses could play both roles. Character witnesses speak to your personal qualities, values, and reputation. While they may not have direct knowledge of the events under investigation, their testimony helps create a fuller picture of your overall character. They can talk about your work ethic, integrity, and contributions to the military or community. They can also attest to your professionalism, willingness to abide by rules and standards, and your truthfulness and honesty.

Character witnesses can be current or former supervisors, peers, or even family members. Their role is to provide a perspective on your general behavior and overall conduct. This type of testimony can be especially useful if it helps to counterbalance negative allegations or portrayals during the proceedings.

Like fact witnesses, character witnesses testify under oath and can be cross-examined. However, their testimony often revolves around personal anecdotes and examples that demonstrate your positive traits. Be sure your character witnesses are credible, do not have any skeletons in their closets, and have a strong understanding of your strengths. What is most valuable in a character witness is how well they know you, not necessarily their grade or rank. Try to list out character witnesses who have known you during many different timeframes and from different perspectives. We like to present one peer, one subordinate, and one superior. Realize that you may have many people on your side, and that’s great. But military decision makers will grow annoyed if you try to call many people who are all going to say the same thing. Help your legal team decipher who will be the strongest on your behalf.

Again, as with fact witnesses, your job is to add them to the spreadsheet with their contact information and a blurb about how they know you. Do not contract the witnesses on your own; in many cases, people will tell you to your face that they will support you but really, they don’t want to get involved. Let the legal team sort it out.

Support Memoranda

Remember that even if your character witnesses might not be the strongest public speakers, they can be used to provide written declarations of their opinions. Support memoranda are written documents that provide additional context or endorsements for your case. These can come from a wide range of sources, including former supervisors, colleagues, or community leaders. Support memoranda often contain detailed information about your achievements, skills, and positive contributions.

These documents can serve as a powerful supplement to witness testimony. They offer tangible evidence of your character and can help demonstrate your value to the military. When gathering support memoranda, consider people who will be able to showcase your achievements.

Support memoranda are not subject to cross-examination, but the board may evaluate their credibility and relevance. It’s important to ensure that these documents align with your defense strategy and do not contain contradictory information. Do not solicit letters from civilians or memoranda from military members yourself. Let your legal team earn their fee.


Fact witnesses, character witnesses, and support memoranda are key components of your defense strategy during an administrative separation board or officer board of inquiry. By understanding their roles and preparing them effectively, you can help your lawyer to present a robust case that helps the board see the complete picture. Choose your witnesses and memo writers carefully, and work with your attorney to ensure a cohesive and compelling defense.

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