My military career began in the summer of 1990 when I reported for duty at West Point to begin "Beast Barracks" -- six weeks of hard-core military indoctrination that begin the long, arduous process of molding high schoolers into leaders of character to serve the nation. As part of that process, new cadets -- or plebes, as they are known -- must commit to memory a book full of what our upper class instructors called "knowledge," but that seemed more like trivia -- from facts about military customs and courtesies, to the number of gallons of water in the post reservoir, to quotes from famous and not-so-famous generals. At the time it seemed like just another excuse for our cadre to harass us; only in hindsight did the purpose become clear.
One item of plebe knowledge that has stuck with me was an excerpt from the standing orders given by Army General William Worth to the battalion he commanded in the War of 1812. Worth states, in part, "An officer on duty knows no one -- to be partial is to dishonor both himself and the object of his ill-advised favor." At a time when cronyism and corruption were rife in America's Army, Worth argued for impartiality as the hallmark of effective leadership -- a principle that served me well during my own time commanding troops.
To read the full story click here.