“You have got to have faith in the system, Joey,” was something told to me a few occasions as a  young NCO/SNCO. The little blue book (core values book) that used to circulate along with the little brown book had mentioned this phrase under the section for Service Before Self. To be honest, I always felt this was a cop-out statement and never did anything for me except question my faith in the system.

To have faith in someone or in something, there has to be some sort of foundation. For example with religion, I had a moment of clarity and realized there was something bigger than myself and decided to place my faith in God. The moment of clarity was my leaping point. With people, it is the same thing. We have faith in those who we trust based on previous experience or at least in those who have not scarred us in the past.

In the military, we do need to trust the chain-of-command on many things. If we questioned every decision or looked for background on every policy, we would never move forward. However, it is the chain-of-command’s responsibility to clearly communicate their direction the best they can. From my experience, they don’t do this very well. The commander makes her decision based on the many conversations and advice provided with her staff of officers and SNCOs. Each of them clearly and intimately knows the details of the decision. Then for whatever reason the background info stays with them and only the decision or new policy is passed on to the masses.

“WTF?”, “Why are we doing that?”, “This makes no sense!” These are all things that were said to me as a new SNCO. After I did some digging, I would learn the background and then pass on the WHY of the decision. Even if it was still an unpopular policy, the team always appreciated being told why we were doing this. No one ever heard, “just have faith in the system,” and thought, ‘well, that was all I needed to hear before going on 12’s and rearranging my family life.’ Especially, when the same people who offer this advice would never accept it for themselves in their position.

Ironically, this statement falls under the Service Before Self section as I feel it is one of the most misunderstood core values. We look at this core value as a ‘get out of jail free’ ticket for supervisors. “We need you to work this weekend…remember Service Before Self.” In reality, service is a vital pillar in the defense of our nation. Our entire military does not exist if we are not willing to serve. We serve something larger than ourselves or any one person; we serve a legacy, we serve to honor those who came before us, we serve to protect the future of those who will come after us.

This is why we joined the military and continue to serve. Service requires a sense of purpose and show of faith. This does not come from the bottom of the organization up the chain; it comes from the top down. Real leaders serve their people and most of the leaders I have worked with and for do the hard stuff extremely well. They stay late, take work home and even sacrifice their own desires to advance their teams. However, they often forget or forego a critical step to keep this faith alive: communicating purpose.

They put all their efforts into solving a problem for the masses but fail to share important info with the team. It is the equivalent of running a marathon and then stopping right before the finish line and saying to the officials to have faith you could have crossed it. Those who will be impacted by policy should be respected enough to get the background and take a blind leap of faith.

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