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Public Affairs : Focus on Army Ethics

Focusing on Army Ethics

Story and photos by Mike Strasser
Staff Writer
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Aug/ 6, 2014) — The inaugural theme at the Army Profession Annual Symposium was “Living the Army Ethic” with more than 200 general officers, senior enlisted and DA civilians in attendance July 30-31 at West Point.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno presented this symposium with the Combined Arms Center to further the dialogue on the Army Profession and what it means to live honorably. The upper echelon of Army leadership examined white papers and heard from a list of plenary speakers while discussing collectively and in working groups on how to communicate, educate and inspire this message Armywide.

“We are stewards of the Army profession. There are those who came before us who established standards of what the profession should be and there will be those who come after us and establish new standards of what the Army should be,” Odierno said. “There has to be some consistency in that because that’s who we are; that the foundation of the Army is the profession.”

It’s been little more than a year since the release of ADRP-1, the doctrine that defines the Army as a profession, and though it has long been considered one it was never articulated at length or indoctrinated. The Army Ethic, however, was found lacking in that document. The recent publication of a 14-page white paper by the Center for the Army Profession and Ethic attempts to amplify its meaning and relevance.

Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, the commanding general at the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, said for as long as the nation has had an Army, its members served by an ethic. His job ahead is to ensure everyone within the profession not only understands its principles but why it exists.

“That’s really exciting and I’d have to agree with Gen. Odierno that it’s probably the most important discussion I’ve been involved with in my 33 years—where we took the time to flesh out the issues,” Brown said. “It’s in our moral and legal foundations, but here, we’ve really addressed how do we capture it in writing and then make sure we can inspire those to inculcate that ethic at all levels, from private to general officer.”

Odierno said it isn’t sufficient to teach concepts and principles alone.

“We’ve got to spend time understanding why this is important,” he said. “I believe it’s important for our country and it’s important for our Army that we understand that and we have a very large responsibility—we’re asked to defend the nation and we’re asked to do some very difficult things. But we must always do those understanding what our nation’s moral and ethical values are, and we must represent those and we can never forget that.”

By swearing the oath of enlistment or commissioning oath, Soldiers are duty-bound to obey their leaders. Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr. said it needs to go beyond blind loyalty, Soldiers need to understand it.

“What the ethic did was give us a set of principles, and the purpose of the principles is to inspire us to honorable service, and, of course, with the Army’s values,” Caslen said. “The alternative is this: that we have a regulatory set of rules that we’ll follow, and we’ll do them only because we have to; because of the consequences. So you perform based on the consequences of the rules and regulations or you’re inspired to serve and to serve honorably. The alternative of serving honorably is ideally where you want the profession to go.”

As the U.S. Military Academy superintendent, he’s seen civilians-turned-cadets-turned officers adopt the academy’s honor code into their DNA—“A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do.”

A recent USMA graduate had this to say about the honor code: “When I first arrived at West Point, the honor code was just a set of rules that I abided by; but, now the honor code is a way of life.” The academy’s ability to inculcate its code and the Army values into its students is what makes the institution unique. The Army is looking for similar results with its ethic; getting Soldiers to choose the harder right every time.

A good portion of the discussion was centered on getting the Army ethics to its troops early—at basic training and the school houses, in unit training and beyond. Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler said that junior Soldiers graduating basic training won’t have a complete understanding of ethics, but will be able to correlate it with much of their learning.

“It’s the answer to the why,” Chandler said. “Why is it important never to leave a fallen comrade? Because we’ve got something that says we’ll serve honorably and not leave someone behind.

He also said it is the responsibility of young leaders “to understand how this honorable service and stewardship impacts the entire organization and maintains the trust of the American people.”

Reaching millenials in meaningful and inspirational ways will be a challenge. Odierno said they must realize the environment and culture young people have grown up in is much different from other generations. Access to instant information and new ways of communication have changed the way people interact. Merging new technologies with the fundamentals of knowing your Soldiers and direct communication will still be required of leaders.  

Class of 2015 Jordan Blanchard found it to be a rewarding experience meeting and discussing with the Army's senior leadership during the symposium.
Presented by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno, the Army Profession Annual Symposium was hosted by the U.S. Military Academy and organized by the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center and the Center for the Army Profession and Ethic July 30-31 at Eisenhower Hall.

“When you’re involved in the business that we are involved with, it is important that we continue to emphasize personal interaction,” Odierno said. “We have to understand and utilize the improvements being made in communications capabilities but also recognize, ultimately, the work we do is about the human dimension and the human domain.”

Social media has posed problems for some who find it difficult to maintain a personal profile with the public image of a Soldier. Caslen said people can’t act with a different set of values online.

“Obviously if you’re going be a leader you’re going to be a leader 24/7 and be transparent,” he said. “It just shows those of us who have the responsibility to not only teach these values but use the ethic to inspire behavior. We have to know where they’re coming from and then where we have to go.”

A handful of millenials, courtesy of the Corps of Cadets, were invited to provide their perspective at the symposium. Class of 2015 Cadet Jordan Blanchard appeared at ease sharing her opinions among the Army’s top leaders.

“This has been a wonderful opportunity for me to talk with officers and senior enlisted who have so much experience and are willing to share—this has been a really open environment, which was actually surprising to me,” Blanchard said. Blanchard said the ethic program at the academy is highly structured and the Professional Military Ethic program provided her with a strong ethical foundation to contribute during the working group session.

“It’s been interesting getting to contribute my thoughts,” she said. “A lot of our focus has been on the millenial generation, so they definitely appreciated our input in those conversations.”

Dr. Don Snider, the primary author of ADRP-1 The Army Profession, speaks about the history of the Army profession and its current status after more than a decade of war.

The Army Profession doctrine provided in each participants’ welcome packet doesn’t tell the story of the staggering amount of work; the months of workshops, focus groups and surveys needed to create that document. Blanchard could see how this symposium could likewise serve to advance the Army’s thinking on ethics.

“I never felt like I was in a more important room than I do right now,” Blanchard said. “It’s intimidating, but also inspiring that the discussions of this event could have an impact Armywide, and I think it’s great to be a part of it.”

The dialogue on ethics and the profession will continue, Odierno assured from the start—which is why the symposium was deemed annual. With one complete, he felt it achieved his overall intent. “I think that’s why we met this week—to reinvigorate the thought about how important this profession is, and I believe we had some really great discussions over the last couple days and had the opportunity to talk about many other difficult issues,” Odierno said. “But also, to chart the course ahead on how we really define the Army Ethic as we move forward. So, for me, it’s about bringing the senior leadership of the Army together—the enlisted and officer—to talk about probably the most important issue that there is in the Army profession.”

To view downloadable resources on the Army Profession and Ethics, visit the CAPE website at