The Case of the Caring Lieutenant

2LT Shane Caseys infantry platoon has been on patrolling operations for five days in Vietnams Central Highlands. The men are filthy and bone-tired after running contacts with enemy elements and long nights of half-on, half-off duty. In the morning they will consolidate with other elements of the company and move to landing zones about three miles to the south for helicopter pick-up.

Late that afternoon, as they moved to the position they are to establish for the night, they encountered a group of Vietnamese civilians, about 30 older men and women with a few children. Your Vietnamese chieu hoi (former VC who, after being captured, has joined the ARVN, South Vietnamese military) translates and tells you that the civilians are fleeing the battle area to a province on the coast after an NVA battalion moved into their village and collected most of the inhabitants for supply transport duty. They have no food or supplies of any kind. The civilians are physically spent and in bad shape. A number of them need medical attention for wounds. The platoon medic has only a basic supply of medical items that he carries in the pack on his back.

The platoon sergeant has just suggested helping the Vietnamese. He wants to collect the rations that were airdropped yesterday and distributed and give them to the group of Vietnamese. He noted that they have a long way to travel to get out of the Highlands to the coastal province. He also stated that some medical assistance would be a good idea. One of the squad leaders responded immediately that the platoon needs to keep its food, that anything could happen between now and the time the company is picked up tomorrow. He is especially incensed about the platoon sergeants suggestion about using the medical supplies. In the heavy jungle of the Highlands, resupply and evacuation of casualties are problematic. Many of the infrequent open areas are under observation by the NVA, often with anitaircraft MGs in position.

Should LT Casey share some of his supplies with the Vietnamese civilians? Should he tell the medic to use some of his medical kit to treat the injured? His immediate reaction was to provide whatever assistance he could to the refugees. A moments reflection, however, reminded him of mission considerations for that night and tomorrow.

[The central issue here is the relatoinship between the core quality of Compassion and the standard of Duty. What does adherence to the value of Compassion indicate LT Casey should do?]