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Duty in the Army: How Does It Works?


The study of duty as it pertains to the army is important because it looks at the role of dignity of each individual even in the most adverse conditions. Taking responsibility for other people at work and beyond involves self-management competency. Often, when things don’t go well, people tend to blame their difficulties on the situations in which they find themselves or on others. Duty to the country and to one’s work involves more than just doing one’s work day in and day out.

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According to Stanley Milgram, “we are born with a potential for obedience, which then interacts with the influence of society to produce the obedient man.” (Milgram, Stanley as qtd in Zwygart, Ulrich ). However, this changes when he is placed in a context of a hierarchical structure. In this kind of set-up, he tends to define himself as a mere vehicle in demonstrating the wishes of his superiors. This is what soldiers and army men experience when faced with situations when duty calls. Milgram aptly describes this process as characterized by inner doubt, externalization of doubt, dissent, threat and complete disobedience (Milgram, Stanley as qtd in Zwygart, Ulrich ).

Consistency in one’s work

Consistency in duty to one’s work is an important value in life. When one matches his words, feelings, thoughts and actions, with congruence and without duplicity, one elicits respect from others. To paraphrase Robert Louis Stevenson, a man worthy of respect cannot be perplexed or frightened. They go on in their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm. In bringing this illustration to this essay, we could only imagine what it would mean if all the present-day soldiers in the army had the value of commitment and duty to one’s tasks. If the army lives with true values, what they would radiate have the capacity to influence others greatly.

Their power will not vary. It will not fluctuate. It is not diluted. Others do not have to wait or make apologies for them. Their officers need not make these excuses for them just to cover up their disobedience. (Perls, 1951).

In the army, sometimes rudeness is the insecure person’s imitation of power. How do military officers get their way? If one is not getting the results with their subordinates, some of them approach them with a threat, with the intent of making them do it. Chances are, they will respond to their duties in a compliant way at least in the presence of the superior. Yet the consequence of basing the power on fear is not effective at all. Sometimes the behavior just goes underground.

If people’s negative feelings are elicited and then suppressed, they do not die; they hide. One of the invisible effects of suppression is that people hate the one who does the coercion. That is not the way to gain respect from subordinates. Coercive power in the performance of one’s duties is based on fear in the leader and in the followers and leads to external, temporary, negative control (Baroch).

During the Vietnam War, no general officers and only a few colonels chose to resign as a matter of ethical conviction. There were rare demonstrations of protests. Soldiers obeyed only because their officers who were worth the respect and obedience. (Stockdale, James as qtd in Zwygart, Ulrich). We have all on occasion excused unethical behavior on the grounds that the person who acted was suffering from psychological disturbance.

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Yet there is a taboo against believing that breaches of ethics, like disloyalty to a friend, can damage us psychologically. Since acts like disrespect and disobedience can affect the psyche, we must acknowledge this fact, even if people whom we consider naïve are opposed to disrespect for other reasons. If the real argument against disobedience is that it renews or intensifies fear of authority can produce demoralization and muddy our own vision, we must not hesitate to oppose disobedience on the grounds that it is harmful. The simple truth is that people have not guarded against the decline of optimism and the losses of interest in life unless they have adopted some carefully considered code of ethics and are working to uphold it (Baroch).

The army cannot live without some value system; and for the sake of their own stability, they must adhere to the ethics dictated by their authorities. Since one’s code of ethics contains the army man’s most important attitudes toward other people and toward themselves, they ought to consider it carefully and reconsider it often. Real sophistication is the discovery that other people’s admiration will not lift people as we had hoped, and that the strongest argument for any behavior is its effect on one’s view of one’s fellowmen.

The loyalty to duty of army servicemen can be measured in their dedication as seen from the accomplishment of their duties and actions to their homeland and the constant readiness to fight. Today, the army counts on many integration initiatives to strengthen its ability to meet military commitments. However, knowing rules means nothing if the army man does not have a trait that could distinguish all the difference between him and another one. That trait is obedience to duty and authority. Obedience to duties not only emanates out of the fear of reprisal but of a mature kind that takes other people’s feelings in consideration (Baroch).

Even psychologists are convinced that what one believes in his heart and mind would eventually flow in one’s actions. This is what separates a good leader from an ordinary one. A leader connotes power. When we think of the word “leader” we usually think of the people who made a remarkable impact in our history. They are the ones who have the vision to guide people to have a dramatic change through time. Leaders pursue a mission in life to achieve a goal. They are usually idealists and sometimes radical, for their vision of a society. Yet, as I look into a true leader’s power, I think this emanates more from within and not so much because of his position.

In the military set-up, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is the bedrock of military law. The UCMJ is a federal law enacted by Congress. It contains guidelines on codes of conduct for army men and other people in the military. Some articles establish policy, assign responsibilities and prescribe procedures. In the same manner, it also contains punitive articles such as elements of the offense, an explanation, lesser included offenses, maximum permissible punishments and sample specifications.

Looking at Article 89 of the UCMJ, it states that “disrespectful behavior is that which detracts from the respect due the authority and person of a superior commissioned officer. It may consist of acts or language, however expressed, and it is immaterial whether they refer to the superior as an officer or as a private individual. Disrespect by words may be conveyed by abusive epithets or other contemptuous or denunciatory language. Truth is no defense. Disrespect by acts includes neglecting the customary salute, or showing a marked disdain, indifference, insolence, impertinence, undue familiarity, or other rudeness in the presence of the superior officer.” (Punitive Articles of UCMJ).


Looking at the “Army Regulations Adopted for the Use of the Army of the Confederate States,” which was published in Richmond, Virginia in 1861, Section 244 reads: Courtesy among military men is indispensable to discipline. Respect to superiors will not be confined to obedience on duty, but will be extended to all occasions. It is always the duty of the inferior to accost or to offer first the customary salutation and of the superior to return such complimentary notice (Military Courtesy).

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Discussing about the importance of commitment to duty in the military reminds one of the great soldier–Alexander the Great, the most celebrated conqueror of the ancient world, who was born in 356 B.C., in Pella, the capital of Macedonia. Alexander was only twenty years old when his father King Philip Macedon died. But he succeeded to the throne without difficulty. Philip had carefully prepared his son to succeed him, and the young Alexander already had considerable military experience. During his invasion of the Persian empire in 334 B.C. he had to leave part of his army at home to maintain control of his European possessions.

Alexander had only 35,000 troops with him when he set out on his audacious quest – a very small force compared with the Persian armies. Inspite of the numerical disadvantages, Alexander won a series of crushing victories over the Persian forces. Examining his manner of leading his troop and eliciting obedience, one can glean that there were three main reasons for his success. In the first place, the army which Philip had left him was better trained and organized than the Persian forces. In the second place, Alexander was a general of outstanding genius, perhaps the greatest of all time.

The third factor was Alexander’s own personal courage and demeanor worthy of respect and true obedience. I discovered that although he would direct the early stages of each battle from behind the lines, Alexander’s policy was to lead the decisive cavalry charge himself during the peak of battle. This was a risky procedure, and he was frequently wounded. But his troops saw that Alexander was sharing their danger, and was not asking them to take any risks that he himself would not take.

The effect on their morale was enormous. Such is the stuff of real responsibility and commitment. Such is the stuff that earns one the respect and obedience that nobody can buy. Indeed, the consequences of basing the power on fear are numerous. Sometimes the behavior just goes underground. What Alexander the Great did was an example requiring obedience to one’s duties without coercion of any kind. He knew that if people’s negative feelings are elicited and then suppressed, they do not die–they hide, only to crop up at an inopportune manner.


Baroch, A. Army Recruiters Take Day to Reflect on Ethics of Job. Voice of Washington D.C.. Web.

Perls. F, S. Growth in the Human Personality New York: Julian Press, 1951. The NCO Journal. Issue, Vol. 14, No. 2. Web.

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