The Navy has a stated mission to maintain, train and equip combat-ready Naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression, and maintaining freedom of the seas. This mission requires the active involvement, participation, and support of the troops that make up the Navy. I understand that as a service member, I have a role to play in the Navy's ability to achieve its mission. I understand the importance of my personal contribution to Navy efforts to meet its goals and the necessity of complying with military regulations governing acceptable behavior. I am taking this opportunity to discuss the need to follow orders, maintain good order and discipline and promote the success of Navy objectives.
Just as every state and city in the United States has laws that promote safety, fire prevention and maintaining the good order of the populace, so too does the Navy have laws and regulations that must be followed. Laws and regulations that govern our conduct in the Navy exist to help us and not to hinder us. These laws are intended to foster unit cohesion and to promote proper military conduct and discipline, and as such, it is essential that they be followed. Compliance with such laws is not optional, nor is their enforcement. It is important that military members understand the necessity for these policies.
In any organization, both discipline and justice are required. Discipline is necessary to achieve mission objectives, and justice is required to correct those occurrences where discipline fails. Military law exists to meet the need for discipline and justice. The purpose of military law is to provide a framework of rules and regulations that promote justice and discipline and to assist in maintaining good order and discipline in the armed forces. At the same time, military laws exist to promote efficiency and effectiveness within the military, and as a result, thereby strengthen military capability. Any process that contributes to heightened capability also strengthens the national security of the United States. Military justice plays a role in promoting national security by helping to maintain a well-disciplined and effective national fighting force.
Military law consists of the statutes that govern the military establishment and regulations issued thereunder, and also includes the inherent authority of military commanders. The military justice system gives commanders their role in military justice because discipline is essential to mission readiness. The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is the foundation of military law in the United States. It was established by the United States Congress in 1950, and derives its authority from the United States Constitution, Article 1, Section 8 which provides that "The Congress shall have Power . . . To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval forces."
This obligation to follow orders is tied to the Navy core value of commitment. Dating back to the days when the Continental Navy was established during the American Revolution, certain bedrock principles have carried over into today's Navy. These principles include honor, courage, and commitment. For more than two hundred years the Naval service has stood ready to protect our nation and our freedom, and this readiness includes being faithful to the core values of honor, courage and commitment. Military members live up to each of these three principles in the course of following orders given by superiors.
The principle of honor requires that we conduct ourselves in the highest ethical manner in all relationships with peers, superiors and subordinates, and that we take responsibility for our actions. The basic principle of courage requires that we meet the demands of our profession and the mission when it is hazardous, demanding or otherwise difficult; and that we meet these challenges while adhering to a higher standard of personal conduct and decency. The principle of commitment requires that we be committed to positive change and constant improvement and that we exhibit the highest degree of moral character. Commitment tells us that it is the duty of every Navy man and woman to work together as a team to improve the quality of our work, our people and ourselves.
The principle of commitment especially is invoked when the enlistee swears the oath of enlistment. From the time the military member swears that "I will obey & #8230; the orders of officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice" he or she acknowledges that discipline and following orders are required. In the course of performing his or her duty, the military member is bound to a promise to follow orders.
When the enlisted member fails to follow orders, and is therefore insubordinate, there are consequences for this behavior. Article 91 of the UCMJ includes specific regulations regarding insubordinate conduct towards a warrant, noncommissioned or petty officer. Specifically, Article 91 provides that "any enlisted member who treats with contempt or is disrespectful in language or deportment toward a non-commissioned officer while that officer is in the execution of his office shall be punished as a court-martial may direct." The reason for this article is clear; its purpose is to ensure obedience to the lawful orders of warrant, noncommissioned and petty officers and to protect them from violence, insult, and disrespect.
Furthermore, the UCMJ prohibits conduct that military members are required to refrain from engaging in. Article 134 proscribes "all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces." While this article is general in scope and detail, its intent is clear. This article promotes the military values of good order and discipline, so much so that conduct which violates this provision is subject to penalties of nonjudicial punishment.
The enforcement of Article 91 promotes good order and discipline because these conditions are essential to the Navy's successful operation. Along with that goal, soldiers must know that showing disrespect towards one's superiors has a negative impact on morale. Morale affects the ability of soldiers to contribute to an efficient, effective workplace. Good morale is significant because it affects the soldier's motivation to succeed. We strive for high morale in the military because it means that troops feel positively toward military command, that we are proud of our roles in the military and we support the goals of the military.
Any act of disrespect towards an NCO undermines this morale. Given that we all strive to achieve the goals of the military, it follows that we should uphold morale and refrain from actions that undermine it. No matter the challenge, it is the soldier's responsibility to follow orders and promote good order and discipline.
As a consequence of swearing to obey orders, the oath of enlistment also obligates the soldier to foster respect up and down the chain of command. This commitment is formally spelled out in the Department of the Navy Core Values Charter. This commitment requires obedience and following orders as well as showing respect toward all people and treating each individual with human dignity.
In addition to the Navy core values that promote respect, the commitment to following orders is also embodied in the Sailor's Creed, which summarizes the value structure by which the sailor lives and works. By accepting the Creed, the sailor swears that he or she is committed to excellence, and it is this commitment that informs the sailor's duty to respect the authority of and follow orders given by officers in the Navy.
In the course of writing this essay, I have come to appreciate the importance of respect in the military. In a combat situation, it is critical that orders be carried out without hesitation or discussion. A soldier may not always understand the significance of their actions with regard to everything else that occurs on a battlefield, but a soldier must always obey orders anyway. On the…