Monthly Archives: August, 2015

Soul Care Conversation (Military Cultural Competency: Warrior Ethos and Transition)

August 27th, 2015 Posted by Blog 4 comments

(The purpose of Soul Care Conversations is to create a place to generate dialogue, initiate thoughtful consideration for the challenges our veterans face each day, share ideas of veteran and family well-being and healing, and spark within all of us a call to be engaged with the veteran and caregiver community. Click here to visit the forum and join the conversation!)

Last week we continued our conversation on the unique components and histories that impact those who serve and have served, to include esprit de corps, mission focus, and discipline. This week we will conclude our conversation on military cultural competency by discussing the warrior ethos and mobility.

WARRIOR ETHOS

As we shared in an earlier conversation, the military is a microcosm of American society. We have Soldiers from the inner city of the Bronx, Sailors from the farms of Nebraska, Marines from mountains of Montana, and Airmen from the coast of Maine. All bring to the military their unique community and family values.

How does the military mold its personnel into common understanding of purpose and integrity? Each service has developed a set of values or a code of conduct that guides the life of its members such as:

  • integrity
  • courage
  • commitment
  • honor
  • loyalty
  • selfless service

These become a part of the warrior ethos, the standard by which all service members are encouraged to live and serve. The warrior ethos is inculcated into the service member at basic training.

Remember early in our conversation I stated that my lenses through which I experienced the military was the Army? As a Soldier, all US Army enlisted personnel (and most officers as well) are taught the Soldier’s Creed during basic training, and recite the creed in public ceremonies such as at graduation from an Army school. The Creed states;

I am an American Soldier.
I am a Warrior and a member of a team.
I serve the people of the United States, and live the Army Values.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.
I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy, the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.
I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American Soldier.

Would you be confident serving with a person who holds these values? It is that need to test oneself against both physical and moral adversity, coupled with the courage in the face of adversity and danger, that molds the warrior ethos of today. This test might be combat operations in Fallujah for a chosen few, or working in a missile silo with only one other individual, or walking the deck plates alone at night. The warrior ethos does not make someone into a warrior, but is rather a guide to the way a warrior lives and serves.

CONSTANT TRANSITION

The military is an extremely mobile society often requiring military members and their families to move every two to three years, sometimes to overseas locations. The average is that 1/3 of the military moves every year. My family and I moved 17 times during 30 years of military service. We lived in Germany twice, Belgium and Italy once each, and in 8 states. In fact, from 1990 to 1992 we moved 3 times! What impact does this mobility have on well-being?

  • risk of service member injury or death
  • frequent relocation
  • periodic separations
  • foreign residence
  • relationships to psychological and physical well-being
  • satisfaction with the Army
  • marital satisfaction
  • family stability

Finding and securing a new residence and all of the other necessities for sustaining well-being creates great stress for the service member and the family. But, on top of the stress of moving, the service member has to learn a new job, build a new team, understand new mission requirements, and develop a relationship with a new boss.

I arrived to Fort Campbell, KY the end of July 1995. As I was meeting my new commander, I discovered that my unit was deploying to Haiti in 3 weeks. This put a great strain on me professionally and personally. First, I had to attend and successfully complete Air Assault School (2 weeks in length). I had to pack my personal gear as well as my professional items needed for a 10 month deployment. And just as important, I needed to transition my family into a new community (register at the school) and a new home (which meant unpack our house hold goods). Knowing my family was settled was important for my well being during my deployment.

Lastly, there is a large probability that the service member will deploy numerous times during one tour of duty, whether for training or a contingency operation. I reported for active duty to Fort Riley, Kansas mid-June 1984. As soon as I was introduced to the staff and my chaplain assistant, I learned that my battalion was loading vehicles on to trains for a 2 month National Training Center rotation in the Mojave Desert. I returned from California end of September and deployed to Grenada in December for 3 months. A short 10 months later I was on a plane to Germany for a 3 month REFORGER (Return of Forces to Germany) training exercise. Little did I know that this would begin a journey of 9 deployments and numerous field training exercises over the next 30 years.

As you can see, one of the constants of the military lifestyle is geographic mobility, or permanent change of station. The one advantage of retirement, I can finally see the paint dry on the walls of our house, hang pictures on the walls, and experience the beauty of perennial plants blooming the next spring. Time will tell, will I get the itch to move because I have been too long in one place?

Well, thank you for these last weeks of conversation on the military culture. Next week we will begin a conversation on military family dynamics. A good place to start will be right here, constant transition. Until then, please join in the conversation…

 

 

Soul Care Conversation (Military Cultural Competency: Esprit de Corps, Mission Focused, and Disciplined)

August 19th, 2015 Posted by Blog 2 comments

(The purpose of Soul Care Conversations is to create a place to generate dialogue, initiate thoughtful consideration for the challenges our veterans face each day, share ideas of veteran and family well-being and healing, and spark within all of us a call to be engaged with the veteran and caregiver community. Click here to visit the forum and join the conversation!)

Last week we continued our conversation on the unique components and histories that impact those who serve and have served. The military is a unique culture on to itself that greatly impacts a service member’s life. We discussed structure, standardization and authority. Today we will look at esprit de corps, mission focus, and discipline.

ESPRIT DE CORPS

I had not heard of the phrase, esprit de corps, until I was in Army ROTC. Esprit de corps is a French expression meaning literally “Spirit of Corps.” It denotes:

  • a strong shared team spirit
  • mutual solidarity
  • fellowship
  • sense of duty
  • devotion to a cause

As a Soldier, my commander would hold a monthly esprit de corps run where the intent was not to run fast or long (although at times both of these characteristics would be prevalent) rather run as a unit and finish together. As a paratrooper, we would have monthly “fun jumps” that provided an opportunity for the jumper to participate in an airborne operation without exiting the aircraft in the dark (at night) and without combat equipment. Team work is fundamental to success. Mission success hinges on team synergy and a common purpose. Esprit de Corps provides a reason to serve and emphasizes unit pride.

Regardless of these distinctions let me share what it has become to me, a unique bond between service members. This bond is often forged and made stronger through the experience of combat. For units especially in combat, esprit de corps is essential since warriors who feel part of a team are most likely to protect each other. There is a very special cohesion within each specific branch of service. Much ribbing occurs prior to and following the Army Navy game. However, after a Soldier serves in combat with a Marine, a special bond and respect occurs between the individual that also permeates the services no matter who wins the game.

It is also reflected in the customs and traditions of the military and its branches. It is virtually liturgical. The pastor may say the “the Lord be with you” and the congregation responds with “and also with you”. In the military, a lower ranking member salutes a higher ranking individual in greeting and respect and the higher ranking individual returns the salute in greeting and recognition. A congregation might stand for the reading of the Gospel, where the military member rises and comes to attention for the raising and lowering of the US flag.  A church may have an installation service for a pastor or staff member, where the military has a Change of Command ceremony in an unit.

It all contributes to establishing a common identity, standards of conduct, and marking rites of passage, which are a necessary part of establishing Esprit de Corps. When I retired from the Army, this is what I miss most.

MISSION FOCUSED

“Mission first, people always.” Numerous units and leaders use this phrase. The military is a mission focused organization, meaning its sole purpose for existence is to accomplish its mission. However, at what point is it acceptable for the “people always” to slip away because the mission must take priority? Good leaders must sustain a difficult balance between making a unit combat ready while maintaining the cohesion of its personnel (and families). Remember, the commander has the responsibility to place her/his personnel at grave risk in order to accomplish the assigned mission.

Even when leadership changes, as it often occurs in units, realistic training maintains expertise and readiness. Post 9/11, the mission focus was regularly scheduled deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. As these deployments decrease, the military has shifted its mission focus to other existing or emerging threats. Units will train to technical and tactical proficiency. If you are thinking that all the military does is train, you would be correct. I spent months on gunnery ranges, participating in field training exercises, command post exercises, the National Training Center (Fort Irwin, California) and Joint Readiness Training Center (Fort Polk, Louisiana). I jumped out of airplanes, attended staff rides, and staff walks. All of this was to ensure that my unit and I would be the best trained in order to accomplish the mission.

One of the results of mission focus is that family and personal concerns are always secondary. As such, the military’s responsiveness to family needs is in direct proportion to how the service sees these as they support the mission and the war fighter. Despite the great strides the services have made in the past 20 years in improving family support, the old adage of “If the military had wanted you to have a family they would have issued you one,” often still applies. Family needs are secondary to needs of the service. This is best illustrated by the need for families to seek medical care at non-military sources when medical personnel are deployed.  However, the services have improved greatly in developing family support systems.  They may go by different names, but their purpose is to provide support to the spouse and children especially when the warrior deploys.

DISCIPLINED

The corps of a warrior is discipline. Military discipline demands the correct performance of duty. There is no more serious situation for the organization than a break down in discipline. This is instilled in the warrior at basic training. When a person joins the military, his/her first taste of discipline is external. The drill sergeants/instructors assume that the trainee has no self-discipline and thus seek to install it because the trainee is entering a demanding profession. The country depends on her/him for its very survival. The warrior is going to be asked to risk or give their life for their fellow soldiers and for the nation. So the first weeks at basic training aren’t pleasant ones. Discipline must be inculcated into the warrior in order to gain physical strength, endurance, knowledge, and spirit quickly. Day by day, morning and night, the trainee is pushed to do more than he thinks she/he can, forced to stand tall and look sharp and must run everywhere and never give an excuse for failure. Why?

Because discipline is:

  • the prompt and effective performance of duty in response to orders or taking the right action in the absence of orders
  • the ready subordination of the will of the individual for the good of the group
  • the watch word of the military and refers both for the needs for self-discipline, the discipline of the service, and discipline in carrying out the commands of the civilian authorities
  • a state of order and obedience existing within a command
  • created within a command by instilling a sense of confidence and responsibility in each individual

This determination and spirit does not leave the service member when the veteran leaves the military. The veteran approaches tasks in the civilian world with the same self-discipline that was acquired years back as a nervous young recruit, who is now a confident individual, ready to tackle the tasks that those around him fear are impossible.

The veteran:

  • knows the value of organization
  • put things into perspective
  • sees that the impossible project is only a series of little tasks
  • realizes the importance of following through on a task
  • understands that discipline is the first step towards leadership

What do you think? Next week we will conclude our conversation on military cultural competency by discussing the last two characteristics; warrior ethos and constant transition. Until next week, thank you for the conversation….

Soul Care Conversation (Military Cultural Competency: Structured, Standardized, and Authoritarian)

August 12th, 2015 Posted by Blog 4 comments

(The purpose of Soul Care Conversations is to create a place to generate dialogue, initiate thoughtful consideration for the challenges our veterans face each day, share ideas of veteran and family well-being and healing, and spark within all of us a call to be engaged with the veteran and caregiver community. Click here to visit the forum and join the conversation!)

I imagine some of you are ready to move off the theme of military cultural competency. However, we will continue with this theme for several more weeks because it is that important. For us to foster a culture of understanding and respect we would be wise to discover the approaches and lenses through which we approach one another.

Last week we concluded our conversation on the three First Amendment rights our service members experience limited protection by asking the question, “So what?” What impact does this have on the soul of our warriors and veterans? This week, we will begin to look at those significant areas that characterize the military such as structure, standardization and authority.

As we shared previously, the military and veteran community are microcosms of American society, but they have unique components and histories that impact those who serve and have served. The military is a unique culture on to itself. Over the next several weeks we will conclude our conversation on how military culture greatly impacts a service member’s life.

STRUCTURED

The Department of Defense (DoD) oversees a complicated and complex structured organization. For the purpose of our conversation, we will try to keep this as simple as possible. The military is structured into different branches of service:

  • Army
  • Navy
  • Marines (who reports to the Secretary of Navy)
  • Air Force
  • Coast Guard (branch of the US Armed Forces however operates under the Department of Homeland Security during peacetime and can be transferred to the DoD during times of war)

Each service has a unique culture in of itself and a different mission. Each service branch has different components:

  • Active Duty
  • Reserve
  • National Guard

Because Reserve and Guard personnel serve their country while also leading civilian lives, they are sometimes described as “twice the citizen,” or “citizen soldiers.” Reserve personnel perform the same mission as their active duty counterparts while serving under the same DoD leadership. National Guard units are organized in each state and are used most often for stateside missions such as disaster relief. The governor of each state controls the state’s National Guard units unless they are mobilized for deployments on federal duty, when they are managed under federal control. The 28th Division from my home state of Pennsylvania has deployed numerous times since 9/11 into Iraq and Afghanistan.

The services almost always conduct operations jointly within one of six geographic commands:

  • Africa Command (area encompassing Africa)
  • Central Command ( area encompassing the Middle East and Central and South West Asia)
  • European Command (area encompassing Europe)
  • Pacific Command ( area encompassing the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and East and South Asia)
  • Northern Command (area  encompassing the continental United States, its territories, and adjacent waters)
  • Southern Command ( area encompassing all of Central and South America, the Caribbean, including Haiti and Cuba, and adjacent waters)

and four functional commands:

  • Joint Forces Command (the center for joint force integration in training, experimentation, doctrinal development, and testing)
  • Strategic Command ( plans and employs strategic nuclear forces; controls military space operations and information operations)
  • Special Operations Command ( plans and employs strategic special operations forces [Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and Air Force Special Reconnaissance])
  • Transportation Command  (controls and coordinates all strategic lift capability, including air, sea, and ground transportation assets)

Each service branch is organized differently:

  • Army – Army Commands, Army Service Component Commands, Direct Reporting Commands, Corps, Divisions, Brigades, Battalions, Companies, Platoons, Squads
  • Navy – Operating Forces (six active numbered fleets), Shore Establishment (facilities for repair, communications centers, training areas, ship repair, intelligence, medical and dental, air bases)
  • Marines – Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Marine Expeditionary Unit, Ground Combat Elements (Division, Regiment, Battalion, Weapons/Rifle Company, Rifle Platoon, Squad, Fire Team)
  • Air Force – Direct Reporting Unit, Field Operating Agency, Major Commands, Numbered Air Force, Wing, Group, Squadron, Flight, Element

And if this is not complicated enough (remember, I attempted to keep this simple), each service has its own history, traditions, rank, vocabulary and acronyms. We could spend weeks just sharing about the histories and traditions of each service. They are fascinating. But for today we will keep it simple by discussing vocabulary and acronyms. We will discuss rank under the authoritarian heading.

I remember my first command and staff meeting after entering active duty. (I had served in a reserve infantry battalion for 7 years prior to active duty.) I was now a chaplain in an armor battalion. The meeting began with the command team and staff using words and phrases that I never heard prior whether in the church (many words used in the military we would not hear in church!) or in my unit. I thought that I was in a foreign country! And on top of the different language, they threw in the conversation numerous acronyms. I thought I had missed a special armor language course. I left the meeting feeling disoriented and frustrated, but decided I would re-focus doing something that I enjoyed, visiting Soldiers in the “field.” My battalion was prepping for tank gunnery. I was excited when I saw 54 M 60A1 tanks and Soldiers ready to qualify. I entered the tactical operations center (TOC) and listened to a conversation on the radio that went like this;

“Driver stop”. “Gunner heat tank”. (The tank commander was telling the loader the type of ammunition and the gunner the type of target.) The gunner then called out “identified” when he locked onto the target with his sight. The loader called out “up” when the heat round was loaded in the main gun tube. The tank commander gave the command: “fire”. The gunner replied, “on the way” when he pulled the trigger and fired the round. If the round hit the target, the tank commander said, “target cease fire”. The tank commander then said, “driver move out”. 

This conversation took place in seconds.  Again, I felt disoriented by this conversation. It was a different phraseology than in  my infantry battalion. However, the conversation was extremely important for the tank crew. Each person needed to understand the commands or the enemy could fire on your tank and you would be dead. I learned very early that I needed to understand the “language” of my unit in order to survive, but also be effective as a chaplain.

Acronyms complicate the communication. If one hears NBC, they may think that the person is talking about the National Broadcasting Company. But in the military, NBC refers to Nuclear, Biological, Chemical warfare. An important distinction. And to further complicate language, the services and specific units all have their own acronyms; such as PX is the post exchange (shopping store) in the Army and Air Force. But in the Navy it is BX (base exchange). This is a maze that can be daunting to even Active duty service members.

Of course this only touches the surface of military structure. But, our conversation does suggest the complexity of the military and at times the daunting task of understanding each service, not only for the civilian but even for a service member.

STANDARDIZED

Very early in my time in the Army, I heard the following statement; “There is the right way, the wrong way, and then there is the ‘Army’ way.” This reflects a mindset. The Army, as well as the other services, has a way to do things based upon standardized procedures, processes, and regulations.  There are standards such as military fitness, military standard issue (uniforms and equipment), height and weight, mental and medical, and education level. Each standard is required in order to successfully execute the mission. From the uniforms worn to the forms that need to be completed, all have a standardized purpose.

Service standards touch even the language used in referring to job codes. But each service has a different classification:

  •  In the Army, a MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) of “15R” means the Soldier is an Apache helicopter crew chief.
  • An Airman who has an AFSC (Air Force Specialty Code) of “3D0X2” is a cyber systems operator.
  • A Sailor with an NEC (Navy Enlisted Classification) of 0164 is a patrol boat coxswain.

Standardization has it merits for good order and discipline and stream lining processes. All are important for mission success.

But at times standards can get in the way of common sense. Prior to my deployment to Afghanistan I attended about two weeks of standardized training that was required for all personnel going into theater. Some of the training was beneficial to me, as a Chaplain and Colonel. Some of the training was not good use of my time. But, we all were required, no matter our rank or military occupation, to attend. I understand that DoD wants to ensure every warrior has training in order to enhance survivability on the battlefield.

However, the issue I had was when it came time to draw my equipment. There was a standard issue that every warrior had to take. Because I already had many of these items from previous deployments, I did not need the whole list. At the Central Issue Facility I was told I had to take everything. Now here is what is ironic, I was deploying to Afghanistan to be the senior chaplain of all US forces, where I had responsibility for 150,000 warriors and DoD civilians and 450 chaplain and chaplain assistants. I made decisions each day that had strategic implications and yet I could not deny accepting a canteen!

When one makes the transition from the military to the civilian community, it can be disconcerting not having uniformity and standardization. To a veteran it may appear there is no rhyme or reason within an organization.

AUTHORITARIAN

The military is also highly authoritarian with clearly delineated ranks and responsibilities.

Every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, and Marine is under a chain of command that begins with the President. This chain of command is complex, to be sure, but the thread that runs from the highest elected official to the lowest-ranking service member is never broken. Generally the decision makers are the Commander  and the Senior NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) who can be called by any number of names depending on the service branch and level of unit; Top Sergeant, First Sergeant, Sergeant Major, to COB (Chief of the Boat).

There are three main categories of rank:

  • enlisted
  • warrant officers
  • commissioned officers

All commissioned officers outrank all warrant officers, and all warrant officers outrank all enlisted personnel. Within each category, there is also a hierarchy, with each rank assigned a letter/number designation and a title (lieutenant, sergeant, etc.). Officer ranks all start with an “O,” warrant officers with a “W,” and enlisted personnel with an “E.” The lowest officer rank is an O-1 and the highest is O-10. The titles for ranks differ depending on the branch of service. An O-1 in the Army is called a second lieutenant, while an O-1 in the Navy is called an ensign, but both are equal in rank since they’re both O-1s.

While an O-1 technically outranks an E-9, their job skills and experience will be vastly different. An E-9 will have years of experience, including management, but the O-1 might be brand new to the military. As a general rule, you can equate a higher-numbered rank to more experience, but there are exceptions, like when someone who has been enlisted for years decides to become an officer. Each rank comes with its own insignia that also differs depending on branch of service. As an Army officer, I had difficulty when working with Navy enlisted personnel differentiating the enlisted ranks. The ranks of Chief, Senior Chief or Master Chief, I learned quickly. You DO NOT want to call a Master Chief, Chief. This is  difference from an E-9 (highest enlisted rank) and an E-7. A Master Chief would not appreciate the slight of hand. The other Navy enlisted ranks were all confusing to me.

The services also have a strict class system that regulates professional and personal relationships between officers, non-commissioned, and enlisted personnel.  Because the military is very hierarchical, fraternization between ranks is highly discouraged. Everyone knows immediately his or her position in relation to others.  Veterans often have difficulty understanding how civilian communities and organizations work,  “Who is in charge here?”

I think this is a good of a place to conclude our conversation for this week. Next week we will share about discipline, esprit de corps, and mission focus. Until next week, thanks for the conversation…

The Huffington Post – Moral Injury

August 5th, 2015 Posted by Articles, Resources No Comment yet

A 3 part series of stories by David Wood on the HuffingtonPost focusing on moral injury

Soul Care Conversation (Military Cultural Competency: Impact of First Amendment Limitations on Military Members)

August 5th, 2015 Posted by Blog 2 comments

(The purpose of Soul Care Conversations is to create a place to generate dialogue, initiate thoughtful consideration for the challenges our veterans face each day, share ideas of veteran and family well-being and healing, and spark within all of us a call to be engaged with the veteran and caregiver community. Click here to visit the forum and join the conversation!)

We continued our conversation last week on military cultural competency by discussing in more detail the three First Amendment rights our service members experience limited protection. We will conclude this part of our conversation by asking the question, “So what?” What impact does this have on the soul of our warriors and veterans?

At the very core of the limitations or restrictions in speech, religion, and assembly is the freedom of expression. Why is this important to know or understand?

  • could limit dialogue
  • may lead to an Us versus Them mentality
  • possibly inhibit the celebration of diversity

Could Limit Dialogue

Freedom of expression is at the foundation of self-fulfillment. To be able to express one’s thought and to communicate freely with others:

  • affirms the dignity and worth of each citizen of our nation
  • allows each individual to realize his or her full human potential
  • advances knowledge and searches for truth

From my experience I learned that the military expects its’ members to fully engage and interact with not only military members but also within civilian society. Service members should be well-informed of information, ideas, and points of view. No matter our party affiliation or candidate of choice, we are highly encouraged to exercise our right as a citizen by voting.

However, service members live, work, and serve within the restrictions and limitations of free expression. Service members must balance the expectations of engagement with the limitations of free expression. This often stifles dialogue and honest expression. The fear of prosecution and the fear of reprisal whether for a position or promotion can occur. On the surface this could result in a degradation of cohesiveness and effectiveness within respective units and across the service branches. But on a much deeper level it could affect morale, create distrust, and hurt the spirit.

Us vs Them

While Congress can punish military officers for criticizing the President, Congress cannot do the same to a news reporter. While the military can prohibit service members from wearing a hijab while in uniform, the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch is obligated to provide an accommodation so long as it will not cause an “undue hardship” for the company or business. While the Conservative Jewish Airman cannot have a quote from the Torah as a screen saver on his work computer, the employee of Walmart can. While the military’s court-martial system does not provide for the constitutional protections of the freedoms of speech, religion, or assembly; the civilian courts must provide protections. These differences point to a growing divergent culture between the military and the civilian sectors.

In light of the fact that:

  • military members do not have the same constitutional protections as civilians
  • civilian community largely does not know, recognize or understand the sacrifices made by service members
  • and less than 1% of the US population have served in the military post 9/11,

an Us versus Them mentality emerges.

What may result? It could lead to:

  • group thinking
  • in-group and out-group cultures
  • prejudicial beliefs
  • social isolation
  • tension and antagonism between groups
  • irrational and uncooperative actions

We shouldn’t necessarily ignore the differences between the military and civilian sectors. But we certainly shouldn’t use the differences as a battle between Us vs. Them or to judge people as “superior” or “inferior,” depending what culture one finds him or herself.

And a group identity is not necessarily a bad thing. We just need to be mindful of it and be cautious if that identity starts to have a negative influence on how we view people who we don’t identify with our group. Finding support within our group can be beneficial. But, we must be aware not to isolate ourselves within our group.

Rather than seeing people in groups, possibly another way is to see everyone as an individual worthy of kindness and respect regardless of whether they are a civilian or military member. This could have a positive influence within our spiritual health as we respect others’ beliefs and cultures, as we cooperate and collaborate on solving problems, and as we avail ourselves to new ideas.

Inhibits Diversity

The military is a microcosm of American society.  One distinctive characteristic of the military is its diversity. As an example, there are over 200 faith groups or denominations recognized by the Department of Defense.

Effective leaders leverage that diversity by bringing together the backgrounds, skills, perspectives, and talents of the members in a way that maximizes the unit’s ability to perform. Effective leaders will lead with respect and develop self-assurance within their units. In these units cultural diversity is not only respected, but welcomed.

However, at times our warriors serve within organizations or units with in-effective leaders. When an individual believes her/his freedom of expression, whether in speech, religion, or assembly is not honored;

  • may feel alienated and marginalized
  • perceive favoritism toward subordinates who share the superior’s beliefs
  • reasonably question whether they will get a fair shake when it comes time for performance reports and promotions

In units with a poor command climate, prayer in the workplace may be understood as coercing religion, or discussing one’s faith with a unit member may be construed as proselytizing.

All of this can affect one’s morale, confidence and self-esteem. It also affects the trust a service member places in the institution or its people.

Why has our conversation been important these last several weeks? Our conversation has provided us with a lens through which we can see the military culture. As we understand our warriors and veterans, we can better recognize some of the challenges they may have experienced. I challenge all of us not to stop here, let us continue our conversation on military culture. Next week, we will begin to look at those significant areas that characterize the military, such as structure, authority, mission, discipline, etc. Until next week, thanks for the conversation….