WIESBADEN, Germany - More than a decade of continuous conflict has taken its toll on the U.S. Army. An erosion in Army values is one aspect of that stress on the force, according to U.S. Army Europe leaders.
"Over the last decade several of the foundational aspects of our core principals as leaders have eroded, and the associated skills have atrophied," said Col. Bruce Crawford, commander of the 5th Signal Command, during a reaffirming the oath of office ceremony at the Wiesbaden Fitness Center Nov. 17.
"With this has come a decrease in our adherence to common standards, and in some cases, the creation of environments and command climates that promote lapses in discipline, lapses in judgment and ultimately significant decreases in personal and professional accountability. Simply put," Crawford said, "for a variety of reasons, we have taken our eye off of the ball and allowed our standards to drop."
Crawford was joined by Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, U.S. Army Europe commander, in describing the effort to "reenergize" the focus on Army values by asking all members of the force -- Soldiers, civilians and local national employees -- to reconsider what it meant when they first took the oath of office upon entering the military or federal service.
"Being part of a profession means more than saying, 'I'm a professional,'" said Hertling, pointing out that every profession has its particular set of values and skill sets associated with a code of ethics and guided by standards of conduct.
"Most importantly, it requires its members to be committed to a set of values," said the USAREUR commander. "Our U.S. Army has those values, and it is the foundation of everything we do as professionals."
"Our oath has very important and very meaningful words," said Hertling, describing the differences between the oaths uttered by the Soldiers of other nations around the globe and in former times where fascists ruled and the ones pledged by those in service with the U.S. Army.
"All the words in the oath reflect our values," he said.
"When you break down our oath it's all about defending ideas," said Hertling, explaining that by pledging to support and defend the Constitution, individuals are swearing to defend ideas that are based on the dignity of man, respect for one another, the aristocracy of the mind and the emotions found in the heart … "the ideas and ideals of our republic."
Asking the men and women of the 5th Signal Command who stood to once again speak the words of the enlisted, officer and Army civilian oaths of office to "listen very closely to the words," Hertling said, "Understand these words and know that you make a difference."
"Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage aren't just empty words on a poster," said Crawford. "They are what kept us going through some of the toughest times we've ever faced in the storied history of this great nation. … These values are our foundation. These values are our credentials. These values are the building blocks of our standards."
During the ceremony, billed as "Operation Solemn Promise," members of the audience were treated to several vocal renditions of military themed songs by local peers and heard as their fellow Soldiers and veterans shared their thoughts about the meaning of the Army's values. Soldiers and civilians from around the command took part in the ceremony via video tele conference.
"I ask everyone to give it some thought," concluded Crawford. "Ask yourself the fundamental question -- how does this apply to me?"