NCO Forum focuses on character, ethics in Profession of Arms

Story and photo by Kathy Eastwood Staff Writer

July 28th, 2017 | News, News and Features
Sgt. Maj. Boris Bolanos, on loan from U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) and the Center for the Army of Profession and Ethics (CAPE), speaks to the USMA NCO's on character and ethics and why it matters and building a better NCO Corps through character development.

Sgt. Maj, Boris Bolanos, from the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) and the Center for the Army Profession and Ethics (CAPE) facilitated an Non-commissioned Officer Forum July 13 on two important attributes vital to the Profession of Arms—character and ethics.

“Honor profession, Army ethic and character development are the three proponents of CAPE,” Bolanos said. “We own those responsibilities when it comes to NCOs, officers and civilian professional development. Army ethic and character development was initiated to increase the ability of NCOs and civilians to represent the Army.”

The CAPE initiative is leading a character development project team to build the character of Soldiers and Army civilians to meet the evolving challenges of modern warfare. In a video shown during the forum, the Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Mark A. Milley, remarked on the importance of character and trust in the military.

“We are the people’s Army, and we always have been, Milley said. “We come from the people and we serve the people. We have to maintain the trust of the American People. Right now we have it, but trust is a fragile thing, and anyone who breaks trust is chipping away at that trust. It is a powerful bond but a fragile bond as well.”

Bolanos explained that most of the junior NCOs he has engaged with claimed they do not receive professional development in their unit and that is common across the board.

“This is a great way to start reversing that trend,” Bolanos said.

Bolanos began with the fundamental question to the audience; how do they, as individuals, define character and why it is important? Several NCOs voiced their definition and their opinion on the subject of character.

“I always link character with the question: does your demonstrated behavior fall in line with your values and ethics? There’s a link between what your values are and your character,” one NCO said.

“I look at character as what you do when no one is looking,” another said. “This is part of us and part of our integrity.”

Bolanos went on to explain the two different aspects of character, intrinsic and operational.

“Intrinsically, character is one’s true nature including identity, sense of purpose, values, virtues, morals and conscience,” Bolanos explained. “Operationally, the Army doctrine defines character as dedication and adherence to the Army Ethic, including Army values as consistently and faithfully demonstrated in decisions and actions. Every day, whether we are in the field, at the garrison or deployed, we make decisions that impact our profession.”

As part of the leadership development program, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey requested that the NCOs provide feedback of what is going on in their unit.

“This is not a witch hunt on you or your leadership, this is reality,” Bolanos said. “We need to look at ourselves with a different set of lenses. Sometimes we put our blinders on and we don’t see what others see.”

Bolanos explained that the NCO may come across a toxic leadership environment when leadership doesn’t care, or a Soldier who isn’t doing what he should, but it is up to the NCO to come up with an applied action to correct it. Who is accountable to these actions?

“For all of us, our Soldiers are always taking account of our actions,” USMA Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Guden said. “They may not say anything, but they are always taking account of our character. They will use this if they see someone demonstrate bad character if they need to.”

Bolanos stated that the shared identity of the Army is character (honorable service), competence (Army expert), commitment, (steward) with all aspects leading to trust, which is essential for mission command, for Army Soldiers and the development of the Profession of Arms.

“We are undergoing the development of professionals for the Army of 2020 by professionalizing the corps and building a better Soldier,” Bolanos said. “We just want to improve the Army and build better NCOs for the future.”