A Plastic Card Displaying the Main Army Values
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At 18 years of age I was put on a Greyhound bus and shipped to Portland, OR just after celebrating Christmas with my family for what would be the last time. From there, I boarded an airplane headed to Atlanta, GA, and then another bus to Ft. Jackson, SC. From the moment in December I stepped off that bus in South Carolina until the day I signed my discharge paperwork, there was constantly someone in my life who was either in charge or responsible for me and my actions, along with every other Soldier in my squad, in my unit, in my brigade and on the installation I was stationed.
During the in-processing portion of Basic Combat Training (BCT) we were issued our dog tags, along with our dog tags we were issued a plastic card to be worn as well displaying the Army Core Values. These seven core values were drilled into our heads over the 10 weeks of BCT, we were issued a Soldier’s handbook that covers topics such as the core values, First-Aid and CPR, weapon maintenance, drill and ceremony (marching) and radio communication and were expected to never be without it.
These seven core values are often referred to as ‘LDRSHIP;’ loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage (“The Army Values,” n.d.). I can still recite them from memory as if they were my high school telephone number. We were taught these core values and to possess them not only when we were in uniform but also when we took it off, much like do the right thing even when no one is looking.
According to the U.S. Army loyalty is bearing “true faith and allegiance to…the Army, your unit and other Soldiers…A loyal Soldier is one who supports the leadership and stands up for fellow Soldiers” (“The Army Values,” n.d.). Duty implies that a Soldier is capable of working as part of a team, when given orders they execute them without delay and properly as the success of missions as lives may depend upon their accuracy. The Army cites the Soldiers Code when defining respect, “treat others with dignity and respect while expecting others to do the same” (“The Army Values,” n.d.). As mentioned above it is imperative to have respect as well as trust in ones fellow Soldiers especially when the job they perform may be one that ensures your safety.
Selfless service is the act of the Soldier putting everything ahead of themselves, this could mean the needs of the Army, their unit, the U.S. Citizens, citizens of a country they have been deployed to, without any desire for personal gain. The Army states that honor “is a matter of carrying out, acting, and living” (“The Army Values,” n.d.) the Army Core Values. Integrity is essentially doing the right thing both ethically and from a legal stand point, the military has their own legal standards which are different from the civilian laws and may affect a Soldiers pay, rank, type of discharge, may get them discharged or sent to prison. However, demonstrating integrity is a valuable tool in the military and may help a Soldier advance their career.
Lastly, personal courage is described as facing “fear, danger or adversity (physical or moral)” (“The Army Values,” n.d.). Women in the military today are achieving things that weren’t even thought of 20 years ago, they are being accepted into special operations (specops) programs and completing their training, they are being accepted into combat jobs and they hold more high-level positions than ever before. Although, in today’s Army there are constant reports of Military Sexual Trauma (MST), stories of women coming forward years later because they were afraid to report supervisors, or of the backlash they might experience. Last year I read a report of a female officer who had filed complaints against a civilian coworker multiple times and her chain of command refused to do anything about him. One night after everyone had left the office, he came into her office doused her with lighter fluid and lit her on fire. Over winter break I read You Are Worth It: Building a Life Worth Fighting For by Kyle Carpenter, he was the Marine who threw himself on a grenade in 2010 to save his fellow Marine.
Carpenter and his buddy Nick Eufrazio were on guard atop a house in Afghanistan discussing what they might do if a grenade were thrown up there, Eufrazio claimed that he’d jump and Carpenter joked he’d be right behind him. Months later when Carpenter was interviewed about the events of that day, he had no recollection of throwing himself on the grenade, however, others were interviewed not only for the After-Action Review (AAR), but also when Carpenter was being considered for the Medal of Honor. Upon hearing the grenade hit the rooftop, without even thinking, instead of jumping Kyle Carpenter turned and on top threw his body on top of the grenade to protect his friend and teammates (Carpenter & Yaeger, 2019).
Having spent a large portion of my career in or around the military I’ve had the opportunity not only to live and breathe these values, but to observe them as well. After my time in the military I worked as a civilian contractor for the Army World Class Athlete Program (WCAP), the Army’s version of the Olympic Training Center (OTC). As a contractor it gave me a unique perspective due to my authoritative position, however, the unit didn’t have authority over me as a civilian. This provided the Soldier-athletes more a sense of comfort when coming to me with issues as they knew when they confided in me, I always thought with a medical or caring mindset and not a military and what you tell me is going to affect your career mindset.
WCAP provides Soldier-athletes the opportunity to train and compete in their sport full time, they are provided with some of the country’s top coaches, equipment, uniforms and travel, all while maintaining their military requirements. Each Soldier-athlete must maintain specific rankings and reach determined benchmarks determined by their sport in order to remain in the program, demonstrating their progression towards The Olympic Trials, as making the Olympic Team is the ultimate goal of the program.
In order for a Soldier-athlete to be able to progress in the program being athletically gifted is not the only skill necessary, one needs to be coachable and know how to work as a team. When I first began working with the wrestling team, I mentioned to coach Lewis that I didn’t understand how wrestling was a team sport when it was only one guy out there on the mat. Coach Lewis explained to me that the team trains together, they learn together, they grow together, they get better together and when they attend a tournament even though it’s one wrestler out there on the mat, they all work together during that tournament to score points and win the tournament. While it’s important for individuals to win, it’s realistic that not everyone will, when the team works together everyone can go home a winner (S. Lewis, personal communication, 2014).
I recently had a conversation with the WCAP taekwondo coach regarding sending one of his Soldier-athletes to a promotion board. He had confided in me that many times when sending WCAP Soldier-athletes to boards ‘regular Army’ personnel tend to look down upon them as if they aren’t real Soldiers. Frustrated coach Bartlett told me “this is the only unit in the Army where you can order your Soldiers not to eat,” which is true, I’ve had Soldier-athletes attempt to cut drastic amounts of weight when weight classes were eliminated and they were forced to either go up or down classes (D. Bartlett, personal communication, December, 2019). When reviewing the Army Core Values an argument can be made when a coach orders a Soldier-athlete to refrain from eating and/or cut weight these Soldier-athletes are demonstrating each of the seven core values.
As an athletic trainer in this setting I had the respect and trust of the Soldier-athletes, many of them had been training since they were four to six years old and they entrusted their careers in my competence and abilities. It is my believe this type of athlete is unique due to the fact it is a privilege for them to be a member of the program and if they are released, they are sent back to the regular Army and the job that they were trained for, which many times is the infantry. Therefore, if they are injured it is in their best interest to follow through with the rehab program assigned to them and keep doctor’s appointments. College athletes on the other hand even when they have scholarships tend not to be as responsible with their rehab or honest about doing it.
While the Army drills into Soldiers heads the Army Core Values and continuously trains Soldiers at every level how to do the right thing, how to be a leader, how not to sexually harass fellow Soldiers, how not to drink and drive, how not to assault others, etc. Unfortunately, there are always going to be the commanders that Soldiers repeatedly file complaints with and that commander refuses to listen. When an incident happens, they will most likely claim ignorance or that they didn’t think it was ‘that big of a deal.’ Then there will be the Kyle Carpenter’s who quite literally throw themselves on a grenade to save the lives of their team.
According to my Strengths-based Leadership survey my executing domain contains discipline (1), responsibility (2) and achiever (5), my influencing domain is self-assurance (4) and my strategic thinking domain is intellection (3). Oddly, I did not have a strength in the relationship building domain. When I mentioned this to a friend, he told me that I lack empathy which I found interesting coming from someone in specops and possibly a trait I should reflect upon. Aside from this I was not surprised by my scores, I am an obsessive-compulsive type of person and having been in the military I like order. I do, however, look forward to learning more about my strengths and how to improve upon my weaknesses (“StrengthsFinder 2.0,” n.d.).