Joint Chiefs' Chairman Wants Military Ethics Training Revamped

Image: Joint Chiefs' Chairman Wants Military Ethics Training Revamped

Friday, 28 Mar 2014 08:02 AM

By Melanie Batley

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The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the military needs to change the way it teaches character and ethics, saying it needs to be more personal and can't be reliant on slide presentations in a classroom.

"The issue of ethics is personal and to be persuasive, it has to be relational," Gen. Martin Dempsey, the nation's top uniformed officer, told The Wall Street Journal.

The comments came as he visited the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Military Academy this week as part of a series of talks emphasizing the need for the military to focus on ethics.

Dempsey told students he feels that the current approach to talking about sexual harassment, sexual assault, and ethics has been too abstract, and he is considering banning the use of software, such as slide presentations, which he believes aren't a sufficient method to properly teach ethics.

Dempsey also said military leaders have become too reliant on email to communicate, and said it's not possible to change a unit's culture or exercise leadership by sending "really nasty emails."

"Look him in the eye if you have to nail him," he told the Journal.

The general's comments on ethics coincided with an announcement this week that the Air Force would be firing nine mid-level commanders and disciplining dozens of junior officers after the conclusion of an investigation into a cheating scandal on proficiency tests at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, according to the Journal.

Dempsey said the military is considering whether the cheating could have been prompted because the standards for performance on the test were set too high.

"We have had a rich discussion of whether we established a standards so high it made it impossible for a young man or woman to make the right choice," Dempsey told the Journal.

Sgt. Major David Stewart, a senior adviser at the Center for the Army Profession and Ethic at the U.S. Military Academy, said the center has been working to develop more interactive and personal educational ethics programs, the Journal reported.

"We know PowerPoint doesn't work," he said.

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