Military Review English Edition March-April 2016 - Page 61

INSIGHT specifically responsible for everything his or her command does and fails to do. Therefore, an officer should deconflict impossible orders by following those orders which best serve the common good. However, an officer cannot choose which orders to follow while still reporting that all orders have been followed. As agents of the public trust, some of whom have been vested with the authority to make life or death decisions, I do not believe that officers should be a force unto themselves. Military officers are drawn from and serve the American people, and they are ultimately responsible to the people’s representatives. Those representatives make decisions based on the view from the top of the chain of command, a view that is sometimes supplemented by input from the middle and bottom of the chain of command. Some officers may view falsely reporting compliance as protecting themselves or their units from micromanagement, but each individual deviation slowly changes that officer from a public servant—accountable to the American people—into a petty tyrant, accountable only to him or herself. Policing Our Own I believe that Wong and Gerras would attribute my action to ethical fading.5 I did not care about filling out my forms accurately because the only thing that mattered was meeting the appropriate deadline and continuing with my day. Lying to Ourselves outlines how ethical fading changes a signature block from the sworn statement of a public servant to the preferred tool of a well-seasoned bureaucrat. It also offers three steps for how to repair and preempt ethical fading: “Acknowledge the problem. Exercise restraint. Lead truthfully.”6 The medical staff screening my paperwork at LDAC did exactly that. When I reported to the medical station, I was pulled aside and handed a folder. Among other things, this folder had the medical history I submitted to the DODMERB and the medical history I had submitted to LDAC. The conditions I had reported in 2009 but failed to report four years later were highlighted, and I was instructed to correct the history I submitted in 2013. For each highlighted entry, I verified that what I had reported in 2009 was true and updated the information as necessary. By pointing out my mistake and giving me the opportunity to correct it, the medical staff at LDAC gave me a gentle nudge in the right direction. I believe this nudge represented an effective and reasonable first step for implementing the recommendations of Wong and Gerras. Calling out obvious dishonesty and then correcting it shows that integrity always matters. Acknowledging that a systemic integrity problem can be fixed by focusing on the truth instead of staging a witch hunt to punish dishonesty reflects that all Army officers are responsible for this problem, reaffirms each officer’s commitment to the Army Values, and regenerates the military profession one officer at a time. 1st Lt. Robert P. Callahan Jr., U.S. Army, is assigned to Fort Rucker, Alabama. He holds an AB, magna cum laude, from Cornell University. Notes 1. Leonard Wong and Stephen Gerras, Lying to Ourselves: Dishonesty in the Army Profession (Monograph, Strategic Studies Institute, 2015). 2. Enlisted and Officer Candidate School applicants are examined at a MEPS. The DODMERB evaluates the medical fitness of all Reserve Officer Training Corps and service academy applicants. Class 1 flight physicals are required for flight school applicants. 3. Department of Defense Form 1, Officer’s Commission, January 2000. 4. Robert E. Atkinson Jr., The Limits of Military Officers’ Duty to Obey Civilian Orders: A Neo-Classical Perspective (Monograph, Strategic Studies Institute, 2015). Atkinson explores the MILITARY REVIEW  March-April 2016 relationship between military officers and their civilian superiors. However, he points out that the relationship between the civilian statesman and military officer is paralleled in the relationship between military superiors and subordinates. 5. Ann E. Tenbrunsel and David M. Messick, “Ethical Fading: The Role of Self-Deception in Unethical Behavior” Social Justice Research 17 (2004): 224, accessed 19 September 2015, doi:10.1023/ B:SORE.0000027411.35832.53. Wong and Gerras use the definition of ethical fading offered by Tenbrunsel and Messick: “the process by which the moral colors of an ethical decision fade into bleached hues that are void of moral implications.” 6. Wong and Gerras, Lying to Ourselves, 28–33. 59