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.