I recently rewatched the HBO miniseries Generation Kill and came across this scene, where the actor portraying Colonel Ferrando is telling officers that a certain Colonel Dowdy was relieved of his command AND that he was also relieved of the ammunition for his sidearm.

Since the actor put emphasis on the phrase, I would like to know what exactly he was telling the other officers with that phrase.

A Google search led me to sites like that one, where the answers are inconclusive.

Possible reasons I gathered so far:

  • To prevent the officer from committing suicide
  • To further dishonor the officer after already having relieved him of his command

But if suicide prevention was the only reason, why would the actor explicitly mention it? Would that not have been obvious to the others?

Since the question is related to both TV.SE and History.SE under the "military" tag, if it fits better on History.SE please migrate it.


Being relieved of command in the military can mean a lot of things. People might be relieved of command because they are unfit to lead, or because someone more qualified has been promoted, or because their tour of duty is up, or just because they aren't needed anymore. Even in cases where the officer is being punished (effectively demoted), the circumstances vary quite a lot over the severity of the punishment.

Relieving an officer of a command duty but leaving them on active duty would send the message that the army still thinks the officer has the potential to redeem themselves, but for whatever reason, is not currently fit to lead a command.

However, by also relieving them of their ammunition, his superiors are sending a much stronger message. The message here is actually a combination of all of the things you mentioned, and others. In essence, the army is saying "we no longer trust you to be armed while on base." There's no other way to interpret such an action other than as a punishment for failure to perform their duties properly.

From an image standpoint, this shows that the army has lost faith in the officer, and they are most likely going to be withdrawn from active duty and sent home, likely to be discharged, in short order. (This is effectively what the remainder of Ferrando's speech says: Dowdy didn't "get it" so he's been "fired".) From a practical standpoint, such an action is adding disgrace onto someone who's already humiliated, and likely just lost a lot of current and future salary and pension, and may not be in the best frame of mind to be running around armed.

However, it's also important to note that they confiscated his ammo, not his sidearm. That would be an even bigger disgrace, essentially stripping Dowdy of the thing that defines a soldier. By letting him keep his firearm (unloaded) they're making a symbolic gesture that lets others know that they don't think Dowdy is a bad person, and don't think he did anything "criminally bad". His superiors just don't think he is fit to be in the command position he's in, so they're pulling him out.


Well there you have it from Cap himself:

In a final blow, Col. Dowdy says, the general asked him to empty his sidearm and turn over the ammunition. 'He thought I was going to try to kill myself,' the colonel says.

Read more here: https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB108111980285073875


I've never seen the show but I would have to guess that if he relieved someone of his ammo, he was probably dead. So he wouldn't bed it anymore anyways.

  • It definitely did not mean that he was dead, since the real Colonel Dowdy is currently Special Operations Manager at Kennedy Space Center.
    – pat3d3r
    Sep 3 '15 at 6:19

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