What Right Looks Like:
New Year's: Resolving To Be A Professional

Jan. 3, 2012

Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, U.S. Army Europe Commanding General

USAREUR Teammates:

It's been several months since the last "What Right Looks Like," and that's been by design. But several of you have asked me for some new thoughts (and I've included the old WRLL 1-9 as an attachment and reminder), as you've stated you've found them to be helpful in discussions with your leaders.

So, I'll be sending out several in the next several weeks before the USLF, but wanted to start 2012 with a New Year's Resolution: "I will continue to try and polish my professional attributes during the next year, because that's the right thing to do." That's what right looks like.

A few months ago, the Army started a campaign to review "The Profession of Arms." As our CJCS GEN Dempsey has reminded us, you're not a professional just because you say you are.being part of a profession means you commit yourself to a prescribed set of requirements.

Many started talking about this Profession of Arms Campaign before they had defined "profession."

Asking "What are the requirements of a Profession?" I found there were five defined requirements, and they relate to all professions: Soldiering, Medicine, Legal, Ministry, Journalism, etc. In looking at those requirements, I found them quite interesting:

1. All profession have a prescribed set of core competencies; these are skills that the society requires to continue to develop or grow as a culture. As Soldiers, we first learn our Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills in Basic Training, and then add more competencies based on the requirements of a unit or our MOS. Physical, Spiritual, Mental and Emotional Readiness all contribute to our execution of these skills, and that's why resiliency is so important as we grow in the profession and the core competencies get tougher.

2. All professions have a Code of Ethics which members vow adherence to. This ethical code is adopted by the profession to assist professionals in making decisions between 'right' and 'wrong'. For doctors, it's the Hippocratic Oath. For Soldiers, it's our Code of Conduct, and our Soldier's creed. To live up to the code, you must know not only its words but the ideas and principles behind those words. There are several things that make our profession different from all others, but one critical line in found in Article 1 of the Code: I am prepared to give my life in their defense. Others might suggests our oath of enlistment, and our oath of commission, are also important contributors to our Code of Ethics, and I would agree.

3. All professions are guided by Standards of Conduct. We have the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which are often supplemented by Command policies and orders. Another key aspect of being a professional is how members of a profession hold other members accountable for living by the established standards, and there are usually penalties - small and large - for violation.

4. Most true professions require their members to continuously develop both professionally and personally for service within the profession. Professionals don't stagnate, or stand still; they take on all sorts of developmental activities which at the time they may or may not think they need. In the Army, we have the triad of schools, operational experience, and self-study that prepare us for things we may not even know we will face. Looking back over my time in service, I now realize that some of my assignments, schools, and even self-study - which at the time I may not have wanted to take - actually prepared me the best for things I would face in my career. Professionals take on all challenges, and grow with each experience.

5. Finally, all professions have a set of values which the members of the profession are committed - COMMITTED - to. As you all know, the very first WRLL addressed these, and we've been focusing on our Professional Values in various forums for the last several months.

Just like we've opened the door for more emphasis on values over the last few weeks, so do I think we now have the potential for further improvement by discussing the requirements associated with being a member of a profession. And this constant dialogue is what right looks like.

Happy New Year!