Leadership, as promulgate by the commanding officer, sets command climate, institutes the training and education program through which an organization prepares itself to accomplish the mission, and individuals in the organization executing the day to day jobs based upon the training and education required of their area of expertise. Any combat unit should encourage maximum physical fitness, but that conditioning must consist of a focus on balancing moral and ethical behavior throughout all phases of training including combat. Therefore, command climate, specifically one embracing moral and ethical behavior, begins with the leadership, the message it delivers, and the convictions by which it abides.
A number of positive attributes are found in the preparation of the Rakkasans. Steele personally led physical training with his men and started a unique psychological program for his soldiers. Through visits to mortuaries and ride along events in emergency response vehicles for medics, he ensured first encounters with battlefield trauma and death did not occur in combat. He even set up counseling opportunities for the unit to talk about killing in combat. Above all, Steele made no hesitation in talking to the unit about the mission, promising action in the worst place Iraq had to offer. His speeches served to motivate the Rakkasans ensuring the correct mindset for entering combat. Yet for all the positive initiatives, there are areas Steele neglected personally and professionally in ethically preparing the unit for combat operations.
Steele’s physical training and emphasis on shooting is not unethical, but the constant appeal for and method of acquiring special weapons outside of prescribed regulations set a bad precedent for the unit. His ideological views on killing enemy combatants ran counter to opinions in the Army, though he tempered speeches with words like restraint, legally, and disciplined. Steele’s opportunity to put conviction behind these words passed when he refused to speak to his unit about the personal experiences driving him to train the Rakkasans. The verbal and nonverbal cues of Steele further support the idea that leadership is the foundation for an ethical command climate.
The individual is one of three essential elements in building an ethical leader. In turn the type of leadership an individual brings to bear on an organization depends totally upon the morals and character of that person. Leadership establishes the standard upon which a commanding officer establishes the sort of organization he or she will lead. In assuming command of the Rakkasans, it is imperative to assess the state of the command for deciding what changes should be implemented. Following with Kotters’ eight steps for change, the Rakkasans must have an environment for change to instill an ethical command climate. As a combat unit, the Rakkasans will maintain a combat mentality yet employ an emphasis on acting ethically. In order...