One of the roles of an Army chaplain is to be a moral, ethical voice to power. A general in the Army is the epitome of power. In the film, “Gettysburg,” the Joshua Chamberlain character says, “Generals can do anything. There is nothing so much like a god on earth than a general on the battlefield.” That’s a bit of an overstatement but the truth of it is that in the Army, the higher in rank you go, the more is entrusted to your care. Your power. As you move upward in rank, you become the face of the Army. Privates are not remembered, history writes about generals. When you are a general, you are given moral, spiritual, physical, and other power over those that are entrusted to your care.
This has always been true of leadership in the Army. In our all-volunteer force, it becomes even more so.
This is why an offence like the General who, after an instigation found:
The inspector general found that Ward had engaged in several “inappropriate” activities, including: 1) submitting expense reports with extravagant and 2) unacceptable charges, 3) inappropriate use of military staff, and 4) misuse of government funds, according to one administration official.
The official described the amount involved as “not an insignificant sum of money.” Meaning “hundreds of thousands of dollars” according to FOX news (see video: Four-star general accused of wasteful spending http://video.foxnews.com/v/1789367963001/four-star-general-accused-of-wasteful-spending/ ).
“Hundreds of thousands of dollars.” This is taxpayer money. As an Army officer, I am entrusted with both the leadership of Soldiers and the stewardship of our national treasure. Money matters. Rules about how that money is spent matters. When leadership does not follow the rules surrounding these things, how can they be a moral authority in regards to enforcing those rules down the chain?
I’m sure this officer is a great man who has done great things for his country and does not deserve to have all that taken away.
My question is: if he is ok with this, what else was he ok with and allowed to take place in his command?
This is a question that every Army leader needs to ask of themselves, what am I allowing in moderation that my Soldiers will take to excess?
When I was a 2LT, Staff Specialist, coming into the Army, a crusty old Command Sergeant Major told me that I needed to always be aware of how I followed the rules because when I didn’t, I was setting a new standard that Soldiers would follow. Whenever I as a leader choose to overlook something, let it go, or otherwise just ignore it, I am saying to my Chaplain’s Assistant and others that are with me that the Army Regulation does not matter – that it does not apply to me (and them).
When we are entrusted with rank, we are given the responsibility be the moral and ethical standard bearer. We are never above the rules. Never.