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                 chain of command. This is a defining characteristic and vital to mission success, especially in combat.
However, with rank comes power, which at
any level can be abused and change people for the worse. A leader must be self-aware, continuously reflect upon the condition of their own heart,
and realize it is easy and dangerous to prioritize position over people. The best leaders close the power gap, get their egos out of the way, and respectfully and selflessly serve their followers and mission first.
A “kiss up-kick down” approach to people
is often on display throughout military culture. Toxic leadership is a combination of self-centered attitudes, motivations and behaviors, while lacking true concern for people or the mission. This type of leadership is delusional and ineffective and has harmful effects on people, the organization and mission performance. Toxic leadership at any
level must be eliminated as soon as it is identified to preserve the health of the force. When people feel disrespected by self-serving leaders, they will disengage, look for other opportunities, or give the bare minimum in an effort to self-protect due to lack of trust.
A Servant’s Heart
Servant leadership is the only kind of leadership the Army can afford with the mission and lives of soldiers at stake. In every formation, a sergeant
is often the most influential leader for a group of soldiers. It is important to understand that the word “sergeant” comes from the French word “sergent,” meaning “servant,” which in turn derives from the Latin word “serviens,” which means “servant” or “soldier.” The goal of a servant leader is to serve, nothing more, nothing less.
Humility is one of the most powerful leadership traits, found in servant leaders, who place the mission and those who accomplish it above
self. A servant leader enhances the health and performance of an organization. Soldiers deserve leaders with the heart and strength of a servant.
Our professional obligation to respect everyone applies both in peacetime and in war. The
Geneva Conventions encompass standards for humanitarian treatment in combat and recognize the basic human rights of everyone, including enemy noncombatants, the disarmed, wounded, prisoners of war and civilians. Soldiers are expected
to treat everyone with dignity and respect and are responsible for the safety and welfare of enemy persons captured during combat.
Any act of violence, outrages upon personal dignity, insults, intimidation, or humiliating
or degrading treatment are strictly prohibited. Compliance with these standards may be difficult after experiencing the harsh realities of war, but that never excuses our obligation to do what is right. Even in the worst conditions, the Golden Rule applies, and we must treat our enemies as we want to be treated.
Combat medics accompany the infantry into every combat mission to provide immediate lifesaving treatment and evacuate casualties under fire. A medic’s job is to be there, to put the needs
of others before self, even at the cost of their own life. “Angels of Mercy” are how combat medics have been portrayed on the battlefield because of their lifesaving presence for others in the worst and most vulnerable moments. Medics triage and treat combat casualties, including friendly forces and enemy noncombatants. Combat medics risk their lives to save others and demonstrate dignity and respect for all of humanity in the worst possible conditions.
Mission first, people always. The Army’s mission and the life of every soldier demand the utmost respect. Respect originates from within and must be given freely to others. When respect is present in all our actions, it strengthens the health of teams, the Army and the nation.
Ultimately, sacrifice is at the heart of the profession of arms, and there is no greater form of respect than a soldier willing to lay down their life for the freedom of another.
LTC Amy Thompson is the division surgeon for the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
LTC Cleve Sylvester is a medical operations officer in the Office of the Joint Staff Surgeon, Arlington, Virginia.
MSG John Ahern is a medical operations NCO in the Office of the Joint Staff Surgeon.
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