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Rules for Soldierly Conduct

adapted from Mark A. Smith Sr., MAJ AUS(ret)

Rules for Soldierly Conduct

  • Never accept an officer as competent based on his source of commission.

  • Your right to influence the battlefield is diminished in ratio to the distance you are from the actual arena of action.

  • The battlefield selects its own generals; no school or board can replace it.

  • Never call fire on your own troops, unless you stand among them.

  • Leaders are indeed born, and no military school can provide what God did not.

  • Equipment procurement will always be compromised by being made by the lowest bidder, but also by attempting to make it multi-functional.

  • Attempting to lighten the soldier's load by diminishing the weight of any given weapon, will always result in shorter range, less durability, and reduced firepower.

  • Excellent staff officers rarely make good battlefield commanders.

  • Outstanding commanders will surround themselves with excellent staff officers.

  • Never make command a reward for good staff work.

  • Discipline began its decline with the demise of the swagger stick and instigation of centralized promotion boards.

  • Outstanding NCOs may make good officers, but rarely will a riffed officer make a good NCO.

  • Atheists will never be trusted by their troops on the battlefield.

  • Soldiers tell the truth about both good and bad commanders; their opinion is the ultimate evaluation of an officer.

  • No commander was ever hated for being too tough, but many have been detested for trying to cultivate that image, without substance, being only petty.

  • The maximum effective range of any weapon is that range at which the individual soldier can reliably hit his target, and not an inch farther.

  • The "Hummer" is a vehicle, and is the only thing of that name allowed in the infantry.

  • Women can do many things men do, except for a few days every month ... so to spare them, never let the enemy launch his attack on the wrong day.

  • If short hair is truly a matter of hygiene and discipline, then all soldiers must have it, regardless of gender.

  • Going through "the change" has nothing to do with altering the female's uniform for seniority.

  • Sexual harassment is a two-lane road ... seduction is easier than proficiency.

  • Pregnant females are overweight soldiers; thus the US Army Weight Control program is not based on equal enforcement of the rules.

  • Pregnancy is self-inflicted, thus abortions should be paid for by the affected soldier, as a non-line-of-duty medical procedure.

  • Pretty females rarely feel harassed by male counterparts.

  • Plain-looking female soldiers usually fit in well and are often the best performers.

  • Tears on the cheeks of any soldier, regardless of gender, are only acceptable when 'Old Glory' passes by, and on the death of a comrade or relative.

  • Endurance should be judged on the bayonet assault course and not on a marathon run.

  • How far soldiers can run in athletic shoes and shorts is unimportant compared to how far they can speed march with full equipment.

  • Soldiers are not 'sent' into combat by their commanders, they are led.

  • Your worth as an officer should never be judged on how well you ran with a football in college ... 'football' is not an Army MOS.

  • West Point is an institution of higher learning, as is any college, and every school produces two types of leaders: good and bad.

  • The computer will never be able to judge the content of a soldier's spirit as well as his sergeant can.

  • Esprit de corps cannot be attained at the battalion picnic or brigade sports day; it must be instilled by good leadership and good comradeship sharing a worthy mission.

  • No new weapon or tactic will ever instill the same fear in the enemy that's generated by a single-minded infantryman charging with a fixed bayonet.

  • He who drinks at lunch is a slower and clumsier soldier in the afternoon.

  • No soldier is so smart that his physical deficiencies can be overlooked in the infantry.

  • Painting rocks and serving drinks to officer's ladies have never been soldierly functions ... and golf is not a beneficial skill in the arsenal of mil-craft.

  • The consolidation of all administrative personnel at battalion level has eroded accountability and proper reporting.

  • Anyone who thinks that future battlefields will not contain infantrymen knows nothing about war.

  • Indecision kills more soldiers than a wrong decision ... a commander can lead his way out of a wrong decision.

  • The only mission of the infantry soldier is to kill the enemy; "humanitarian missions" are someone else's job.

  • Only the infantry and armor can gain ground; only the infantry can hold it alone.

  • Rangers are light infantry and are not Special Forces.

  • Special Forces are not Rangers or Light Infantry and should never be employed as such; their skills are unique, but most commanders don't know how to utilize them.

  • If Special Forces are not assigned strategic missions, then they are being misused.

  • No American Soldier can be 'managed' to victory; he must be led.

  • Victory is not a limited objective; there is no other reason to engage an enemy, except the triumph of victory.

  • Never "announce" your night attack by showering or shaving and using deodorant or cologne for at least two days prior.

  • Sweat is the true lubricant of the infantry fighting machine.

  • There are no black or white soldiers, brown or pink troops, yellow or purple servicemembers ... the only color in the U.S. Army is green.

  • The use of chemical or biological weapons is a crime against humanity, as well as a violation of the laws of war, but we would be foolish to be caught unprepared.

  • Not training your soldiers to protect themselves against CBR weapons is a crime against your own troops.

  • Any tactic written in a book is also known to your enemies.

  • No member of a soldier's family is more important than the mission.

  • No soldier can accomplish his mission if the Army neglects his family.

  • Any soldier who sleeps with another soldier's wife or lover cannot be trusted on the battlefield, and should be shunned.

  • Officers are more likely to wear unauthorized awards and decorations than an NCO or enlisted member.

  • Any officer who claims to be accepting an individual award for the accomplishment of the entire unit should ensure that every one of his soldiers wears it as well.

  • There can be no quota for awards.

  • Any award for Valor is of more value to the Army than any school diploma or skill certification.

  • Heroism cannot be taught, but cowardice is a communicable disease.

  • The machine gun is too important a weapon to be used as a tool for punishing poor soldiers.

  • Precision weapons will jam if the commander requires communal cleaning.

  • No officer should be given a command just because he needs credit for one while developing his career.

  • No officer should ever be denied a command just because he already had one.

  • The state of the Army can be evaluated by how its soldiers look in uniform when transiting any airport in the world.

  • No reporter can ever be trusted with operational plans; any reporter who discloses operational plans is a traitor to his country, and should be executed.

  • A combat veteran of any war should be respected by soldiers.

  • Any soldier can lose a battle, and any leader can be bested in battle; but no soldier loses a war ... wars are lost by the leaders.

  • Any military leader who will not fight his civilian leadership as long and hard as he would fight the enemy is personally responsible for every soldier's death.

  • What a soldier sees with his own eyes can be ignored or changed by higher headquarters, but not without consequences.

  • Commanders who lie to themselves are fools; commanders who lie to their troops are defeated.

  • If you wish to learn about guerrilla warfare, study Francis Marion and Kit Carson, John S. Mosby and John Hunt Morgan ... not Cromwell or Wellington, Westmoreland or Giap.

  • The one night you don't dig in, mortars will fall on your position.

  • Taking the easy way will always get you (or your comrade) killed.

  • Blank ammunition has no place in infantry training ... it's just an adult version of cap guns.

  • The more that infantrymen are restricted from live ammunition, the more accidents will occur.

  • Just as 'military intelligence' is the classic oxymoron, and an Intelligence Officer is usually a contradiction in terms; but information has won more battles than heroism.

  • An infantryman's natural habitat is mud and dirt, rock and foliage, rain and snow, fog and ice, urban concrete and starlit darkness.

  • Inclement weather is the true infantryman's ally.

  • There's no special duty so important that it will take the infantryman away from his squad.

  • Commanders who use the Off Limits prohibition on their troops will have a morale problem that exhibits itself in a high VD rate and more frequent arrests for drunkenness.

  • A commander's morals are his own and cannot be imposed on his soldiers; a soldier's morals are his own and can only be improved by a good role model.

  • A chaplain must make himself available when the soldier has time, not when the "sky pilot" has time in his schedule.

  • An officer must be judged on his ability ... not on how many coffees his wife has attended, or how many parties they've thrown.

  • Whether a soldier attends church or the library, plays bridge or tennis, goes fishing or hunting, sponsors a youth group or an amateur theater group, cooks badly or dances well has nothing to do with his military job specialty.

  • Officers who indulge in discussions about a brother officer, especially one not present, are not honorable men ... and those who permit such gossip are morally bankrupt.

  • Any commander who blames his predecessor will never be trusted or respected.

  • Equal opportunity is guaranteed by the law and does not require a separate staff.

  • If the sergeant major suggests a unit memento, then he's probably the supplier, or he's related to or friends with the supplier; but because officers are personally liable for the 'slush fund', they are never culpable.

  • With the establishment of the consolidated mess, the quality of the food served to the troops has gone down ... standardization always devolves to the lowest common denominator.

  • No NCO or warrant officer outranks a brand new second lieutenant, but any officer who does not listen to the experience of NCOs and warrant officers is a fool.

  • If you want your subordinates to call you by your first name, go sell shoes or insurance ... there's no place for you in the Army.

  • An officer's subordinates are not his friends ... they call him 'sir' because he is willing to die for them, and will personally lead them when going into harm's way.

  • Any Army man who sneers at a Marine for being sharp and well turned out is no true soldier.

  • Any infantryman who must call higher headquarters for permission before engaging the enemy has a fool for a commander.

  • Soldiers respect leaders who are worth emulating ... they cannot be "ordered" to respect anyone.

  • No one who has refused to serve his country, especially during wartime, should ever be elected or appointed over men and women who are being sent to fight.

  • The soldier must obey the orders of all those elected or appointed over him ... he doesn't have to like them, or like what he's directed to do; he just has to do it.

  • The "leadership genes" in famous American military families usually become weaker as the generations roll by ... the onus of inheritance usually quashes them.

  • A soldier should not be denied the privilege of wearing his uniform anywhere in America, including the White House.

  • The only truly unique headgear is the one the Army was forced to authorize ... all others are pale imitations or cheap copies.

  • There is only one reason to join the Army and that is to serve the Country.

  • If a soldier says that he hates combat, then he's in the wrong profession.

  • Just as admin and intel and logistics are supporting branches, so the Air Force and the Navy are supporting arms ... above all, if you are not infantry, you are support!