Academic journal article Military Review

Army Values and a Rope with Three Cords

Academic journal article Military Review

Army Values and a Rope with Three Cords

Article excerpt

That sir which serves and seeks for gain, and follows but for form, will pack when it begin to rain, and leave thee in the storm.1

- The King's Fool, King Lear

IT IS AXIOMATIC that leaders must put selfish interests aside and take care of those whom they lead. To allege otherwise would blatantly refute all the military values and ethics we hold dear. Once we accept that, unlike Shakespeare's fair-weather figure, good leaders internalize their obligation to care for those they lead, the vexing issues are what taking care of soldiers actually means and how doing so translates into battlefield success.

Most military leaders certainly understand what the phrase does not mean. It does not mean that leaders should keep soldiers out of harm's way at all costs; if it meant that, there would be little use in having an army in the first place. It clearly does not mean that leaders should provide soldiers the same level of comfort that their fellow civilians enjoy or that soldiers should not work or train under hard physical and psychological conditions. A military organization taken care of this way would be coddled to its grave in battle. Despite centuries of leadership principles and dogmas, it is still difficult to detail concisely what exactly it means to take care of one's soldiers and exactly how that care facilitates mission success.

By borrowing a phrase from the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes, leaders can understand a soldier as a "rope of three cords."2 I characterize these three cords of the soldier as spirit, sinew and significant others and contend that leaders truly care for soldiers by ministering to the needs of those cords. When parents allow their sons and daughters tojoin the American profession of arms, they repose the deepest special trust and confidence in military leaders to develop and nurture the spirit, sinew and significant others of their children. Further, the seven Army Values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage provide leaders with the most effective rubric to use in constructing soldier-care oriented command climates.

In terms of values, the US military establishment is inherently dualistic. On the one hand, it preserves and promotes Judeo-Christian values upon which the founding fathers based our national system of government. On the other band, the military has, to an extent molded itself to the times. To some degree, the values of the military as a whole are the values of its parts; namely, the values of the women and men who have elected to serve in the AllVolunteer Force. While these two sets of values are not necessarily mutually exclusive, significant conflicts cause an undercurrent of tension at all levels. In a way, this is a natural state for the US military.

Believing that any particular country "has the kind of [military] its total ethos, its institutions, resources, babits of peaceful life, make possible to it," British journalist and social philosopher D.W. Brogan characterizes the United States as a "country which is law-respecting without being law-abiding."3 Free of the centuries-old cultural rigidity of European countries and thus free of European class segregation, Americans view authority and authoritarian bureaucratic structures with healthy skepticism.

Thus, in the US military, there is "more give-andtake, more ignoring of unessentials, more confidence that in the hour of battle human virtues and common sense will do as much as automatic discipline of the old eighteenth-century type."4

Therefore, if the US military hopes to instill a set of values central to both organizational effectiveness and individual character development, then our military will have to work harder than similar organizations in more stratified and traditional nationstates. This work begins with understanding the unique needs of each cord that make up the soldier (spirit, sinew and significant others). …

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