“Ethical Education at the Unit Level”

MAJ Michael A. Carlino

Instructor, United States Military Academy

Email: cm6279@exmail.usma.army.mil


Paper presented to

The Joint Services Conference on Professional Ethics

Washington, D.C.

27-28 January 2000


I. Introduction

In the recent past, the Army and the ethics that drive it have seen an alarming shift away from an act-centered moral thinking toward an agent-centered approach. One might construe my use of alarming not in regard to the nature of the shift but with regard to the rapidity and momentum, which such thinking has been embraced. After all, we have seen the implementation of an Army core values system complemented by new field manuals, mandated instruction, and even the issuance of a core values card to augment a soldier’s dog tags all within the span of a few short years. The accepted convention seems to be that “America’s Army is a value-based institution,” and an understanding of the core values will adequately equip soldiers for the modern battlefield.1 This shift should come as no surprise. Mainstream American rhetoric has launched a daily barrage of sound-bytes rooted in a virtue ethic to the degree that words like respect and tolerance have become ingrained in the popular culture. Hence, the Army’s move to follow suit seems rather apropos.

My alarm, however, is of a more substantive nature. The Army’s current shift to a core values approach will inevitably fail due in large part to the inability of the values program to effectively communicate and instill ethics beyond even the most superficial levels. The reason for the aforementioned inability is twofold: first, the Army values themselves lack applicability to war fighting as they are not directive or normative even in a broad or general sense. The current program relies on the core values as though this were the case, appealing to the them for supposed resolution of ethical conflicts. Second, the current instability in the Army personnel situation is also not conducive to the values program. Retention rates are down; first enlistments average only a few years. This is further compounded by the fact that unit METLs (Mission Essential Task Lists) are ever expanding with the aim of increasing deployability. The clear result of these personnel issues is that lower echelon units, like squads, platoons, and companies, simply do not have sufficient time to engage in the ethical education that a broad-based, values approach necessitates without degrading their war fighting capabilities.

The aim of my paper is not to attack virtue ethics in general. Instead, I want to argue that an agent-centered core values program is not suitable for the Army as a whole. The current program need not be dismantled but instead implemented in a tiered approach. Values can, and arguably must, still be emphasized within the NCO and Officer Corps during unit professional development sessions and at professional service schools. However, ethical education at the soldier and unit levels must result from realistic training, which indoctrinates concepts and rules, specifically the rules of war, if soldiers are going to benefit in a meaningful way.


II. The Vice of Core Values


There are seven Army core values outlined and detailed in Army Field Manual 22-100, Army Leadership. The manual introduces them with a rather inauspicious claim:

When soldiers and DA civilians take the oath (of service), they enter an institution guided by Army values. These are more than a system of rules. They’re not just a code tucked away in a drawer or a list in a dusty book. These values tell you what you need to be, every day, in every action you take. Army values form the very identity of America’s Army, the solid rock upon which everything else stands, especially in combat.2


The import of the core values appears quite significant, something no soldier ought to forget. Fortunately, they neatly align into the easily registered acronym LDRSHIP, which stands for Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Integrity, and Personal Courage. Before proceeding in any discussion of these values, a brief review of them is in order.

            In the text proper of the field manual, the content of each value is rather vague. In fact, not until Appendix B is the actual substance made explicitly clear. Loyalty is “bearing true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, your unit, and other soldiers.”3 The appendix makes clear that this order of loyalty is essential and augments the definition by requiring one to “observe higher headquarters’ priorities” and “work within the system without manipulating it for personal gain.”4 Duty is “fulfilling one’s obligations -- professional, legal, and moral.” This entails “carrying out mission requirements, meeting professional standards, setting the example, complying with policies and directives, and continually pursuing excellence.”5 Respect is “treating people as they should be treated.” This purportedly means “creating a climate of fairness and equal opportunity, being discreet and tactful when correcting or questioning others, showing concern for and making an effort to check on the safety and well-being of others, being courteous, and never taking advantage of positions of authority.”6 Selfless Service is “putting the welfare of the nation, the Army, and subordinates before your own.” The appendix expands this definition to include “sustaining team morale, sharing subordinates’ hardships, and giving credit for success to others while accepting responsibility for failure.”7 Honor is “living up to all the Army values.” The West Point honor code is smuggled into the appendix as honor prohibits lying, cheating, stealing or tolerating those who do. Integrity is defined as “doing what is right – legally and morally.” This is explained as “possessing high personal moral standards, being honest in word and deed, showing consistently good judgment and behavior, and putting being right ahead of being popular.”8 Personal courage is “facing fear, danger, or adversity, both physically and morally.” The definition then overlaps with that for selfless service as the demand to take responsibility for decisions and actions while accepting responsibility for mistakes and shortcomings is repeated.9

            With even the most minimal reflection, one is faced with the looming threat that these values are rather arbitrary; the LDRSHIP acronym points to this. In fact, I submit that the current values were adopted as the Army’s own values not necessarily because they were the bedrock values of the military profession as the prelude claims but were decided upon because of the bureaucratic, doctrinal staffing process used to write the manual. Consider that the initial draft of 22-100 advocated fairness and wisdom as core values. For whatever reason, these virtues were deleted during the staffing process and replaced with integrity.10 This is not to say that the current values are not the most desirable or reflective of the military profession. Perhaps they are, but if the importance of acronyms or the opinion of an influential individual affected the process, then the core values as a whole were arrived at through arbitrary happenstance rather than philosophic investigation.

My claim ought to prompt at least some suspicion of the system of values, which we as an Army are so readily embracing, precisely because the underlying issue is not which values we settled on, but why we chose them. The core values are purported to be foundational, but we have ignored the philosophic grounding of the values themselves. There is no firm bedrock that the entire values system rests upon. Hence, we can offer no reasoned explanation about why integrity is an Army value while wisdom does not qualify as an essential trait for leaders of character and competence. Whatever the process by which the values were arrived, the Army core values are arbitrary.11 Nothing prevents these values from being altered or even replaced as new personnel take the helm.

It appears that some early attempt might have been made to use honor as the core value upon which the others rested because of its current characterization as living up to the other values. Unfortunately, if there was an attempt, it did not succeed as honor does not occupy any elevated status and simply has parity with the other values.  This is not to say that honor should indeed be foundational for the current Army program. Such a claim would require argumentation beyond the scope of this project. Furthermore, honor is by no means the only option. Different virtue ethicists propose different foundational notions. For example, Aristotle suggests moral wisdom (phronesis)12 while Annette Baier, a current virtue theorist, proposes trust for her conception.13 I am simply alluding to the point that many virtue ethicists have already recognized: there must be a central notion if the program is to have any ballast whatsoever.

This deficiency is camouflaged in a philosophy of consistency and codependence similar to Aristotle’s doctrine of unity. “Army values are consistent; they support one another. You can’t follow one value and ignore another.”14 This supposed strength is illusory at best and actually reduces the core values to vague superficialities that fail to have any degree of normative content. We all agree that “we do not, I think, want our military men (and women) to enjoy killing the enemy and destroying their cities….”15 Ours is a solemn task. “If it is an honour and privilege to bear arms for one’s country, as we understandably tell our military conscripts and volunteers, part of the honour is being trusted with activities that are a necessary evil, being trusted not to enjoy their evil aspects, and being trusted to see the evil as well as the necessity.”16 However, the values are not specific enough to shape the character of our soldiers even to this end. Instead, the core values are so broad that they are applicable to a multitude of organizations, not just our Army.

Consider the following hypothetical example. Let us imagine a dictator institutes a core values program for his military. Could he choose the same seven values that we have? I believe that he could. Of course, some slight modifications must be made. Loyalty, for example, would make no sense if it referred to the Constitution of the United States. So, it would be altered to bear true faith and allegiance to the empire, et al. Selfless service and personal courage translate without change to values held in any close knit organization from an army to a sports team to even the Mafia. Duty and Integrity are laced with the caveat to fulfill moral obligations and might seem more problematic. However, this requirement is so general that there is ample room for philosophic maneuvering. The preferred move is to appeal to the jus ad bellum/jus in bello distinction at this juncture. Soldiers cannot be directly accountable for the jus ad bellum considerations implemented by their political superiors. Assuming they have good faith in the leaders of their nation, they will fight hard and attempt to win. Michael Walzer agrees arguing that “…soldiers are not responsible for the overall justice of the wars they fight; their responsibility is limited by the range of their own activity and authority.”17 Such an assertion seems plausible to me. As long as soldiers do not commit jus in bello infractions, crimes within the context of fighting, we can still consider them moral soldiers regardless of what side they fight on.  Thus, the caveat about moral obligations says nothing in relation to the jus ad bellum considerations made by the dictator, which can be viewed as wholly unconnected. By the same reasoning, respect is also accommodated. As long as soldiers are not taking advantage of innocent noncombatants and are fighting other combatants, they can reasonably uphold this value as we do while engaging enemies of the United States. Since the other six values can be supported, honor basically succeeds by default.

Hence, the dictator can institute the same core values program that we uphold. Even if we imagine the dictator to be a rather evil man bent on imperialistic expansion, there is little conflict with the core values. I am not implying that the dictator himself lives up to these, for he need not. In fact, that consideration is irrelevant for them to apply to his military. The soldiers in his armed forces can still be virtuous people regardless of the character of their political leader.

My example could be extended to work even in the case of the Nazis, who in fact had four values of their own: courage, honesty, loyalty, and obedience. I suppose an immediate objection to my extension of our core values to the Nazis could cite the values of respect and integrity and their incommensurability with Hitler’s treatment of the Jews. Two responses are apparent. The first and less appealing of the two is to subscribe to some warped view that the Jews did not qualify as people in the same sense as the other German citizens. However, this is so extreme that I find it not worth defending. A second and more palatable approach might be to concede the incommensurability issue to a degree. Any human being ought to be able to recognize certain moral extremes as evil, such as murdering the innocent and helpless or participating in the broad-based extermination of particular ethnic groups. German soldiers who were aware of such policies may well have had moral obligations to resign or actively end the practice, but such a discussion is beyond the scope of this paper. However, if Hitler focused on expansionism and European domination less the maltreatment of the Jews, the Nazis could have embodied respect and integrity.

Even without revising history, many Nazi soldiers who embodied the same core values that we have today. Walzer cites Rommel as an example of a good soldier who “fought a bad war well, not only militarily but also morally.”18 Rommel took actions that we consider virtuous, like burning Hitler’s 28 October 1942 Commando Order that demanded the execution of prisoners.19 Even so, Rommel fought, and fought valiantly, in support of Hitler’s Germany. He was a Nazi and led Nazi forces to victory on the battlefield, which returns to my previous notion: “by and large, we don’t blame a soldier, even a general, who fights for his own government. He is not a member of a robber band, a willful wrongdoer, but a loyal and obedient subject and citizen, acting sometimes at great personal risk.”20

I am not advocating blind obedience and allegiance, which are obviously not viable excuses for immoral conduct. Soldiers are responsible for their actions and cannot appeal to following orders for justification. We must remember though that most soldiers believe in their country and its leaders. They may not have full information as to why certain political decisions are made and must fight on a good faith assumption. Hence, the majority of the Nazi soldiers probably did uphold or could have upheld the same values that we rally around today. My point is not to praise the Nazis in any way. Any emotional objection along those lines grossly misconstrues my point, which is simply that the core values as written fail to discriminate except on the broadest of levels.

The previous consideration of the superficiality of the values ought to point to a serious and deeper weakness of them – they lack any normative aspect whatsoever. Because they are so vacuous, they are easily adaptable by a multitude of military organizations as demonstrated above. However, telling a soldier how he should be might be useful in peacetime but does not easily translate into fulfillment of wartime missions. The professional ethic of a military ought to relate to its primary functionality, but the core values do not. Consider a second example. CPT Smith is the commander of an infantry heavy company team. His unit’s mission is to seize a vital bridge that the enemy is planning to retreat across. The capture of the bridge will result in the enemy being cut off forcing them to surrender. This in turn will give friendly forces a decided advantage and should expedite the end of the war. Of course, CPT Smith cannot destroy the bridge, as it is critical for follow on operations. As Smith advances towards the bridge, he comes upon a small village (approximately 25 houses) bisecting the road his unit is traveling on. Due to the terrain, it is impossible to bypass the village. As the lead Bradley Fighting Vehicles (BFVs) approach, they take heavy small arms and anti-tank fire. Approximately a platoon of enemy soldiers is in the village along with a significant number of civilians still present. Smith is urged by higher headquarters to keep moving and seize the bridge. What should he do?

Let us ask if the values contribute to the resolution of Smith’s problem. The answer should not be surprising. The core values lack any normativity and offer Smith nothing. Pulling out his dog tags and looking at his values card is fruitless despite the claim that the values are the “fundamental building blocks that enable us to discern right from wrong in any situation.”21 In this case, loyalty, selfless service, personal courage and honor are tertiary considerations at best. Duty would include following the laws of land warfare, which would provide some guidance. However, duty does not readily distinguish between the rightness of option such as dismounting and clearing the village with infantry, attempting to fight through mounted, or calling 155mm artillery fire on the village. It is unclear what respect mandates but a prohibition against killing the civilians in the town is not readily apparent. Integrity instructs Smith to do what is morally and legally acceptable, yet that is precisely what is at issue. The demands of military necessity are in conflict with noncombatant immunity. The core values offer no mechanisms, like the Doctrine of Double Effect or any other imperative by which resolution could be achieved. The values and upholding them might have improved Smith’s character, which helps him to realize the competing moral issues, but the values offer no substantive way out. The lower the level of the soldier, like the specialist BFV Gunner or the PV2 Rifleman, the less relevance the values seem to have to mission accomplishment. The values might have utility in peacetime for the development of leaders of character, but they offer very little in the way of normative problem resolution to the soldiers who follow in combat.

The situation above is not unique or unrealistic. Countless others can be imagined and considered, and in each case, the values, as written, contribute very little to problem resolution especially in combat. They do not help to clarify the gray areas of the law of land warfare and the like. Hence, they should not occupy a primary ethical role, but only a secondary one in which they augment some other normative foundation.



III. The Case of Pragmatism

            An argument could be made against my view that I have been too hasty in my generalization of the core values. The objector might contend that with more development and time, the inculcation of the core values could have a normative benefit. A sophisticated philosophic position would then be developed to demonstrate how the values contribute to Army life extending even to combat decision. Such an approach does not necessarily resolve my contention about the arbitrary nature of the values but may well meet my challenge about the absence of normativity. After all, Rosalind Hursthouse’s  “Virtue Theory and Abortion” suggests that virtue theories can resolve problems and direct us to make definitive moral judgments.22 The objector to my comments might charge that I am driving us towards Sparta when the goal ought to be Athens. Hence, he would claim that through a proper and more thorough education, the values could be made to work.

I will concede this possibility but still contend that we ought to reject the program based entirely on pragmatic considerations. The current personnel problems combined with a training philosophy that over commits existing resources and personnel does not leave sufficient time to educate soldiers to the degree necessitated by a values based program.            My claim is founded on the belief that such a program requires a philosophic education rather than the rote memorization of a few key words or phrases. Essential for a virtue centered approach is deep reflection, which leads to understanding and thus good judgment.23

             The education process to which I allude might not seem altogether daunting if the subjects were scholars, but the Army is not composed of academicians. The officer corps shows promise since some 95% have at least a Baccalaureate Degree and most colleges require at least some exposure to philosophic thinking if not virtue ethics directly. Of this group, 40% have some type of advanced degree, which even if not in philosophy has most likely contributed to the ability for complex, theoretical thinking.24 Hence, my initial claim might seem in doubt. However, the enlisted ranks present an altogether different story. Here, 97% have a high school diploma or GED certificate, and 25% have some college. However, only 3% completed their college degrees, which is offset by the more than 2% who never even finished the high school education level.25 Furthermore, the Army has already increased its intake of GED recruits to the maximum.26 This is not to say that the enlisted ranks lack the intellectual acuity to comprehend a virtue ethic; my point is merely that the vast majority of them have no previous exposure to philosophy or the virtues. It follows then that any broad-based program of ethical education ought to be accessible to the majority of soldiers, which in this case is the enlisted force, outnumbering the officer corps by a five to one ratio.27

The question we now face is how much time would such a program require? Let us consider the United States Military Academy. Young men and women in their late teens and early twenties largely populate West Point, much the same as the soldiers comprising the bulk of the lower enlisted ranks. The cadet education consists of one semester of formal philosophy (PY201) augmented by 46 lessons (55 minutes each) of values education within their companies.28 This does not include the values instruction that augments their summer details. I think it fair to say that this training is roughly equivalent to two semesters worth of classes. Disregard that the Academy is a collection of our nation’s best and brightest aspiring officers. It follows then that the enlisted ranks would require at least as much (if not more) than our future officers to achieve a comparable level of understanding. We cannot begin with the assumption that our enlisted soldiers have a sophisticated education level and are ready for a deep understanding of virtue and the ethics it entails. For if this were the case, the emphasis demonstrated by the Academy would be a misguided waste of time and resources.

This two semester educational requirement is further compounded by the manpower crisis the Army currently faces. The decline in retention and enlistment is well documented. “The Army is now losing 37 percent of all soldiers before they complete their first enlistments.”29 Soldiers who simply do not reenlist increase this number, resulting in “over half of the enlisted force (serving) only one term of service (from three to five years).”30 Such statistics ought not be surprising given reports that last year 800 of 35,000 basic trainees at Fort Jackson quit in their first week.31 What ought to be of greater concern is that this downward trend shows no signs of dissipation. “Over the past seven years, the number of soldiers indicating an intention to remain on active duty has declined more than 5%.”32 The retention woes are aggravated by poor recruitment. “The Army (expected) to miss its year-end recruiting goal of 74,500 by about 7,000 to 8,000.”33

What this all means is that any educational undertaking is faced with a rapidly shifting personnel landscape severely lacking in continuity at the lower levels. The easy solution might be to suggest that such an educational program could be instituted during Basic or Advanced Individual Training. However, the atmosphere in which the new recruit subsists is not conducive to deep reflective thinking. Hence, the first nine weeks of uniformed service hardly seems fitting for the exploration of rigorous philosophic ideas. These soldiers are overwhelmed by the demands of uniformity, physical fitness training, marksmanship, and shoe polish. One week of values training has been incorporated into Basic, but this hardly scratches the surface of our end goal. The four weeks to six months of MOS dependent Advanced Individual Training offers little respite from the myriad of new tasks to be learned and thus suffers the same deficiency.

Since we have already established that some two semesters worth of education are merited, the only alternative is to incorporate such training in active units. Unfortunately, there is not any available training time. To make this point, consider the Ranger Regiment, the most rapidly deployable unit in the conventional force. Since this unit spearheaded the invasions of Grenada and Panama as well as participated in Desert Storm and Somalia, combat readiness has been and continues to be their first and foremost priority. In order for a Ranger Company to be trained, it must be proficient on its basic missions of Movement to Contact, Attack, Raid, Ambush, Recon, and Hasty Defense. These missions are comprised of various combinations of 27 collective tasks. This number increases to 45 collective tasks when we examine the platoon and squad level requirements for the same six basic missions.34 Of course, we must realize that soldiers need to be proficient at the hundreds of individual tasks before their unit can achieve full proficiency at any collective requirements. In the Ranger Regiment, various Special Operations missions also require different collective tasks, but as these are of a sensitive nature, I will forgo any detail of them here. Even worse, these mission essential tasks seem ever expanding as more missions, like peacekeeping operations, which is wholly separate for other combat operations, are added to increase unit deployability.

Every unit, however, is constrained by the calendar year of 365 days, which is then further reduced by a number of other factors. First, every soldier is guaranteed 30 days of leave a year. So rather than starting with 365 training days, we ought to begin with 335. Next we must realize that no unit can train without some rest and recovery. Any attempt to do so would break not only the spirits of the soldiers but also their equipment. Assuming that in each month three weeks are dedicated to training while one week is recovery, our available time is further reduced to roughly 280 available training days in a year. Of course, this number is only an estimate and could vary, though I doubt in an increasing direction.  

The problem is that adequately training on all of the METL tasks requires more than the given 280 training days in a year. In the Rangers, over 400 training days are needed each year to achieve a “trained” status across the board.35 Other units fare no better. Even though the Rangers may have more METL tasks, they enjoy a protected status from “white cycle taskings,” missions such as post police, guard, funeral details, and the various other rotating support requirements that further reduce available training time. The overall operational tempo is no help either. “Our overseas deployments are 300% above what they were at the height of Vietnam.”36 Many deployments, like real world peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Kosovo, rarely afford training time on other war fighting METL tasks. The result is that we are over-extended; it certainly seems “that we have more tasks for armed services than we do people.”37 Any attempt to add an extensive ethical education program will have a cost. The Army simply cannot do everything. If such a program is given top priority, some other mission essential task must be ignored. However, the fact of the matter is that wartime mission accomplishment must be the top priority and always come first.


IV. Resolution

            If the above is accurate, the core values and associated efforts might be in serious jeopardy. They lack content and are far too theoretical for the lower enlisted soldiers in the line units to apprehend in any meaningful way given the available time. I am not, however, arguing completely against any form or use of the core values. My proposal is not to strike them from the historical record like Rameses II banishing the name of Moses. What I am proposing is that the above limitations simply be recognized and the core values appropriately adapted. With the proper grounding, the virtues have a place in ethics. Even Kantian ethics, which are often criticized for being too demanding and devoid of emotion and character, recognize virtue and a close reading of Kant’s works reveal a dedicated effort to delineate their role. The core values have a place; it is just not on the dog tags of every soldier in our Army.

 The ancient Greeks held that an “army of deer led by a lion is to be feared more than an army of lions led by a deer.”38 I wholeheartedly concur. Any good unit has good leaders. Most good platoons and companies take on the character of their respective commanders. If he or she is hard charging, upbeat, and motivated, the unit will be the same, and success their way of life. Conversely, commanders who are timid and fearful develop companies that lack the same rock solid dependability. The professional officers, who serve the men and women in uniform, need to be leaders of character. They are the standard bearers who ought to set the example in all they do. For them, the Army’s seven core values ought to be their own, among others. The same holds true for the NCOs, though in many cases to a lesser degree. We certainly ought to expect the same levels of professionalism from our Sergeants Majors as we do from the officers appointed over them. However, I do not think that we can reasonably presume the same from a young corporal or sergeant. This is not to say that junior NCOs need not be virtuous. They certainly do. However, they have not had the same education and experiences as their seniors. This distance is even more exaggerated in the case of the lower enlisted. We want soldiers who can think, soldiers capable of discerning blatant right from wrong. However, we cannot reasonably believe that 17-year-old privates have the same levels of discernment as the veterans described above, much as teenage sons and daughters routinely fall short of achieving the wisdom displayed by their parents.

The lower enlisted soldiers need not memorize seven words on a dog tag or key phrases found in a field manual to become soldiers of good character. What they need is exposure to leaders who continually exhibit these traits, because this will be more effective than any one-hour class about core values they could receive. When a private witnesses his squad leader maneuver onto an enemy position, he is receiving a lesson in what personal courage is all about. When his platoon leader rightfully takes the blame for a mission shortcoming, honor and integrity are on display. Virtue ethics relies on habituation, not rote memorization.

The achievement of such an end could be facilitated by the implementation of a tiered approach regarding the instruction of core values. Our officers, beginning at the military academies and ROTC programs, ought to be exposed to the philosophic basis of the Army values. They need a full understanding of good character, as they will be expected to live it every day. Hence, philosophy, focusing on ethical theory, ought to be required in the curriculum of every future officer. A thorough understanding of both deontological and virtue ethics will be of particular interest.39 Their education can continue at professional schools like the Basic and Advanced Courses where the study of the relationship of virtues to normative theories should be explored. Junior leaders will then be able to explain why soldiers must be moral. After all, soldiers will demand explanations for seemingly counterintuitive requirements, at least in their opinion, like putting the welfare of noncombatants first even when it means accepting increased risk to oneself. The Command and Staff College and the War College can train commanders on a more meta-ethical level giving them the wisdom and knowledge to engage in deep reflective thinking. At the unit level, battalions and companies can conduct officer professional development sessions focusing on practical applications of the values within their chosen profession. The officer education needs to be as complete as we can possibly make it. This is the top tier of the ethical education hierarchy.

At the NCO level, the requirements are similar but slower in development. As enlisted soldiers move into the professional ranks, they can be introduced to the core values in much the same way as their officer contemporaries. The Primary Leadership Development Course (PLDC) ought to be a soldier’s first formal exposure to the values with the introduction to the basic ideas found in ethical theory. This will provide the soldier with a working knowledge of the philosophic language required for more advanced study. The Basic Non Commissioned Officer Course (BNCOC) could then incorporate a collegiate level introduction to ethical theory course. This course does not have to consist of the usual approach of introducing and then pointing out associated weaknesses of every theory but instead focus on the positive aspects of virtue and Kantian ethics. At the Advanced Non Commissioned Officer Course (ANCOC), ethical education could investigate the relationship of the virtues to normative ethics much as at the Basic and Advance Course level for officers. The Sergeant Major Academy could then be structured much as the Command and Staff and War Colleges in order to develop deep reflective understanding in our senior NCOs. In units, NCO professional development sessions could also mirror officer sessions and consider the practical applications of their philosophic studies. Hence, the NCOs occupy the middle tier.

Since it is not feasible to undertake a values education program in units at the soldier level, we should simply abandon any attempt. Rather than schedule content empty classes that regurgitate seven words, soldiers need to gain practical knowledge that will help them fulfill their wartime missions within an ethical framework. Soldiers need to know the rules of war, what they can and cannot do on the battlefield. We, as leaders, can provide this through realistic training that challenges our force. When we go to the MOUT site, incorporate civilian role players into the exercise forcing soldiers to discriminate while acquiring targets. Make them confront the problems associated with prisoners, civilians, noncombatants head on during training. In this way, they learn the rules by discovering what they can do and what is prohibited. The chief drawback is only that a greater effort is required from commanders and staff. I suppose this might seem like indoctrination, but at the lowest level, this is not wholly bad. If soldiers realize that their leaders are the men and women that they aspire to become, they have little need to continually question and challenge authority. Instead, they will emulate their superiors, unconsciously internalizing the core values that are now nothing more than another item to remember for the next promotion board or guard mount. Leaders of character must instill the Army values in our soldiers through action instead of meaningless rhetoric.


1  Army Field Manual 22-100, Military Leadership (Washington, DC: Department of the Army, US Government Printing Office, 1999.

2  Ibid. 2-2.

3  Ibid, 2-3.

4  Ibid, B-2.

5  Ibid.

6  Ibid.

7  Ibid.

8  Ibid.

9  Ibid.

10  LTC Tim Challans, Interview by Author, West Point, NY, 05 November 1999. LTC Challans was the principle author of FM 22-100.

11  MAJ Charles Pfaff eloquently brings out this point at greater length in “Core Values: The Problems of Justification and Motivation,” his 1999 JSCOPE paper.

12  Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merill, 1985).

13  Baier, “What do Women Want in a Moral Theory?” in Virtue Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997).

14  FM 22-100, 22.

15  Baier, 271.

16  Ibid.

17  Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars (United States: Harper Collins, 1977), 304.

18  Ibid, 38.

19  Ibid.

20  Ibid.

21  FM 22-100, 2-2.

22  See “Virtue Theory and Abortion” in Virtue Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997).

23  LTC Tim Challans expounds on this idea in “The Possibility of a Professional Ethic,” his 1999 JSCOPE paper.

24  “Education Levels of Activity Duty Military as of December 31, 1998,” DefenseLink. HTTP://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/almanac/almanac/people/military_education_stats.htm (19 Nov 1999).

25   Ibid.

26   Sydney Freedberg, “Not Enough GI Joses,” National Journal 31 (August): 2367.

27   At the end of 1998, there were 397,769 total enlisted as compared to only 77,946 officers. “Minorities in Uniform as of December 31, 1998,” DefenseLink. HTTP://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/almanac/almanac/people/minorities.htm (19 Nov 1999).

28   “Values Education Guide, 2000 Edition” (West Point: Cadet Honor Committee and the Center for the Professional Military Ethic, 2000).

29   David Moniz, “The Hollowing of America’s Military,” Christian Science Monitor, 8.5 (1999): 2.

30   David Armor, “Race and Gender in the U.S. Military,” Armed Forces and Society: An Interdisciplinary Journal v23 (1996) 10.

31   David Moniz, “Army Tries a Softer Touch to Retain New Recruits,” Christian Science Monitor, 8.9 (1999): 1.

32   Statement made by the Honorable Louis Caldera to Congress on March 25, 1999. www.house.gov/hasc/testimony/106th congress/99-03-25caldera.htm 1999 (10 Nov 1999).

33   “The Hollowing of America’s Army,” 2.

34   75th Ranger Regiment Training Circular 350-1-2, Collective Tasks and T&EOs. FT Benning, GA (1988). These numbers do not include the mortar section, which adds another 31 collective tasks. Furthermore, the tasks to which I allude have increased over the past ten years. However, these METL tasks are still relevant and reflect commonality with other light infantry units.

35   I would like to that CPT William Ostlund for this calculation, which he made while assigned to 2/75 RGR Regt.

36  United States Congress, House of Representatives. The State of the Military. 106th Congress, Washington:    GPO, 3 March 1999.

37 Ibid.

38 Chabrias, in The Dictionary of Military and Naval Quotations, ed. Robert Debs Heinl, Jr. (Annapolis: US Naval Institute, 1966), 169.

39  I propose virtue and deontological ethics (specifically Kant) here, as these approaches seems most consistent with current views.