Ethics As An Important Topic For Military Instructors

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All branches of the United States Military live by and breathe ethics. According to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary ethics is defined as the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation. Although they strive to be the best they possibly can be, nobody’s perfect. In addition to nobody being perfect, we also have to be able to identify what would be considered a mistake and differentiate it from blatant disregard of the uniform code of military justice (UCMJ). A few simple mistakes so as we are not to get distracted from the main issue are as follows, lack of customs and courtesies, improper wearing of military uniform and showing up late to a scheduled formation. All the previous being issues in the United States military are offenses and could get you punished; however, these would most likely just get you a stern chewing of the ear. The main issues that will be discussed in the following paragraphs are far superior regarding disciplinary repercussions if found to be guilty. These issues are going to be directed towards instructors in the United States military. The following issues all can and have affected instructors in the past. Copyright infringement, cheating, plagiarism and improper instructor to student relationships are all matters that have tarnished the beloved institution. These issues are all avoidable yet without failure they continue to squeeze their way into our military members’ lives. The issues have been addressed, let’s start with how copyright infringement has affected instructors.

According to copyright.gov “copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.”(www.copyright.gov). In most instances this can be avoided by creating a reference to that authors work. This reference will not only give the original author the credit that is deserved for their work but will also protect the user of the content. This is something that is always affecting the military instructors because what most people don’t see of the military is that it’s personnel are lazy. If at any time one of its members gets an opportunity to cut corners they will do it. To copy and paste another person work and call it your own goes against everything that the military has taught its personnel. Not only is it a poor practice of good ethics but it is also punishable by the UCMJ. If a student is found guilty of copyright infringement the instructor can charge them with article 134. Being charged under the UCMJ is can result in loss of pay, confinement, and loss of rank. This is something that is not taken lightly and could leave the military member with an administrative discharge if the offense is repeated. The next issue which happens to be closely related to copyright infringement is plagiarism.

Plagiarism is defined as the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own. This issue will be covered in lesser detail due to the fact that it is so similar to copyright infringement. The biggest difference is that an individual can be pursued for plagiarism much easier than copyright infringement because you could ignorantly write a paper and reference an individual and forget to give them credit. To take away the vagueness and be able to expound on plagiarism I conducted an interview with Staff Sergeant Gengler. Staff Sergeant Gengler was accused of plagiarism after being declared the winner of the Curriculum Developer of the year award. He explained that the person that accused him of doing so was an individual that was also competing for the prestigious award. He explained that when he was accused the command he was in stripped him of his victory and opened an investigation to review his material. When it was found that all of the material that he had taken from technical manuals was properly referenced, he was given back the victory and was declared the winner of the award. He also explained the emotional distress this caused him. He knew he wasn’t wrong in this situation but it directly affected his life, he stated that he lost sleep over the situation and was constantly stressed until a decision was made on his case. A classic case of poor sportsmanship. Now that it has been explained how plagiarism and copyright infringement can affect instructors, lets move on to how cheating can affect instructors.

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Cheating is defined as one’s ability to act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage, especially in a game or examination. This issue is by far the simpler of the four issues not only to explain but to understand. Cheating for instructors in the military is such an issue because they expect that their material and how they teach it is going to produce a certain product when the school is completed. That product of course being the basically trained individual that graduated the school which possesses the skill set or for a lack of better words knowledge that was taught during the class. Cheating is typically handled directly by the instructors however, depending on the severity of the case or the course of instruction it might leave the instructors hands and result in the student or students being dropped from the course. Some might ask why this is such a serious issue “we’ve all cheated on a test before”. Well to clear up the confusion on this matter, we need to remember that this is the United States military we are talking about. The world’s greatest fighting force. Now if there is a student cheating their way through a course because they are too lazy to study the material this could result in the death of themselves or the death of others if they are ever inserted into a combat situation. Whereas cheating on a test in middle school or high school could would never result in the same situation. Students are typically scared into having integrity by reading the academic standard operating procedures (SOP’s) which in most cases will state that they will be punished or dropped from the course if they are caught cheating. This will obviously have an effect on the instructors because they are expected to uphold the standards set forth and train their students to the best of their abilities. Now that it’s been explained how cheating can directly affect military instructors lets discuss the last issue of improper instructor to student relationships.

Improper student to instructor relationships are most commonly associated with article 134 under the UCMJ. Article 134 states that an individual can and will be punished due to fraternization. One might ask how that word came into play and it is because most academic SOP’s state that no instructor will maintain a relationship with any personnel in a student status unless it is directly associated with the schoolhouse. In simpler terms, unless you are teaching you are not permitted to be friendly or spend time with an individual in a student status. Without going into great detail to save the reader from feeling uncomfortable while reading this example I will be discussing a huge case that was covered by CNN. This case involved 31 victims in an Air Force sex scandal at basic training. The scandal came to light when a female trainee came forward and accused her male instructor of assaulting her in 2011. Staff Sergeant Luis Walker faced 28 charges including rape, adultery and aggravated sexual assault due to her bravery to step up and speak on the matter. Typically an individual will join the military right out of high school. As senior military members, we are supposed to mentor these new young members. It’s hard to understand why people do what they sometimes do but I feel like out of all the other issues in the military this one is the most important issue that needs to be stopped dead in its tracks. The youth of our nation are entering these different branches of the military with trust in their hearts thinking that we are going to take care of them. How is it that time and time again we have cases like this and it seems like there is no resolution to follow? This all stems from poor leadership and lack of supervision. We always seem to allow little things to slip through the cracks to where these sick individuals think they can get away with anything. Student to instructor relationships should be nothing more than a professional interaction with someone who is going to teach you to the best of their ability and leave a long lasting positive impression on their junior members.

To conclude we’ll end by answering a very important question. Why is ethics an important topic for military instructors? It’s because even though all of these policies are emplaced we have a consistent and constant breach on the military code of ethics. You as instructor have a decision. Either seize the day and try your best to make all of the right decisions for not only yourself but for your students, or you could blatantly disregard everything you were taught from day one when you entered the armed services and become a statistic. Every decision you make is going to impact another human beings life. You need to always be climbing to the top of the mountain and remember to always have one hand stretched out for that junior individual ready to help them when they need you the most. There are so many terrible people in this world and as a military organization I believe we need to do a better job about keeping the good guys in and making sure the bad guys never get in to begin with. I feel like once that is truly accomplished and everyone is abiding by the military code of ethics, then and only then can we really be considered the world’s greatest fighting force.

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