The Military Code of Conduct: Sworn to Obey

codeFrom 1971 to 1975, I served in the Air Force and was sworn to obey The Code of Conduct:

ARTICLE I: I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.

ARTICLE II: I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.

ARTICLE III: If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and to aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.

ARTICLE IV: If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information nor take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them in every way.

ARTICLE V: When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country or its allies or harmful to their cause.

ARTICLE VI: I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.

Over the years of military history, The Code of Conduct has proven its worth:

  • When Air Force Capt. Scott O’Grady’s F-16 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile over Bosnia in 1995, he said the Code of Conduct gave him the will to persevere and to evade capture for six days: “I knew it was my duty to survive.” Even though he had been shot down and was alone behind enemy lines, O’Grady said: “I was still part of a team working to get me out, and I had to do my part.”

In a speech following O’Grady’s rescue, Defense Secretary William Perry said the pilot actions had embodied the spirit of the code: “They shot his plane down, but not his spirit.”

  • During Operation Desert Storm, Lt. Cmdr. Larry Slade, was in the backseat of an F-14 Tomcat performing the duties of a Radar Intercept Officer when it was hit be a surface to air missile. Slade ejected, but he was captured by the enemy.  Slade said it takes “takes perseverance, motivation, bravery and courage” to follow the code, and he believes the code helped him survive his 43 days as a POW.

There’s a Code of Conduct in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, and there is value in living a life that exemplifies each of them.  In the Old Testament it’s called The Ten Commandments, and in the New Testament it’s found in The Beatitudes.

While it would be wise for you to known each of these codes, I think you would also benefit from being familiar with the two verses that encapsulate each of them:

  • Micah 6:8: What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
  • Ephesians 4:1-3: I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

When you adhere to these codes, you can find the inspiration that will stiffen your backbone and give you the courage to live a life that glorifies God.

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