Embrace A Larger Ethic

Importance of Ethics Education in Military Training

Sgt. Maj. Florian Emonet

Master Sgt. Lou Spinazze, senior enlisted leader for the Police Advisory Team for Train

Master Sgt. Lou Spinazze, senior enlisted leader for the Police Advisory Team for Train, Advise and Assist Command-South, talks with Afghan senior enlisted leaders, May 25, 2018, during a meeting at the Regional Military Training Center-Kandahar, Afghanistan. TAAC-South is composed of Soldiers from the 40th Infantry Division, California National Guard and the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield/TAAC-South PAO)

Throughout the decades, ethics education has been a growing topic in many armed forces worldwide. Traditionally, armed forces provided ethics education in senior-level academies with a focus on officer and senior noncommissioned officers. But the new approach to modern ethics training is to ensure an ethical leadership and decision-making process at all levels by targeting entry-level military members. Soldiers at every level have to assess options and make decisions quickly (Baker, 2015). To increase military effectiveness, armed forces must implement an education on ethics in the basic training of all officers and enlisted personnel.

The Ethical Capacities of a Private

Military ethics, like medical or media ethics, are a core capacity that every service member should gain, develop, and enhance throughout their career. The primary purpose of ethics education is to provide individuals with the capacity to morally distinguish right from wrong when laws are no longer helpful. It does not intend to transform the junior Soldier into a philosopher, but instead provide rhetorical questioning skills that help them make informed decisions. At the onset, the teaching portion must be tangible. The most effective method to achieve this is to base the instruction on case studies (Micewski, 2016). The student uses the situations discussed as a reference for future difficult decision-making. Those decisions can be complex, either due to the intricacy of the parameters or the possible consequences. Many ethical decisions will have an integrity component included, but this type of multi-faceted approach is essential in a ground-level reformation of educational principles.


Soldiers will deepen their sense of patriotism if they think all actions associated with their nation are just and fair. This sense of duty helps Soldiers overcome their fears when danger is present. Pride in their country helps them choose the mission outcome above the need for their own safety. The importance of a Soldier’s acts and its far reach was best acknowledged by President Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address in 1863:

We can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here. (Lincoln, Bancroft Copy section, para. 4)


An ethical education promotes building strong morals, which prevents internal and external misconduct. Sometimes peer pressure, or the will to show obedience can lead to the acceptance of misbehavior. Many programs are designed to eliminate inappropriate behaviors. In the U.S. Army, programs like Sexual Harassment/Assault Response & Prevention (SHARP) (U.S. Army, n.d.) or Not in my Squad (NIMS) (CAPE, 2017) seek to build the capacity of military personnel to make ethical choices, like the decision to not accept misbehavior, and to report such incidents. A success factor for prevention programs is the capacity of Soldiers to recognize that something is wrong and to act against it. Such action needs strong personal ethics and courage.

Ethics education also helps people to rationalize when the mission imperatives are in contradiction with the personal values of the individual. Knowing that a difficult decision is ethically right helps to cope and support psychological sequelae prevention (Reger & Skopp, 2012). It might also prevent disobedience in other cases. A modern example of correct ethical behavior was depicted in the movie (and book) Lone Survivor, based on the true story of Marcus Luttrell and his 4-man Navy SEAL team, in which the decision of an officer to save the life of an innocent civilian had fatal repercussions on the team and prevented mission success, while still being ethically correct (Berg, 2013).

Did you recently receive an official Article 32 Investigation Hearing summons? Were you charged with a crime and served a notice of general, summary, or special court martial? Our military law firm handles court martial cases, defending service men and women across Texas, California, Arizona, Louisiana, Florida, and the USA. Our military lawyers defend people deployed or stationed overseas globally including middle east locations like Afghanistan and Iraq; locations in Asia like Japan and South Korea; and in Europe.


Your chain of command or others may all be putting pressure on you to accept a plea bargain in a court martial proceeding. It may even make sense for some servicemen and servicewomen who want out and don’t care about the lifelong consequences of a court martial conviction. I urge you to contact a court martial lawyer who can defend you aggressively. I have decades of experience defending clients facing courts martial, in addition to experience as a Court Martial Judge Advocate and member of the US Marine Corps.

Our clients are hard chargers — they are willing to fight for their military careers and their futures in civilian life. If you are facing court martial charges and you know you need an independent advocate with the experience, skill, and dedication to fight by your side, call the office of attorney Patrick J. McLain today at (214) 761-6550 now to schedule an initial consultation.


Military criminal attorney Patrick J. McLain has skillfully handled hundreds of officer misconduct court martials, positive UAs, drug charges, and court martial appeal cases in his career. Our commitment is to fight with honor for your acquittal and to minimize the negative consequences to your future in all types of summary, special and general courts martial defense cases.


In general, just about any violation of UCMJ code, or allegation thereof, is eligible for prosecution via court martial. Some of the charges heard in a court martial that you will need a defense attorney for are below.

  • Fraud and Larceny: fraud and larceny charges in the military include robbery, theft of government property, theft by deceit, conspiracy to defraud the military, etc.
  • Sex Offenses: rape, sexual assault, solicitation, child pornography, etc.
  • Drug Crimes: drug charges defended in court martial include possession, distribution or sale of marijuana, meth, cocaine or other illegal substances as well as refusing or failing mandatory urinalysis (UA) testing
  • Conduct Offenses: insubordination, unauthorized absence (AWOL), fraternization, adultery, etc.
  • War Crimes: violating rules of engagement (ROE), rules of war, Geneva Convention, etc.
  • Assault and Violent Crime: simple assault, assaulting an officer, arson, murder, manslaughter, etc.