The global security environment in which the U.S. Armed Forces must operate, manage, and influence presents many challenges to our all-volunteer force. Moreover, shifting societal norms (domestic and abroad) often compete directly and indirectly with the professional norms that shift over time. The effect of variances in societal and professional norms can and often does induce friction points and challenges us to stay on the right course, defined by the qualities of honor, respect, duty, service, courage, commitment, loyalty, and integrity, as well as the virtues of decency, fairness, honesty, humility, integrity, and valor through actions. The standards required to sustain the Profession of Arms must always be maintained.
The American people have always understood that their external security and their guarantees of inalienable rights largely rest on the shoulders of the U.S. military. Indeed, they support the raising, funding, and sustainment of the Armed Forces because without them, our nation’s safety and security would decline. Given the importance of the Armed Forces, its special relationship to the American people, and the notion that the few protect the many, young men and women from all walks of life are encouraged to serve and contribute to something larger, deeper, and more profound than one’s own self.
Retired Army 1st Sgt. William Staude of Elliott, Pennsylvania, salutes Soldiers from 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command stationed in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, as they march past him during Veterans Day parade in downtown Pittsburgh, November 2011 (U.S. Army/Michael Sauret)
There is an enduring obligation on the part of the members of the Profession of Arms not only to keep the Nation safe and secure, conduct and execute well-planned military operations, and provide responsible management of national resources, but also to inspire others and meet or exceed the expectations of the American people. Every profession has, in effect, a compact with the larger society. Society grants the profession certain powers, privileges, and prerogatives not normally granted to others; in exchange, the profession provides reliable and longstanding service to society. More particularly, members of the profession are granted wide discretionary latitude in performance of their specialized duties. Given the nature of the Profession of Arms, it embodies high standards fostered through an unwavering dedication to duty, an ethical and moral high ground, and a rigorous code of conduct. In the purest sense, all members of our profession, regardless of rank or status, live a life ready for inspection.
Living in such a way begins in the earliest part of the military career. Fresh from society writ large, new recruits become exposed to a life different from any other. Trained, tested, and developed, only then are they afforded an official membership into the profession. From that point forward, irrespective of tenure, true members of the profession instinctively conduct themselves in a manner that exemplifies confidence, integrity, obedience, and courage to all who view them. It is an internal disciplining mechanism that triggers our ability to sidestep unethical temptations and potential points of corrosion.
Living a life ready for inspection requires strength in purpose and frequent introspection. It means sharpness in duty and squared away in conduct. It is not a checklist approach to one’s professional conduct or actions; rather, it is a behavioral compass that keeps a true azimuth. Indeed, course corrections are within each of us. So perhaps a good way to portray the virtues of living a life ready for inspection is to consider the oaths of commissioning and enlistment; both deliver the obligation to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That obligation, however, deserves a deeper consideration.
We understand that a threat to national security often requires overseas deployment and engagement in multiple postures, from combat to partnership-building. However, there are additional forms of threats to our nation and the Profession of Arms that each Servicemember is responsible for deterring, dissuading, or defeating. For instance, institutionally and individually, we defend opportunity for all—to ensure all have the same rights and no one is institutionally held back from achieving his or her goals and desires based on race, creed, or religion. We fight to defeat prejudice, and we defend human rights. We do not condone unethical behavior or less than honorable actions within our ranks. We ensure command climates and duty environments are free of intolerance and are not overly permissive. We instill a sense of unity, purpose, good order, and discipline and compliance with standards, tradition, culture, customs, and courtesies. We police our ranks and are willing to undergo scrutiny when we fail in the eyes of our teammates, our units, our profession, and the society we serve. Furthermore, when one’s service to the Nation comes to a close, we give back to society a stellar model citizen who understands that actions have cause and effect and that living a life ready for inspection is a foundation gained from military service.
As part of choosing to serve our country, we unselfishly sacrifice many of the comforts and luxuries normally afforded to an average individual or American family. Through varying lenses and under constant evaluation, we execute our duties as the Nation’s defenders and are prepared to hold accountable those who are less than ready for inspection. In many regards we are role models for our youth, warriors to our enemy, and ambassadors of our country.
The quality of the reciprocal relationship between the military and the American society it serves goes back to the citizen soldier of the Revolutionary War. Over the centuries and decades, through conscription or through a volunteer force, the Nation continues to provide its sons and daughters the opportunity to serve in this admired profession. For that, we owe it a life ready for inspection. JFQ
Bryan B. Battaglia
Sergeant Major, U.S. Marine Corps
Senior Enlisted Advisor to the
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
and the Senior Noncommissioned Officer
in the U.S. Armed Forces
Curtis L. Brownhill
Chief Master Sergeant
U.S. Air Force (Ret.)