The average civilian or recruit coming into the Army often misunderstands the meaning of the words military discipline. He thinks of them as being connected with punishments or reprimands which may result from the violation of some military law or regulation. Actually, discipline should not be something new to you for you have been disciplined all of your life. You were being disciplined at home and in school when you were taught obedience to your parents and teachers, and respect for the rights of others. On your baseball or other athletic team you were disciplining yourself when you turned down the chance to be a star performer in order that the team might win; you were acquiring discipline in the shop, or other business when your loyalty to your employer and your fellow employees was greater than your desire to secure your own advancement. All of this was merely the spirit of team play; that is, you were putting the interests of the “team” above your own in order that the “team” might win. The word “company,” or “troop,” or “battery” is merely the name for a team, and military discipline is nothing more than this same spirit of team play. It is the most important thing in the Army. In civil life lack of discipline in a young man may result in his getting into trouble which will cause his parents and teachers regret or sorrow; it may cause a member of an athletic team to be “sent to the bench,” or cause an employee to lose his job. In the Army it is far more serious. Here lack of discipline in a soldier may not only cost him is life and the life of his comrades, but cause a military undertaking to fail and his team to be defeated. On the other hand a team of a few well-disciplined solders is worth many times a much larger number of undisciplined individuals who are nothing more than an armed mob. History repeatedly shows that without discipline, no body of troops can hold its own against a well-disciplined and well-directed enemy. In your work in the Army you may wonder why the officers and noncommissioned officers insist on perfection in what appears to be minor details. Why do rifles have to be carried at just the same angle; why do you have to keep accurately in line; why must your bed be made in a certain way; why must your uniform and equipment be in a prescribed order at all times; why must all officers be saluted with snap and precision? These things are a part of your disciplinary training. Their purpose is to teach you obedience, loyalty, team play, personal pride, pride in your organization, respect for the rights of others, love of the flag, and the will to win. So you see that being disciplined does not mean that you are being punished. It means that you are learning to place the task of your unit – your team – above your personal welfare; that you are learning to obey promptly and cheerfully the orders of your officers and NCOs so that even when they are not present you will carry out their orders to the very best of your ability. When you have learned these things and prompt and cheerful obedience has become second nature to you, then you have acquired military discipline – the kind of discipline which will save lives and win battles.
In addition to rank, courtesies and customs visibly distinguish the military from academic, medical, and other professions. When officers and Soldiers display military customs and courtesies, they demonstrate to themselves and others their commitment to duty, to their country and colleagues, and their tradition of service to others. Military courtesies are extended to a person or thing that is due recognition and honor. The most basic of military courtesies is the salute. A custom is a traditional social convention. Military rank, as a visible mark of responsibility and leadership, is due recognition and respect. The customary way of recognizing an officer of superior rank is by saluting him or her.
First, a Noncommissioned officer is an officer which has not been...
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