Chinese philosopher, Confucius once said that “the men of upright life are obeyed before they speak. In the long term, whether as individual or an organisation, it comes down to values. If you have them, nothing else matters. If you do not have them, nothing else will matter”. Civic virtues, morality and ethical conduct seldom come naturally to human beings, for they mean self- deprivation, denial, and self-discipline; an inconvenient proposition. It would thus need constant and relentless enforcement. For the military, there are no institutionalised moral and ethical guidelines. Military values and ethics have evolved over the millennia because the extreme calling of soldiers cannot be sustained without willing adherence to these values. The profession of arms makes ultimate demand on the soldiers. War is all about extreme danger where lives of soldiers depend on each other. Values and ethics in army are the foundation blocks on which an army stands and leaders are bound to maintain these in the army. Values unite a company around its purpose and visions. The congruence of our stated and practiced values is pivotal to the organisation’s success. These values as perceived in leaders are loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honour, integrity, courage and discipline.
A soldier is loyal because loyalty has been given to him. It is a two-way street. A commander cannot demand loyalty by the weight of his rank. Commanders who are loyal to their men do not allow them to be misused. Duty is what you are expected to do by law and order. A leader does what must be done, even if it is not part of the orders for the accomplishment of the mission and for the well-being of his command, even at the expense of supreme sacrifice. The military leaders must be tolerant of all cultures and beliefs as long as they do not conflict with the military values. Respect is an important component of building effective and cohesive teams. An army can only function as team, thus, a leader must sacrifice his self-interest for the good of the whole. Leaders often sacrifice themselves so that others can live, and the mission can succeed. Captain Vikram Batra, PVC, died saving a brother officer in Kargil. This is the best example of selfless service. Honour provides the moral compass for character and personal conduct in the military. For a leader, honour means putting army values above self-interest, above carrier comfort and above self-preservation. Integrity is the utter sincerity, honesty, and candour. It is the avoidance of any kind of deceptive, shallow, or expedient behaviour. Leaders of integrity declare their values from rooftops and act according to their values, always, even when there are consequences. He will be open and transparent in everything he does and not be afraid to open all his functioning to scrutiny. He will practice justice and fair play in all his dealings. Courage is the willingness to stand firm on values, principles, and convictions even when threatened. It enables leaders to stand up for what they believe is right, regardless of the consequences. Courageous leaders are willing to look critically inside themselves, consider new ideas, change what needs changing and take harsh decisions. Discipline cannot be sustained by harsh treatment and orders. It is inspired by the leader who lives a disciplined life himself, feels the need to respect orders, cares for his men and leads by personal examples.
WW-II produced many heroes. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O’Hare. He was a fighter pilot with US Navy during WW-II assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific. One day his entire Squadron was launched on a mission. After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top up his fuel tank and he would not have the fuel to go for the mission and be back to the carrier. His mission leader asked him to fall back to the carrier. Reluctantly, he dropped out of the formation and headed back to the fleet. As he was returning, he saw something that turned his blood cold, a Japanese Squadron heading for his fleet which was now without any defense, as all fighters were gone. He could not reach his Squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet, nor could he warn the fleet of the danger. There was only one thing to do, only one thing he had learned as he grew up. He must somehow divert them from the fleet. Laying aside all his thoughts of personal safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes. Wing mounted 50mm calibers blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another. He wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was finally spent. Undaunted, he continued the assault. He dove at planes, trying to clip a wing or tail in hope of damaging as many planes as possible, rendering them unfit to fly. Finally, the exasperated Japanese Squadron took off in another direction. Deeply relieved, Butch O’ Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier. Upon the arrival, he reported in and related the event surrounding his return. The film from his gun-cameras mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch’s daring and attempt to protect his fleet. He had destroyed five enemy planes. This took place on February 20, 1942. He chose the harder wrong in the face of enemy, outnumbered; he had the moral courage to fight for his fleet and in turn for the nation. He became the first Naval Aviator to win the Medal of Honor and the O’ Hare Airport in Chicago is named after him, a tribute to this brave man. The pursuits of glory through unethical acts such as fake encounters are outright condemn able in any force and do the army incalculable harm. It breaks the officer-men trust. In the military, values are standards that can never be compromised. The values dictate the behavior of soldiers on a daily basis and commanders at all levels with their action. They tell the soldiers what he ought to be every day with every action he takes.