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Culture of Terrorism (Corbett and K. Daniels)

CDT Corbett: Culture of Terrorism I

When asked to write about the culture of terrorism it is necessary to understand both what culture is and what terrorism is. Both of which we believe are simple to describe, yet when we look closely we are quite wrong. Terrorism in the dictionary has these three definitions:

  • The use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.
  • The state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization
  • A terrorist method of governing or of resisting a government.

Now when you read these you think, “yeah that accurately describes the people we are facing in Iraq or Afghanistan.” Who else do you think this describes? If you look through our history and at all conflicts around the world there are several key components to terrorism. The First would be that a terrorist act is politically inspired. If not, then it is nothing more than a crime. It also has to involve violence or the threat of violence. The point of terrorism is not to defeat the enemy but to send a message. Do you remember 11September2001? An al-Qaeda spokesman said, “ It rang the bells of restoring Arab and Islamic glory.” The act and the victim of a terrorist act must have some symbolic meaning or significance. The Twin Towers falling had quite a bit of shock value that had huge psychological impact.  The last and possibly most defining characteristic of a terrorist act is the deliberate targeting of civilians. It is often explained that those who pay taxes to a government are responsible for their actions. Basayev declared all Russians fair game because “They pay taxes. They give approval in word and in deed. They are all responsible.”

Even with such defining characteristics it is hard to understand any facet of terrorism. Who is likely to become a terrorist? Why do they commit the crimes or atrocities that they do? These are very difficult questions, which the best scholars cannot answer. Typically when you ask an American to describe a terrorist they think of a Muslims and more specifically the Sunni and Shia. Even soldiers, or ROTC cadets for that matter, see all 1.2 billion Muslims in the world as a possible threat when in actuality there are only a few thousand Islamic terrorists. Why are there not more? How do we tell who is and who is not a terrorist or likely to become one? You cannot. Efforts to produce a terrorist profile have all failed. This is often because they all share a common trait. They appear to be normal. But why does a human being decide to kill others and put himself outside the law and dramatically increase the likelihood that he will be killed or imprisoned and put his family at risk? Most would say because they are crazy. They see themselves in a world that is black-and-white. They see a world where good faces evil and their adversaries are to blame for all their problems. They identify with others and want revenge against their evil adversary. The deadliest act of terrorism in the United States before September 11th was when 168 people died to what we now know as a Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Devise. The person convicted of the crime was Timothy James McVeigh who was a Catholic army veteran. He served with the U.S. 1st Infantry Division and was awarded the Bronze Star for his service during the Gulf War. My point? If this man can become a terrorist just like someone living in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, who is the enemy?

Terrorism is such a broad topic that we as future officers have to deal with. As the future leader in our military you must come up with answers, techniques and tactics that are more efficient than those in the past. Can we ever defeat terrorism? You can argue either way. The one thing that we can agree on though is that terrorism is not going away anytime soon.

  • Today our nation saw evil, the very worst of human nature.  -George W. Bush, 11 September 2001
  • The best that one can say of these people is that they are morally depraved. They champion falsehood, support the butcher against the victim, the oppressor against the innocent child.  –Osama bin Laden, 7 October 2001
  • God knows that the plan of striking the towers had not occurred to us, but the idea came to me when things went just too far with the American-Israeli alliance’s oppression and atrocities against our people in Palestine and Lebanon. The events that made a direct impression on me were during and after 1982, when America allowed the Israelis to invade Lebanon with the help of its third [sixth] fleet. They started bombing, killing and wounding many, while others fled in terror…. The whole world heard and saw what happened, but did nothing. In those critical moments, many ideas raged inside me, ideas difficult to describe, but they unleashed a powerful urge to reject injustice and a strong determination to punish the oppressors. As I looked at those destroyed towers in Lebanon it occurred to me to punish the oppressor in kind by destroying towers in America, so that it would have a taste of its own medicine and would be prevented from killing our women and childrens  -Osama bin Laden
  • Thinking people, when disaster strikes, make it their priority to look for its causes, in order to prevent it happening again,  -Osama bin Laden, October 2004


CDT Daniels: Culture of Terrorism II

When many people think about international terrorism they just think of a bunch of pissed off Arabs with bombs strapped to themselves willing to go blow themselves up so that they can go spend eternity with a bunch of virgins. This is obviously a very bias and uneducated view of terrorism but it is fairly common none the less. I believe that to truly get a grasp of what brings about terrorism you need to free yourself of all biases and take in all the information before you come to conclusions. To help with this process, while you read this article, think of them as “Transnational Non-state threats” instead.

There are a few key points about transnational non-state threats that I would like you to take away from this, the first is the name, transnational non-state threats. When dissecting this group of words you will find that these people operate back and forth between countries (transnational) and they have no government affiliation (non-state) and lastly they are a threat. This last part, threat, is very important. If they were not a threat, they would be considered just another NGO like the Red Cross/Crescent or Doctors Without Borders. The reason that I stress the threat part is not because I want to point out that they can be mean, because that is kind of obvious, but because it gives you a good comparison to other organizations that you might be more familiar with.

The second point I would like to stress is the influence behind joining these organizations. This has become a highly debated topic so I will attempt to give you facts so that you can form your own opinion. First off there are three different forces which people believe tend to push others into becoming tourists. These three forces are economics, politics, and religion. The debate comes from which of these forces has more pull.

Economics plays a role simply because being a terrorist makes good money. In many areas throughout the world money is very scarce. Terrorist cells then capitalize on this opportunity by providing jobs, security, and lots of money to people willing to help their cause. This means that many people inside terrorist networks might not fully believe in the cause, they are more interested in the money.

Although these are non-state actors they are still effected by politics just as much as any other person in this world. For instance, all of the trade restrictions put on South and Central American countries by the WTO (World Trade Organization) and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) have begin to put a squeeze on certain economies in those regions. These political maneuvers can and have ruined industries and restricted jobs for these people. Some of these people then turn to violence and/or drug trafficking (drug trade and terrorism is closely linked in South and Central America) to make money.

The last force that effect terrorism is widely considered, by the same people who have that stereotype above, to be the most important force that drives terrorism. There is fact and fiction in this claim. Yes it is a force, particularly in the middle east and pacific islands, but no it probably is not the driving force behind terrorism. Muslim extremists do use religion to help justify and endorse certain violent acts through processes of a better afterlife and through the jihad. However, when making this claim it is important that you realize that at no point do the basic texts of Islam enjoin terrorism and murder or do the random slaughter of uninvolved bystanders. Therefore, the only time religion is tied in, is in the case of the extremists who have a slightly warped point of view of their religion.

Cultural Awareness (and Afghanistan Lecture)

Cultural Awareness and Operational Impacts of Culture- CDT Weber/ CDT Dick

Cultural Awareness is something that is very important in today’s military.  We have soldiers in many countries all around the world to which we work and cooperate with.  From the deserts of Afghanistan to the rice paddy fields in South Korea, each country has its own unique culture and people.  Being able to understand the culture of a people will make communication and interaction easier in whatever environment you’re in.

An Organizational Culture not only applies towards the people within a host country, but even within your own unit.  Knowing the intricate components of an organizational culture will insure that you are well prepared for the task at hand; these components can be described as levels, sensitivity and other characteristics of culture.

To begin with, there are three levels of culture that have been identified as being applicable to any organization or country.

Artifacts– things that one sees, hears, and feels when encountering a group culture.

Espoused Values– beliefs or values held by one or more members of a group.

Shared Basic assumptions– attitudes, beliefs, values, methods, or behaviors that have repeatedly enabled the cultural group to solve important problems and that member of the group accept as reality.

Cultural Sensitivity is the respect and awareness of the norms of a culture that is different than your own.  Being able to acknowledge differences with a people and at the same time respect them, will allow a greater understanding towards working with them to accomplish your goals.

Potential issues that can derail cultural understanding….  (please share your thoughts on these and on the above comments)

Helping Soldiers and Their Families

Army Financial Smarts – Cadet Ryman

 The topic of financial stability is very important in today’s world where it seems everyone is living in debt. By taking care of our own finances and being knowledgeable in the subject you will not only be a role model for your soldiers but be able to set them up for success in their own financial situations. Finances can be a major distraction to a soldier, which can take away from training and over all readiness. Also finances are a major reason for a lot of divorces.

 Here are some side effects of bad financial planning

  • Loss of credit, pay garnishment
  • May lose chances to be promoted or even re-enlist
  • You can even be discharged from service

 Here is a list of ways to improve finances.

  • Utilize a Budget and don’t vary from it
  • Save first out of your paycheck before bills and other expenses
  • Create an Emergence fund of 3 months of living expenses (just in case)
  • Live comfortably, not above your means

 It is important when working with your soldiers to understand what they are dealing with. Some of these soldiers may have never had a paycheck, bank account or may not know what good financial planning looks like or why it is important.

 I feel that saving is extremely important. On the civilian side they have 401k and IRA’s. Soldiers can also participate in IRA programs through financial institutions. The Army also provides something close to a 401k called the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). The TSP allows soldiers to participate in the stock market at a risk level of their choice. It has a record of great return on investment. It is important to note that when saving the sooner you start the better. There is this little beauty called compounding interest that works like a multiplier for you. A 22 yr old who only invests 8 years and lets it compound will have the same amount of money at 65 years of age as someone who waits till they’re 31 and invests until they are 65.

 It is also mentionable the military helps soldiers by giving them allowances and entitlements.

 There is a great deal of financial smarts that I have not covered in this short article. Perhaps you would like to do a little research on one I have not covered or go deeper into something I’ve discussed for your blog post.

Installation Support Services: Cadet Kennedy

We all come upon problems in our life, even as soldiers we face issues that we cannot necessarily handle on our own. That is why it is import that proper support is provided to all soldiers and their families. With this in mind the Army has set in place SEVERAL programs for its soldiers and their dependents.  These programs include:

  • Army Community Service
    • This includes multiple programs set in place to provide support services, education and information to assist the military population. These programs range from the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program to the MOB and Deployment Assistance Program. Almost any situation that you are in there is someone to talk to.
    • The Family Readiness Center
      • This is put in place to assist families during times of deployment.  Family Readiness Groups are for your soldiers families and it is important that through tough times they have something to turn to. It keeps families connected to the deployed unit allowing them to meet and remain informed of the current situation.
      • Legal Services
        • Everyone gets into trouble sometimes but when things get out of hand Legal Services are always available. The Legal Assistance Office will assist soldiers with all legal matters. Also things such as tax assistance are available.
        • Army and Air Force Exchange Service
          • We should all know this very well, the AAFES provides soldiers with merchandise and comparatively low prices. The AAFES operates in several countries and not only provides soldiers with merchandise but with the luxury of fast food chains like Burger King, Popeyes and Cinnabon around the globe. Not only does it provide the opportunity to spend money, but the opportunity to make money as well. The AAFES provides employment to more than 10,000 military family members.
          • Health Services
            • This program is set in place to assist soldiers with health care. Soldiers and their families will receive free or government-subsidized medical and dental care. Any sicknesses or injuries will be provided for through the military. Army health care falls under the program TRICARE.


These are only a small portion of the several support services provided to military personnel and their families. The above programs are available to both you, your soldiers and their families. It is highly important that you ensure that your soldiers take full advantage of them all.


Equal Opportunity – Cadet Hale

The Army’s EO policy is pretty straightforward: To provide equal opportunity and treatment for soldiers and their families without regard to race, color, religion, gender, or national origin and to provide an environment free of sexual harassment.

 This policy is in place to protect soldiers as well as protect the unity and cohesion necessary for the Army to accomplish what it needs to. If soldiers are being treated differently based on the factors mentioned in the policy, it will lead to conflict among those affected. It may also prevent the most deserving soldiers from advancing into higher positions, lowering the effectiveness of the Army as a whole.

 As officers, it will be our duty to make sure our soldiers understand and follow the EO policy. That includes setting the example with regards to EO, having EO training, and handling any issues that may come up in the best way possible. It is important to know the process of handling EO complaints, which is laid out in the book, because if these types of issues arise, you owe it to your soldiers to be able to handle them effectively so that you protect your soldiers and your unit cohesion.

 For future reference, the publication that covers the Army’s EO policy and complaint procedures is AR 600-20. It lays out detailed policies regarding EO that will be important to know when you’re an officer.

Prevention of Sexual Harrassment – Cadet Kinsey

            Sexual Harassment can be found in any work place.  The U.S. Army is one place where sexual harassment will not be tolerated and the offender will be prosecuted.  The book lists a few of the high ranking individuals prosecuted for this offense and one in particular was brought out of retirement to be prosecuted.  As an officer you could find yourself in a position that would be considered sexual harassment or you could be the person who has to file a complaint on the subject.

            The key to preventing sexual harassment is to know everything that is constituted as sexual harassment.  A good reference that I found to be helpful in explaining all scenarios and concepts of sexual harassment can be found at  On this website I found that one way of preventing sexual harassment would be to identify and stop meaningless

comments or sexual advances before they turn into acts of provoking sexual conduct.

            As an army officer it is our job to be professional at all times and if a situation is encountered where a soldier has a complaint about sexual harassment it should be handled as seriously and respectively as possible.

Contemporary Ops: Civilians on the Battlefield & Force Protection

NGOs, COB and Host-Nation Support (BLEW)

            The conflicts that we find ourselves in the today, present a number of challenges and obstacles that Jr. Officers must maneuver around in order to complete their mission.  As we have been told numerous times, the decision you make as a Jr. Officer has a greater significance on the big scheme of things,  then just on your immediate surroundings. The book phrases it nicely.

“By simple acts of kindness or ignorance, you can make local nationals, individuals, and groups either assets or liabilities.”

            Civilians, host nation personnel, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations are all factors that need to be considered in your planning process. If you consider these and possible scenarios in your planning process and implementing things like, cultural awareness and how to properly interact with other organizations, your primary mission can be the focus and unnecessary obstacles will disappear. Flexibility, Adaptability and Patience are a few things that a Jr. Officer should possess in order to successfully work with these types of organizations.

            The book lists a few noncombat military ops:

-processing and returning EPWs or displaced civilians

-Evacuation of Friendly Civilians

-Transfer of responsibilities to follow-on, peacekeeping, or host-nation forces

-restoring basic services, such as water, electricity, and health care.

What are some other scenarios or instances that, as a Jr. Officer, you may have to deal with?

How do your actions, as a Jr. Officer, affect your relationship with these organizations? How can it affect overall mission success (both positively and negatively)?

Force Protection – Bruce Archambault

p. 244 – “Force protection, the primary component [of protection], minimizes the effects of enemy firepower – including weapons of mass destruction (WMD), maneuver, and information.”

                If it seems like there are 101 things that must always be at the forefront of our minds as leaders of troops, it’s because there are, and one of those things is force protection.  Force protection covers a large number of things.  They range from using the right net to send sensitive and classified information over and knowing what can and can’t be said in correspondence to family and friends back home, to carrying a minimum amount of ammunition at all times when deployed to a combat zone, no matter where you are within theatre. 

                The COE that today’s Army finds itself is in a dynamic one in which we must constantly reassess the methods that our enemy is using to try and kill us.  They figure out what measures we use for force protection and then figure out ways to circumvent those measures.  Because of this, considering force protection can be likened to a planning process.  We have to make force protection policy decisions (though this actually happens well above our level), enforce those policies (this is more our job) and while doing that, see how the enemy responds.  Given how they respond, changes are made to policy and we implement them.

                When risks are assessed and risk control measures are developed, you create a FP plan.  Some things that must be taken into consideration are site, accommodations and defensive positions, TCPs, ACPs, personnel vulnerabilities, the situational awareness of you soldiers, sniper threats, security measures, coordination and evacuation.  A force protection policy must find balance between two things: it must not be too restrictive and at the same time it must not be too lax, as either can end up hurting your unit in one way or another.  A good unit should have a FP plan as part of its SOP.

                There are FPCONs, which apply to the threat level on a given day at a given location, ranging from FPCON A, which implies that a general threat of possible terrorist activity exists, to FPCON D, which applies when a terrorist attack has occurred or when intel suggests that a specific person or place is being targeted.

                No matter where U.S. service members are stationed there will always be risk of terrorist activity directed against us.  One of our first lines of defense is a sound FP plan, which should take many things into consideration, from current threat to what our capabilities to respond are.  A sound FP plan enforced by competent leaders will reduce unnecessary loss of life as well as equipment.

An Officer’s Duty (Fritz)

What does it really mean to be an Armed Forces Officer? There is a lot to that question. What it ultimately means is we are a special group of individuals trusted to protect the people of America and the Constitution. The Army Pam 600-2 The Armed Forces Officer outlines this very well. We must remember that we will be entrusted to protect the Constitution. Some of us consider the Army as a way to have adventure, pay for college, follow in a parent’s footstep, travel the word, or have a stable job and pay. Those are all acceptable reasons to join, however, once we are commissioned I believe it is important we put those reasons aside and really take seriously our new commitment to the United States of America.
The Army Pam 600-2 also correctly but briefly mentioned how officers of the past became officers. Generally all throughout the last 1,000 years officers received their commissions by what noble family they were born in. It did not matter how smart they were because being born in a noble family meant you were born there for a reason and must be special. As a result, commissioning officers were commonly inept and incompetent. This caused many flawed battles and needless deaths. But now in our modern age we do not have to be born into a noble family to be an officer. We just need to show merit, integrity, and trainability. I really find it very remarkable we have the privilege of serving in the greatest Army in the history world even if we came from a low socioeconomic status.

With this great opportunity to serve in the Army we need to be effective leaders and always strive to do our best. The pamphlet says that “most folks do not understand how good they really are.” We need to realize how good we are and always work hard to get the best possible results. I’d like to refer to a man named Jonathan in the Old Testament. This was a man who was sold as a slave and through a strong work ethic he ended up being trusted with his master’s affairs. Then when he was put in prison he again worked so hard and honestly he ended up practically running the prison. We need to have this work ethic with everything we do whether we like the job or not. We should be the person who “understands the order, salutes smartly, and gets the job done.” In addition to that we should be able to teach this work ethic to our subordinates.

In conclusion I would like to outline a few areas from the pamphlet we should strive to master as we begin our journey as Army Officers.

Do what we enjoy

Be the subject matter expert in our area

Ask for jobs you want and don’t ask to leave jobs you don’t like

Master the written and spoken word

Volunteer often but thoughtfully

Never make false promises

Set the standard

Don’t abuse your privileges

Get noticed by standing out

Continue learning, training, and going to schools

CDT H Draffen’s Post:

The primary duty of an officer is to uphold the constitution and lead those to protect our nation.  One of the most important things to keep in mind is that the nation holds officers on a different level of standards.  The military officer must always be a hardworking citizen who is held to a higher standard on almost every level.  This is not an easy task.  It means, as an officer one must do everything within their power to better themselves constantly.  Officers in today’s world are going to face new challenges in their career that they will not be fully prepared for.  This is an unfortunate truth and will be difficult to always provide the right answer.  “Approaching the profession with a firm understanding of honor, integrity and duty makes the search simpler and the answer clearer.”  1–6 

There are many duties to fulfill that will be tasked to us as new lieutenants along with duties that we should accomplish without being tasked to.  An example of this would be to be able to adapt to the different religions and cultures that we will come across throughout our careers.  These will not always be dependent on where we are, but also who we are leading.  We must discipline ourselves to be open-minded so that the right answer will come to us when we are faced with a difficult task.  Self-discipline is important when you are trying to set the standards for those you are trying to lead.  They will not follow you if you say one thing and do something very different.  Discipline is something that we need to uphold for ourselves to lead properly, expect from our subordinates but is also expected of ourselves from our superiors and the constitution.

Officership and Customs and Courtesies

Officership in the Army Profession (K Draffen):

The Officer’s Oath: “I, _____, so solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.  So help me God.”

One of the unique things about the United States Army is that we swear our allegiance to the Constitution and not to an individual.  This is one way in which military coups are discouraged and we do not have a dictator take office as president.  In turn, we defend the people of the United States by upholding the Constitution and the laws that follow it.  By entering the officer position, we do so with the pure sense of serving our nation.

As officers, we should be forward and open to leadership.  There is no room for “mental reservation.”  If we were to enter with the purpose of evasion, the Army Values and Principles of Officership (Duty, Honor, Loyalty, Service to Country, Competence, Teamwork, Subordination, and Leadership) would make us obvious and we would be discharged from being a Commissioned Officer.

Duty, Honor, and Loyalty are big requirements to be an Army Officer.  We must faithfully and fully take our position as leaders seriously and embrace our roles as our lifestyle.

Customs and Courtesies in the Army (T Burton):

Customs, courtesies, and traditions in the US Army instill pride in its members and observing them shows appreciation for the soldiers who have served throughout America’s history. A custom is an established practice, and military courtesy is the respect and consideration shown towards others.

                The salute is considered the most important of all military courtesies; it shows pride in yourself, your unit, and the Army. The fact that the junior extends the greeting first is merely a point of etiquette, and a salute extended or returned makes the same statement. Do not salute with one hand in your pocket, while smoking, or with your coat unbuttoned or partly unbuttoned.

                Courtesy to a senior indicates respect for authority, responsibility, and experience. Courtesy towards juniors expresses appreciation and respect for them as fellow Soldiers. Courtesy paid to the Colors and the National Anthem expresses loyalty to the United States. The primary values for conducting ceremonies are to render honors, preserve traditions and stimulate esprit de corps.

                Military courtesy is a prerequisite to discipline and courtesy must be accorded to all ranks and on all occasions. Certain customs in the Army adds interest and graciousness to the Army life, such as when given a dinner invitation or social calls.

There are certain rules in the Army which at times seem ridiculous. Here’s a short list.

  • No hands in the pockets.
  • Formations in combat zone
  • Wearing a reflective belt at noon in a war zone.
  • The “no umbrella” rule, why not allowing a professional-looking, simple black umbrella?
  • We ask our soldiers to go to war, but we make them request a pass to drive beyond 70 miles radius off the base.
  • The beret is an absolutely useless piece of headgear.


Let’s talk about smoking while walking. Back in the day in the Army you could smoke in the barracks, at rout-step march and even while running. Now you cannot eat, drink, smoke, or talk on the cell phone while walking in uniform.

Some interesting tidbits on matters of courtesy in the Army:

  • The correct position for troops when “Retreat” is playing is parade rest for uniformed personnel in formation and attention for uniformed personnel not in formation.
  • The proper way to answer a military telephone is to state your unit or section, rank and name, and “How may I help you sir or ma’am?”
  • While posted as a sentinel, if you are talking to an officer, do not interrupt your conversation to salute another officer. However, if the officer to whom you are talking to salutes his senior, you will also salute.


Refer to AR600-25 for Military Customs and Courtesy and FM 7-21.13 Chapter 4.

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

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


I will try to keep this succinct for you all while giving you some ideas to take with you.  First, pay attention to the NCOER class.  We as officers tend not to be strong in writing evaluations for our NCOs.  We don’t teach it well.   Do yourself a favor sit down with your 1SG at your unit and work closely with him or her on this issue.  I was fortunate to have one senior NCO in particular teach me a lot.  Second, accept that amongst the senior NCOs there are some differences in what they want to see on NCOERs.  Mostly it is a styling thing.  The basic concept is the same but some want wording slightly different.  This will mostly be on the CSM level as they will review the NCOERs in the battalion.

My best advice is when it comes time to do your initial counseling do the following prep.  Ask your platoon sergeant for their last NCOER.  Go to the S1 shop and ask  for some examples of NCOERs for like positions.  Get a spread from excellent ones to middle of the road.  Give you adjutant some time to do this as they will need to “sterilize” the personal information.  Then take a blank NCOER form and write in pencil some examples of “excellence” bullets you would like to see from the NCO.  You can change these during the counseling based on NCO feedback.  Now you have goals and a working form to start with when it comes time to write the evaluation.  Unfortunatley, many senior NCOs write their own NCOERs and give them to the rater.  Don’t let this be you.  You expect better from your rater and your NCO should get better from you.  Now, that being said I want to take care of my good NCOs, so I show my draft to them and ask for input.  They often have an idea of what they need and want on their evals.  As long as I don’t have a moral issue with their input I make the changes.  If you want to write an “excellent” NCOER you must have data.  Unlike our evaluations the NCOER requires quantification to support excellence.  I’m sure your instructor will cover this.

OERs are much easier to write and you will see many before you have to write them.  The same idea applies about getting examples from the S1.  This becomes extremely helpful when you have a warrant officer performing a duty which you haven’t really evaluated before.  You can gain an idea of useful metrics for that position and tailor them to your evaluation.  I am not going to spend much time here as you will not write many, unless you are aviation branch, and will get a lot of exposure on writing them.

Your support form on the other hand is up to you.  If your rater does not provide you copies of their support form and your senior raters support they are wrong.  That being said, not all will provide it.  And, often you won’t be asked for your support form until its time to write you evaluation.  Again, this is wrong.  Leaders have gotten much better about this than when I was a LT but you still might see it.  Your S1 can give you their forms if they don’t provide it.  Tailor the front (goals) so your goals are nested with their goals.  Format it the way they do.  What I did with my LTs is give them my support form at their initial counseling and asked them for theirs at our next counseling so I could see it and give them feedback.

During your rated period keep a word document or hard copy of your support form and write down things you do when they happen.  If you wait until your form is due, which could be a year, you will forget many great things you do.  Also, you are not restricted to the back of that form.  You can attach an addendum.  Usually this is just a word document with your bullets continued.  Be concise and whenever possible quantify your achievements.  Often you will find your rater has written your OER without your support form.  Generally they will know what they want to say about you.  However, if you have achievements you want included in the OER tell them.  They can’t fit them all in so pick one or two if you feel strongly about them.

Remember it is your evalution.  If there is something you want it to say you need to let your rater and senior rater know.  If there are specific programs you want to compete for or jobs you are interested in ask them to put it on your OER.  If you are doing your job right they will support you and often they won’t know unless you tell them.  You are the only advocate for what you want.

My last note, don’t work for you OER and don’t believe what you read.  Do your job and take care of your soldiers.  Sometimes you’ll get the recognition you deserve and sometimes you won’t.  But, your Soldiers will let you know if you are a good leader.  Other side of the coin is don’t get enamored with what your OER says about you.  Don’t worry, a good NCO will let you know where you stand.

I hope this helps you and look forward to answering any questions I can.  I am an aviation officer so if anyone has any question in that field please send them as well.

MAJ Randy Smith