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Courage

First Sergeant Gerald J. Schleining Jr

I am sure that at first glance Courage is defined simply as Webster says; "Mental and moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty."

Yes, this and more. The Army adds Courage as a value because of the nature of our business. But let us look at Courage in the area of my favorite subject - taking care of soldiers.

It takes tremendous courage at times to take care of your soldiers. You must be able to stand up and face the danger of making decisions that will affect their lives. In training, you place your soldiers in danger whether it is rappelling, moving at night, conducting a squad live fire, or placing them on the bus to return home. Decisions you make in the field can have an adverse effect on morale, tactical competence, safety, and accountability. You must have the Courage to make the right decision and not be afraid of the "popular answer". You may not please your section with the decision made. You may end up polarizing your friends. If the risk out weighs the gain then do it. If it is the right thing to do, enforcing standards, maintaining discipline, or pushing soldiers to get the maximum from their training, then I encourage you do it. It will take Courage to look your soldiers in the eye and tell them the truth. It will take courage to face the consequences of your action. But, it is the leader that accepts the consequences and moves on that courage is demonstrated in.

Counseling soldiers takes a huge amount of courage. You can never compromise your integrity and standards to make a soldier feel better. When counseling, you must do it correctly. Base all of your counseling on the standards. This brings me to Candor.

Candor defined by Webster is "unreserved, honest, or sincere expression: forthrightness." FM 22-100 defines Candor as "Being frank, honest, and sincere with others while keeping your words free from bias, prejudice, or malice." In plain English it means Bottom line up front, pull no punches, and tell it like it is. We will discuss Tact at another time. Sometimes Candor calls for you to be placed in uncomfortable positions. It means not allowing your feelings to affect what you say about a person or situation. It has nothing to do with political correctness. Candor means calling things the way you see them, even when it's uncomfortable. How does this apply to you? I think that we have placed so much value on "Keeping soldiers happy" that we no longer hold them to the STANDARD. Go back to the expectations you had of your leaders. Honesty was one of them. Soldiers have the right and need to be told when their performance is either outstanding or not making the mark. If you hurt the feelings of the soldier, then let's look at your approach to counseling and not the content of it. We have a great system in the Developmental-counseling program (DA 4856-E). When used effectively you will be a tremendous counselor to your soldiers, be able to shape and develop them and achieve the desired result you want from your section. Look at your counseling program. Then look at your section; if you do not have a solid program in place, I would bet you have problems in your section. Initial counseling sets the tone and STANDARD. Your soldiers will live up to that, if they know you expect it and live it.

Courage and Candor will take you a long way in your careers. The personal courage you display to your section will set the values and discipline expected of us as soldiers. Former Sergeant Major of the Army William Connelly said it best when he says:

The concept of professional courage does not always mean being tough as nails either. It also suggests a willingness to listen to the soldiers' problems, to go to bat for them in a tough situation, and it means knowing just how far they can go. It means being willing to tell the boss when he's wrong." (FM 22-100)

Now, I do not recommend telling the boss when he's wrong, unless you do it tactfully and know that you are right, but it demonstrates courage. We all know that there are two types of courage the Army focuses on - Personal and Moral. I encourage you to follow up and read Chapter 2 of FM 22-100.

To achieve excellence in your section, study and practice the leadership attributes. I am sure you find that without a solid foundation of Courage and Candor you will have a hard go at what ever you are trying to achieve. You will benefit and so will your soldiers. Courage and Candor [along with the other values and attributes] cannot be a part of "cafeteria style leadership". It is something that you have or don't have. You must be consistent and practice what you preach. Set an example and you soldiers will follow.

Copyright © Gerald J. Schleining Jr