ARLINGTON, Va. (20 March 2018)--The Army Ethic is critical for Army leaders to understand and follow.

On March 15, Lt. Gen. Nadja West, Surgeon General of the Army and Commander of the Army Medical Command, discussed the Army Ethic in a keynote address with a select group of high school juniors who are either considering a career in the military or are committed through Reserve Officer Training Corps or another military program. The event was the 11th Annual West Point Ethics and Leadership Conference held at George Mason University in Arlington, Va.

The audience consisted of about 200 high school juniors, 50 faculty members, and 12 cadets from ROTC or the US Military Academy.

Ethical decisions for a Soldier are extremely complex. Few military matters are more important for a Soldier than ethical behavior and maintaining the highest levels of integrity. "In the Army we are expected to live the Army Ethic," West said, "on and off duty."

West covered topics such as "why and how we serve," "living and upholding the Army Ethic," "why ethics are important," "origins of the Army Ethic," "the warrior ethos," and the legal and moral framework of the Army Ethic.

Ethics are so important that the Army has established the Center for the Army Profession and Ethic (the proponent for the Army profession, the Army Ethic, and character development) to strengthen the Army as a military profession and inspire trust among Army professionals.

The Army Ethic is closely tied to why we serve, West said. We serve for love of country and family, to preserve the peace, and defend the American people and values.

West explained the Army Ethic. It is the heart of the Army, she said, it is how we practice our profession and it explains the role of Soldiers as honorable servants, Army experts, and stewards of the profession. It is the basis for the Army culture of trust.

The Army Ethic is important, West said, because it provides the moral and legal basis for why our Army exists. It guides our decisions and actions as well as binding Soldiers together in a common moral purpose. "With major decisions it's important to understand why you are making them," she said.

West used as an example that when Soldiers carry weapons, they need a set of principles on when to use or not use them. When you are first faced with the possibility of using the weapon, she said, that is not the first time to be thinking about whether you should use it.

The Army Ethic is not arbitrary, with legal foundations rooted in the U.S. Constitution and various laws of war and treaties, she explained. Moral foundations are in the Declaration of Independence as well as built into the traditions and trust relationships of the military.

"The Army Ethic is the heart of the Army," West said. "Every profession develops a code of moral principles to guide the conduct of its members."

West also discussed the Army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage.

She provided an Ethical Reasoning Model that encouraged the students to recognize moral conflict, evaluate options, commit to a decision, and then act. Moral challenges include when the individual knows what the right thing is, but is tempted to do otherwise; when he or she doesn't know what the right thing is and all choices seem to have both moral costs and benefits; and unseen moral challenges.

She included a discussion on how to employ ethical reasoning.

We have to build trust among each other and trust with the American people. Trust among Soldiers is especially critical, she said.

People stay in the Army because they see it as a calling--to defend the Constitution but also to be part of a team and be part of the mission. Part of the mission is to have the highest ethical standards possible. Nothing less will work for the Army.