Ethics of Us Army

10 October 2016

Each soldier in the United States Army, or any military service, will have very different experiences with the ethical culture of their unit. Is this experience due to the organizational culture or how its leaders operate within that culture that creates such an unique experience for every soldier? The point is that if you ask 10 soldiers to conduct an ethical culture audit of the military, I believe you will get 10 different answers that fall on all points on the continuum.

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Responses that the Army is highly ethical would come from soldiers who have “internalized cultural expectations” (p. 152). Since the Army has such a strong culture, ethical or not, there are always going to be individuals who fight that culture and resist the “internalization” of some or all the values. Typically these soldiers separate from the military during their initial training or when their first time commitment is up, usually 2-3 years. From my experience the United States Army has a highly ethical culture.

One could sight any of several dozen scandals or investigations from Abu Grhaib prison abuse to the 101st Airborne soldiers raping and killing a family of five in Iraq to counter my assessment. But, I argue that these incidents occurred in spite of the strong culture, where a combination of “individual character traits” (p. 198) and/or trauma suffered in combat operations caused unethical behavior contrary to the ethical training they received. To help prevent such incidents and also study behavior the US Army has developed the Center for the Army Profession and Ethic.

Since 2008 the Army has incorporated the research from this organization and trained its mid-level leaders to implement its findings at the unit level. To have a highly ethical organization, you need leadership that is committed to continuous improvement and not complacent with the current culture. In an organization with over 500,000 active soldiers the mentality has to be, there is always room for improvement. This mentality of continuous improvement must also come from the leadership of the military to be effective and implemented.

Similar to Kelleher’s philosophy of “serving the needs of employees” (p. 156), the Army has a strong tradition of taking care of soldiers and their families so they can take care of the country. The leadership of the Army has set up and participates in numerous programs to assist soldiers with any issue from financial to marital problems. I completed my undergraduate education in Finance and then joined the military. I had no idea how to do my taxes and the Army taught me, not a $100,000 plus education. Once I knew how to do my taxes, as a junior leader I was required to assist my soldiers.

Formal leadership in the military is prominent, from the understanding the Uniform Code of military Justice, to daily corrective actions for very minor offenses that in other organizations would probably go unnoticed. This relationship tends to be very formal as all rules and regulations are written down and trained during your initial 12 weeks of basic training. The leader is also responsible for continuous training to include a weekly briefing on good decision making when off duty. The informal aspect is very unique for each leader, it typically comes from written policies that the leader permits his soldiers to dis-obey.

Whether it is early dismissal on Friday, or a motto against regulations, it builds a trust a with soldiers that their leader is on their side as well. Except in extreme cases such as the Abu Grhaib prison unit, I have found that the informal systems are in alignment with the formal ones and where they differentiate are so minor that it does not cause issues. The best way to summarize ethical leadership is to know that soldiers react to your actions more than they do your words. A common Army Office motto is “Lead by Example. This motto best prevents “hypocritical leadership” (p. 162). To get the right type of leadership in the Army, recruiters look at every candidate with the SAL method, Student, Athlete, Leader. Candidates are given a score based on GPA, sports, clubs and leadership rolls held. The Army has historically not allowed individuals with a history of crime, drug abuse or cheating in, but due to recruitment issues they have started to waive some requirements to meet goals. This shift has been criticized and said to have diminished the quality of the US soldier.

It was interesting to see making goals or the number this as the main reason to waive values in Aaron’s speech this week. It appears no organization is free of the pressure to perform on a quantitative measure regardless of the effect to values. Selection for promotion in the Army is also very rigorous and has a set of standards that are very consistent. This prevents fraud and any possible quid pro quo from occurring. For General officers their appointments have to be confirmed by Congress and top secret security clearance requires a polygraph test.

This ensures that the nations military decision makers and individuals with information can be trusted and have been vetted. The US Army’s values, mission statement and policies are simple but have withstood the test of time. The mission of winning the nation’s wars has remained constant, but Congress has added sub-statements to ensure responsibility and protection of the American people. In history winning at all cost was commonplace for the military especially in WWII. Since then collateral damage and fratricide are no longer acceptable consequences to accomplish the mission.

The values of the military (leadership, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage) are instilled from day one, and put on your chest right next to your dog tags for every day there after. It is these values that help leaders and soldiers accomplish the mission with the best course of action, rather than the quickest or most definitive. As for policies, the military has a policy for how to do just about everything. The UCMJ is just the tip of policies in the US Army. Every branch, every machine, every unit has a manual to dictate policy.

Very rarely does a situation occur in peacetime in the military that there is not a written policy to follow. Ethics training starts before day one in the military. Before you report to initial training you take an oath of office or enlistment that defines your roll in the military and commitment to uphold the constitution. Everyday of 12 weeks in basic training you recite the values and Ethos of the Army. In the past there had been issues that units did not operate according to individual training, so over the last decade all training programs have been updated to ensure the best possible replication of how the “real” Army is.

Companies seek soldiers after their service for one main reason, they have had the best training in their field possible, and I believe this is holds true for values as well. Performance management in the military is very structured. There is a system in place and the only thing preventing a soldier from getting a fair and thorough evaluation is their own failure to self evaluate. Each unit has very different performance tasks to evaluate, but all soldiers are evaluated on the seven values of the Army at least twice a year.

There is also reverse evaluations where soldiers have the opportunity to critique their leaders. Lastly after every mission the Army conducts and after action review where everyone can provide input. There is always a mandatory three positive comments period and three improves to ensure continuous improvement while remaining positive. For most situations the military has set up a structure where it is impossible to cheat on evaluations. Whether the tasks are team or individualized, the test results are hard to accomplish without actually doing the work.

The key to performance management in the military is that the soldier knows what is expected of him or her and the consequences of not meeting those expectations, similar to how Joe Paterno treated his organization. The Army’s Organization structure is outlined by the chain of command. When to go above or around the chain of command is clearly defined in UCMJ as well as when you are authorized to dis-obey an order from that chain of command. While it is easy to say it is all written down, application in combat is the real test. The leadership in the organization will determine whether it works in the field or not.

Soldiers can not be fearful of reporting wrong doing or negative results, and that comes down to their leaders to ensure what is written is implemented. The Military’s decision making process (MDMP) is a 300 plus page manual of which I took a one month long course on learning the process. This process rivals six-sigma for in depth analyzing a problem and how to take the best course of action. The best example I can provide is that MDMP alone and how it relates to ethical culture in the military could be a five-page introduction.

The Informal cultural system of the Army is the one that is most portrayed in the movies and stories, from Code Reds in “A Few Good Men,” to the heroics of the Band of Brothers in WWII these are the moments that soldiers live for. We spoke of the formal evaluation system, but the informal bond between leaders and soldiers is what really makes a soldier perform his duties to the best of his ability. Heroes are both formally and informally recognized. For every Medal of Honor winner there are 100 soldiers that have done impressive tasks that civilians could only imagine accomplishing.

Norms, if they are positive are usually translated into doctrine over time, so most Norms only last a few years until they are wholly accepted. Rituals however are very unit focused and are usually never written down. They are passed from leader to leader as a ritual itself during the change of command. Even today, 5 years removed from the military, the stories we tell amongst military friends are what motivate my actions to do the right thing. When we tell stories, you will immediately notice that we are speaking a language or code that is only understood by a few.

Many of our values are questioned from the outside, by the way we speak in jargon or our fondness of tobacco and alcohol, but simply look at the actions of a military person and you will see his own language of values is thru “deeds not words,” my unit motto. Based on the examples and reading chapter 5, I believe even more so that the Army is a highly ethical organization. Compared to the organizations in the reading and the others I have worked for, there is no group who puts more time and effort to ensuring values in its actions and people than the US Army.

While there are individuals who stray from the Army values, typically in their informal leadership methods, as a whole the formal and informal culture of the US Army are complimentary and exist to best promote the welfare of the Untied States. It is hard to criticize something you love, and that has been developing and evolving continuously over 200 years by some of the greatest leaders the World has ever seen. There is one key element to ensure the ethical culture environment of the US Army, to recruit personnel at the highest level possible.

The Army cannot waiver in its recruitment of new soldiers to “meet the numbers. ” Lowering the requirements for entry will only weaken the organization’s culture and ethical standards. There are always other areas fro improvement, but this one area is more important than all the others combined. I Andrew S. Driscoll affirm that I have neither given, utilized, received or witnessed unauthorized aid on this deliverable and have completed this work honestly and according to the professor’s guidelines.

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