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Officership

October 28, 2009 | Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Grimes

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting the newest group of Judge Advocates and talking with them for about an hour about 'officership.'  The latest Judge Advocate Officer Basic Course started on Sunday and much of their first few weeks on active duty with the JAG Corps is spent learning about the Army and how to do many of the basic 'Soldier stuff' we do.  I was able to take a few hours away from class to talk to them a little bit about what is expected of them as officers and what (I think) they ought to expect of themselves.

Most of what we talked about was the 'school house' answer about what officership involves.  My goal was not to make great officers in an hour, but rather to give them some things to think about as they grow up in the JAG Corps.  Many of the things we talked about didn't really make it onto my radar until I'd been in the Army for a few years.  But I've thought about it a good bit the last 2-3 years, and I wish I'd started doing so sooner!

We talked about the four facets of officership:

- the officer as a warrior - not just a warfighter, but someone reasonable for the disciplined application of force; someone who fights according to the laws of war; someone fights (and lives) according to a warrior ethos

- the officer as servant of the nation - our oath of service is not to the President (who appoints us) but rather to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies, foreign and domestic."  This sets us apart from many other military forces; we're not fighting to support a person, political party, or particular policy; we serve to ensure the continued survival of this nation's bedrock document.  I think that's a pretty noble cause.

- the officer as a professional - members of the JAG Corps actually have a greater obligation than most other officers in the Army because we are members not only of the 'profession of arms,' but we are also members of our respective state bars.  We have obligations to both professional communities and are subject to the ethics and legal obligations each imposes.

- the officer as a leader of character - often it is not enough to just be an effective leader.  What I mean is, it's not always enough to just get the job done; how we do that, how we lead is just as important as the end product of our leadership.  A leader of character should set the example, make morally and ethically correct decisions, and should show compassion for those subordinate to them.

The hour we spent talking went very quickly and we touched not only on the four facets of officership above but also on some of the etiquette, customs and courtesies that are a fundamental part of the Army's history and how we operate on a daily basis.  We talked about some of the leadership challenges they will face when they get to their duty stations.  All in all, they were a very eager, thoughtful bunch.  I think the JAG Corps will be in good hands.


3 Comments

  • Anonymous Major
    10/28/2009 1:58 PM
    Seems like you put a lot of thought into your topics but I'd have to disagree with your first point. The whole 'Warrior Ethos' in the US Army is BS. It's the same as having everyone wear a black beret. It's eyewash. According to the Random House Dictionary, a warrior is "a person engaged or experienced in warfare." Being called a warrior is no different than being called a terrorist, a mujahideen, a vandal, a rebel, or a mercenary. I, for one, wish to be called a Soldier. That's the only term that reflects the station in society that I wish to occupy, which I believe is reflective of the training, discipline, sacrifice, and patriotism that I possess.

    Special military units have always created their own labels to encourage esprit de corps and morale. Legionaires, Rangers, Commandos, you name it, there's many examples. Perhaps nobody felt that Soldier sounded cool enough so they (GEN Schoomaker) reinvented "Warrior" as a tough sounding label. Personally I find it insulting to be referred to as a Warrior. I'm a Soldier and Soldiers have been defeating warriors in battle for centuries and hopefully always will.
  • Jason
    11/1/2009 5:40 PM
    MAJ Grimes,

    Speaking of the newest batch of JAG recruits...

    I'm wondering if you have any information about the current status of the online application system? I submitted my application on Friday, before the deadline, but the system seems to be down now!

    Is there anyway I can ensure my application went through correctly (and on time)?

    Thanks for the help and thanks for this blog!
  • MAJ Ben Grimes
    11/2/2009 8:25 AM
    Jason - I've heard from JARO that there were some network problems over the weekend due to high volume. They've extended the application deadline until 5 pm on Thursday, 5 NOV. You'll be able to log in and confirm your application was submitted (the status will be "under completeness review" -- that's what you want to see). And if it didn't go through, you'll be able to submit it this week. Good luck!

    Anonymous Major - thanks for reading and for your comments. I wish I could take credit for everything that went into the Officership class, but I can't. I do, however, think the four facets of officership are pretty good and I think Warrior Ethos is something that sets us apart. This isn't something that differentiates us from the rest of the Army; I think Warrior Ethos is something that separates the American Soldier from many other armies and para-military fighters around the world. Ultimately, I think we agree but are using different terms to talk about the same thing.

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