The Army values are instilled in Soldiers while going through basic training, Advanced Individual Training (AIT) and through their time in the service. The Army values are one of many tools used to assist in upholding professionalism. In Allen’s article, General Dempsey is quoted stating that “our profession is defined by our values, ethics, standards, code of conduct…” (Allen, 2015, p. 73). We train to refine our skills, and we should train to refine our attributes (Allen, 2015). Three of those values that I want to highlight are duty, respect, and integrity.
The Army Profession defines duty being able to accomplish tasks that are required by the mission and to do so as a team (The Army Profession, 2015, p. B-5). As a young Soldier, my leaders were involved in the everyday tasks that were required of us to accomplish the mission. Occasionally, there was the disgruntled Soldier who refused to be a team player, and they were dealt with accordingly. Leaders knew and lived up to the expectations that were placed upon them. They provided leadership and mentorship to teach and train Soldiers and to ensure that they were on track to becoming as, if not more proficient than themselves. In my last few duty stations, I have not seen the dedication to the mission or the technical proficiency that is needed. Some leaders are not familiar with technical expertise and guidance. Instead of taking the time to learn and teach, all the responsibility is placed on the young Soldier. This creates a domino effect that is passed down to the Soldiers under them. A Soldier can learn to be proficient, but there is the possibility that the process will take longer, or he/she will not be as proficient as what is needed. Also, the experience that a seasoned leader would have had is not able to be passed down as a lesson learned for those under or coming behind that leader.
The next value I wanted to discuss was respect. The traditional definition of respect is to treat others how you would want to be treated as is also defined in The Army Profession (The Army Profession, 2015, p. B-5). Respect is also how a person is regarded because of who they are and how they conduct themselves. I believe that respect has changed both positively and negatively. Leaders used to degrade Soldiers as a show of authority. This attitude is still present, but not as much as it was in my earlier years of being in the military. What I witness now is respect for the person and/or rank but a show of disrespect in the form of banter which leaders allow. I agree that personnel must be able to work as a team and build comradery, but it can be accomplished without incorporating disrespect. We are professionals. The standards are clearly written and should be abided by.
The last value is integrity, to commit to always doing the right thing (The Army Profession, 2015, p. B-5). As leaders, when we maintain our integrity, it strengthens the unit by giving others an example and showing that the process works and is not broken. I had to conduct a body fat assessment of a Chief Warrant Officer 4. She was over the limit and asked if there was anything that I could do. I advised her to speak with the 1SG as he was the person that would receive all the results. He allowed her to be taped again. The Soldiers in her section found out that she convinced the 1SG not to initiate the flagging process because she was due to PCS in a few weeks. Some were angry, and some were indifferent. The questions that were posed were “why should I be taped or take an APFT if the Warrant Officer received no disciplinary action?”, “Why must I adhere to the standard if it is not being applied across the board?”. I believe that a lack of integrity diminishes the respect for the leader and the standards. Some Soldiers will refuse to acknowledge the standard when their judgment reflects a lack of integrity and their defense will be that nothing happens to others who do the same. Some Soldiers do get away with their actions. According to Allen in Ethics and Army Leadership, the negative character traits of leaders are sometimes overlooked because their knowledge, fit physical appearance or test skills compensate for their lack of respect or ethic in the work environment (Allen, 2015, p. 71).
Two reasons that I believe is the cause of the decline of professionalism and ethics is the focus on expertise over morals and accountability (Allen, 2015). People have different morals that are instilled in them throughout their upbringing and exposure to society (Allen, 2015). Additional values are instilled with the Army ethics that are composed of the Army values, and various oaths and creeds (Allen, 2015) recruits enter the service with their values and beliefs and are then instilled with the additional values, oaths, and creeds of the Army (Snider, 2016). The intent is to create a mindset of new values to either amplify current values or replace negative ones, but there is nothing that is geared towards fostering values or ethics later except with it reflecting on a Non-Commissioned Officer Evaluation Report or in a reflection in Master Resiliency Training. The Army recognizes that this is an issue and has developed doctrine to assist developing attractive character traits such as the Center for Army Profession and Ethic (CAPE) and The Army Profession (ADRP-1) (Allen, 2015). Guidance is provided, but it does not explicitly tailor a program to focus on those traits which is what Allen is trying to get across (Allen, 2015). While a program that will develop character traits seems like a great idea, there are too many individual characteristics and possibilities between those characteristics to focus on. Doctrine places the responsibility of character development on the individual (Snider, 2016). The individual responsibility of developing one’s own character traits is feasible but may not work for everyone. Leaders should incorporate this responsibility as they mentor subordinates.
Accountability applies to everyone, but for multiple reasons, it is not. Some leaders take it personally that someone else corrected their Soldier rather than focusing on the infraction. Soldiers must be held accountable for their actions by leaders, or whomever else bared witness to the indiscretion. The lack of accountability gives the green light to continue with unethical and unprofessional behavior.
Snider’s article Will Army 2025 Be a Profession questions the existence of the Army as a profession within the next seven years (Snider, 2016). This is all dependent on the actions that are taken to cultivate this Army with the ethics that are needed to ensure success. The lack of trust, integrity, and respect can lead to double standards, toxic leadership, decreased readiness and many other negative results that chip away at our professional foundation. We as public servants answer to the public and will not be able to maintain their trust without professionalism and ethics. I do believe we are in a state of decline which may lead to additional oversight, but I do not believe it is irreversible. It is a cycle and a constant that I have always heard one time or another throughout my career is that we must get back to the basics; back to Soldiering back to leading and back to adhering to standards and ethics.