HOW THE MILITARY MAKES A GOOD OFFICER.

One good officer can do with one stroke of pen, what one thousand NGOs can not do with one thousand years of campaigning, yelling and screaming.
- Madhu Kishwar
 

Headquarters
Departments of the Army, Department of
Defense, The Navy, The Air Force, and
The Marine Corps
Washington, DC
1 February 1988
See the entire manual at:  www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/p600_2.pdf
  AMERICAN FORCES INFORMATION SERVICE 


 THE ARMED FORCES OFFICER
  b. Good officers are competent at the profession, demonstrate by example the highest standards of moral and ethical behavior and continue to try to become better. Good officers spend a significant amount of time and effort learning about their craft, themselves and the people who work with them. They are surprised by the vagaries of fate but not by the facts that exist. They understand both the failings and the possible magnificence of human beings. They care deeply about nation, service and duty. They are self-disciplined and self-motivating.

The young Officer gives informed advice to the General.
 

(1) A young officer, called upon to brief the commander of a major command, made an exceptional presentation. He spoke about one of the more technical areas of the training process, that of learning stations and the design of the stations. When he finished, he stepped to the left of the lectern and waited for comments. They were immediate and to
the point. The general told the lieutenant, “I appreciate your remarks, but I do not think that you are correct. What I want is something totally different. And that is what we are going to have!?
 

(2) The young officer thought for a moment and, to the surprise of the staff, responded:
“Sir, you are totally wrong! What you have told us to do will set training back some 30 years!? The general, understandably hostile, asked, “Lieutenant, do you have any idea whom you are addressing??
The young officer looked around the room for help, saw none, but took a chance. He answered: “Sir, I am the nation’s expert in learning stations. I wrote the book that your people use to design them. I have a doctorate in the field, and most people defer to my judgment. In short, sir, I am the best that you can get, and you, sir, are but the general who will make use of my knowledge.?
 

(3) Was he out of line? Of course he was. One reason some Armed Forces officers make flag rank, however, is their ability to recognize and develop their people’s talents. This general ignored the all-too-obvious cheap shot and, with great tact and patience, gave the lieutenant and the entire staff a lesson. He easily could have chastised the young
officer, humiliating him to the point where the officer would quit at the first opportunity. Instead, he taught the entire staff the necessity for acting on what an officer knows to be correct; he taught a whole lot more about the ways to present that opinion.
 

(4) He told the lieutenant to be seated and spoke to everyone in the room. “What that young man said is correct. If he is the nation’s expert, then his judgment in that specific area represents the best input that I can get. I have to commend him for the courage to tell me the truth as he sees it. I don’t like the way that he said it, but even in the way
that he said it, he is right. I am the general, and I have to make the decisions. If all that I have to make that decision with is ’gut feel,’ then that is what I’ll use. But if I can get all members of the staff to give me both honest andreasonably polite responses to the issues at hand, then all of our jobs will be easier and the entire command will function better. Everyone, including the general, can, at times, be wrong. You are not serving any of us well if you permit that error to continue.?
(5) Later, the general had his aide give the young officer a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People.
 c. Notions of economics and expediency can cause needless death.
 

(1) Armed Forces officers bring to mind the lines in Kipling’s poem, “If—.? They must keep their heads when all about them are losing theirs. When in combat, they must always remember that it is combat and not a maneuver taking place in a friendly land. There is no excuse for losing people or equipment because, “That’s the way we do it at Station X in the States.? There are good reasons to learn the lessons of the past and apply them to the current situation. (2) Exposed aircraft neatly lined on the tarmac, capital ships gathered in exposed harbors, the refusal to accept collect phone calls from crisis areas and the housing of troops in vulnerable facilities are examples of the lack of
officer understanding of the threat of combat or terrorist attack.
 

(3) Many more examples could be found. All are based on someone’s notion of economics, expediency or promotion. All have resulted in the needless death of good people. All are unforgivable.
 a. RHIP—Rank hath its privileges. True or false? The answer is both. As responsibility increases, it is both normal  and commonplace that the system provides for eliminating trifling, time-consuming annoyances. If an Eisenhower is commanding an Allied invasion of Europe, it is not unreasonable for him to have someone to plan, prepare and serve
meals or to get a uniform clean and ready to wear. An officer should never forget that privileges to senior officers free their hands for their primary duties. There is, of course, another side of the matter. When people are successful, they usually expect and appreciate the good things in life.
 

b. Retired Air Force Gen. Orvil A. Anderson started in the military by digging ditches. He noticed one day, while digging in the rain and wind, that there were few officers in the ditch with him and no aviation officers in sight. That was adequate incentive for him. He got out of the ditch and into Officer Candidate School. He went to flight school
and wound up commanding the Air War College. Was privilege his primary motivation? No! It was getting out of the ditch and drying off.
 c. Except for proponents of the Japanese Theory Z style of leadership, most sectors of society provide some set of perquisites, or “perks,? to reward increased responsibility. It could be as simple as the Marines’ practice at one hot, southwestern base where officers always get ice in the snack bar drinks, or it could be a full staff of servants, cooks
and drivers. Ours is a capitalistic society, and most of our society accepts the concept of reward. It does not accept unwarranted assumption of privilege. Bill Mauldin’s World War II cartoon illustrates what privilege isn’t. In the cartoon are two officers looking out over a beautiful valley. One says to the other, “Nice view. Is there one for the enlisted men??
 

Responsibility is Balanced with Privilege
 a. One of the keenest minds of our time said that responsibility is what devolves upon a person, and privilege is what he ought not to take but does. In a perfect universe, this would be true. Unfortunately, few of us have found that universe. Instead, we must live and work in the one we have. At all levels, people will aspire more and their ambition
will be firmer if getting ahead will mean for them an increase in the visible tokens of deference from the majority, rather than a simple boost in paycheck.
 

b. Abuse of privilege creates much of the friction between people. The root of the problem is not that privileges exist, but that they are exercised too often by people who are motivated not by duty, but by privilege. The officer who is most concerned with the responsibility of the profession will find little resentment of the exercise of the rightful
privilege.
 c. Americans get their backs up whenever they think they are being pushed around simply for the sake of the pushing. We understand and accept that privilege attends rank and station and that it is confirmed and modified by time and environment. What was right yesterday may be all wrong tomorrow, and what is proper in one set of circumstances may be wholly wrong in another.
 

3–3. Abuse of Privilege in a Historical Context
 a. Abuse of privilege by American officers was a concern during debates on the ratification of the Constitution.
Mercy Warren, a prolific writer of the times, wrote that “ordinary citizens were dissatisfied with the high pretensions of the officers of the army, whose equality of condition previous to the (Revolutionary) war was, with few exceptions, in
the same grade with themselves.? She added that the airs assumed by men who had only recently held scythes or pounded anvils were obnoxious. Ordinary Americans, she recorded, held suspect those who might erect a government too splendid for the tastes and professions of the general population. And she left no doubt that those who had served
as officers under George Washington were the men she meant.
 

b. In Washington’s Continental Army, a first lieutenant was court-martialed and jailed because he demeaned himself by doing manual labor with a working detail of his men. Almost two centuries later, while stationed with the Ist Air Cavalry in the highlands of Vietnam, Air Force Maj. James 1. Baginski, needed some housing for his small detachment of Air Force officers and enlisted people. The 1st Cavalry was busy and could not help much. The “Bagger? gave everyone some tools, “found? some lumber and, leading the work team himself, had the troops’ quarters up and habitable in two days. Maj. Baginski later became Maj. Gen. Baginski and never lost the idea of “doing because it has to be done.? Both actions were correct for the times and places.
 c. Duty is the greatest regulator of the proper exercise of one’s rights. Here we speak of duty as it was meant by Giuseppe Mazzini, Italy’s great patriot of the early 19th century, when he said:“Every mission constitutes a pledge of duty. Every man is bound to consecrate his effort to its fulfillment. He will derive his rule of action from the profound
conviction of that duty.? The key to the high regard for duty flows naturally in that sense of proportion that we call

common sense.
 3–4. The Officer’s Job is to Put his or her People First
 

a. In times past, common sense often was at odds with the idea of dignity in officers. On balance, special privileges are relatively few and the responsibility great. Because this entire book’s thrust is the fundamental responsibilities of officership, the following statement is worth repeating again and again: It is a paramount and overriding responsibility of every officer to take care of the people of the command (of whatever size) before caring for himself or herself. It is a cardinal principle. Yet some junior officers fail to understand that it requires a steadfast fidelity-not lip service-since
the troops’ loyalty cannot be commanded when they become embittered by selfish action.
 b. How deeply does the rule cut? In the line of duty, it cuts to the very bone. It is the officer’s job to make sure that his or her people come first. Getting the short stick a time or two, if it happens, is part of the job.
 

c. Why take care of your people first and all of the time? The answer is elementary. It all comes back to the officer who cannot get by unless he is taken care of by his people, especially in combat. The close association and mutual support strengthens courage and self-confidence. Few, if any, are born with these qualities in full blossom. They are
gifts from our ties with each other.
  d. Last is the notion of accountability. Officers are accountable for what happens to the Armed Forces, their service and the people. If someone is sullying the uniform or obviously in need of some help, only the blindest and most insensitive officer will not take the tactful action necessary to correct the situation. This idea of accountability can be extended into the officer’s wallet. Just as someone is responsible for every order given, someone is responsible if something breaks. If the order was a disaster or the thing broke because of some failing or stupidity on the part of the officer who gave the order or “broke it?—he or she may get to pay, in dollars and time.
 

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