News: ‘Afghanistan needs military leaders of courage, competence and character’
Story by Sgt. Tamika Dillard
KABUL, Afghanistan – The Combined Joint Interagency Task Force Shafafiyat commander visited the National Military Academy of Afghanistan Dec. 7 to discuss the importance of military core values.
“Now more than ever, Afghanistan needs military leaders of courage, competence and character,” said U. S. Army Brig. Gen. H.R. McMaster. “Through your training here at the academy, you have become acquainted with these core components of military character: integrity, courage, service, honor, respect and loyalty.”
In developing its future leaders, the NMAA is focusing on the character and values of its Afghan National Army’s future commissioned officers. Senior leaders, such as McMaster, have been invited to share different leadership perspectives with the cadets.
“This semester we began a character development program at NMAA,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Kraig Sheetz, NMAA Adviser Team chief. “The program consists of vignette-based small group discussions where cadets [facilitated by staff and faculty] talk through scenarios involving honor, integrity, duty and all of the ANA core values.”
McMaster reiterated to the cadets that it is imperative for them to continue to stand strong and retain the moral high ground despite the depravity of the enemy.
“Facing an enemy whose primary tools are deceit, intimidation, hatred and the murder of innocents, it is all the more important for you, as officers and leaders, to maintain your moral bearing and set an example for your soldiers,” said McMaster. “Genuine empathy and respect for your fellow citizens will be your most effective weapon against the insurgency, whose only sources of strength are violence and coercion, and whose leaders offer no positive vision for Afghanistan’s future.”
McMaster additionally provided the cadets with the key factors into how and why, in the course of conflict, soldiers and leaders can at times be drawn into immoral or unethical behavior.
“The first factor is ignorance,” said McMaster, “Ignorance concerning the nature and purpose of the mission or the operating environment, as well as a failure to understand or internalize the essential professional military values.”
This ignorance can result in the severing of the bonds meant to bind soldiers to their society, to their institution [the ANA], and most importantly, to one another, he said.
“The second factor is uncertainty,” said McMaster. “Ignorance causes uncertainty, and uncertainty can lead to mistakes – mistakes that can harm civilians unnecessarily.”
Warfare will always have a component of uncertainty, but leaders must strive to reduce uncertainty for their units, he said.
“The third factor is fear,” said McMaster. “Uncertainty combines with the persistent danger inherent in combat to incite fear in individual units. Leaders must strive not only to reduce uncertainty for their soldiers, but must also build confident units.”
It is confidence that serves as the firewall against fear, and it is fear that has a disintegrating effect on an organization, he said.
“The final factor is combat trauma,” said McMaster. “Fear experienced over time can lead to combat trauma. Combat trauma often manifests itself in actions that compromise the mission and violate human values and standards of behavior.”
As these cadets transform into officers, they will be expected to establish and enforce the proper ethical climate among their soldiers, ensuring everyone remains committed to their professional military values.
McMaster concluded his speech, telling cadets, “An adherence to professional military values across the force has the potential to strengthen and elevate the institution, making the ANA the backbone of a strong, independent Afghanistan, as well as a symbol of national unity.”