Archive for November, 2009

Army Ethics

Future LTs,
MAJ Heverly again this week. This may seem like a “do the right thing topic” and it is, essentially.  But it is essential to your careers or lives in general to learn about what is expected of you and how the organization you are joining expects you to act and lead.  Ethics…definitely one of those nebulous topics that folks always talk about. Even at this level the largest glaring issue is that when ethics are discussed there seems to be an unmentioned rule or foundation that everyone has the same sense of right and wrong. The understanding of where the Army is coming from when it talks about ethical leadership or behavior is the first step in steering clear of pitfalls or mistakes that, in the case of ethical violations, can end your career in a heartbeat. When it comes to ethics, the Army is still very “zero-defect.” There are several areas that mistakes are allowed and at the 2LT-level even expected, being late, not performing to standard (yet), those kinds of things. But when it comes to mistakes that are unethical, it can be a one way ticket to the unemployment line. This is not only true of the Army, look at the numerous heads of large companies that have been given the boot recently due to ethical issues. Sometimes we blend morals and ethics into the same category and while they are close, they aren’t the same. Ethics is the application of a set of values. Fortunately for us, the Army tells us what our morals should be and judges our decisions by these. From FM 6-22, “4-63. Ethics are concerned with how a person should behave. Values represent the beliefs that a person has. The seven Army Values represent a set of common beliefs that leaders are expected to uphold and reinforce by their actions.” We may not all share them in our personal lives but that is a chance you take…if you mess up, DIU for example, you will be judged by the Army by its values and probably find that you made an unethical decision. FM 6-22 lays it out like this “4-56. Doing the right things is good. Doing the right thing for the right reason and with the right goal is better.” The foundation for the Army’s sense of right and wrong is the Judeo-Christian sense of right and wrong. (How that came to be is a history lesson and why it still is…well that is a whole other topic) The bottom line is this…do what is right and hold your Soldiers to the same standard that the Army holds you to and you will be heading in the right direction.
I will give you one quick examples from my experience as a commander. One, I had a Soldier who was accused of messing around with another Soldier’s (not from my unit) wife. My Soldier was seen with her several times by several different people. When the 1SG confronted him, we found out that the wife was filing for divorce and that the marriage would be over “soon.” So, do we punish him? Is he breaking a UCMJ code (adultery)? Does it matter if, seeing as how the marriage is almost over and the other Soldier wasn’t even in our Battalion? These are all questions that came up. The hard right is called that for a reason. It would have been easier just to let things go. We wound up giving him a lawful order to avoid contact with the spouse until/if such time arose that the divorce was final.
If you are interested in a longer example use this link to a report of an incident in Iraq in 2005 that cost a LTC his career. For more, do a search for the Tailhook scandal and see how that incident and the unethical decisions cost the Navy some of what it thought was its top officers. The Army is looking for not only tactically and technically proficient people; it is also looking for good people.  In the Army, ethical decisions, especially in combat, often involve the lives of Soldiers and un-armed civilians; sons and daughters of our country and those nations in which we operate are irreplaceable.  That is why studying ethics is not a waste of time or just another “do the right thing” topic…it isn’t preaching, it is trying to instill in you the knowledge and skill to make the right decision, sometimes very quickly when the bullets are flying on the two-way target range of combat.
Now, I look forward to your questions.
MAJ Brian Heverly

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Law of War. ROE, and Code of Conduct

Future Officers,

This subject might seem dry and easy to comprehend now especially in a classroom setting but this is one of the most important topics to understand.

The Law of War (Law of Armed Conflict), Rules of Engagement (ROE) and Code of Conduct are all value-based rules and guidelines used to govern how the military will act on a day-to-day basis. Failure to follow these rules and guidelines even at the Soldier level can have strategic and global implications. Interpretation of the Rules of Engagement may vary from command to command and from region to region but, the Law of War and Code of Conduct can be applied across the spectrum for all operations. It is imperative that you understand these ideals in a classroom setting because one of your future implied tasks is the implementation and enforcement of them. What is also important is the application of these principles in a setting that is other than ideal.

The Law of War or now more commonly known as the Law of Armed Conflict is a set of rules that govern military operations which consists of three areas military necessity, distinction and proportionality. These ideals are non-negotiable, self-explanatory and can be applied across the spectrum of operations. Understand that they do exist and we do have to abide but this only applies to civilized nations that have common values and similar Law of War concepts.

The Army Code of conduct is six articles that provide military personal guidelines addressing how U.S. personnel in combat should act to evade, resist, and seek escape should they be captured by an opposing force. The Army Code of Conduct is universal in nature and as future leaders you must be familiar with them and their application.

The rules of engagement or their interpretation by the senior commanders is not always unilateral across theaters or even geographic barriers. Examples to this are numerous in nature and can range from simple acts to those that might produce headlines on major media outlets. Hostile intent under the rules of engagement created much of the controversy. Take for example ROE that my company used in Ramadi in 2006-2007. The interpretation of a hostile act committed by the enemy was seen differently than in Baghdad. An individual that conducted numerous passes by a Bradley Fighting Vehicle was seen as a hostile action due to the engagement techniques used by the enemy in the area. This however, was not viewed as a hostile act in areas of Baghdad simply because the enemy conducted actions differently. As a future officer, it is paramount that you and your Soldiers understand the ROE and its interpretation and how it applies your area of operations.

As an officer in today’s Army, you have a higher responsibility than just understanding the previously mentioned concepts. Your mission will be to apply, educate, and enforce these standards within your future formations.

MAJ Adam Rudy
MAJ George Cowles

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