The Depot

Selfless Service: A Core Value in Service Pride

 Photo by Army Sgt. John Schoebel

Years ago, the military services realized that as an organization, the U.S. Defense Department was having an identity crisis. There were standards, but they were loose and situationally dependent.

Values were independent of the service. Meaning, every service member brought their own scruples to the service and then they tried to live according to their personal values within an organization that didn’t have its cultural values outlined and understood by those in the ranks.

A slow, but steady push started in each branch of service to not only clearly state its mission statement, but also to list what values the services wanted to see in their personnel. Beyond that, it evolved to mean what values service members were expected to live, on and off duty, while they were members of the U.S. military.

While the U.S. military officially put values on paper, one of those values, selfless service, has been the cornerstone of military service since the Continental Army. How did soldiers in the Continental Army show selfless service? For starters, they fought against a superior military force. The British Army was better trained and better equipped, but the Continental Army did not back down.

In some cases, they fought without food, water, or supplies. They were led by men who left their families and businesses to fight for the cause. They started the military value of selfless service in the U.S. military because these soldiers put the fledgling nation’s needs first over their own; the greater good over their personal needs.

Photo by Elizabeth Fraser, Army

Selfless service has been a part of the U.S. military ever since and throughout U.S. military history we have seen it evolve, but it remains a core value of military service.

For example, during the Civil War, thousands of African American men joined the Union Army ranks to serve a nation that did not give them the full rights bestowed to Caucasian men. In fact, even though they were standing up to seceding southern states who supported breaking away from the American union and continuing human slavery, they risked their lives at less than half the pay white Union soldiers were paid.

This selfless service continued as the Buffalo Soldiers were established and continued to serve in segregated units. These brave men epitomized selfless service by putting their lives on the line, again, for a nation that refused to give them equal rights and treatment.

As mentioned, selfless service took root at the start of America’s military, and it has continued as a core value for more than 200 years. It’s important to note that it has always been an expectation, whether it was written or identified, that all American service members approach their duty with selfless service in mind.

Selfless service is why so many American heroes have earned combat awards where they placed the lives of others first before their own. The greatest thing a person can give another is their life.

Throughout the history of the U.S. military, there are thousands of anecdotes that tell the story of battlefield heroics done in the name of selfless service. Men and women of the U.S. military are trained from the start that they are devoted to the person to the left and right of them. It is no wonder more than 3,500 Medals of Honor have been presented. Many of those awards were presented posthumously, the recipient killed while saving others or fighting to protect others.

Photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Branden Rae

But where does this intangible drive of selfless service come from? How is it that so many Americans across such a long timeline can share the same values in such varying situations. Is it because selfless service is in their blood somehow because as previously mentioned as a nation Americans had to be selfless to succeed?

During the Korean and Vietnam Wars, millions served in the two unpopular wars and while the nation collectively almost fully turned their backs on these brave men and women, many veterans from these wars are immensely proud of their service, as they should be, and they will quickly admit that they served their fellow veterans on the ground. Selfless service for them was taking care of each other and a willingness to lay down their lives for each other.

Selfless service continued beyond the Cold War and into the Global War on Terrorism where millions of veterans deployed to fight terrorists overseas. Many of them deployed multiple times, a display of selfless service each time they deployed to multiple fronts.

Today, the selfless service continues. There are sailors aboard ships putting the Nation’s needs above their own. They are in international waters, away from their loved ones. That is selfless service.

Photo by Navy Petty Officer 3rd Christina Himes

There are soldiers deployed to Syria and other places combatting terrorism. They are missing birthdays, holidays, and family milestones. That is selfless service.

There are airmen flying all over the world far away from the lives they ordinarily live. They are providing selfless service.

Lastly, somewhere, there is a Marine who is ready for anything at a moment’s notice, whether they are on a ship or at an embassy. They are on duty, rooted in selfless service.

Selfless service is ingrained into the U.S. military culture. It is beyond an expectation. It is a way of life. Service members are expected to put the Nation, their service branch, their units, and their fellow service members and their families before themselves.

Selfless service is the norm, not the exception in the ranks.

Army Values: What Being A Soldier Is All About

Army Values Origin
In 1995, the Army officially adopted the Army values listed in Army Regulation 600-100, Army Leadership, dated March 8, 2007, stating all soldiers were required to live them daily in everything they did, whether on or off duty. The Army values are the foundation of the Army profession. Since 1995, millions of soldiers have learned the words using the acronym “LDRSHIP” as a way to memorize the Army values.

The seven Army values – Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Integrity, Honor and Personal Courage – originate from basic tenets of American culture. The Army values are supposed to mirror the depth and substance of the American character - history, sacrifice, and common heritage, according to the U.S. Army.

The moral and ethical tenets of the Army values characterize the Army culture and promotes certain norms of conduct that include a unique service ethic expected of every soldier - to make personal sacrifices in selfless service to the nation. The Army values define the character of all soldiers and guide their actions on and off duty. More importantly, the Army values shape the Army as a profession, signifying what is important and influencing how the Army and its personnel operate daily.

Army Values Development
In 2005, the Army launched the Army Values Campaign Plan to reemphasize and reinvigorate Army values throughout the Army and its reserve components. In 2011, the Army launched an introspective campaign, the Profession of Arms, to refine the Army’s understanding of what it means to be a profession. The Army’s Center for the Army Profession and Ethic (CAPE) developed training and leader development tools to help soldiers and units understand, embrace and live as Army professionals.

Today, the Army continues to emphasize the Army values across the force. CAPL, formerly CAPE will continue to integrate professional military ethics and character development into leader development programs and unit training. Army professional military education will continue to integrate Army values training into curriculum.

What the Army wants its soldiers and civilians to know is that they are considered the best in the world and to sustain that hard-earned reputation, and America’s trust, the Army must continue to adhere to Army values. The Army depends on every soldier and Army civilian to continue to base their actions and decisions upon its seven core values.

Army Values Acta Non Verba
The U.S. military is big on actions, not words, so naturally when the U.S. Army decided to give its personnel a list of words that guided their behavior, it came as no surprise that the expectation was that soldiers not just know the words and what they mean, but that they live them.

Soldiers learn these values in detail during Basic Combat Training, from then on, they live them every day in everything they do. In short, the Army values listed below are what being a soldier is all about.

Army Values - Loyalty
Soldiers are expected to bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, their unit and other soldiers. Bearing true faith and allegiance is a matter of believing in and devoting yourself to something or someone. A loyal soldier is one who supports the leadership and stands up for fellow soldiers. By wearing the uniform of the U.S. Army, a person is expressing loyalty. And by doing their share, they show their loyalty to their unit.

Army Values - Duty
Fulfilling obligations is important. A soldier doing his/her duty means more than carrying out their assigned tasks. Duty means being able to accomplish tasks as part of a team. The work of the U.S. Army is a complex combination of missions, tasks and responsibilities. A person can fulfill their obligations as a part of their unit every time they resist the temptation to take “shortcuts” that might undermine the integrity of the final product.

Army Values - Respect
The Army expects people to treat people as they should be treated. Respect is what allows people to appreciate the best in other people. Respect is trusting that all people have done their jobs and fulfilled their duty. And self-respect is a vital ingredient with the Army value of respect, which results from knowing you have put forth your best effort.

Army Values - Selfless Service
As a soldier or a civilian, the welfare of the nation, the Army and subordinates comes before your own. Selfless service is larger than just one person. In serving the country, a soldier or civilian is doing their duty loyally without thought of recognition or gain. The basic building block of selfless service is the commitment of each team member to go a little further, endure a little longer, and look a little closer to see how he or she can add to the effort.

Army Values – Honor
Live up to Army values. The nation’s highest military award is The Medal of Honor. This award goes to soldiers who make honor a matter of daily living — soldiers who develop the habit of being honorable, and solidify that habit with every value choice they make. Honor is a matter of carrying out, acting, and living the values of respect, duty, loyalty, selfless service, integrity and personal courage in everything a person does.

Army Values – Integrity
Army personnel are expected to do what’s right, legally and morally. Integrity is a quality developed by adhering to moral principles. It requires that personnel do and say nothing that deceives others. As a soldier or civilian’s integrity grows, so does the trust others place in them. The more choices made based on integrity, the more this highly prized value will affect relationships with family and friends, and, finally, the fundamental acceptance of the person living with integrity.

Army Values – Personal Courage
Soldiers and civilians are expected to face fear, danger or adversity (physical or moral). Personal courage has long been associated with the Army. With physical courage, it is a matter of enduring physical duress and at times risking personal safety. Facing moral fear or adversity may be a long, slow process of continuing forward on the right path, especially if taking those actions is not popular with others. Daily, a person can build their personal courage by standing up for and acting upon the things that they know are honorable.

(NOTE: The Blog Staff used Army News articles in the creation of this post.)