ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Capt. Steve McAlpin, a longtime Army reservist, displays a faded photograph of himself at age 5 decked out in military garb, complete with plastic helmet and toy machine gun.
Serving the United States is what "I've been wanting to do for my entire life," Capt. McAlpin, 44, said Friday, his voice trembling with emotion.
This week, Capt. McAlpin, who spent most of last year deployed in Afghanistan, learned he is facing insubordination charges that could abruptly end his 25-year military career.
His breach of discipline: questioning the legality of a waiver his battalion was asked to sign that would put his unit back in a combat zone after just 11 months at home. Under federal law, he pointed out, troops are allowed a 12-month "stabilization period."
Capt. McAlpin was notified in a memorandum Wednesday that he was being removed from the 401st Civil Affairs Battalion's battle roster. He said he could face other punishment, including a court-martial and loss of rank.
Members of the 401st will be deployed for duty overseas next Wednesday. The commander, Lt. Col. Phillip Carey, charges in his memo that Capt. McAlpin had a "negative attitude" and was being "insubordinate towards the leadership" of the 401st.
Capt. McAlpin said he questioned the waiver Nov. 22 during a teleconference with Col. Guy Sands, the commander of Capt. McAlpin's parent unit, the 360th Civil Affairs Brigade based in Fort Jackson, S.C.
About a dozen other officers refused to sign the waiver, as did four enlisted soldiers called to redeploy, Capt. McAlpin said.
"Soldiers are proud to serve any time, anywhere. I'd go tomorrow," Capt. McAlpin said from his home in Victor, 20 miles southeast of Rochester. "But I have four soldiers that don't want to go."
A spokesman for the 401st, Capt. Brian Earley, said Capt. McAlpin's questioning of the waiver was only one reason he was being disciplined. Individual members of the 401st are allowed to refuse to sign the waiver, but Capt. Earley said Capt. McAlpin was "butting in" for other soldiers.
"People who were on the mission, who wanted to go, he was questioning their orders," Capt. Earley said. "He was pursuing a nonissue."
Capt. Earley said the military was also taking action because of "an accumulation of things," including difficulties in one of his previous missions to Afghanistan. He declined to elaborate.