WEST POINT, N.Y. (Army News Service, July 29, 2015) -- The Army profession is built on trust that starts with every member of the total force, the Army's most senior civilian and military leaders said.

These leaders and some West Point cadets were among the 270 people, who attended a conference on the Army Ethic at the U.S. Military Academy here.

The July 27-28 event, facilitated by the Center for the Army Profession and Ethic, centered on the strategic stewardship of the Army profession.

"As strategic stewards of the Army profession, we are responsible for setting priorities, enacting policies, managing resources, establishing programs, and designing systems that provide for our people - the Army Family," Army Secretary John M. McHugh said.

"It is also our duty to strengthen these essential characteristics every day in all that we do - every decision you make, every policy you sign, every order you give," he said.

Other attendees included Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, took part in the first day of the conference.

"We have to ingrain the professional ethic in our young leaders because they are actually in the most strategic location to affect the population of the formation," Dailey said during an interview.

Young leaders need to understand they are part of the profession, while having a clear understanding that there is "no wavering from our ethic, in both garrison and combat," the sergeant major said.

"They have a moral obligation to perform their duties to the best of their ability and form the bedrock, which is the trust not only between them and their Soldiers but uphold that trust to the American people who dearly hold them in high regard," he said.

The newly-published Army Ethic, which can be found in Army Doctrine Reference Publication 1, "really guides us on where we want to go," one senior leader said. As part of the rules of the symposium, participants were not to be directly quoted, without prior authorization, in an effort to allow a free-flowing debate.

Despite some questioning of the Army profession in recent years, the "profession has stood strong," he said. "I also believe it's important for us to renew it every year and talk about it."

ETHICS OF WAR

There are tactical issues related to the application of force, and the ethics related to waging warfare, a senior leader said. The world is "entering a period of complexity unlike any other in history," he said.

"You're going to be challenged a bit as senior leaders to understand more the ethics of waging warfare," he said.

The challenges include deciding when to take military action, how much action to take, and "whether in making that decision, you are in some way creating more suffering, that then begins to cross over into ethical issues," he said.

An increasingly complex world requires leaders to have a "stronger moral compass" to navigate through it.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND SEXUAL ASSAULT

The Army takes seriously all incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault, leaders stressed. Those behaviors run counter to the values and principles of the Army.

While there are many great things about the Army, there are also challenges that the Army must overcome, Dailey said.

The top enlisted leader said combating sexual harassment and sexual assault in the ranks is his top priority, as outlined in his "Not in My Squad" initiative.

Dailey wants squad leaders to instill in their Soldiers that behaviors such as sexual harassment, sexual assault, hazing and bullying will not be tolerated.

Dailey said squad leaders need to tell their Soldiers: "We have a commitment to each other, we have a commitment to the American people, and we have a commitment to this profession - and this stuff is simply not going to happen in our organization."

Young leaders have the power to promote good behavior and create an environment that fosters trust and respect, he said.

MOVING FORWARD

"Trust is the foundation for everything we do," a leader said.

Senior Army leaders have the privilege, honor, responsibility and duty to be strategic stewards of the profession, setting the conditions for success as the Army and its members move forward, he said.

Participants highlighted how the Army Ethic needs to be internalized in all Soldiers and continually demonstrated by leaders. If the ethic is part of a Soldier's core, whether in garrison or in combat, the individual will make the ethically responsible choice.

The Army must remain a trusted profession, both within the institutional and operational Army, a leader said. It must also maintain that trust with the American people.

The Army is a "cradle-to-grave profession" in which members spend a lifetime developing instincts and expertise, a general officer said. There has to be an "enduring drumbeat" in every level of the Army about the profession, being a professional and living the Army Ethic.

"Everything you do, every decision made, every policy signed, every order given ... what you do affects the decisions and actions of every other member of our Army," a leader said.

The input of Soldiers and civilians should be valued, as the Army seeks innovation and improvements in communication. Most empowerment comes from the bottom up, as subordinates solve problems and give feedback, a senior Army officer said.

Leaders need to be adaptable and be able to provide options, while always being guided by a moral compass. They also need to build good relationships to instill trust, a leader said.

"If you don't make a connection to build the relationship, you're just not going to have the kind of influence on your profession and our country that you want to have," a general officer said.

Humility is important in leaders, a senior official said, due to the responsibility entrusted upon leaders at every level.

"When you think about the power and authority that we give our leaders at every level, to literally use violence to advance our national interests, if that doesn't make you humble about what we do, probably nothing else I say will," a senior leader said.