Military Review English Edition March-April 2016 - Page 60

I’m Faded 1st Lt. Robert P. Callahan Jr., U.S. Army I n February 2015, Leonard Wong and Stephen Gerras published Lying to Ourselves: Dishonesty in the Army Profession.1 This study portrayed an Army that purports to value honesty, but the leaders of which have sacrificed their integrity in order to meet an excessive number of administrative requirements. In order to regain our integrity, Wong and Gerras suggest that we, as an Army, acknowledge our organizational and individual fallibilities and have a candid conversation about reconciling who we are with who we want to be. I would like to add to that conversation by discussing how I fell short of who I would like to be. From Black and White to Shades of Gray In 2009, I was screened by the Department of Defense Medical Review Board (DODMERB); in 2010, I was examined at a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS); and in 2013, I completed a Class 1 flight physical.2 I had to fill out a thorough medical history for each of these exams. At the end of each history, I certified that the history was “true and complete” and that “no person advised me to conceal or falsify any information.” I completed accurate histories for the DODMERB and MEPS, but I turned in an incomplete history for my flight physical. I had changed between 2010 and 2013, but I cannot tell you exactly why I chose to turn in an incomplete medical history. A couple events stand out as probable factors for influencing my decision to not turn in a complete medical history. A drill sergeant informing my basic training platoon that “your units won’t care who you are or what you did before the Army as long as you’re not a scumbag when you get there,” taught me that some standards are more important to meet than others. An upper-class cadet ribbing one of my peers for telling the truth on his DODMERB because the upperclassman “thought everyone lied on that thing,” lowered the standard from absolute to conditional honesty. Joking that “you can’t tell the Army the truth about how you drink; they would go crazy,” further trivialized telling the truth at all times. Sadly, I cannot tell you if those events specifically led me to act without integrity. 58 Instead, I can only tell you that I did not care about signing my name to a document that I knew was incorrect. I completed the histories for both MEPS and the DODMERB during an application process. My recruiter sent me home with a stack of paperwork for MEPS, and I accessed an online questionnaire for the DODMERB. I was applying to join the Army, and I wanted to make sure I gave an honest account of myself. I completed the history for my initial flight physical before attending the Leadership Development and Assessment Course (LDAC) after my junior year of college. I put my demographic information in the appropriate boxes, checked whichever boxes on the questionnaire required the least effort, and signed my forms before continuing onto my next appointment. Completing my paperwork on time was more important than completing it truthfully. Accountable to Whom? I made a troubling choice when I placed a greater weight on completeness than on accuracy. As a cadet, I was working toward earning a commission in the U.S. Army; a commission that is nominally predicated on earning the president’s “special trust and confidence” in my “patriotism and fidelity.”3 I believe volunteering to join the Army demonstrated my patriotism, but did I truly act in a manner worthy of anyone’s trust and confidence in my fidelity? Perhaps a commission grants officers the authority to choose which requirements are worth the time and effort of meeting if satisfying every requirement is not possible. Robert E. Atkinson Jr. posits military officers are required to disobey illegal and immoral orders.4 According to Atkinson, illegality and immorality should be understood in the context of the professional values of military officers, the legal values of the constitutional and international laws which bind the United States, and the moral values that each officer personally holds. If an order conflicts with the common good, then an officer is bound to disobey it. An officer cannot obey an impossible order. Officers act as agents of the public trust, and a commander is March-April 2016  MILITARY REVIEW