Saturday, May 27, 2017

Warriors And Soldiers

The other day, whilst casting about for something to post about, I started off by considering the whole "officer" thing. If someone in the military says that they were an officer, you would probably figure that person were one of these -

You wouldn't be wrong for thinking that. But the military has two more types of officers: warrant officers (which the USAF doesn't have, but the other three services do) and non-commissioned officers. For that latter category think sergeants and petty officers. I was, of course you know, a sergeant. Technically I retired as a Senior Non-Commissioned Officer or SNCO.

Anyhoo, I started poking around and recalled at some point in my service that we had been required to know the Code of Conduct, which applied to all American troops. It was issued by President Eisenhower in 1955 as Executive Order 10631, it has six articles and reads -
Article I:  I am an American, fighting in the armed 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 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 the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up 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 and its allies or harmful to their cause.

Article VI:  I will never forget that I am an American, 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.
I still adhere to that code. Now the Air Force used to have a bunch of creeds, which I never really paid much attention to, the Code of Conduct above seemed enough for me, but those multiple Air Force creeds were all replaced in 2007 by something called The Airman's Creed. (All members of the Air Force are airmen by definition. Not to be confused with the actual rank of Airman. And the Code of Conduct still applies.)
The Airman's Creed 
I am an American Airman.
I am a Warrior.
I have answered my Nation’s call.
I am an American Airman.
My mission is to Fly, Fight, and Win.
I am faithful to a Proud Heritage,
A Tradition of Honor,
And a Legacy of Valor.
I am an American Airman.
Guardian of Freedom and Justice,
My Nation’s Sword and Shield,
Its Sentry and Avenger.
I defend my Country with my Life.
I am an American Airman.
Wingman, Leader, Warrior.
I will never leave an Airman behind,
I will never falter,
And I will not fail.
Seems to me like something a staff pogue might dream up. In other words, I'm not a fan. Doing a little digging I discovered that...
The Airman's Creed is a creed for members of the US Air Force. It was introduced in 2007 by General T. Michael Moseley, Chief of Staff of the US Air Force. In a letter introducing the creed, Moseley wrote that one of his "top priorities" was to "reinvigorate the warrior ethos in every Airman of our Total Force."Thus, the intent of the creed was to enhance the building of a warrior ethos among its Airmen and to provide Airmen a tangible statement of beliefs.

The Airman's Creed helps establish a coherent bond between the members of the USAF. The creed is fueled by the Air Force's heritage and, in the words of Moseley, "the warfighting-focused culture, conviction, character, ethic, mindset, spirit and soul we foster in all Airmen". Wikipedia
Considering the direction the Air Force has gone since I retired, I don't think the creed thing is working out all that well.

Warriors? In the Air Force, well sure, they're called fighter pilots, everyone else is a shoe clerk. Remember, Juvat often likes to point out that "fighter pilot" is not just a specialty, it's an attitude more than anything else. While a shoe clerk can fly fighters, no fighter pilots are ever shoe clerks. And geez, Moseley actually flew fighters, I can't tell from his record whether he was a fighter pilot or a shoe clerk. Though I lean a certain way on that, I'll hold my water, I don't know the man. (There seem to be a lot of staff jobs on his Air Force bio, a lot.)

Now in that opening painting* we see the Gallic chieftain, Vercingetorix, surrendering to Gaius Julius Caesar at the conclusion of the Siege of Alesia in 52 B.C. This period of history is one I will often refer to when I look to describe what a warrior is. (As opposed to a soldier, in my lexicon there is a definite difference though the two may, and often do, overlap.)

The Gauls were warriors in the classical sense. They weren't professionals, they fought to either defend their own tribe or clan and/or fought to take things away from other tribes or clans. One didn't campaign when it was time to sow the crops or bring them in, there was a time and a season for such a thing. I view warriors as being less organized, they don't really form armies or have formal hierarchies outside the normal ways their societies were organized. In essence, every man of a certain age was expected to work the fields and such and, when necessary, take up arms and become a warrior.

The Romans were originally that way, only taking up arms when a threat was offered. When the fighting was over, back to tilling the fields and herding they went. Until the Gauls swept down the Italian peninsula in 390 B.C. The Romans were defeated by the Gauls and Rome was sacked.

The leaders of Rome decided they'd better be a little more organized in the future. In my book that was the birth of the soldier. Let's look at a couple of definitions:

warrior - c.1300, from O.N.Fr. werreieor (O.Fr. guerreor) "a warrior, one who wages war," i.e. Being a 'warrior' implies very generally that one fights in wars/battles (as the word itself suggests).

soldier - c.1300, from O.Fr. soudier "one who serves in the army for pay," i.e. Being a 'soldier' implies being a payed member of an organised fighting force.
Overall then, you might consider a soldier to be a type of warrior, but not vice versa. The term 'warrior' is therefore often reserved for fighters in barbarian or unstructured armies, though it would not be incorrect to apply it to a member of the U.S. Army today, in fact. (Source)
Being a soldier (sailor, airman, Marine) implies being a professional, you get paid to do that. You belong to an organized unit with certain standards, raised up with standardized training as well. You didn't grow up fighting (though in some neighborhoods you did) as ancient warriors often did. (Also note, while mercenaries fight for pay, they don't serve their country, while technically they are soldiers by definition, I consider that they fall outside of that term. There is a certain lack of honor in being a mercenary. But that's just my opinion.)

The Roman legionaries were soldiers. Professionals, paid by the state, equipped and trained to a standard. Those standards and that training were what allowed them to defeat their warrior enemies.

We want soldiers in our military, people amenable to training and discipline. Being a warrior seems a bit haphazard in my view. While I like the attitude of the warrior, ya gotta have the discipline of a soldier to win.

There are a number of interesting discussions of warrior vs soldier out there, here and here for example.

Perhaps I quibble, perhaps in these modern times the difference is moot. I don't know, what say you?

Warriors versus Soldiers (Source)

* Which has a number of historical inaccuracies but I still like it.


  1. I'm not in disagreement with what you say, but I view the terminology a bit differently. When I use the term "Warrior", I mean it as the highest compliment I can give to a member of the Military, "Fighter Pilot" being the next highest. Ed Rasimus, in one of his books and which I can't find right now, told of a time at the club (I think Nellis) when Robin Olds came up to him and lifted he and his compadre up by the waist and calling them "Warriors!". To have had that done to me, by him or Ed would have been the high point of my career. An affirmation of everything I aspired to be in the military.

    I also believe it can't be applied to anyone who hasn't been in combat and proven their worthiness in that crucible.

    That poses the conundrum. Rationally, no one should want to be involved in combat. However, there is the question in the back of my mind, "Would I have been able to hack it?" and there's no way to answer that question.

    There was a scene in the beginning of "The Pacific" where these two friends are going for their pre-enlistment physical. One passes and the other gets turned down for a heart murmur. That actor does a excellent job of displaying the realization that he will always be looked at by folks questioning his courage for not serving, even though through no fault of his own, coupled with a bit of relief knowing that he will survive the war.

    That's the conundrum.

    But, in my mind and in my use of the word, calling someone a warrior is the highest compliment I can give and meant with the deepest of respect. I don't use it often and I don't believe there is anyone currently in the general officer ranks of the United States Air Force that I would apply it to.

    And that's a pity.

    1. That's the piece I was missing - "I also believe it can't be applied to anyone who hasn't been in combat and proven their worthiness in that crucible." Also, one cannot proclaim oneself a warrior, that accolade must be bestowed by other warriors. If Robin Olds says someone is a warrior, make no mistake, they're a warrior.

      Good stuff Juvat, amen to the absolute lack of warrior spirit in the USAF flag ranks.

    2. Sadly Dave et all are right. Amen to the lack of warrior spirit in todays PC flag ranks. Whatever happened to "The Mission of the USAF is to fly and fight and don't you forget it! Anyone remember that one?

    3. Won't ever forget that one Virgil.

    4. Great post OAFS, and during an appropriate time while we honor those making the ultimate sacrifice. Our USAF does seem to attract some young potential warriors into a couple of disciplines, that of ParaRescue and Combat Controller. Certainly not a "shoe clerk" occupation, at least IMHO. Certainly, as Juvat and other have mentioned, no one knows a warrior until after the fact, MOS not withstanding. I think back to both the Stark and the Cole and am in awe of the young sailors with the warrior ethos who saved their ships. I just imagine that when those sailors enlisted the last thing they considered was being anything more than "just a sailor." regards, Alemaster

    5. The sailors aboard Stark and Cole were definitely warriors.

      While I never met a Combat Controller, I did know a few ParaRescue types (always known as PJs) definitely warriors (and not a little nuts as well! And I mean that in a good way.)

  2. Great post and a great topic Sarge.

    Our English language is mutable and ever changing, just as we humans are mutable and ever changing. As with everything else in life, our linguistic chameleonosity is refreshing and challenging at the same time, commingling order and chaos, yin and yang.

    Definitions are a framework and they are vital, for language needs a framework. At the same time, the framework is a dead thing, and cannot respond to change. We humans constantly tinker with the framework, cutting away useless and rotten bits and replacing them with new and/or more useful (equally often LESS useful) bits. Over time, the framework changes. Again, yin and yang. We are humans, and we exist on the border between order and chaos. Were this not so, the two of us would still inhabit the Garden. Or our small primate society would still inhabit the trees of Africa.

    With the terms warrior and soldier, at least if we're talking about communicating particular definitions, it's less important what the dictionary says and more important that a) we know what we mean and b) we can articulate and share what we mean. You've done an excellent job of a and b here and that's a valuable service.

    I'm chasing down a didactic rabbit hole here because you've touched on an important point. The only way modern civilization can thrive and also protect the existence and liberty of the individual is through honest and unhindered communication. This is why free speech is so important; it is the rock-bottom foundation of civilized coexistence. Without it we are lost.

    Not that many years ago you could have a conversation with just about anyone and say "soldier means this, and warrior means that." To which your fellow conversationalist would likely say, "yes, but what about..." And the two of you would have a great gab and at the end of it each would have grown in understanding and profited in an expanded world view.

    That doesn't happen so much today. Most Americans have unthinkingly taken up the kit of the PC/SJW crowd and have abandoned coexistence in favor of attempted dominance. "Only my words and the definitions of my tribe matter, so shut up." In my experience, and to my sorrow, a great many veterans are prone to this behavior.

    Getting back to creeds and codes, they're the same as mission statements. They're wonderful when those who operate within their aegis walk the walk, but they're a knife in the guts of civilization when those people only talk the talk.

    Gah. Sorry about the rant.

    1. Great rant Shaun, I like it a lot, as I do most of your rants. :)

      I think your key point which helps to clarify in my own mind what I was going for is the bit about mission statements. It's wonderful that we have such things, but when the higher ups don't follow them, it is a knife in the gut.

  3. Your point about Roman discipline is well made. We can admire the warriors, and rightly so, and still appreciate the disciplined soldier who does their job under all circumstances. Surely the Romans had their share of warriors. As you pointed out, it was their discipline that made them dominant. A warrior of my acquaintance once told us the tip of the spear isn't of much use without a stout shaft.

    1. A friend of mine likes to say that without the shaft, a spear is just a knife.

    2. And a friend of mine likes to say that "Shoeclerks are excellent in making sure that Warriors get the shaft!"

  4. I dimly rememeber a quote about having 2 armies. One that has beautiful uniforms, where every soldier is in step. One that marches in every parade and is a joy to behold. And another that no one sees, that fights the wars, and is lethal to the enemy. I understood the difference after reading that. I wish I knew the quote accurately....

  5. Some of us wore both. At one time, my buddy and I were both majors, and both mustangs. We referred to ourselves as "M&M Enterprises" (with apologies to Joseph Heller).

    Two armies? Indeed. How many of us kept two sets of foot gear, one to set out for inspection, the other for duty?

    Here is truth about warriors---

    1. Heh, two sets of foot gear, roger that.

      Great slideshow!


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