Photo: flickr/The U.S. Army
Going above and beyond. Stepping “outside your lane.” Going the extra mile. For you. For the mission. For your troops. For those with whom you serve.What is a Soldier’s duty? In my last post on Loyalty, I quoted the oath that all members of the armed forces take when they sign up. From that point, we all ascribe to supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States. Sometimes, it may feel as if the values of loyalty and duty are in conflict with each other. In fact, doing our duty provides purpose behind our loyalties.
Duty isn’t a difficult thing to write about. My father, a retired Naval Command Master Chief, once gave me some great advice. I was having an especially difficult time as a young Staff Sergeant trying to enforce standards. The problem was that standards hadn’t been enforced in that unit for quite some time and many were comfortable with that. The status quo was being challenged. I was contemplating leaving the military after six years of service. My father told me, “as long as you’re doing the right thing, you’ll never have anything to worry about. You’re going to piss people off and it’s going to get rough, but always do the right thing, CJ.”
Last week, the Army released its suicide data for the month of April. Last month, there were 14 suspected cases of suicide. Unfortunately, most of these cases are usually confirmed. Since January, the Army has suffered more than 60 suicides.
Why am I mentioning this on a post about Duty? Because many of our Army’s leaders have resorted to more of a check the block type of attention to this issue and still don’t show much genuine care for their troops. As leaders, we are charged with the responsibility of seeing to the health, welfare and well-being of those who serve below us. Over a decade of war seems to have made our leaders wary of meeting that charge.
I’ve personally seen Soldiers try to reach out to their leaders with concerns about their mental and emotional states. All too often, these are met with either a shrug or hostility. Much of the time, leaders actually find ways of exacerbating those issues than helping with them. I have personally witnessed this with some of my previous leaders. Taking care of Soldiers isn’t just a nice thing to do – it’s our DUTY. If we remain true to that charge and honestly seek to find real solutions for our troops, I honestly believe we can make some headway in the numbers quoted above.
Another disconcerting statistic that is as unfortunate as it is repulsive are the constant stream of sexual assault cases occurring within the military. Sexual assault has gotten so bad in the military that senior leaders are mandating that most cases be addressed at the O-6 level (Colonel or Captain, service dependent).
I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that I believe nearly every single case of sexual assault could have been prevented if troops fulfilled their duty to watch each other’s back at all times. While leaders tend to be held accountable for much of the indiscipline among the ranks, the reality is that we can’t be with 100% of our troops 100% of the time. Training, briefings, and a true communication of our positions related to these despicable acts only go so far. However, battle buddies do have near-constant contact with each other and can recognise the words and actions of their friends that may lead to the occurrence of a sexual assault.
As Soldiers, it is our duty to protect each other. We do so in combat, so why not every other time? If a Soldier sees his buddy or a familiar face macking on a girl that is obviously not interested, it is his/her duty to try and intervene or de-escalate the situation.
Duty is about as easy as living the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It’s as simple as choosing the right. I wear a ring on my right hand with the initials “CTR” engraved upon it. Not that I need the constant reminder, but it’s a good conversation piece when others ask me about it:
Choose The Right.
Can you imagine if EVERY SINGLE TROOP lived by that moniker? This philosophy directly correlates to another Army Value that I’ll discuss in the future – integrity.
Always give 100% to the mission, to your troops, and to each other. Duty is seeing a need and filling it without being asked or specifically tasked.
fulfil your obligations. Doing your duty means more than carrying out your assigned tasks. Duty means being able to accomplish tasks as part of a team. The work of the U.S. Army is a complex combination of missions, tasks and responsibilities — all in constant motion. Our work entails building one assignment onto another. You fulfil your obligations as a part of your unit every time you resist the temptation to take “shortcuts” that might undermine the integrity of the final product.
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