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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Pregnant females are overweight soldiers; thus the US Army
Weight Control program is not based on equal enforcement of the
- Pregnancy is self-inflicted, thus abortions should be paid
for by the affected soldier, as a non-line-of-duty medical
- 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
- 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
- West Point is an institution of higher learning, as is any
college, and every school produces two types of leaders: good and
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- No soldier can accomplish his mission if the Army neglects
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Taking the easy way will always get you (or your comrade)
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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!