“Bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, your unit and other Soldiers. Bearing true faith and allegiance is a matter of believing in and devoting yourself to something or someone. A loyal Soldier is one who supports the leadership and stands up for fellow Soldiers. By wearing the uniform of the U.S. Army you are expressing your loyalty. And by doing your share, you show your loyalty to your unit.”
This is my first post in my Army Values series. In the Army acronym LDRSHIP, Loyalty comes first. It’s instilled in most troops early in their lives when they first learned the Pledge of Allegiance.
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. I will be loyal to the symbol of freedom and justice in the world. I will look upon its stars and stripes and remember the sacrifices of so many who died to keep it waving and free. I will never let it fall into enemy hands or suffer disgrace through misuse or abuse. The flag stands for many of the other Army Values that we’ll discuss later – honour, respect, integrity.
And the republic for which it stands. Our nation is the best nation on the planet. Its people have perished to spread freedom throughout the world. It had fed the hungry and healed the sick. It has ended abuses, plunders, and destructions since its inception. This nation is led by the people, not a dictator or king that orders its direction. Our republic ensures that its citizens have a voice and that voice cannot be silenced. The Constitution which protects rights already inalienably given to us stands as a beacon to other nations that can only hope for what we have in their dreams – because to express those hopes openly could lead to death or imprisonment.
Photo: flikr/Morning Calm News
One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Being indivisible does not mean that we have to agree with the direction of our leaders or superiors. It means that we are undivided in standing with America through good times and bad. Our government isn’t perfect, but God has granted us this land of bounty and freedom worth protecting. In the end, when our nation is threatened we always come together to fight the common enemy. We did so after Pearl Harbor and we did so after 9/11.
Loyalty in the Army is no different. Like the Pledge of Allegiance, every single Soldier – officer and enlisted – took an oath similar to this:
“I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
In the Army, we recognise that loyalty is the thread that binds our actions together, defines our commitment to each other, our units, our country and our Constitution. It describes our commitment to our family members and the families of our troops. It enjoins us to our communities and citizenry. It also demands a commitment to ourselves as individuals and members of a greater team. It’s a two way commitment of both leaders and the led.
It’s easy for troops to display loyalty to their leaders. Often, they have no choice. We are in a profession that demands loyalty to ensure success on the battlefield and preparing for it. However, loyalty doesn’t mean being a “yes man.” There is a delicate balancing act that must be undertaken to ensure that, for example, a Soldier’s loyalty to his supervisors doesn’t contradict his loyalty to the Constitution. This is why Soldiers are allowed to disobey unlawful orders.
When it comes to loyalty, most troops will do anything for the Army. For example, when my unit wanted to create new shirts I leveraged my contacts and asked a good friend and artist if he would create our design. I got the details of what the command wanted and a design was approved. I personally forked over $400 to pay for the second print run of the shirts to be made for the unit. As the shirts were purchased by the troops, I was largely paid back. I’m probably still in the hole about $100, but the pride I see when troops are sporting them during PT or off duty makes it easy to forget.
Soldiers display their loyalty every day trying to make missions happen. A detail may be tasked to perform area beautification (read: mow the lawn) and not be given the tools to “make it happen.” Soldiers will grab their personal equipment from home – weedeaters, edgers, mowers, and fuel for them all. It’s a rare day that I’ve seen a unit with the equipment on hand for these tasks, but loyalty pushes these troops complete the mission.Where I think loyalty is more frequently lacking is the supervisor to subordinate realm. There is sort of an unwritten rule that leaders are always right…even when they’re wrong. If Soldiers provide a good alternate course of action to a leader’s decision and the leader ignores it, the Soldier will do what he is told as long as it is ethically, morally, and legally accommodating.
Unfortunately, there are leaders that lack the moral fortitude to stand up for their troops when a leader’s decision is adversely affecting the Soldier’s life, career, or mission. Sometimes the pressure put on leaders trying to stand up for their subordinates causes them to cave or lose principle. They quickly join the pack and pile on the Soldier even when they know he is right. Those leaders that refuse to bend on principle and remain loyal to their troops and fall on the sword on their behalf are marginalized. At that point, the Soldier is forced to rely on other Army Values I’ll discuss later – duty, personal courage and selfless service. Standing up to injustices by leaders and subordinates demonstrates a loyalty to the organisation as a whole.
Photo: flikr/The U.S. Army
Thankfully, there aren’t many leaders I’ve met that fit into that category. Troops placed in leadership are largely done so for a reason. They have displayed these loyal qualities of following the orders of their supervisors while ensuring the care of their subordinates. 99% of the time, there is no dilemma. Usually, those in the 1% are eventually removed from the Army for toxic leadership. About 1% of that 1% continue on with the support of those like them and are corrupted by the process. In a way, it’s good in that younger leaders are able to identify what bad leadership looks like and avoid it in themselves as they move up the ranks. I have had those leaders throughout my career, but they were only small stains on an oversized tablecloth of good leaders.Loyalty is accomplishing the mission to the best of your ability even when you dislike your leaders and your unit. I firmly believe there is no such thing as a bad unit; only bad leadership. I always look at it as a challenge to make that unit a better one through my example of mentorship and mission accomplishment. I tend to always complain sideways or up and never make disparaging comments to my troops about leaders or the unit. I remind them that pain is temporary. If you wait until the pain goes away, it won’t hurt any more.
For me, every day I wake up is a new day. My frustrations lead a Cinderella life – they all go away at midnight. Tomorrow is a fresh start with the hopes that those who have problems with me will wake up the same way and see their own mistakes and attempt to turn from them.
Loyalty is speaking up when you see something you know is wrong. Soldiers make mistakes; some do so intentionally. Few are done in complete hiding from others. So, Soldiers need to be aware of and use the tools available to them to correct those actions that violate our values.
Most likely, you’ve seen the stories that have surfaced of Soldiers posing with the body parts of a suicide bomber. The ensuing public outrage could have been prevented had just one of those Soldiers been loyal to the mission and the rest of us Soldiers and put a stop to it on the spot. We all know the rules about taking photos of enemy bodies for personal use. Because no one stood up and corrected these actions, our troops face the consternation of those that believe these are the values we espouse.
Besides being the convenient first letter of our Army Values acronym, loyalty is the mustard seed from which a just and honorable career is planted. My father always told me that as long as you’re doing the right thing, you’ll never have anything to worry about. You may piss off people along the way and the going may get rough, but in the end you’ll be the last one holding your head high.
The views expressed in this post are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official views or opinions of any branch of government or military unit.
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