What is the Warrior Ethos?
Since the beginning of the United States, but especially for the last 100 years, the ethos of the U.S. military has been oriented toward the requirement to win the nation's wars. If you randomly survey military personal on what the warrior ethos is, you will get many different definitions. The Army has a value system based on seven values: (1) Loyalty, (2) Duty, (3) Respect, (4) Selfless-Service, (5) Honor, (6) Integrity, and (7) Personal Courage. This value system is to build a foundation for a strong code of ethics and ideals for the soldiers to develop a warrior ethos.
This has become a very lively point of friction between the combat arms and non-combat arms soldiers. There have always been very stanch opinions between the combat arms and the other occupational specialties on almost all viewpoints of anything. The combat arms believe that the non-combat arms soldiers do not have the proper mindset to know what exactly the warrior ethos is or represents.
To the combat arms the warrior ethos represents the intestinal fortitude for a soldier to go that extra mile or to do, that which is not expected, when it needs to be done. The combat arms interpretation of the warrior ethos places a great deal of importance on unit cohesion, which research has shown to be a critical element in countering friction and achieving success on the battlefield. The foundation of cohesion is something at which non-combat arms occupational specialties scoff: male bonding--the brotherly love that develops among those who have nothing in common but facing death and misery together. This bonding is what makes the combat arms able to do what it does in the face of battle and is what instills the dogmatic warrior ethos that it possess.
The importance of male bonding and unit cohesion is described in J. Glen Gray's classic study of combat in World War II, The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle: "Numberless soldiers have died, more or less willingly, not for country or honor or religious faith or for any other abstract good, but because they realized that by fleeing their posts and rescuing themselves, they would expose their companions to greater danger. Such loyalty to the group is the essence of fighting morale.... Comrades are loyal to each other spontaneously and without any need for reasons." The importance of these virtues is what drives the selfless leadership of small unit commanders and the discipline and courage of individual soldiers who keep driving onward, individually and in small groups, in spite of the most dominant emotion known to human beings--fear arising from the instinct of self-preservation.
The combat arms leadership and soldier's have a mindset to do whatever has to be done to "Make it happen". This means that the mission, their soldiers and subordinates come first above all else. This is the environment they live in and how they train day in and day out. When they fail to do one of their tasks, it could mean the death of a soldier or the failure of the mission. The combat arms have the leadership and the experience to know what the warrior ethos is.
The non-combat arms soldiers do not have the tight bond of brotherhood that the combat arms seem to have. They work in an atmosphere that does not require the magnitude of dependence on one another for their daily survival. The non-combat arms usually have the majority of the soldiers who came into the military for the college education or the money to pay that education off. This is also a factor that contributes to a difference of interpretation of the ideas and ethics set forth by the Army value system. The interpretation of the warrior ethos is more along the lines of how well the soldier can perform the common soldier task instead of the "going the extra mile". To the non-combat arms soldiers they are just as important in the scheme and maneuver as the combat arms soldiers but do not train in an environment that instills the necessary spirit of brotherhood.
The environment for the non-combat arms soldiers does not entail a lot of field duty or as much physical exertion on a daily basis as do the combat-arms soldiers. The non-combat arms soldiers do tend to have a lot more mental stress due to their work environment because of deadlines or the shear magnitude of mental processing that has to be done. This tends to be a factor for less cohesion in the unit and brotherhood between the soldiers and their leaders.
The leaders in the non-combat arms have the same mindset as the combat arms when it comes to getting the job done, but their ideas on the lengths that they will go to are not the same. The non-combat arms leaders will tend to go strictly by regulations or follow the guidelines set forth in a book. They feel that the lengths that the combat arms leaders go to are sometimes unethical and just wrong. This is because of the environment that the non-combat arms leaders work in fosters a different idea of the warrior ethos. The failure of a non-combat arms soldier to fell a task may not result in the death of a fellow soldier, so there for does not get the same intensity of effort to be successful.
The environment fosters a different mind set for the non-combat arms soldiers and therefore generates a slightly different embrace of an "engendered vision" in which unit cohesion is achieved by compassion and idealism rather than by "macho posturing" (Morris). The non-combat arms soldier may never be put in a position where they are faced with a scenario that will depend on the brotherly love that develops among those who have nothing in common but facing death and misery together.
It may be a fact that neither of these ideas of what the warrior ethos is may be right or wrong, but that the culture and ethics that these two distinct groups inside the same organization are different. All soldiers know the Army value system, but it is the environment that that soldier is groomed in that sets the foundation for his warrior ethos. The fact that these two groups may have a different working environment, different task that have to be accomplished, have different factors that cause stress, and have both mental and physical excerptions at different levels, should not cause a difference in ideals and ethics. Both groups are working toward the same end state to ensure the freedom and sovereignty of the people of the United States. This is what the Army value system is trying to instill in its ranks of soldiers.
The leadership needs to enforce the Army value system in their subordinates and foster the growth of solid ethical beliefs and moral ideals. To succeed in war requires a fighting force that can operate in the face of mortal peril. Such a force depends on the military virtues of strong leadership, physical bravery, and commitment to duty. It is doubtful that an organization motivated by an "engendered vision" of compassion and idealism would have driven Master Sergeant Gary Gordon to lay his life down for a downed helicopter crew in the streets of Mogadishu, with very little chance of survival. The Army leadership needs to embrace the warrior ethos that has served the nation so well in the past and teach their soldiers, whether combat or non-combat arms, the true meaning behind the Army values in order to instill a strong ethical fighting force with a feeling of brotherhood and the traditional warrior ethos. By ignoring the friction that exist today, it will only grow unless the proper steps are taken by the leaders, from the highest to the lowest levels, to unify the fighting force under the umbrella of a standard set of values that will promote a strong set of ethics and ideals that will lead to a strong warrior ethos.
Morris, Madeline, "Rape, War and Military Culture." 4-6 April 1997.
Gray, J. Glenn, The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle. Lincoln: Nebraska, 1998.