By Kirk Fechter, Fort Meade Garrison Safety Office

Safety on the Fly – Spiritual Fitness and Safety

Fact—Army Regulation 600–63, Army Health Promotion, Chapter 6, Spiritual Fitness has a direct application to safety: 


“A spiritually fit person recognizes that there are multiple dimensions that make up a human being and seeks to develop the total person concept. This includes enhancing spiritual fitness through reflection and practice of a lifestyle based on personal qualities needed to sustain one during times of stress, hardship, and tragedy. When a person’s actions deviate from his or her stated values, then the person may experience inner conflict. This person struggles for integrity and congruity, but cannot find inner peace until he or she deals with this struggle. The extent to which this is accomplished is a measure of spiritual fitness.” 


Years ago, I had the privilege to speak at the Fort Meade prayer breakfast. I mentioned Desmond Doss who received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions.


At the time, many may not have heard of him. I had met a Seventh-day Adventist minister who had met him, but many had not heard of him. In 2016, the movie Hacksaw Ridge premiered. It was the story of Desmond Doss, not only of heroism at the Battle of Okinawa, but also about his life and beliefs.


I spoke of his heroism such as this quote from his medal narrative, "litter bearers reached him and started carrying him to cover. The trio was caught in an enemy tank attack and Private First Class Doss, seeing a more critically wounded man nearby, crawled off the litter and directed the bearers to give their first attention to the other man. Awaiting the litter bearers' return, he was again struck, this time suffering a compound fracture of one arm. With magnificent fortitude he bound a rifle stock to his shattered arm as a splint and then crawled 300 yards over rough terrain to the aid station.”


At changes of command and other events, chaplains invite others to join in prayer sometimes reminding the audience that at this time of prayer, they are invited to pray in their own tradition.


One source of tradition is the Bible. In the 10 commandments, there is statement sometimes translated, "You will not kill." Some like Desmond Doss, have adopted that tradition as part of their life, they will not kill for any reason. He, in his tradition, was able to join the military as a Conscientious Objector and serve as a medic.  In our region, not too far away, are Amish. Their tradition extends to not killing, but also to not serving in the military. Since the advent of voluntary service in the military, this is not the same issue it was during the time of the draft.


Others in their tradition even when this is translated as you will not kill, analyze the context and recognize that there is killing that is moral during self- defense or in war.  Others have analyzed the original Hebrew language and would translate this as "You will not murder."


It is well worth the effort to determine one's beliefs. In an officer career course, during ethics training, an officer determined that he could not kill. The instructor thought it was good that the officer had thought through the implications of a military career. However, the instructor did add that it would have been useful to use the 4 years at West Point and 10 years of active duty to think through all the ethical considerations.

But, given that the safety of Soldiers can be impacted by a myriad of issues, the Army has formally recognized the importance of developing the ’whole’ Soldier. One’s safety could depend on it.