The Minute Book
Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Discipline; US Army, 1946
Topic: Discipline


Leadership Courtesy and Drill, War Department, Washington, February 1946

a.     Discipline, in a military sense, is the state of order and obedience among military personnel resulting from training.

b.     Military discipline must not be a cowed state of subservience. The sort of obedience to be developed in a subordinate is an intelligent, willing obedience rather than one based solely on habit or fear. Habit plays its part and is one of the chief objectives of drill. Fear of punishment also may be used, but only as a powerful means of reminding the petty offender that such actions are against the interests of the group, or of eliminating entirely the contamination of the few incorrigibles. American qualities of initiative and resourcefulness function best when obedience is inspired by an understanding of the objective and by loyalty to a cause, a leader, or a team. Obedi ence of this sort functions whether the leader is present or not. It pervades the life of the soldier from the courtesies of daily association to the assault on the battlefield. It wins battles.

c.     Mass discipline and morale are essential qualities for securing cohesive action and for insuring that singleness of purpose which alone can triumph over the seemingly impossible conditions of war. The successful leader will teach his men to recognize and face fear, because fear is the enemy of discipline and morale. Fear unchecked will lead to panic, and a unit that panics is no longer a disciplined unit but a mob. There is no sane person who is altogether without fear, but with good discipline and high morale, all will face danger, if not willingly, at least stoically, because of their ingrained sentiments of duty, of courage, and of loyalty, and because of their sense of pride in their country, in their unit, and in themselves; in other words, because of their esprit de corps.

d.     The necessity 'for discipline is never fully comprehended by the soldier until he has undergone the experience of battle, and even then he may lack a basis of comparison—the contrast between the grimly efficient combat action of a disciplined unit and the shameful failure and probable disintegration of one which lacks that intangible quality. However, it is not only during battle itself that discipline and leadership will be necessary for the maintenance of morale. The first test may come during the long and trying periods of training, of marching here and there without evident purpose, but the greatest tests will surely come during the periods of reaction after battle, and of boredom and dull routine when the unit is employed on nonhazardous duty. At such times the stimulation of excitement will be absent and morale will depend largely on leadership. A high standard of discipline must be imposed. The men must be exercised both mentally and physically, and the leader must be energetic in insuring the comfort of his men and in arranging for their welfare.

e.     True discipline should be based on mental, moral, and physical training designed to insure that all respond to the will of the commander, even though he is not present. Drill is the foundation of disciplinary training; it compels the habit of obedience and stimulates the feeling of corporate strength as the unit moves together as one man. The strictest obedience and formality on parade can and should be combined with real friendship and understanding off parade. Nevertheless, the first essential of discipline training is example, and no man who is himself undisciplined can claim the moral right to discipline others. The leader must therefore be faultless in conduct and punctilious in the performance of all duties. Discipline in a leader includes the discipline expected of a soldier, plus the willingness to accept full responsibility for the condition and conduct of his unit.

f.     The object of punishment is reform or the elimination of those unfit to serve 'in the team. When necessary, the leader should punish promptly and justly, after fair warning. The punishment must be governed by the Articles of War and should be fitting to the offense and to the individual, considering his age, length of service, and personal characteristics. In administering punishment, the leader must remain calm, impersonal, and dignified. He must never humiliate a subordinate in the presence of others when it can be avoided. In administering a rebuke, the leader must appeal to the subordinate's pride in himself and point the way to atonement, being sure to indicate that the misconduct reflects unfavorably on the organization.

g.     Discipline is maintained in much the same manner as it is attained. There is not and should not be a sharply defined line of demarcation be tween the two. Common sense, good judgment, fairness and justice, high morale, pride, and responsibility contribute as much to maintaining discipline as to attaining it.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT

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