Ethical Decision Making

The term “ethical” defines the principle that deals with morals that pertains to issues of right and wrong conduct. In different instances, we often confront situations that compel us to deal with ethical decisions. The Army doctrine, states that “Making the right choice and acting on it when faced with an ethical question can be difficult” (FM 6-22, 2006, p. 4-15). Though it may be difficult to deal with ethical issues in some occasions, ethics have to be applied. The values and standards are often impacted negatively when dealing with a stressful combat situation that may impact on the task as well as intended purpose to accomplish the mission. As such, in this paper, the writer will describe a situation that involved a combat environment where an ethical decision making was required.

I was involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom which also involved various missions to topple the Saddam Hussein regime, Al Qaeda and other terrorist insurgents. We were forced to stand hold on our defensive positions while acquiring indirect fires from the enemy. In simple, we executed the standard operating procedures (SOP) through application of battle drills as well as seeking those who were responsible for the attacks. Discipline is required to coordinate and communicate with the members of the unit as well as other elements in order to be successful in the mission. We were unfortunately hit by a tragedy in our company that compelled us to change our attitude with regards to our main focus of the war.

Mortar rounds and rockets were launched into our compound about two hours after we had returned from a combat patrol. This attack was just too close although we had previously experienced indirect fires. Several rounds of ammunition were fired and soldiers scattered all over to take their positions. My crew together with the rest of the platoon members made a quick attempt to gather our equipment and we mounted it on the vehicles so that we could execute our battle drills as required by SOP. When we were positioned at our positions, we heard a radio saying that we had received casualties therefore medical assistance was required. On top of that, our platoon was required to move to another position where we suspected the enemy to be based. Unfortunately, we could not apprehend the enemy. Our platoon returned to the compound after several hours in the battlefield. We were informed about the casualties. The commander gave an Operation Order (OPORD) later that night which specifically said that when we capture the ones responsible for the attack, we had to eliminate them quickly. However, this would be against the rules of engagement which would be unethical.

In making ethical decisions, the key performance measure that I mainly took was related to defining the ethical problem as the first step. When I realised that the OPORD I received from commander was wrong, I would first assess the situation through modification of the plan in order to brief my men to follow the ROE. Basically, all the soldiers in the battle need to follow the rules of engagement since the laws of war are designed to prevent unprecedented escalation of conflict (FM 7-21.13, 2004, p. 5-30). Therefore, it is always good to take the ethically correct way even if it is a war situation.

Over and above, it can be concluded that ethical decision making is mainly concerned with taking appropriate action that is intended to make a distinction between something that is morally right from something that is bad. It is always important to take corrective action and do the right thing when confronted with a situation that will result in impacts. However, it is quite difficult to make such a decision in a combat environment. Given that there are laws in all wars which are comprised of ROEs, it is imperative for the soldiers to follow these laws.


(2002). The Soldier’s Guide FM 7-21.13. Headquarters Department of the Army.

(2006). Army Leadership FM 6-22. Headquarters Department of the Army.