Standards or Numbers: An Ethical Dilemma
Every organization, both large and small, will typically have a well-defined set of values that they wish to espouse. This is the template for a successful, trained work force. These values will guide individuals during the decision-making processes that they will encounter. This blue print helps to ensure the integrity of the company and the individual, as well. Our Army today is no different. We can find our values and creeds everywhere we turn. One quick trip to a company or battalion headquarters will yield all the information a Soldier ever needs to assist them in making ethical choices. We hang posters touting the seven Army values on every wall. Units will prominently display the Soldier’s Creed in the common areas in most cases. We even print these mottos on convenient credit card and identification tag reminders so that Soldiers can have them at all times. These values are what we expect our Soldiers to live by. The Army, as an organization, owes it to the Soldier and the American people to do the same. So often in the course of time, we fail to meet this obligation.
A Shrinking Force
More than 10 years of persistent conflict have presented a myriad of challenges to our Army. One of the most serious is simply finding the Soldiers to fill our ranks. The Army Times posted an article written by Gregg Zoroya of USA Today (2011) that highlights the nearly 90,000 Soldiers that are not able to deploy. The article acknowledges the combat medical losses, but it also identifies that 23,000 Soldiers are unavailable due to many numbers of other reasons. Obviously, this did not all happen in 2011. The labor problem has grown since the first days of combat a decade ago. What do we do about this problem? Our shortages have created an atmosphere that has pushed us to opt for numbers instead of standards. We have an ethical dilemma today created by shortages that encourage us to abandon or lower standards in an effort to fill our ranks.
The Battle of the “Bulge”
In 2003, I was witness to this ethical dilemma first hand. I, like so many of my peers, was preparing for an upcoming deployment. There were unfilled positions within the battalion to be sure. Noncommissioned Officers (NCOs) struggled with plans to ensure a successful rotation despite this. However, at no time did a single NCO ever consider just simply stopping a pending chapter to fill a position. Nevertheless, this was our guidance for every case that concerned an overweight Soldier. That one broad ranging directive from the brigade immediately placed every NCO into an ethical dilemma. The brigade expected us to ignore the Army standards so that we could implement a quick fix solution to our problems.
You have to consider for a moment the serious nature of this action. When we deploy, we rely on the person to our left and right. The profession of arms is one that requires all to do their part. Combat, by nature, is a...