Civil-Military Relations and the Profession of Arms

I talk about the importance of “trust” at every opportunity.  Trust is the cornerstone of our profession.  It binds us with those we serve-the American people and the elected officials who represent them.  This trust relationship cannot be taken for granted.  We must continually earn and re-earn it every day.

One way we earn this trust is by avoiding partisan activities.  I wrote about this in a recent Joint Force Quarterly article.  We must understand why our military as a profession embraces political neutrality as a core value.  We show fidelity to the Constitution every day by embracing this foundational principle.  We are not elected to serve; rather, we elect to serve.

Of course, we are all entitled to our private and personal opinions.   And, I know we all take our obligations as citizens seriously.  No uniformed member should ever feel constrained in their well-earned right to vote.

The uniform, however, brings its own obligations.   All those who actively wear the uniform should be familiar with the regulations that guide political activity.  The lines between the professional, personal—and virtual—are blurring.  Now more than ever, we have to be exceptionally thoughtful about what we say and how we say it.

In my judgment, we must continue to be thoughtful about how our actions and opinions reflect on the profession beyond active service.   Former and retired service members, especially Generals and Admirals, are connected to military service for life.  When the title or uniform is used for partisan purposes, it can erode the trust relationship.  We must all be conscious of this, or we risk adversely affecting the very profession to which we dedicated most of our adult lives.

I welcome your thoughts on this topic.  To gain additional perspective, I commend to you a speech given in May 2006 by Gen. Charles G. Boyd, USAF (ret.) at Air University.

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5 Responses to Civil-Military Relations and the Profession of Arms

  1. A highly decorated Army lieutenant colonel says he was essentially blacklisted by his superiors after more than 50 Muslim groups complained about a course he taught on radical Islam. Now he is fighting to get his career back.
    As previously reported by TheBlaze, Lt. Col. Matthew Dooley, a West Point graduate and decorated combat veteran, was an instructor at the Joint Forces Staff College at the National Defense University, where he was reportedly popular among students and fellow staff members, reports.
    How do you reconcile this behavior towards a highly dedicated,officer standing for the US Constitution while censoring him? Begs the question, why would you censor such a message that is pro American, pro Constitution? Presumably, all of our military personnel share the same objective to protect our US Constitution as it’s sole objective. If your office believed this to be true, then why the need to censor? Alternatively, if we have military personnel that do not share this primary, common objective, how did they get in? At what point does your trust diminish among American citizens if you censor the very message you are placed to protect? At what point do you begin to question domestic government about diluting and undermining the constitution with executive orders, AG gun deals to Mexico, Federal agencies arbitrarily enacting regulations that undermine the constitution and dilute personal freedoms? At what point do you pay attention to domestic government as the possible threat to our freedom and US Constitution?
    Lastly, will you personally guarantee that each and every military member receives their ballot to vote timely?

  2. I sent this to the General and thought I would share.


    Dear General Dempsey,
    To address the consternation of those who lost loved ones in the Fort Hood shooting and all of those killed in terrorists attacks where the Purple Heart Medal can’t be presented, I tried to cover that base back in 1996-2000 only to be ignored by the DOD.
    I designed a medal I called the, “Peace Heart Medal” for all people wounded or killed in a non-combat situation where a Purple Heart could not be given. According to the criteria at the time, the Purple Heart was supposed to be used in combat situations only. Then I learned by order of President Regan it included terrorists attacked and foreign nationals working abroad.
    Being a Purple Heart holder wounded five times in combat, I didn’t feel that it was appropriate for anyone in a non- combat situation to be handed a medal that we in combat were wounded or died for. It was my opinion that it diminished the medal by using it as an all-purpose medal to cover every thing, ergo my idea.
    I spent four years trying to get the medal implemented. With the help of then Congressman Floyd Spence of South Carolina who has since passed, he submitted the idea in two bills. The first was shot down without any consideration.
    I had the support of just about every military organization in the country. The VFW, DAV, Marine Corps League and Military Order of the Purple Heart to name a few as well as numerous senators and congressman who unanimously passed the idea in the second bill to be passed on to then President Clinton who signed it and sent it to the DOD for a so called, “study.”
    I designed the medal like the Purple Heart. It had a white stone vs. the purple and had a dove carrying an olive branch in place of the bust of George Washington. The ribbon was white with a thin red and blue line to represent the United States flag.
    The whole idea was to keep the Purple Heart sacred and use the Peace Heart to cover any injuries or deaths that occurred while serving our country. It the person that died fell off a ship on the way to a combat zone, which happened, then the family would have something to honor them. At the time there were numerous accidental deaths and no medal to honor the sacrifices made.
    After four long years of collecting support and fighting the system to get the medal implemented the DOD shot it down stating that they had enough medals to cover every situation. Of course this was a lie. I designed one because they didn’t have one. Now the government in their infinite wisdom has changed the names defining a terrorist attack to deny the families and injured the honors they deserve. It’s insulting to know that our fighting men and woman could have had a medal to honor their sacrifices and don’t because of bureaucrats who could care less.

    Former Cpl. USMC 66-69
    100% total permanently disabled
    Marine Vietnam veteran
    Gregory J. Topliff
    395 Glenwood Dr.
    Warrenville, SC 29851

  3. damadtech says:

    When I was active duty, had I made certain statements questioning loyalty, heritage, etc. against my commander or anyone above me in the chain of command, much less the Commander In Chief, I’d have been strung up in a flash. However, daily I see active duty personnel in uniform on social websites, blog pages, etc aligning themselves with groups that malign the POTUS and call for armed rebellion, make disparaging remarks about his race, etc. and yet it seems to go totally unnoticed by the Armed Services at all levels. You address this trust that must be earned and re-earned but how is that possible when military members act in such a manner? It really galls me to see the retired generals and commanders blatantly calling the POTUS into question over decisions above their pay grade and using their previous senior rank in the military to justify their political position and supposed qualifications for disputing his decisions. Most should qualify as insubordination at the very least. There are numerous articles in the UCMJ that cover these incredulous actions, yet I never see mention of anyone being brought up on charges anywhere I search. If nothing else, Article 134 pretty much covers this rather well…… Lest we forget:


    Though not specifically mentioned in this chapter, all disorders and neglects to the
    prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty, shall be taken cognizance of by a general, special or summary court-martial, according to the nature and degree of the offense, and shall be punished at the discretion of that court.

    I think it’s about time someone calls an end to this unacceptable behavior by military personnel. If they can’t or refuse to follow military protocol and standards of conduct, they should be discharged through whatever means are necessary. When members sign the dotted line, they make a conscious decision to abide by military rules and laws…… let’s hold their feet to the fire!

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