On the day we arrived for basic training at Fort Benning in rural Georgia, the drill sergeant told us that we would soon learn to maintain our military bearing. We had no idea what that meant at the time, but he told us that we would fully understand the concept by the time we graduated basic training, and that it was the foundation of being a professional soldier. If we didn’t understand military bearing by the time we graduated basic training, he said he would have failed us as a drill sergeant. It was his duty to make sure that we would not only understand military bearing, but that we would be proud to possess it.
He was right. I am so proud to now understand that military bearing is a soldier, sailor, airman, or marine’s ability to conduct him- or herself on duty and to know that it encompasses his or her level of professionalism when dealing with others and his or her approach to military situations. It has two key components: self-discipline and discipline of others. I see self-discipline as maintaining self-control and being accountable for one’s own actions. It’s the mark of marines with good military bearing to do their duty even when no one else is watching. Arguing with superiors, ignoring military standards, and permitting rule breaking are not consistent with military bearing. I understand discipline of others as calmly instructing to help rectify mistakes. Airmen with military bearing don’t yell at subordinates in anger; instead they identify ...