First, a disclaimer. I am not advocating whether people should get a COVID shot or not. That’s your call, but I would suggest you do. No, what I am talking about is a dangerous erosion of military discipline. Read further and you may get my drift.
OK, those of us who spent a day or two in uniform knew this guy, the Shithouse Lawyer.
The Lawyer was the dude or dudette who was always trying to find some obscure alternative reading of the regulations to get them out of some onerous detail or to keep them a few steps ahead of Command, who frequently were looking to punish or otherwise penalize the Lawyer.
This person thought they were smarter than everyone around them, the world was their oyster.
Until they finally ran into some sergeant who insisted that yes, the regulations are what they say, and as a soldier you have to follow lawful orders.
“Lawful orders.” There’s another hook that the Lawyer would try to use. I’ll give you an example.
I had a soldier tell me once that I couldn’t order him to place his life at risk. “That’s an illegal order, sir!”
I begged to differ, and he was shocked when I told him that I could use deadly force to coerce him to follow my LEGAL orders and no one would say boo to me. In fact, I could be prosecuted for NOT exercising Command Authority in combat.
Never forget that ultimately military command results in death; but let me give stark illustrations of legal, as opposed to illegal orders.
Legal orders: “You, you and you. Form a rearguard so the unit can escape.” “You, you and you. Load up, go take that pillbox.” “You, you and you. March through this area where we just lit off an atom bomb.”
Illegal orders: “You, you and you. Line these civilians up and shoot them.” “Herd these women into a comfort station.” “Give the minorities in the unit the worst jobs.”
Surely you can see the difference?
A commander must frequently give unpopular orders; a commander frequently suffers under idiots. It doesn’t matter. Soldiers are supposed to have discipline; it is what separates them from civilians.
Soldiers can’t pick and choose which orders they may follow, so long as they comply with the regulations and the laws of war, it matters not.
You may have noticed my shot record above, listing no fewer than eight Anthrax vaccinations. People may not remember, but these vaccinations were deeply unpopular when issued, and they were also experimental in nature with a proven deadly biological warfare agent. Very bad stuff.
Yes. As it was explained to me in detail nearly twenty years ago. So I lined up with hundreds of thousands of others and took the shot.
Because I was a soldier. Because of discipline. Because of duty.
So imagine my surprise when I saw this headline on Yahoo News.
We soldiers do not get to pick and choose which lawful orders and directives we follow.
I’ll leave you with what a good First Sergeant once counseled a young Sergeant in regard to following orders.
FIRST SERGEANT: “So, Sergeant, you violated orders by doing x.”
SERGEANT: “Well, yeah. We thought it was the right thing to do.”
FIRST SERGEANT: “We?”
SERGEANT: “Yeah. The guys and I.”
FIRST SERGEANT: “So, you let a group of privates talk you into picking which orders suited you?”
FIRST SERGEANT: “Let me give you a scenario. You tell one of your little buddies they need to go stand in that watchtower.”
(The First Sergeant points into the distance. The Sergeant looks over.)
FIRST SERGEANT: “You know. That one the snipers like, right? Dangerous, huh?”
SERGEANT: “Well, yeah…”
FIRST SERGEANT: “What if your soldier says “FUCK YOU!”” (The 1SG roars, the Sergeant flinches) “Asshole, we don’t get to pick and choose orders, and your soldiers will fucking notice and call you out!”
I watched this exchange, and I agreed wholeheartedly with the grizzled 1SG.
I still do.
Discipline. You either have it, or you do not.