Reflections on Standards and Discipline

(From July 26, 2010) – Standards, and the discipline to adhere to those standards, are vital to any mission’s success. Each individual soldier must strictly adhere to his standards in order to remain battle ready, stay alive, and to be valuable members of the US Army. It is particularly important for leaders to adhere to standards, or their ability to lead troops will become weakened. Standards and discipline are the cornerstone of this Army.

Most, if not all, new soldiers won’t understand the importance of standards until they experience a situation where lack of discipline caused a problem which negatively affected them or someone else. They might not be paying enough attention, or they might not be intelligent enough, to recognize such a situation and it’s cause when it happens. They might not care.

Some soldiers do not care as long as it doesn’t affect them, because they are selfish. Some soldiers don’t care even if it does affect them, either because they don’t think it will negatively affect their career or, because they don’t take life seriously to consider their place to be that big of a deal.

Being disciplined in standards can be difficult for a soldier when he is in an environment which is not conducive to the process. The individual soldier may have weaknesses of character which will tempt him to disobey. The soldier may be physically weak and unwilling to exert enough energy to the task.

The choice to put forth the effort to adhere to standards characterizes a soldier’ ethical orientation. Other soldiers will constantly test others’ values in order to determine if the other is trustworthy and respectable. They seek to determine if the other will do the right or the wrong thing, depending on their preference.

Lack of discipline is contagious. Once a soldier sees another soldier getting away with something in front of an authority, that soldier will think he can do the same. If a soldier witnesses another soldier getting away with something in secret, of course it depends on the soldier’s values if he would follow suite.

Lack of discipline means a soldier treats his chain of command with disrespect, believes he is equal to or above them, considers them unwilling to assert corrective measures, and/or considers them weak. It also takes away a leader’s ability to command troops. If a leader does one thing while telling others not to, those others will not follow. Likewise, if a leader is not enforcing standards consistently and effectively, soldiers will know that they can get away with doing the wrong thing.

Discipline is what makes the difference between a soldier and a mere civilian wearing a uniform. Lack of discipline hurts unit cohesion, and in doing so reduces battle readiness, which in a combat scenario greatly reduces life expectancy. The skills taught by the challenge of keeping standards will be extremely useful in battle.

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