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“Ethics according to Plato are focused on wisdom, temperance, courage, and justice” (Frede, 2017, p1). The military uses the “Warrior Ethos” and “Code of Conduct” to emphasize professional ethics. The Warrior Ethos, which is taught in
initial military training, states: “I will always place the mission first, I will never accept defeat, I will never quit, I will never leave a fallen comrade.” The Code of Conduct lists expected behavior of service members during a time of war or conflict. Used as a foundation stone, both of these guidelines govern service member conduct. Hittinger emphasizes the importance of similar ethics discussed by Plato, “Military ethics needs to keep close contact with military history and law. This in turn also reminds us that chief task in teaching military ethics is formation of the spirited part of the soul; reason has its part to play, but so does the imagination. The forming of conviction is a central goal for the development of courage” (Hittinger, 2010, p.2). There are similarities to the ethics desired by Plato and those instituted in today’s military. Instructors often use stories or “tales” of heroes from past military operations to illustrate the desired conduct of service members. “You know that the beginning is the most important part of any work, especially in the case of a young and tender thing; for that
is the time at which the character is being formed and the desired impression is more readily taken” (Plato, & Bloom, A.,1968, p.54)
There are many similarities between what Plato feels are important areas for guardian training and what is currently implemented in initial military training today. While Plato’s philosophy for training guardians is still represented in today’s military, there are differences. Plato’s view of guardianship primarily focused on the protection of society’s people and its borders from invaders. The role
of the military today focuses on strengthening partnerships around the globe and ensuring that national interests remain secure. The current framework for today’s initial military training will require adjustments; as new threats are identified
in the future, new skills are needed by service members. Continuing to provide initial training for service members that instills strong character traits, ethics, and virtues will ensure our military remains professional. While warfare constantly evolves,
it is fascinating to see how the foundation of a
good guardian/Soldier has remained very similar over the past 2,400 years. “For every man who has learned to fight in arms will desire to learn the proper arrangement of an army, which is the sequel of the lesson” (Plato, 1871, p.74).
CPT Robert Best is a company commander in 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment, 193rd Infantry Brigade.
    Crane, C. C., Lynch, M. E., Sheets, J., & Reilly, S. P. (2019). Learning the Lessons of Lethality: The Army’s Cycle of Basic Combat Training, 1918-2019. U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center. Retrieved from https://publications.armywarcollege .edu/pub//3683.pdf
Frede, Dorothea, “Plato’s Ethics: An Overview”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), https://plato.
Gregg, G. L. (McConnell Center). (2018, December). Vital Remnants: Target 2 | The Education & Proper Political Culture for Leadership Part I [Audio Podcast] Retrieved from us/podcast/thinking-with-plato-greggs-guide-totherepublic/id1442182722?mt =2#episodeGuid =tag:soundcloud,2010:tracks/ 545155548
Hittinger, J. P. (2010). THE SOLDIER AND THE CITIZEN: LESSONS FROM PLATO AND ARISTOTLE. International Society for Military Ethics, 95. Retrieved from
Plato, & Bloom, A. (1968). The Republic. New York: Basic Books.
Plato (1871). The Dialogues of Plato. Volume 1. New York. Charles Scriber and Company. C053842360.pdf
TRADOC Regulation 350-6: Enlisted Initial Entry Training Policies and Administration. Department of the Army: Training and Doctrine Command. Retrieved from
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